Counting down the
11 9 days to the 50th anniversary, here are my top 11 stories for each Doctor, continuing with 9 (Christopher Eccleston).
Eccleston didn’t stick around long enough to have 11 stories (if you count multi-part episodes as one). So, we’ll just go with a ranking of what we have.
1. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances
Are you my mummy?
It’s World War II and a mysterious alien disease threatens to turn everyone into the zombie likeness of a small boy wearing a gas mask and searching for his mother. This is the introduction of Steven Moffat’s writing to Doctor Who, and it’s fantastic. Not only does it have a creepy “monster” but it introduces Captain Jack (John Barrowman) to the world of Doctor Who. It also has great performances by Florence Hoath as Nancy and a pre-Merlin Richard Wilson as Dr. Constantine.
Your race is dead! You all burned, all of you. Ten million ships on fire. The entire Dalek race, wiped out in one second. I watched it happen. I *made* it happen!
They had just brought Doctor Who back to television after an interminable absence, and while I liked the new show, I still wasn’t positive that they were really going to carry on from the original series. Yes, Rose featured the classic villain that started the 3rd Doctor’s era (the plastic-controlling Nestene Consciousness and its mannequin minions), and a lot of the trappings of the Doctor (the TARDIS, sonic screwdriver, etc.) were still there, but this wasn’t the same Doctor. He was often in a bad mood and his appearance–leather jacket and short hair–was a far cry from the wild outfits of the past. He seemed depressed. Well, from seeing his first realization that the creature locked up in Van Statten’s dungeon is a Dalek, we know why. The extent of the Time War comes into focus, and Eccleston fully inhabits the character of the Doctor–at least for me.
3. Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways
Time Lords have this little trick, it’s sort of a way of cheating death, except, it means I’m gonna change. And I’m not gonna see you again, not like this, not with this daft old face.
This two-parter starts out as a silly romp through TV show spoofs (Big Brother, The Weakest Link, What Not To Wear) and winds up with the shocking departure of two of the three lead actors. I didn’t follow all the rumors and news surrounding the show then the way I do now, so it came as a total shock to me when Christopher Eccleston started regenerating. Add in a fleet of Daleks and Captain Jack turning to dust, then that guy from Harry Potter showing up as the Doctor, and this was a pretty exciting finale.
4. The Unquiet Dead
But its like – think about it though. Christmas. 1860. Happens once – just once – and then its gone, its finished. It’ll never happen again. Except for you. You can go back and see days that are dead and gone a hundred thousand sun sets ago. No wonder you never stay still.
This is a nice little ghost story with some Christmas-y elements that features a fine performance by Simon Callow as Charles Dickens. The alien Gelth are refugees from the Time War, and they think it will be just nifty to put their gaseous forms into dead human bodies. The Doctor isn’t even all that opposed to it (as icky as it sounds to Rose), but then the Gelth get greedy.
Nice to meet you, Rose, – run for your life!
Here we go. It’s 15 years, 3 months, and 20 days since Doctor Who was on regular TV. But wait a minute…this guy look like he’s just come off a WW2 U-boat. Are we sure it’s the same show? Well, it is and it isn’t. For one thing, it’s got an actual budget. No more running through quarries or up and down the same corridor. No more wobbly walls. No more terrible effects and bad makeup. And the companion…she’s swinging from ropes and saving the Doctor instead of standing around screaming in terror. But, really, there’s the good old Autons as villain #1. There’s the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver and a brief nod to regeneration. And the first word out of his mouth is “Run!” It’s perfect.
6. Father’s Day
I should have known. It’s not about showing you the universe. It never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you.
Rose can’t resist the chance to save her father’s life, despite the damage to her personal timeline that it will bring. Not only does it set off a paradox, but a set of ugly creatures swoops in to try and handle it…by destroying everything in their path.
7. The Long Game
The thing is, Adam, time travel is like visiting Paris. You can’t just read the guide book. You’ve got to throw yourself in, eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers – or is that just me? Stop asking questions. Go and do it!
This episode reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with the Doctor as Willy Wonka, Rose as Charlie, and Adam representing all the bad kids who didn’t do as they were told while in the candy factory. First, Adam doesn’t appreciate the universe he’s being shown, and then he tries to take personal gain from the technology he’s seen. So, Adam gets dumped and the good little child, Rose, gets to inherit the factory. Meanwhile, there’s a mind-controlling alien and Simon Pegg as its mouthpiece.
8. Aliens of London / World War Three
Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?
The Slitheen. No, farting aliens who unzip themselves from human skins isn’t exactly something that showcases how the show has matured, but the episodes aren’t really as bad as this particular bad joke makes it sound. At the very least, it introduces us to Harriet Jones, future Prime Minister, played marvelously by Penelope Wilton.
9. Boom Town
You’ve been in that skin suit too long. You’ve forgotten. There used to be a real Margaret Blaine. You killed her and stripped her and used the skin. You’re pleading for mercy out of a dead woman’s lips.
Really, I don’t think there was any big clamor to bring back the Slitheen, but this one gives us a chance to see how the Doctor deals with “bad guys” after the events of the Time War. He’s not very forgiving. But, of course, his companions and the TARDIS have other plans.