Watching New Who – in conversation with David McDonald, Tansy Rayner Roberts and Tehani Wessely
David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all. We’re going to work our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, as our blogging points. Just for fun! We have already talked about:
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
THE EMPTY CHILD/THE DOCTOR DANCES – Season one, episodes nine and ten
The Doctor – Christopher Eccleston
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Okay, so amidst the quite horrifying gasmasks (particularly when we SEE the transformation), the tears at the resolution, and the grins over the dancing doctor, one of my main impressions of this episode is boy howdy, is John Barrowman Tom Cruise’s love child??! I really did NOT like him in this the first time around, but perhaps exposure mellowed me because he didn’t bother me at all this time – I love his completely comfortable pan-sexuality and his innate flirtatiousness. He’s not my pinup, but as a character, he’s a lot of fun, and I think, later, we get to know that he is, as the Doctor says, bigger on the inside.
I feel like I must be missing something here, because I didn’t think this episode was quite as good as “Father’s Day”. It was brilliant in places, but didn’t quite have the sustained excellence of Father’s Day which really only had one problem, the terrible special effects of the Reapers. Speaking of which, the special effects in this episode were great. The standout was the transformations, especially the first one. It was one of the OMG moments, it was absolutely horrifying!
I am not sure what it is, whether it is seeing a child in that monster role, but I found the child in the gas mask incredibly creepy. The looks of terror on the other children’s faces, the way it used the phones and radios, the constant refrain of “Mummy…” – they all combined to create an atmosphere of rising horror. The scene where she is under the table, or when it is at the door and they are sitting around the table and Nancy is warning the Doctor not to go out there, well I can tell you I wouldn’t have opened the door!
I think I like the two parters because we get more character development and this helps to get emotionally involved with the story. “Father’s Day” was good, but the longer length, for me, gives this the edge.
Jack is an interesting character. In the novels, the Eighth Doctor gets portrayed as a bit of a ladies man but Jack puts him in the shade. It’s a fine line between charming and sleazy though, so I will be interested to see where they go with him. Obviously, he is a massive fan favourite and even after one episode I can see why that might be, there is a lot of charisma there and I loved the dynamic he introduces. But my first impression was to wonder a little what all the fuss was about.
This is my favourite story of this season and probably in my top 5 of all New Who! (though I have to admit, Season 5 gives it a lot of competition) Yes, I am a Moffat fangirl, more than any other New Who writer. I really enjoy the Doctor in this one, as he seems to be relaxing finally and enjoying his adventures, and the script gives us a great combination of history, horror, comedy and banter. Jack Harkness is a character that appeals to me, and while I enjoy him later and the darker path he takes in the Torchwood series, I do like coming back to the introduction of his character, when he was all young and innocent (well, in a smutty con man kind of way).