I’m rewatching the first series of the new Doctor Who with an eye toward looking where the show has gone since. (I previously wrote a bit about “Father’s Day” when it was new, over here.)
I didn’t deliberately skip a week — I just had a crazy-busy week — but now it coincidentally happens that I’m writing about “Father’s Day” on Father’s Day weekend. Neat.
You really do have to wonder about the Doctor by this point. Surely he must have suspected, the minute that Rose asked him if they could go back and see her father while he was alive, that this was gonna be a bad, bad idea. “Your wish is my command”? When has he ever said anything like that before?
For all that Rose is wrong, later on in their big blowout argument — “For once you’re not the most important man in my life!” she says, which proves that she really has no clue about him, or about how long his life has been and how many other people he’s known — she’s right about this: “I know how sad you are…” He’s so desperate for company that he’ll do anything to hang onto her, even something that certainly would have raised alarm bells for him before.
Maybe he’s realizing it a little. Because when he gets this angry:
this pissed (in the American sense, of course, not the British sense, though I’d love to see that, too… which we did, didn’t we, in “Girl in the Fireplace”?), he’s mad at himself. “I did it again — I picked another stupid ape.” He’s mad at himself for giving in to her. WTF is he thinking? He’s just not thinking at all. He’s a major mess.
Which is part of why the Doctor is infinitely more intriguing now than he ever was in the old show. And he was pretty damn intriguing even then.
Maybe, too, it is finally truly striking home with him in a visceral way that the Time Lords are gone. Later in the episode, when he explains how the creatures are sort of bacteria fixing a wound, he says, “Time Lords would’ve stopped this.” Yeah, and they probably would have stopped the Doctor from being in the same place and time twice, too, and creating “a vulnerable point” that allowed that wound to happen in the first place. Suddenly, here’s the universe without Gallifrey to keep an eye on things… and without Gallifrey to act as a check on the Doctor himself! His recklessness is even more reckless now, and maybe he’s just now realizing that.
It was such the perfect choice to bring the Doctor back with an actor as good as Christopher Eccleston. I’m not sure that, on the page, this bit of dialogue actually works:
Who said you’re not important? I’ve traveled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but… you two. Street corner, two in the morning, gettin’ a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that.
But Eccleston makes us believe that. I’m not sure it would have ever occurred to me — and I’ve thought about the Doctor as a character more than it probably healthy — to think that he would be lonely for an ordinary life. But it makes him far more poignant than I would have ever imagined — more so than even “My entire planet died, my whole family…” — and it makes him seem older and wearier than the Doctor we used to know. The writers have given him a weight of centuries that he never used to have, and Eccleston sells it so well.
And Billie Piper, too: I cannot even begin to imagine how awful the new Who could have been if Russell Davies hadn’t lucked out, with her turning out to be such an amazingly emotive actor, and one with such presence. Every bit with Pete in this episode is spectacular because of the looks on her face: she runs through whole spectrums of conflicting emotions in seconds, and makes it all real.
Random thoughts on “Father’s Day”:
• Ugh. These things might be about the scariest Doctor Who monsters ever:
I love how it goes after the minister, seemingly almost deliberately. And how terrifying that we actually see one eat the Doctor! Of course, there’s a big reset button coming…
• Bad Wolf watch:
(On the lower “Energize” poster. And energize with a z!)
• Oh, cool! I bet this is the only time we’ll ever see what the TARDIS prop looks like, the thing they haul around from location to location for shooting:
Sort of, anyway. Apparently it had never occurred to the designers that they’d have to reveal the actual inside of the thing, so the inside is not finished. So they just turned the flats around, so what we see here as the sides and rear of the interior of the police box is actually what we usually see as the outside of the sides and back. (Can’t remember where I read that…) I guess bare plywood wouldn’t have been very impressive, although maybe it would have been more true to what the inside of a real police box would have looked like. I mean, why bother making it all fancy and such if it were merely a place to lock up a bad guy for a little while?
Like this, though… this is surely one of the most horrifying images of the new series. The TARDIS…. gone?
Stuck on Earth? In 1987? Noooo!
• The giant phone!
Ah, the 80s… *sigh*
• Speaking of the phone:
Even amidst disaster, the Doctor can still be delighted by something like eavesdropping on that first phone call from Alexander Graham Bell to Watson. Have I mentioned lately how totally freaking awesome Eccleston is? What a face…
• Speaking of “Watson, come here, I need you,” Rose appears to recognize that first phone call for what it is. I maybe wouldn’t have thought that of her. She’s already admitted (back when we first met her, in “Rose”) that she’s the kind of girl who’d let herself be distracted from schoolwork by a boy, so it’s probably fair to say that she’s not exactly an intellectual. But how many people in the street could tell you what the content of the very first phone call was? It makes me want to know more about Rose. Does she read? Is she one a them readers? Was she interested in anything beyond chips and Mickey and hanging round the shops with her mate Shereen before she met the Doctor?
The Doctor was never, ever so physically affectionate with a companion before. At least not that we saw.
• Baby Rose has blue eyes:
Grownup Rose’s are brown…
• Is it me, or does Eccleston sound like he has a head cold through much of this episode? Of course I suppose the Doctor gets under the weather from time to time… and I bet he’s a major pain in the ass when he’s just a little bit sick. Daleks and Cybermen, no problem? A few sniffles and sneezes, and he turns into a big whiny baby. (Re actors with head colds: There’s an episode or two of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Brent Spiner sounds like he’s all stuffed up. I always found that hilarious: Data with a head cold.)
• Great quotes:
“The past is another country. 1987 is just the Isle of Wight.” –the Doctor
“We’re not a couple. Why does everyone think we’re a couple?” –Rose (Oh, sweetie, have you never heard that Bonnie Raitt song? “People are talkin’, talkin’ ’bout people / I hear them whisper, you won’t believe it / They think we’re lovers kept under cover / I just ignore it but they keep sayin’ we / Laugh just a little too loud / Stand just a little too close / We stare just a little too long / Maybe they’re seein’, somethin’ we don’t, darlin’”)
(next: Episode 9: “The Empty Child”)