Just as the Ninth Doctor scatters the pack of cards in the first episode Rose, 1.1, Russell T. Davies scatters our preconceptions of what the programme Doctor Who is. With his leather jacket and iconoclastic accent, “Lots of planets have a North!”, this is a Doctor unlike any we have seen before. And yet – the Ninth Doctor is still the Doctor, who shares the wide-eyed enthusiasm of his predecessors.
The episode Rose also introduces the companion Rose Tyler – in contrast to the companions of Classic Doctor Who, she is just as much the focus of the season’s stories as the Doctor.
Over the present/future/past opening trio of episodes, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, (that would later become a pattern of later Nu-Who seasons) the world of Doctor Who is explored for any viewers new to the programme. The episode The End of the World, 1.2, introduces a device that allows for a futuristic adventure-in-space while still staying close to the Earth, (a device that will be used again and again this season) – the space station orbiting the Earth.
The first attempt at creating an iconic Monster for the new century largely succeeds with the Slitheen (Aliens of London/World War III, 1.4&5). The name of the alien planet they are from – Raxacoricofallapatorius. One of the highlights of the season is the astounding episode Dalek, 1.6. This brilliant story builds upon the ideas introduced in The End of the World and reinforces the central new mythology of Nu-Who – that the Doctor is The Last of the Timelords.
The Long Game, 1.7, is set in the future of 200,000, with the returning device of an orbiting space station (although this is Satellite 5 / Game Station rather Platform One.) The dates of this episode and The End of the World (the year 5 billion) are significant as RTD is staying well clear of the years 2000 to 4000 which feature many known events in established Doctor Who continuity. Those years are full of baggage so the “future” stories of the 2005 Season can occupy a fresh area.
With Father’s Day, 1.8, although this is probably the biggest “emotional journey”-style story of the 2005 Season, it is seriously radical other areas less geared towards a general audience. The mechanics of time-travel were rarely been explored like this in the Classic seasons of Who, and again the Nu-Who mythology is reinforced with the lack of Time Lords to oversee the timelines.
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, 1.9&10, apart from being another highlight of the season, dips its toe into the waters of established “future-history” continuity with Jack being a Time Agent from the 51st Century. Boom Town, 1.11, shows that Nu-Who is unafraid to build upon its own continuity – and also questions the premise of the show, asking awkward questions about the messes that the Doctor leaves behind.
With Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways, 1.12&13, the space station and time of episode seven are returned to (while keeping the general audience on board with lots of pop-culture), and following a climactic Dalek invasion, the Ninth Doctor’s era is over. Though broadcast over just one season, with ten stories to his era the quantity can be broadly compared to Doctors six and seven.
Great television – and definitely “Doctor Who”.
So, does this mean that the programme doesn’t need “Planet Zog”?