One of the biggest, most important pieces of advice I can give to anyone who is starting out with Doctor Who (and isn’t starting with the Classic), is this: don’t be tempted by the popularity of the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, and skip Christopher Eccleston’s one-series run. This isn’t just because it’s a brilliant setup for Tennant and really helps us to see the journey and the changes that he has made. If you skip the Ninth Doctor, you don’t understand Rose’s initial reticence. You don’t understand what he means when he tells her, “That’s me, when we first met, and you made me better.”
For Rose Tyler’s first foray into the past, the Doctor attempts to take her to 1860 Naples but instead lands in 1869 Cardiff. There’s nothing remotely special to be found at first until a gaseous being leeches out of a woman’s corpse at a performance by none other than Charles Dickens of his beloved tale, A Christmas Carol. This episode also introduces us to Eve Myles as Gwyneth, a servant woman who has grown up on top of the Rift, a weak point in time and space that has given her the ability to see into the minds of others – someone that any fan of the show Torchwood would definitely be able to recognize and understand the significance of her character in this episode. Here is where newcomers to Who will get their first glimpse into a particular facet of the Doctor that will come up time and again: his empathy for all sentient beings, and a belief that he is responsible for them all. Perhaps even bigger than that is the undeniable fact that he can be duped, and is, in this instance, almost to the point of his and Rose’s death. Only through a stroke of genius on Mr. Dickens’ part are they saved, and in this sense, it would seem they are even: Mr. Dickens saved the Doctor and Rose and the Doctor restored a sense of wonder in the world to Mr. Dickens, something he had been sorely lacking.
Yes. Yes, I am combining this two-parter as one episode because I just can’t really separate them. You know, it really is incredible just how creepy children can be. From the first moment that I heard that sing-song cry of ‘Mummy?’, I knew I was likely going to end up quite freaked out, which became more apparent as we meet the gas-masked ‘empty’ child, whose touch would turn you into a being just like him. These episodes rank as favorites for two reasons: the introduction of charming rakehell RAF Captain Jack Harkness; and this cheeky little grin that you see gracing the Doctor’s face toward the end of The Doctor Dances. One might not think much of a simple smile, but to me, it’s the pinnacle of what I see as an amazing representation of how the Doctor is, quite basically, lightening up. The humor in these episodes combined with the more serious backdrop of the story is something I’ve come to be accustomed with associating with Doctor Who – too many times, television shows and movies keep to one end of the spectrum, like you can’t be both serious and funny, but Doctor Who seems to recognize that these are capable of existing at the same time, and sometimes because you need a little of the other to make the one bearable. These episodes are perhaps one of the best representatives of that nature, and they are favorites of mine because of that wonderful mixture. Aside from that – if The Unquiet Dead was an indicator of the Doctor’s attitude toward the beginning of the series, that bitter, jaded Time Lord, these serve as a brilliant sign of the Doctor beginning to gain his faith – in himself, in humanity, and in the rest of the universe – back, best said by this line:
“Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”
No. No, I am not including the episode before this one, even though it’s technically a two-parter. Yes, you should watch Bad Wolf first, so you can properly understand what’s going on, but, to me, it’s a means to an end. The Parting of the Ways serves as Christopher Eccleston’s swansong. It is truly the best possible end they could have given to his run as the Doctor, rounding out his journey from how he began, from that first moment that he (pretty much literally) ran into Rose, to his time to go, after the two of them have pretty much saved one another, both literally and figuratively. Captain Jack Harkness has to be mentioned as well – one line in particular really sums up what he’s come to since his initial meeting with the Doctor and Rose.
“Wish I'd never met you, Doctor, I was much better off as a coward.”