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  • Adam Tye

The Trip of a Lifetime: Doctor Who Series 1 Complete Retrospective

Updated: Mar 25, 2021


In the past few years, I have started two separate blogs with friends. Both of them revolved around pop-culture, and both of them were all-but Doctor Who fan pages by the time I had my way with them. I remember the others would joke about it on our student radio show: “This week, another article from Adam. You’ll never guess what it’s about this time…” Like most jokes repeated often enough, I’m semi-certain it eventually lost its sense of humour and wore away to the despair at its core. Nobody banned me from writing about Doctor Who, but you could sense the relief every time someone else got an article online and stemmed the tide of Who-based analysis. I couldn’t/can’t help it. I love this silly, deeply uncool, big-hearted show, and after sixteen years I likely always will. If you value your spare time, never get me talking about it. Today, we start the slippery slope process once again.


A sort long-bubbling ambition of mine – if that’s the appropriate phrase for something so niche and cute – has been to re-watch the revival-era from beginning to end and write accompanying articles (maybe even video essays!) that would look at each episode’s place in the show’s history, break down their writing, look at what the story set out to achieve, and offer my own personal relationship to it. Some deep, hilarious, ego-driven segment of my brain was probably convinced it would be the definitive word on the matter. Cancel the other fansites! Fire all the encyclopaedia writers! It was my time to shine!


Of course, I immediately put off the re-watch in order to avoid doing the work.


Last year, however, in the throes of a relatively Covid-free Autumn, a switch finally flicked, and I was finally ready to give it a go. By the time Covid regrouped for the Winter lockdown, my Season One articles were complete, and I had learned that just because you could write a retrospective on every episode of Doctor Who, doesn’t mean that you should. It ended up a beast of a self-imposed assignment: at once freeing - I loved writing about something that meant so much to me - but also exhausting, as the fervor of those early episodes eventually dissolved into the futile quest to find something – anything – to say about Robot-Anne Robinson, and John Barrowman pulling a pistol out of his bum.


Looking back, though, I’m proud of the work I did. I shan’t lie: I’m mostly proud of the volume of it. Eleven articles for thirteen episodes, with many clocking in at 14 minutes in length (according to Wix’ magic calculator, which helpfully scares off readers by warning them of the amount of time they are about to lose). I often thought about trimming them, but when you write a small book’s worth about a sixteen-year-old (and not particularly hip) science-fiction TV show, you’re really only writing for yourself.


Perhaps most hearteningly, the retrospective gave me a new appreciation for a show I already loved. Series One remains a critically important and much beloved year in the show’s history, but in holding a microscope to each episode, I got to better understand the choices it made, and see how they rippled (and still ripple) throughout the modern-run. Eccleston’s Doctor is criminally short-lived and yet all the more brilliant for it – his character arc at once brief, crucial and shockingly holistic. Rose Tyler's story would go onto be mangled in Series Two, but watch her first Series again and you remember why a nation fell in love with her: a cocktail of heart and ennui that Piper portrayed to extraordinary effect. And all of it was wrapped in a storytelling structure and ethos that would go on to instruct the show for another decade, as Davies tossed out the serials of yore and drew instead on American Television - blending monster-of-the-week adventures with slyly developing character arcs. It’s not 'All Killer, No Filler' (to watch Doctor Who has always been to subject yourself to a Roulette Wheel of quality), but it is complete, and remarkably assured.


So, it seems only right that the first content I bring to this blog is the retrospective series assembled in full. Frustratingly, Wix does not give you the option to migrate individual blog posts between websites, so instead I’ve decided to collect the article links together and list them below. Shocking though it may seem, it is not the definitive word on Doctor Who after all (Quick! Fetch the encyclopaedia writers back!), but it is my own word, and I had a blast giving it a go.


Enjoy!


 




"In many ways, Rose is Doctor Who’s second Big Bang (discounting the actual second Big Bang that will happen in five seasons time) – a condensed new form for the show that explodes forever outwards...the show has never escaped this episode’s shadow. Which begs the question: what shape did that shadow take?"


 


Davies defines his Doctor in an uneven, but crucial, episode.


 


Simon Callow shines as Dickens in Gatiss' reverential romp.


 


Doctor Who returns to Earth with a terrific slice of character drama, hampered by a misshapen satire. Also, farts.


 


The Daleks receive their Nu-Who makeover in a thunderingly unsubtle but wildly effective episode.



 



Doctor Who takes on the media in an ambitious but confounding episode.


 


Doctor Who lets its actors shine in an emotive and significant episode that remains fiendishly difficult to unpack.


 


Steven Moffat has entered the chat, and Doctor Who will never be the same again.


 


The Doctor has dinner with an alien, Rose and Mickey have a domestic in Cardiff Bay, and I take a nap.


 


Anne Robinson! Big Brother! Daleks! That's pretty much it!


 


"...The Parting of the Ways is Series One's ultimate triumph. For all the ways that the later years will iterate and improve upon what Davies has set in motion, it's telling that this story is still one of the gold standards for Doctor Who finales. What a way this would have been to go out. What a way it is to get started."


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