In 1989, after 7 Doctors and 26 series in as many years, British Science Fiction’s most popular show was cancelled. The story would live on in books, comics, and audio plays, but it seemed that its television era had come to an end. Then in 1996, the BBC partnered with the Fox Network to bring us Doctor Who: The TV Movie. Starring Paul McGann, this was to act as the launch of a brand new series, which ultimately never came to fruition. Finally on the 26th of March 2005 under the direction of Russell T Davies and Julie Gardner, Doctor Who returned to our screens. The fans have affectionately dubbed the series’ that followed as “New Who” and it began with Christopher Eccleston’s only series as The Doctor.
I feel like Series 1 is often overlooked in preference of the 3 series’ that followed, but I think it’s one of, if not the best. Everything that followed would be built on the foundation of this series. It’s here that we first get to know Rose Tyler, an ordinary working girl, and watch her connect with The Doctor, a mysterious time travelling alien. She is a personification of his humanity and she isn’t willing to let him forget that. This 9th incarnation of The Doctor verges on being dangerous, not only to others, but also himself. He is fresh off the heels of watching (and causing) the death of his entire race- the Time Lords. For the first time in his very long life, he is completely alone in the universe and that prospect terrifies him. Ecclestone provides a masterful performance, balancing outbursts of passionate rage with moments of child-like glee. Roses boyfriend(ish) is also having to learn to fend for himself after Rose, who he relies on, abandons him. Then of course there’s the wonderful, wisecracking Jackie Tyler who might just be the best representation of a mum I’ve ever seen.
I could not talk about Series 1 without talking about how representative it is of the LGBT community. Russel T. Davies brought his experiences as a gay man in Manchester to his show Queer As Folk and he certainly doesn’t leave it behind. As a child, it went completely over my head, but watching again now the implications about peoples sexuality, especially in the series’ second half, are really hard to miss. That is except for Captain Jack Harkness portrayed by British gay icon John Barrowman. He will flirt with anyone and everyone, but takes a noticeable interest in The Doctor. Their witty back and forths are so loving that you wouldn’t be surprised if they were a couple. Their kiss in The Parting of the Ways is the first time I remember seeing men kiss each other on screen, but it’s treated as if it’s completely normal. Of course it is completely normal, but at the time I didn’t know that and this moment in particular would come to be one of the most important to me. Growing up, I’d always admired Captain Jack because he was cool, and a little bit of a rogue, and he was suave. Looking back now, it’s quite clear to me that Captain Jack Harkness was an integral part of my coming out story, I just didn’t know it yet.
The other key element in making this series so beautiful is the score composed by Murray Gold. He gave us a theme for each individual character and would continue to use them throughout his time on the show. He can instil a sense of whimsy, joy, or fear whenever it is required. His music has become synonymous with the show to the point that they continue to use his Dalek score and it still sends shivers down my spine. I’ve often said that a bad start in your story is difficult to recover from, but Series 1 of Doctor Who isn’t that. Its a beautiful start to a show that continues to be close to my heart.
Until Next Time…