In the spring of 2009, I’d run out of Battlestar Galactica episodes to watch, and I was desperate for more sci-fi television. I’d seen the new series of Doctor Who around Netflix, and as a fan of Classic Who, I was immediately wary of the new series’ quality. But one night I got bored, and I clicked on an episode titled “Rose.” Four years later, and I’ve never been so glad to be wrong in my whole life.
As the Collectiva Diva and I countdown to the 50th Anniversary special of DW in our Doctor Who Week, we will be taking a look back at some of our favorite moments, characters and episodes in the rebooted and classic series. To start with, the Doctor who I feel needs a little more appreciation from the fandom (see what I did there?).
Having recently caught up with series 7, I of course went back to series 1 and began watching them all over again (cuz that’s what Whovians do). As I rewatched “Rose,” I noticed something that I had never noticed before, and I have seen this particular episode several times. The first time Nine enters Rose’s flat, he looks in the mirror and says something like, “Oh not too bad. Except the ears.” Meaning that he had recently ended the Time War. He was looking at himself for the first time after regenerating from the War Doctor (who we now know is John Hurt’s character).
Perhaps I’m the biggest dunce in all of time and space, but I never realized that New Who picks up right after the Doctor ends the Time War; Nine meets Rose just after effectively destroying all the Daleks and all the Time Lords in one go.
This gives me new appreciation for Nine, and for Christopher Eccleston‘s portrayal of the Doctor. This leads me to rethink a lot of series 1, and how Eccleston relates to Rose, Mickey, and the other humans he hangs around with. In the second episode of series 1, “The End of the World,” there is a clear parallel between the end of the Time Lord and the end of the Earth. Rose originally requests that the Doctor take her 100 years into the future, but Nine quickly convinces her that they could go much, much further. He takes her to the end of Earth. Why would a Time Lord take a human to see the end of her home planet? The answer, I believe, is that he wants her to understand him. He has the seen the end of his world, the end of the Time Lords, and there is no way someone could empathize with that unless they experienced it for themselves.
With “The Day of the Doctor” less than a week away, I think it’s important to remember how broken the Doctor was when we re-met him in 2005. Throughout the series, we’ve seen the Doctor save the universe time and again until his savior-complex led to the destruction of Gallifrey. The bitter snarkiness of the Ninth Doctor deflects people; think of it as a defense mechanism. In “Rose,” he saves Rose several times, but also tells her to go home just as often. As for Mickey? The Doctor can’t even remember his name, and doesn’t particularly care about him because he is more concerned with saving the human race as a whole.
This is why he needs Rose.
Rose gives him a reason to care about the individual as well as the entire universe. Rose is youth and optimism and tenacity bundled up in a package of the-girl-next-door. He is ancient and cynical and stubborn. He needs someone like her to soften his sharp edges, and she needs someone like him to give her a healthy dose of reality check.
So he takes Rose to the end of her world and tells her, “Everything has its time and everything dies.” I know now that he’s not talking just about Earth, but he’s trying to assuage some of his guilt for ending the Time War the way he did. He now expects casualties. He now expects that he will have to snuff out existences.
The Doctor has taken a dark turn from the days of Tom Baker and his jelly babies.
Throughout most of series 1, we see small ripples of the Time War in Nine’s actions. We see his anger; we see his fury, particularly in episodes like “Dalek” in which the Doctor’s sworn enemy unwittingly becomes subject to human emotions. By the time we reach the two-part story “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances,” we almost expect Nine to have a bitter emotional outburst and to pile some more guilt onto his already-full plate. We expect him to be unable to save everyone. We expect casualties because Nine expects them. Except, just once, that isn’t what happens.
Just this once, everybody lives, and damn it all if it isn’t the happiest the Ninth Doctor has ever been.
Unfortunately, we will not be seeing the Ninth Doctor in “The Day of the Doctor,” and I will miss him, but I suppose that if we will finally be getting a glimpse of the Time War (and I think it’s safe to assume that we will), perhaps Nine finds it too painful to revisit those memories.
Only a few more days now, Whovians.