Fort Geekly: The Revival of Doctor Who (Series 1, 2005)

Welcome to Fort Geekly, the first post in the new bi-weekly series about all things geek related in pop culture. It is going away from reviews seen on the site and diving more into retrospective, information and insight into the topic. Let’s start with something extremely popular at the moment in with the Modern Doctor Who series. Yet, to understand the popularity today, we have to go back to the Series 1 with 9th Doctor Christopher Eccleston.

Doctor Who Revival

For those not familiar with the series, BBC created the Doctor Who series back in 1963 to enter a new age of television with a serial science fiction series. Originally intended to be a educational series devoted to going back to key moments in history and their importance while using scientific ideas during it. Fortunately, the show went in a much different route delving into the exploration of the Doctor and his time travel machine, the TARDIS, his companions that went on these adventures and the various villains encountered along the way. Of course, they still meet famous people, went to pivotal points in the past, but with sci-fi elements thrown. Sadly in 1989, the show ended its run after seven Doctors and 26 years due to declining ratings and a laughable perception of the show.

The start of the 90’s had no Doctor Who to look to or watch on the telly until around 1996 with Doctor Who: The Movie, but even with big studios like FOX and Universal backing the production, it failed to regain a new following. If you want to read more on that part of Who history, I strongly recommend looking at Film a Week 37- Doctor Who: The Movie for that story. The franchise lived on in audio dramas and novels, but it wasn’t till 2003 when the BBC decided they were going to revamp the series with a fresh start by rebooting the franchise and taking the doctor to a whole new level.

The BBC called upon executive producer Russell T. Davies to revitalize the show by breathing new life into it. In order for this to happen, Davies wanted to highlight what makes The Doctor, well, The Doctor by not pressing the refresh button, but rather, keep it within the same timeline of the old series. The original outline consisted of Davies coming in saying the Doctor was “a best friend” and wanting a young teenage Rose to be the perfect match, while going back on the past forty years of history by only keeping “the good bits” by keeping the Daleks, the Sonic Screwdriver and the TARDIS, but also eliminating the elements of Time Lords and Gallifrey with The Doctor now being the last of the Time Lords roaming around. With this, Davies needed to find the perfect cast for The Doctor and his new companion Rose.

The BBC and Davies called upon pop star Billie Piper, famous for hits like “She Wants You” and “Day and Nite,” to play the role of typical shop girl Rose Tyler, living in the dodgy end of London embracing a “chav” look while being lost in the world. For the Doctor, the choice was clear via the power of e-mail that Christopher Eccleston would become the Ninth Doctor, much to the dismay of fans wanting Richard E. Grant’s Shalka Doctor to officially canon. This Doctor was the Doctor who fought through the Time War, defeating the Daleks, only to see his home planet be destroyed in the process. This Doctor promised a new harder edge Doctor with his black leather U-boat jacket, black boots, clean cut hair and V-neck as a new military look.

 The stage was set, the filming began and everything was ready to be set in stone, but could the show finally gain the audience it had been waiting a total 16 years or would the revival be doomed?

“Rose” premiered on March 26th, 2005 with the Doctor back on Earth helping rid London of the plastic aliens known as the Autons with help from Rose Tyler, whose job has exploded quite literally in her face, and hopefully garner a new companion in the process to travel in the TARDIS. This episode was watched by 10.85 million people when it first aired, the highest viewership for a single Doctor Who episode since the Forth Doctor serial “The Creature from the Pit” in 1979. The show was back in full swing with new villains like plastic surgery lover Cassandra from “The End of the World,” The Empty Child from “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances,” the Slithteen from “Aliens in London/World War Three” and the series long Bad Wolf hinted throughout. Also introduced were Rose’s mom Jackie, her boyfriend Mickey (or Rickey) Smith and time traveler Captain Jack Harkness. The show had rapid success in the humor department and in the serious department by delicately balancing the light and the dark.

Yet, the party would not last that long, at least for Christopher Eccleston. It was announced that Christopher Eccleston was to leave after one series as he did not know it would make it past the first series. In 2010, Eccleston stated in an interview that he did not admire the work conditions he had to work with on the show and the culture that surrounding, but has no regrets playing The Doctor. The final episode of Series 1 was “The Parting of the Ways” in which the Doctor regenerated into the beloved Tenth Doctor, played by actor and longtime Doctor Who fan David Tennant, to ensure The Doctor stuck around for more adventures.

Series 1 was an underrated series in the wake of the series with Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor coming into play, yet without the revival, the series as we know it would have faded into obscurity from everyone. Personally, this Series still remains my favorite as it was my first exposure to the adventures of the madman with a police box and Eccleston being my favorite Doctor.

I even dabbled into a bit of cosplay as the Ninth Doctor

For those curious about this Series of Doctor Who, I strongly suggest headed toward Netflix and pulling up Series 1 and watch it from beginning to end. Some key episodes include the aforementioned “Rose,” the delightful “The End of the World” that gives more back story into this version of The Doctor, the fantastic two-part story “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” written by current show runner Stephen Moffat that has a nice twist to it, the tearjerker that is “Father’s Day” in which Rose visits her long deceased father in the past and the final two-part story “Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways,” ending the series by tying up every loose end to it with some badassery against the Daleks involved.

And that will do it for Fort Geekly this week, but stay tuned in two weeks as this series is just getting warmed up for a year of pop culture joy. Who knows, the next time we meet again, it may be under some “keyblade” circumstances.

Fort Geekly: Kingdom Hearts on February 23rd