(This article was originally published on the 20th of July 2010 at the now defunct website Eye of Harmony. It is not up to my current standard of writing, does not accurately represent my current opinions in places, and has not been altered in any way from its original state. This two-part article is, no hyperbole, the worst thing I’ve ever made, written or otherwise. It has all of the same issues as the Adventure Games reviews, but amplified many times over. The insufferable attempts to “riff” the subject instead of reviewing it, trying to be a knockoff of the Nostalgia Critic just like every other hack on the internet back then. The complete disregard for actual critique in favour of terrible “humour” and jaw-droppingly asinine nitpicks. The questionable undertones towards gay people, wherein I claim having more non-straight characters is a “noble goal” despite following it up with saying it should happen less often and then making multiple jokes whose punchline is “gay people exist”. Seriously, you will read the following wondering if it’s some brilliant parody of thoroughly awful Doctor Who fans and their attitude towards the show. I assure you, I wrote this in all sincerity. Brace yourself for some of the most intolerable failures at both comedy and criticism. It is preserved here for archival purposes only, and that should be taken into account before reading. You have been warned.)
I’ve been humming and ha-ing about posting this for over two weeks now. Although I’m only a few minutes into the episode, I’ve already written over 1500 words. At that rate, it’ll take forever. So, I’m going to post what I have so far, and then if there’s enough of a response to it, I’ll continue on. Please, if you want to see more, leave a comment. I won’t know otherwise.
Now though, the post:
Ah, Russell T Davies. What can you say about him? He’s possibly the most controversial behind-the-scenes figure in Doctor Who history. On the one hand, he took a long dead TV series and turned it into one of the BBC’s biggest hitters. On the other, he writes stories that, while appearing to be perfectly good stories on the surface, completely fall apart when given any level of scrutiny. Then factor in Doctor-worship, his story-trumps-rules approach or convoluted finales to add to the list of weaknesses. Hell, let’s not even talk about his overuse of gay or bisexual characters to make a Star Trek-esque statement on acceptance of different sexual orientations. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a noble goal, but when almost every story has a male or female character mention in passing they have a partner of the same gender, it gets extremely irritating.
But, what of the early days?
Before we proceed, I have a confession to make. I’m ashamed to say, yes, I was one of those people who only joined Doctor Who fandom with the new series. You may commence the vegetable pelting and/or burning at a stake constructed from copies of The Writer’s Tale. Quite frankly, I think I would have been a Who fan from a young age had Doctor Who been on. It is true, I was one of that lost generation who never grew up with Doctor Who. I do recall catching what I can now identify as episode one of The Silurians, and quite enjoying it, and Daleks – Invasion Earth 2150AD was one of those taped-off-the-telly videos that was often picked when it was my turn to choose a movie for the evening.
With that said, and back to my earlier question, what of the early days? Sure, by Series Four the RTD-ness was through the roof, and even RTD himself admitted by the end it had descended into fan-fiction territory (can you imagine what a fifth RTD series would have been like with The End of Time preceding it?). But let’s go back, to when Christopher Eccleston was THE Doctor. I remember Rose’s initial transmission, and 14-year-old me quite enjoyed it. Surely jaded, cynical 2010 me wouldn’t be able to tear it to shreds? And surely, if this proves popular enough, I would never be able to go through the entire RTD era, ripping up each episode? Surely not.
With that said, Rose! And don’t worry, I’ll stop calling you Shirley. Boom, boom indeed.
So we start with the now obligatory pan-to-Earth-then-crash-zoom-shot (so obligatory, in fact, even the Mofferator couldn’t dispose of it), and end up uncomfortably close to an alarm clock, which goes off. Here, we meet Rose Tyler, who I’m sure will be completely incidental to the plot since, you know, the episode is named after her and all.
I should explain a basic law of good film-making here: it’s called the “Show Don’t Tell” rule. Here, we see it used very effectively. There’s no dialogue here besides mundane platitude, yet we are told all we need to know about Rose Tyler. We see her room in a state of disarray, clothes left everywhere, showing that she’s not organised and even lazy, implying dissatisfaction with her life. We see she’s still living with her mother, giving further motive for unhappiness with her lot. True, it’s stereotypical and basic, but at least she’s not a shop attenda- oh, she is? All of this is conveyed in a dizzyingly short amount of time, and despite conveying a clichéd image, it conveys it well. I would credit this to the production team as a whole, but given RTD’s fondness for quick info-dumps and even the cardinal sin, expositional voice-overs, I’ll chalk this up to the director.
Sadly, even this early we see RTD’s trademark lack of grasp on ‘real’ characterisation. We see a montage depicting her usual day, and so we need to see the kind of thing she’d do at work. What does RTD have her do? Put a bag down on a table. Seriously. Because that’s what shop attendants do, isn’t it? Shuffle bags around? Right?
To be fair, it’s not clear whether this was scripted or if it just said ‘some business occurs’ and the cast and crew just improvised, but there’s plenty more to complain about. For example, have you ever been in a store where the staff dress casual? Where are the uniforms? The black shirts? Anything? What, is this Dress Down Friday or something? Never explained! In fact, since we know in hindsight how RTD’s plots have more holes than a Twilight novel would if I possessed a firearm:
NEVER EXPLAINED! COUNT: 1
We see her fool around with her boyfriend, Mickey. Again, because that’s what real people do, right? I’ve… got nothing. Honestly, I wanted to make some sort of witty statement about this unbelievably fake, plastic (Boom boom!) sequence, but I just draw a blank. Whether it’s that bad or that good, you decide.
The day ends, and Rose tries to leave the store, but is stopped by the bouncer/security guard/whatever. He gives her some lottery money in a bag. She psychically deduces that she is being asked to hand over said bag to someone. Why is this person still working if they’ve won the lottery? Is it some sort of charity thing, like in the Catherine Tate Show Christmas Special? What is this other than an excuse to have Rose run into the plot?
So Rose heads on down to the basement. On the way down, there’s this weird shot I can’t quite explain. It’s very quick, lasting only a brief moment, but in the middle of the short elevator descending montage, we see Rose screwing up her face for no reason. What IS she doing? Is Billie Piper nodding off? Did she just realise how big a plot hole the lottery money bit was, and was unaware the camera was rolling? Is she trying to blow up the lift doors with her mind?
NEVER EXPLAINED! COUNT: 3
She reaches the basement, and calls out for some guy called Wilson. We know his name is Wilson not only from the fact Rose shouts it out around three hundred times during the next minute, but also the fact that she walks up to a door with his name on it in idiot-proof lettering. It truly is sad that even something as small and inconsequential as this door can be picked apart. First of all, it claims this Wilson is CEO. Do all heads of management have their offices in ass-smelling basements? Maybe, I desperately try to rationalise, it’s some sort of joke, the kind bored shop attendant drones would play. All right, but why is it actually on the sign? Wouldn’t it, you know, NOT confuse your audience to have it written in red marker pen or something, so we can actually tell it’s supposed to be an office joke and not give the impression that the highest ranking person on the entire staff works out of the basement? Point two: what about the electricity warning sign? Are you compounding the fact that the manager lives at the same level as the cleaner with having his office in a fucking transformer room? Again, if this is some sort of incredibly weak joke, why not have it in crude marker pen to alert your viewers to this fact?
You know what? I just figured it out. This was supposed to be like the executive floor, with Rose delivering the money to her manager’s swanky office, but they couldn’t afford to shoot there, so they just transferred the scene into the basement, and didn’t bother with things such as making sense of the change. No wait, I’ve got it, someone with an ounce of intelligence pointed out that there would be no way that there would be any plastic dummies on the executive level, and RTD just said “Move it to the basement! There’d be plenty of them there, smartass!”
NEVER EXPLAINED COUNT: 4
Four counts in as many minutes, and that’s counting both the name sign and the electricity sign as one. Be afraid, people. Be very afraid.
So Rose does what any blonde would do when left alone in a creepy basement, and wanders around, shouting all the time, alerting any supernatural force/psychotic axe maniac/whatever crap monster the Sci-Fi Channel can render in cheap CGI this week of her presence. But then, oh but then… see, RTD apparently started writing a shit horror movie, and only after a page or two did he remember he was supposed to be writing Doctor Who. How do I know this? Because he rushes out as much exposition about Rose’s life in as short a montage as he can think of, then puts her into a creepy basement on the flimsiest of reasons, then, and I’m being deadly serious here, the only door out (excluding the elevator, which she never thinks to use until the Doctor arrives) shuts and locks FOR ABSOLUTELY NO REASON.
NEVER EXPLAINED COUNT: 5
Excuse me, I have to prevent myself from dying with laughter.