Log in

No account? Create an account
08 July 2012 @ 10:51 am
The Randomizer: Rose  
It is interesting to go back to Rose. It doesn't really seem like long since the re-invented Doctor Who appeared so it seems odd to realise that it is over 7 years ago now. I still remember my reaction at the time was one of vague disappointment so it is interesting to compare that to my reaction now.

One thing I think I entirely failed to realise at the time was how firmly this episode is focused upon Rose and her journey of discovery. It makes this an excellent introductory episode since the audience is introduced to Who lore as Rose is, but at the time, coming from decades in which Who assumed audience familiarity with the concept and tended to place the Doctor front and centre it was easy to be distracted by the thinness of the Auton plot and not realise that the actual plot was about Rose and her meeting with the Doctor. Given how hugely successful Rose was, I suspect this worked very well for a general audience which had, at best, fuzzy memories of Doctor Who.

At the time I was also pretty unimpressed with Rose herself. In hindsight it is hard to see quite why I felt this. The episode is working hard, especially through contrasting Rose and Mickey, to underline her resourcefulness, determination and strength. However I have now had all of Russel T. Davies' five year stint in which he regularly drove home the point that the ordinary is extraordinary. So it may be easier to see the intent now than it was at the time, again coming from a background in which the better Doctor Who companions tended to be, if not extraordinary from the outset, at least framed in terms of ambitions and careers which Rose explicitly was not.

The acting is variable, though all of it is better than the worst of old Who. Noel Clarke is on record as saying he wasn't treating Doctor Who particularly seriously and it wasn't until he started seeing the rushes that he realised he needed to up his game. Mickey is certainly the weak link among what were to become the recurring cast. Clarke chooses to play the character in a more broadly comic fashion than the others. That said, I think the early NuWho was very much feeling its way in terms of where to pitch its humour. Both here and later in the Slitheen episodes we get humour that is far closer to slapstick is used later. I think it is interesting that the Slitheen were eventually adopted by the Sarah Jane Adventures where they seem to have fitted in far more easily.

I actually think Eccleston is the other weak link here. Or at least I think he is in the first half hour after which he settles into the role. Given Doctor Who is filmed out of sequence it is difficult to account for this but I think Eccleston is far less easy with the manic gabbling stranger aspect of the Doctor (both Tennant and Smith regularly do a mad gabble but I'm not sure Eccleston was ever really convincing on the occasions he was asked to do it). In the first half Eccleston is saddled with this delivery almost constantly presumably, since we view him through Rose's eyes, to underline his strangeness and hint at danger. The turning point is the "Earth rotates" speech which, incidentally, I hated at the time and still loathe. It sounds good but is pretty much devoid of meaning. However it is a long speech that gives Eccleston something to sink his teeth into and also marks a turning point in Rose's relationship with the Doctor as she begins to take him seriously.

I'm quite surprised, in a way, that Rose forms such a strong blueprint for what follows. In particular Davies' emphasis on the extraordinary in the ordinary but also, in general, the tone and style is mostly very similar. I think some of the more obvious nods towards the kids audience were jettisoned and the focus gradually came back onto the Doctor rather than the companion but much of Rose would not have looked out of place in the final year of Davies' tenure, or even in a Moffat season.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/72257.html.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 11:32 am (UTC)
Substantial parts of 'Rose' were reshot by a different production crew with Euros Lyn as director, several months after the initial shoot led by Keith Boak; I suspect that contributes to the episode's unevenness. I used to reassure others and myself by saying that the season would get darker, and it did; but I too was unsettled and underwhelmed by 'Rose' as I was by the other first block episodes ('Aliens of London'/'World War Three') with their bold colours (reminding me of the Warren Beatty Dick Tracey movie) and Scooby Doo-like chase scenes. It doesn't help, as you say, that British television's idea of how to address a child audience has changed since the 1960s and 1970s - indeed, this was part of the probem afflicting Doctor Who in the late 1980s, I suspect.

I liked the Earth's rotation speech; it suggests that the Doctor views himself as not only more attuned to the rhythms of the universe, to what an earlier age would describe as the music of the spheres, but also viewed from this distance anticipates the growing obviousness of the Doctor's god complex throughout the Davies era.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 8th, 2012 12:15 pm (UTC)
Substantial parts of 'Rose' were reshot by a different production crew

I didn't know that! Fascinating that in the age of DWM and Doctor Who Confidential, not to mention fan scrutiny online, the production team were able to keep things from the public long after the event. I remember wondering at the time how long it would be before we got the 'no holds barred' interviews in DWM, as we had been getting on eighties Who.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
The information is buried somewhere in Gary Russell's book Doctor Who - The Inside Story.

I wonder whether the publication of the extensive 'Fact of Fiction' piece on 'Dalek' is the beginning of a trend. Will we see Matt Jones discuss his abandoned scripts for 'The Impossible Planet'/'The Satan Pit', replaced by Russell's Ood-filled ones, for example? Whose script did 'Tooth and Claw' replace? Etc...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 02:14 pm (UTC)
My suspicion is that we'll need to wait a bit longer to hear from the people who may have complaints of one sort or another against Russell Davies. If only because he remains an influential figure in British TV writing, and these are all writers who don't need a reputation for turning around and biting the hand that feeds them. I suspect we'll need at least a decade and probably one or other of them retired from the industry or close to doing so before it will be possible to get a full story.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
Wearing a less whimsical hat, I expect you are right.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 8th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC)
The author of the script replaced by Tooth and Claw might be the 'first Sarah Jane Smith' of the twenty-first century!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
Another thing I disliked about NuWho was the effect it had of shifting DWM away from grown-up analysis and into something much more superficial (even though I understood the reasoning behind such a change).

I think the low point for me was an interview with Russell T. Davies where they asked him to rate each of his episodes out of 10 and he gave them all 10. There's a point where your spin stops being a necessary morale boost for your staff and becomes merely ridiculous.
parrot_knightparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
That's part of RTD's ideological attitude towards fandom - he seems to have felt that there is far too much hate directed towards periods of the series and wanted to emphasise that on one level he loved it all unreservedly, and he wanted other people to as well. Hence giving his own episodes ten out of ten. It was a ridiculous exercise, really.

As for the superficiality, the first year was the worst; and there has been self-criticism in its pages by the production team, particularly Phil Collinson's admission that 'Daleks in Manhattan'/'Evolution of the Daleks' ended up not being as good as it ought to have been because it ran out of money. I'm still impressed by it - it's still a few cuts above most other genre magazines.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
I think it has, for a long time, been high quality for what it is and I absolutely understand that it can't be what it was in the 1990s. TBH it's a while since I read an issue though, even though I understood what was going on and why it was a bit relentlessly upbeat.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 8th, 2012 03:43 pm (UTC)
I think DWM has become a lot better in recent years. I really disliked DWM in the early Davies era (ahem, I may have refered to it as Pravda on occasion...), it was very superficial and uncritical even of total dross like The Doctor's Daughter. I didn't want to see it go down the DWB route, but I felt some balance would be good.

Now there's more criticism in its pages, from readers, DWM writers and the production team and less inclination to hail each new episode automatically as the best ever. There still is a perhaps understandable taboo on criticising recent episodes too much, but I think things like the Doctor Whoah! cartoon and the Watcher's page show a return to the more playful and critical DWM of the nineties and early noughties. I'm glad it's become more analytical again too, and pays more attention to the original series.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 04:46 pm (UTC)
Hmm... maybe I should check it out again.
parrot_knight: DoctorQuillDWWparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
Of course, I'm biased as I am quoted in the current issue...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
I can see what the speech is supposed to be doing but I still dislike it - it feels to me like the Doctor is avoiding the question and yet it's framed as an answer.

I'd forgotten about the two directors which could explain the shift in Eccleston's performance.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on July 8th, 2012 12:22 pm (UTC)
I've seen Rose three times, but I can't really remember it in detail. I'm not sure whether that's significant. You are right that the comedy is very broad (e.g. the Auton Mickey scenes), but I did enjoy it at the time, anti-plastic excepted. I actually liked Eccleston from the start - I still think he has an excellent mix of the serious and the manic, although Matt Smith is even better, and, like parrot_knight, I liked the rotation of the Earth speech. Rose and Billie Piper I liked at the time, but I suspect that these days the character and the actress' season one performance are tainted for me by the knowledge of her degeneration in season two and beyond. I admit that I do tend to see the Eccleston season as a little bubble on its own separate to the rest of the Davies era, before everything got out of control (I do like a lot of the first Tennant season, but that tends to be despite, rather than because, of the leads).

Interestingly, I liked Rose a lot more than The Eleventh Hour on first broadcast, but I suspect that the latter will stand up to repeated viewing much better than the former.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 02:17 pm (UTC)
I liked it better this time around and definitely appreciated what it was attempting to do a lot more. But I still think Eccleston seems very uncomfortable up until the rotating Earth speech. In particular the scene with the the Auton arm is dire, neither principal handles it well but I think Eccleston is worse than Piper is. Of course that scene is also suffering from the attempt to make it comic and well as suspenseful and from, I suspect, a lack of experience with modern special effects but the net effect is that it looks like two actors wrestling with an inanimate object.
parrot_knight: Ecclestonparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 02:48 pm (UTC)
I think that when Eccleston is struggling with the Auton arm, the scene is meant to look ridiculous. It's suddenly played straight - with dramatic music - when the arm attacks Rose.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
Mileage may vary obviously, but that scene is one of the few occasions when suspension of disbelief is completely broken for me. I can't see it as anything other than an actor with a prop.
parrot_knight: Ecclestonparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 03:38 pm (UTC)
I think that as far as the Eccleston section is concerned, that's exactly the effect they are going for, in the hope that you'll then be thrust back into the action when Rose is attacked. It didn't work for me when it first went out, but I think I've seen what they were trying to do since.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 06:45 pm (UTC)
Hmm... I feel that sort-of breaking the fourth wall in that kind of way, especially in the first episode of a new series is pretty risky - however I'm neither a successful actor, producer nor script writer so what do I know?
parrot_knight: Ecclestonparrot_knight on July 8th, 2012 06:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think it was particularly successful, but I do find there is an ambiguity in that first block about how far the new series should co-opt what had become the established popular myth about Doctor Who's failure to make an audience suspend its disbelief, and how far and where and when it should overcome it.
Megs: Doctor/Rose: Rundqbunny on July 8th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
I've actually always really liked "Rose." I view series 1 overall as "Doctor Who comfort food," something I reach for when I want something just to watch at random. As much as I love both series 4 and 6, it's not something I can always toss on in the background unless it's something like "Partners in Crime." There's a lot that I felt the series got right: the relationship between the Doctor and Rose, episodes such as "Dalek" and "Father's Day," Jack Harkness (I will always prefer the Doctor Who version of him to Torchwood), how the Doctor sacrificed himself to save Rose in "The Parting of the Ways" like Five did with Peri (how Ten pitched a fit over Wilf will never not piss me off.)

I actually didn't know the two directors and the re-shooting of "Rose." To me, the episode really didn't feel very uneven. But, I'm also one of those who didn't watch Classic Who. That was my oldest brother, and I do remember him watching it.

I loved the turning of the universe speech. I always saw Nine's rather detached responses at the beginning of the episode as him trying to remain emotionally distant from everyone around him -- a byproduct of the Time War. He keeps this up going into "The End of the World," being really dismissive at first of the effect of seeing her own planet being blown up is on Rose. It never bothered me, because I think it drove home to me how much Nine was hurting at the point he met Rose.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 8th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
I strongly suspect that this is an episode that works a lot better for people who weren't terribly familiar with classic Who. In particular I think the slow introduction of the concepts doesn't really work with people familiar with them.

There's lots to like in the first season of NuWho but I never really warmed to Eccleston and particularly the way his Doctor is a catalyst rather than a protagonist.
kilodaltonkilodalton on July 8th, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
I think some of the more obvious nods towards the kids audience were jettisoned and the focus gradually came back onto the Doctor rather than the companion but much of Rose would not have looked out of place in the final year of Davies' tenure, or even in a Moffat season.

Eh, I think it would have been very out of place in a Moffat season: it's chock full of the 'applegrass moments' that provide characterization context for later actions but contribute little directly to the plot at hand. For instance: Rose waking up, kissing her mom, her lunch with Mickey and convo about going back to school, the suspicious racist look that the man in Clive's neighborhood gives Mickey as he is sitting in the car. Moffat doesn't roll like that, prefering to concentrate solely on dialogue that is relevant to the plot (as opposed to the context in which the plot is supposed to exist), which is why I and others often feel so distant from his characters. I strongly suspect those moments would have ended up on the cutting room floor had a writer tried to sneak them in under Moffat's watch.

Edited at 2012-07-08 10:23 pm (UTC)
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on July 9th, 2012 02:17 pm (UTC)
I'll give you that Moffat is more dialogue focused and that his work is much more middle-class (for want of a better word). He also likes to make the characters work for a resolution of whatever the obvious science-fictional obstacle of the week is which Davies was often less concerned about - happy for them to stumble into a solution. But he's still prepared to leave space in the show for episodes that are a change of pace in one way or another and he shares an interest in placing an emphasis on the companion, the interrelationships between and the families of the Tardis travellers, and an interest in the effect of the Doctor on the people and universe around him - plus a tendency towards fairly linear plotting (except when he's being self-consciously "clever"). Its hard to make direct comparisons to Old Who since the television landscape has changed so much since then, but my suspicion is that even allowing for the huge changes in format, pacing and technology, Rose fits much better with the last couple of years than most of Old Doctor Who would.