Series 1 (Dec 29 - Jan 10)

December 29: "Rose"
December 30: "The End of the World"
December 31: "The Unquiet Dead"
January 1, 2015: "Aliens of London"
January 2: "World War Three"
January 3: "Dalek"
January 4: "The Long Game"
January 5: "Father's Day"
January 6: "The Empty Child"
January 7: "The Doctor Dances"
January 8: "Boom Town"
January 9: "Bad Wolf"
January 10: "The Parting of the Ways"

December 29: "Rose"

Just to refresh your memory: in 2005 Doctor Who had been off the air for sixteen years, and while it was sort of fondly remembered by some for others it had been the brunt of a lot of criticism (it was cheap, it was silly, it wasn't very good, it was only for "sad" hardcore fans and people who already watched "cult" (aka SF/fantasy) shows and didn't have anything to offer anyone else).  In other words, incoming showrunner Russell T Davies (at that point one of Britain's hottest writing talents) had his work cut out for him, to remind people why Doctor Who had at one point been the UK's most successful family show ever, and to prove that family viewing in general wasn't dead, contrary to the prevailing wisdom.

So that's probably why "Rose" sometimes looks like an incredibly calculated piece of television.  It's designed to slowly ease you into the world of Doctor Who, rather than just drop you in it.  Comparing it to the TV Movie (which is ostensibly doing the same thing) just highlights the changes: whereas the TV Movie started by dropping you into strange situations with alien names -- in effect highlighting its approach as a piece of genre television -- "Rose" instead begins with an ordinary girl working in a department store, living an ordinary life, and slowly introduces the unusual elements one at a time.  She meets Autons (never named as such onscreen, but called that in the credits), and then a strange man called the Doctor who blows them up, and slowly but surely she's sucked into this new world that she never knew existed.  This story is explicitly from Rose Tyler's point of view (the actual invasion plot -- essentially a remake of Spearhead from Space -- feels like it starts at the part three point of a 20th-century story and is generally relegated to the background, other than as motivation for the Doctor), and it's better for it.

Rose is mad at the Doctor for forgetting about Mickey. ("Rose") ©BBC
So yes, it's carefully calculated to slowly bring the general audience into a new and different world (rather than throw them into the deep end and expect they'll swim), but the thing about "Rose" is that it's also a very entertaining piece of television.  There's an energy and infectious quality to these forty-five minutes that you can't help but get wrapped up in.  Billie Piper surprises by being genuine and believable -- she's not mugging at the camera but is treating this all as being in deadly earnest.  And Christopher Eccleston is something of a revelation -- there are multiple layers in his performance, a veneer of (occasionally forced) cheerfulness masking a darker, more serious aspect that occasionally breaks through.  This makes him incredibly watchable as he veers from happy to intense in scenes, without it ever seeming like a break in character.  It's also worth noting how different he seems from his predecessors -- the hidden depths, but also the look in general (short haircut, simple leather jacket with a shirt and dark pants), which suggests that this incarnation of the Doctor is trying to blend in, rather than being deliberately eccentric.  It's also designed to not seem off-putting to a casual audience.

But this all also works in terms of Doctor Who.  As has been pointed out many times before, the basic focus of this episode (essentially, something strange mixes into a domestic setting in contemporary London) isn't a million miles away from the last story of the original run, Survival.  You can thus envision "Rose" as on the same trajectory as the series it's continuing on from without too much difficulty -- as it should be; this shouldn't seem like a sharp break with the past.  And in fact, there was a slight sense of dread for many people (myself included) before "Rose" aired -- it could have been terrible, either a self-parody or something that didn't remotely seem like the Doctor Who that had gone before.  But fortunately Russell T Davies, executive producer Julie Gardner, and producer Phil Collinson have the right sensibilities.  Davies and Collinson are old-school fans (Davies even wrote one of Virgin's New Adventures, Damaged Goods) and know what the spirit of the show should be like, while Gardner, a recent convert, knows what will still appeal to a broader audience (not to say that Davies and Collinson don't; this is putting it very broadly).  The result is impressive, and even if it's a bit too transitional to stand up on its own (once again, this is about introducing the show and its core ideas to Rose (and therefore the audience), not about telling a self-contained story in its own right), it nevertheless hits all the right notes.  There are a lot of introductions, even for the fans (a newly-regenerated Doctor (well, that's what that scene with the mirror seems to suggest), a new companion, a new completely redesigned console room, forty-five-minute episodes that are largely self-contained, a new logo163, a new video format (16:9 and frame-removed video164)...), but far and away this is an episode that is designed to make those introductions in an explosively entertaining way.  Doctor Who is back.

December 30: "The End of the World"

So now that they've established the basic format of the show, it's time for the production team to flex their muscles a bit and take us to the far future -- further, perhaps, than we've ever gone before ("perhaps" because both The Ark and Frontios seem to be set after this event165, and also we have no way of knowing when some of the adventures set on other planets (like, say, The Krotons or The Armageddon Factor) took place).  And so we get to see the end of planet Earth, up close and personal, five billion years in the future.  This looks like Doctor Who setting up its stall and saying, "Look, it's not just alien invasions on modern-day Earth; we can go anywhere, anywhen."

The Doctor tries to find out who sabotaged Platform One.
("The End of the World") ©BBC
The end of the world is certainly a good hook, and the cavalcade of alien visitors on Platform One, there to watch Earth burn, is a nicely varied bunch.  (Although there's the moment where Rose, experiencing culture shock, remarks, "They're just so alien. The aliens are so alien."  Which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that they all look humanoid, with two arms, two legs, one head, etc., except for the Face of Boe and, ironically, Cassandra.)  And we get the introduction of the newest way to speed up the plot, the slightly psychic paper that lets the Doctor get in most anywhere he wants -- useful when you're regularly making stories half as long as they used to be.

But even though we're invited to gawp and stare at each alien arrival, the best parts of "The End of the World" are the character moments.  We get Rose being overwhelmed at everything she's being shown (with, entertainingly, Soft Cell's cover of "Tainted Love" playing over her growing realization of where she is) and trying to explain herself to the Doctor.  We also get the really sweet, quiet chat with the maintenance worker, Raffalo, which suggests that there are still some constants in the universe, even this far into the future.  (You might be surprised to learn that this was an extra scene included when it was discovered the episode was running under length.)  And we get the Doctor's steadfast refusal to answer questions about who he is and where he's from, which leads to the happy-go-lucky facade this Doctor's been affecting slipping for a moment.  "This is who I am, right here, right now, all right?  All that counts is here and now, and this is me," the Doctor barks angrily at Rose.  And we see that while the Doctor pretends to be fun-loving and caring, he can be cold too; he's willing to let Cassandra die, apparently in retribution for Jabe's death.  "Everything has its time, and everything dies," he says.  (Note, too, how happy he seems to be when he realizes something is going wrong on Platform One.  "That's not supposed to happen," he says with an intrigued smile.)

The actual plot itself is nothing too special -- although, pleasingly, the motivation behind sabotaging Platform One isn't about making a statement or a political act, but is instead about money.  But they sell it really well, with lots of cracking glass and scorched marble as the raw unfiltered sunlight starts breaking through.  And it's a good move to make the culprit Cassandra, rather than one of the aliens.  And while the scene with the ventilation fans is incredibly dumb (and introduces some sort of special power for the Doctor that we never see again), the moment before, where Jabe tells the Doctor that she knows who he is and she's so sorry, and a tear falls from the Doctor's eye, is excellent.

Of course, that's setup for the big reveal at the end: that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords ("There was a war and we lost"), thus becoming that old cliché the Lone Survivor.  (Clearly something happened between the TV Movie and "Rose" that we don't know about yet.)  But to their credit they make this work; Eccleston sells it really well, this moment of letting his guard down and letting Rose in, just a bit, and so it doesn't seem as hackneyed an idea as it could have been.  Plus it gives the audience something to wonder about.

In many ways this is as calculated a piece of television as "Rose" was, only here the goal is to get the audience to accept "future" stories with strange-looking people, rather than the idea of an alien who saves the world from other alien invasions in a special machine.  And like "Rose", this is an entertaining episode -- but "The End of the World" has the advantage of also feeling like it's telling its own story, rather than jumping into the middle of a different one.  It's also nice to see a villain motivated by greed rather than a simple desire for power -- something we don't see enough of on Doctor Who.  There are a couple less-successful moments here and there, but "The End of the World" shows that the revived BBC Wales version of the show is more than just a one-trick pony.

December 31: "The Unquiet Dead"

Present, future... and now past, in the first episode of the revived series not written by showrunner Russell T Davies.  Instead we get Mark Gatiss (a member of The League of Gentlemen and the author of four Doctor Who novels) to give us a look at Victorian Cardiff.

So in some ways, we're again looking at another calculated episode, designed to show off the programme's format.  But unlike the previous two episodes, "The Unquiet Dead" doesn't make this a focal point for the audience -- instead it chooses to place an alien element in the past and play with that.  We're not a million miles away from stories like The Time Warrior or The Visitation here.  So we get talk of time rifts and how they're responsible for ghost sightings and people with "the sight" (just like Image of the Fendahl -- and don't think Gatiss didn't know that), standing in for the unknown and the new, and on the other side we get Charles Dickens, taking the side of skepticism and rationality until he's forced to believe otherwise.

And yes, this is the first instance in the BBC Wales series of the "celebrity historical", where we travel back in time to meet a famous person.  This had happened a few times in the 20th century version (e.g., Marco Polo in, er, Marco Polo and George Stephenson in The Mark of the Rani), but now it's going to become a staple of the show.  It's nice that this first time out is so successful -- Charles Dickens is portrayed with great care by Simon Callow (who had already devoted part of his career to doing just that), and we find ourselves rooting for him even when we know he's wrong.  This also gives us some great moments, such as the Doctor enthusing to Dickens about his work, declaring himself to be Dickens' "number one fan" or Dickens' renewed joy in life at the end of the episode.

The Gelth appear through Gwyneth to ask for help. ("The Unquiet
Dead") ©BBC
This episode also succeeds in giving us an interesting look at the Doctor and how alien he actually is. The way he shuts down Dickens' skepticism ("If you're going to deny it, don't waste my time.  Just shut up") is surprisingly brusque, and his attempts to justify using bodies as temporary hosts for the Gelth are really nice too.  "It's a different morality," he finally tells Rose exasperatedly.  "Get used to it or go home."  And nice to see an episode that isn't trying to convey just how "damaged" he is -- some guilty looks when the Gelth mention they're victims of the Time War and that's about it.  Plus it takes the time to dwell on Rose's first step into the past, which is also a good move -- there's a sense of magic about this moment.

Of course, because they only have forty-five minutes to tell this story, some things get truncated.  Far and away the worst casualty is that once the Gelth activate Gwyneth to use as a gateway, they turn evil and start talking about their plans to take over the planet, because there are only about seven minutes left.  It's ludicrously perfunctory (as well as a bad move in terms of internal logic -- if you're going to trick people into helping you, why would you start gloating about that at the first sign of aid?) and, worryingly, there's a subtext present suggesting that "nice" immigrants will turn on you as soon as they can -- an awfully xenophobic position for a series that's long been about experiencing other cultures on their terms and not judging by appearances.  Gatiss has said that this subtext wasn't intentional and he simply wasn't aware of it (it turns out not paying attention to the deeper implications of his work will be something of a running theme in Doctor Who...); however, intentional or not, it's still there, with all its unpleasant implications.

But Gatiss likely wasn't aware of that because ultimately "The Unquiet Dead" is designed to be a pastiche of Victorian novels and television, and in pastiche the form is more important than the actual text.  In this regard "The Unquiet Dead" succeeds -- it does feel like a piece of Victoriana, and there's certainly enough here to keep both casual and dedicated viewers entertained.  This story demonstrates that the production team are just as comfortable in the past as they are in the present and the future.

January 1, 2015: "Aliens of London"

The spaceship crash is all over the news. ("Aliens of London") ©BBC
Now that they've got the time travel basics out of the way, it's time to come back to the present for the first two-parter (so like an old-school four-parter) of the 21st century.  (It's also, coincidentally, Doctor Who's 700th episode.)  I like the first few minutes, where we learn that the Doctor got the time wrong and Rose has been away for 12 months instead of 12 hours.  It's also an interesting look into how the family of those who travel with the Doctor is affected by their absence.  Really the only ones in a similar situation are Tegan (whose family dynamics are already strange) and Ace.  There's some exploration about Ace's disappearance in Survival (Sgt. Paterson berating Ace for not phoning her mum and Ange's comments about how she thought Ace had died -- "or gone to Birmingham"), but nothing on the scale here -- partly because in the 20th century the Doctor's companions tended to be either orphans or independent adults without much in the way of family.  But here they make a virtue of their "near-future" setting166 by exploring the effect of Rose's absence on her mother and her boyfriend -- who aren't pleased, as it turns out.  "Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone's mother," the Doctor says indignantly (which leads to the whole "what's up with the Doctor's age?" question for long-time fans, as he was already 953 in Time and the Rani).

This "domestic" setting also gives us the advantage of a base for the Doctor to view the game-changing events from, as he can't get close enough to the heart of the action, where the spaceship and the alien body pulled from the wreckage are.  There's something rather wonderful about seeing the Doctor forced to view events on the television, and some touches (like the Blue Peter "make a spaceship cake" segment) are inspired.

The plot in this first half is also nicely complex.  It starts out looking like a simple crashed spaceship, and what the effect of such an encounter would be on the population, but then Davies starts adding layers.  The crash is too perfect and the "alien" is actually some sort of enhanced pig.  But, as Mickey notes, "Funny way to invade, putting the world on red alert."  And it does seem like something more sinister is going on at 10 Downing Street.  This is when we get another inspired moment: it's hard to imagine any other show giving us farting aliens, and if any other show did do that it would be in a comedy context.  But here we get aliens that are both farting (and, as we see at the end of the episode, with rather cute baby faces) and a serious danger to everyone around.  In a show that's trying to grab as wide an audience as possible, this is a bold move, one that appeals to children and can be appreciated by adults.  Well, sort of; the farting doesn't seem to have gone down well with a lot of people.  But there's something canny about the mixing of styles here -- we get "funny" farting aliens (one of them even says, "I'm shaking my booty!" as she breaks wind) who nevertheless kill at least two people that we know of (the Prime Minister -- presumably Blair, judging by Harriet Jones's "Babes" comment -- and General Asquith, who Jones watches the aliens murder) and wear the skins of a number of others as a disguise.  (The zipper on the forehead is also a nice touch.)   It's the blend of the farcical with the macabre that gives this element such a wonderfully grotesque feel.

The moment where the Doctor is shown to be well-known by the authorities (he even gets his own alert code) and is taken in to help is a good move, and the cliffhanger at the end ("If aliens fake an alien crash and an alien pilot, what do they get?" he asks the room of assembled alien experts.  "Us," he realizes.  "They get us.  It's not a diversion, it's a trap"), where the Slitheen electrocute all the alien experts while Rose and Harriet Jones are threatened by a Slitheen in the Cabinet room -- and Jackie attacked by a Slitheen formerly disguised as a police officer too! -- is a good one.  Nice to see the show can still give us enjoyable cliffhangers (even if the "Next time..." clip right after ruins it somewhat by showing us some moments from the immediate aftermath of the cliffhanger).

January 2: "World War Three"

The Doctor and the Slitheen confront each other. ("World War
Three") ©BBC
There's some action at the beginning and a big explosion at the end, but what's striking about "World War Three" when you stop to think about it is how much the middle is just talking.  But it's not a case of our heroes talking to the villains -- they really only have two conversations, and neither of them involve the Doctor trying to convince the Slitheen to stop.  Instead this is more concerned with exploring the effect the Doctor has on the people he travels with, and how he can convince people to be greater than themselves.

It's the first point that's most obvious in the episode.  Jackie asks the Doctor point-blank if Rose will be safe on her travels with him, and the Doctor either can't or won't reply.  But then when the solution to the Slitheen problem involves endangering Rose's life, the Doctor hesitates because of Jackie -- even though the alternative is the destruction of the planet.  "This is my life, Jackie," he tells her.  "It's not fun, it's not smart, it's just standing up and making a decision because nobody else will."  Although when Harriet Jones orders him to do it, he grins happily -- perhaps because he knows that the decision to do the right thing is no longer his.  Jackie really doesn't want Rose to keep traveling with the Doctor, though, and Rose's reassurances about it being a time machine (in a scene quite close (albeit probably unintentionally so) to the end of Scream of the Shalka) don't hold up.

But for me at least, the more interesting character arc is Mickey's.  He's clingy and fearful when we last see him in "Rose", but since then he's started boning up on the Doctor and the sorts of things he gets involved with.  He's become useful -- certainly enough so that the Doctor is willing to rely on him to help save the day.  And at the end the Doctor has come to respect him enough -- despite calling him "Mickey the Idiot" -- to invite him aboard the TARDIS.  Mickey declines the offer, but you can see how he's grown over that year.

This episode isn't just about character moments though.  The Slitheen are still there to provide a comical yet deadly threat, and while their scheme is basically the same one as in The Dominators, with some capitalism thrown in (more people motivated by money, rather like "The End of the World"; interesting, that), it's a hell of a lot more exciting here than it was in 1968.  Nice move, by the way, on making "Slitheen" a family name rather than the name of the entire race -- it lends a feeling of diversity to the inhabitants of Raxacoricofallapatorius (which feels like the sort of name Douglas Adams might have come up with to annoy the secretary tasked with typing up copies of the script).  Shame the CG versions of the creatures don't quite feel like the practical costumes -- it's the movement differences between the two that are really apparent.  But the Slitheen still look good, and their giddy, child-like behavior ("Oh, look at that!  The phone is actually red!") as they wait to bring about the destruction of the planet is highly entertaining.

This two-parter is occasionally uneven in tone -- it wants to be a serious examination of how the Doctor's lifestyle affects the families and friends of those who travel with him, but it also wants to have wonderfully grotesque aliens that are nevertheless highly dangerous.  Paradoxically this unevenness is something of a strength; it's hard to imagine any other show trying for so many different registers at once, but here they absolutely go for it, in a combination we don't really ever see again.  No subsequent story is domestic AND international AND comedic AND grotesque AND dangerous in quite the same way as "Aliens of London" / "World War Three".167  When this was all we had to go on, the results felt a bit off; now that we know there won't be anything else like it, this story's virtues become very apparent.  It's not brilliant, but it is worth savoring.

January 3: "Dalek"

This episode ultimately had one goal: to reintroduce the Daleks to the British public, and to do so in a way that made them unquestionably scary again.  That's a goal that Rob Shearman delivered on in spades.  But what's perhaps more impressive about "Dalek" is everything else going on in this story.

Making the Daleks scary again wasn't automatically an easy task -- after all, they'd spent the last couple decades being the butt of jokes about their inability to climb stairs (because, again, no one watched Remembrance of the Daleks) and the uselessness of their plunger arms.  They'd also spent a lot of time in the show's later years either playing second fiddle to Davros or getting blown up (usually spectacularly).  But here we're presented with a single Dalek, and it's treated like the deadliest thing we've ever seen.  It's also nice how Shearman systematically takes every comment about the Daleks and their appearance and abilities and turns them into a weapon for the Dalek.  The plunger becomes a universal appendage that can absorb power, information, manipulate controls, and kill a man by crushing his skull.  A shield protects it from gunfire, and its central "turret" section can rotate 360 degrees.  Even the "bumps" serve a purpose, acting as a self-destruct mechanism.  (Well, maybe; there's a school of thought that this Dalek doesn't actually kill itself but instead transports to the future to set up its own empire and become the Dalek Emperor; this would explain why all the reality shows we see in "Bad Wolf" look like early 21st-century shows -- they're what the Dalek knows about after downloading the Internet.)

The levitating Dalek sets off the sprinklers. ("Dalek") ©BBC
But what's equally impressive is how cunning this Dalek is.  It's able to kill a large group of soldiers with three blasts -- one to set off the sprinklers, one to electrocute everyone standing in puddles on the floor, and one to electrocute the people on the scaffolding.  It's able to trick Rose into touching it (in what looks like a massively out-of-character scene -- "But I am glad that before I die I have met a human who was not afraid" -- until you realize that the Dalek is simply being manipulative) so that it can be regenerated, and it's also quite good at taunting the Doctor.  "You would make a good Dalek," it tells him after the Doctor's spittle-flecked rant at it ("Why don't you just die?!").  "Dalek" takes one representative of the Daleks and turns it into one of the most fearsome enemies ever seen on Doctor Who.

That alone probably would have been enough, but Shearman also takes the time to examine each of the four main characters: the Doctor, Rose, Van Statten, and the Dalek itself.  He takes the Doctor, the champion of goodness and justice, and turns him into a bigoted, hate-filled man, who despises the Dalek and everything it stands for -- because it turns out the Daleks were the ones fighting the Time Lords in the last great Time War -- and is willing to sink to its level ("We're not the same!  I'm not—  No, wait.  Maybe we are. You're right.  Yeah, okay.  You've got a point.  'Cause I know what to do.  I know what should happen.  I know what you deserve.  Exterminate") to destroy the Dalek.  The Dalek is the Doctor's opposite, dedicated to exterminating everything that's different from it -- and, as the episode makes clear a number of times, it's a razor-thin line between love and hate.  Van Statten is greed, looking to acquire things without considering their true worth -- note how he becomes completely uninterested in the alien musical instrument once he knows what it is -- and he's willing to do anything to hold on to his things.  He's more concerned about damaging the Dalek than the fact that it's killing all his people.  "They're dispensable," he says.  "That Dalek is unique."

Meanwhile, Rose is caught in the middle, with no preconceptions about Daleks, wondering why the man she's come to trust because of his goodness is filled with such hate toward something.  "Rose, get out of the way now!" the Doctor tells Rose, ready to blast the Dalek to pieces.  "No, I won't let you do this," Rose replies, standing between the Doctor and the Dalek.  "That thing killed hundreds of people," the Doctor says.  "It's not the one pointing the gun at me," Rose responds.  It's through Rose that the Doctor is able to come through to the other side, to let go of his hate, letting the Dalek kill itself out of pity for it rather than shooting it out of anger.  Van Statten, on the other hand, can't let go of his greed and pays the price at the end, deposed by his assistant.  "Two hundred personnel dead, and all because of you, sir," she tells him.

It would have been enough just to make this Dalek a deadly killer again -- the redesign (which keeps all the right parts in the right proportions (other than a slight size increase so that it can look Rose in the eye) to maintain that iconic look while just beefing it up a bit) is a winner, and Joe Ahearne's direction makes this feel like an action movie.  That alone would have made this a standout episode.  But Rob Shearman takes it that step farther, to give us a reason to care about these characters, to see what happens when they interact with each other.  This turns "Dalek" into one of the highlights of the entire series.  We now know that the Daleks will be back again -- but they'll never be quite as dangerous, as terrifying, and as intense as a lone Dalek was here.

January 4: "The Long Game"

Typical.  You wait your whole life for someone with the same name as you to travel with the Doctor, and then when one does he's held up as the epitome of a bad companion.

Supposedly the main plot of this story (the bit with the media and such) started out as an idea Davies submitted to the Doctor Who production office back when Andrew Cartmel was the script editor.  Davies dusted the idea off and combined it with a storyline designed to show that not everyone could do what Rose did (this element had the working title "The Companion Who Couldn't").  And you can sort of see how this might have worked in the late '80s/early '90s (if Doctor Who hadn't gone on hiatus), with the rise of Rupert Murdoch and his efforts to get as much of the media as he could get his hands on under his control -- something that happened in both the UK and the US.  But this particular satire is one that's, if anything, improved with age, as the media becomes increasingly polarized thanks to the efforts of Murdoch and those like him.  It's not a terribly subtle satire (so you can see how it would have fit right in on Cartmel's Who), but it still works.

The Editor refers the problem of Rose and the Doctor to his boss,
the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe.
("The Long Game") ©BBC
Casting Simon Pegg in the role of the main villain thus has a slight feel of inevitability about it -- after all, if you're going to get someone with a line on slightly smug characters, who better than Pegg?  But he really does a nice job with the material he's given, making him highly entertaining to watch.  His is probably the standout performance; the rest of the cast are good, but none of them really make you take notice.  Well, except for Bruno Langley as Adam Mitchell, who does a good job of being somewhat duplicitous and selfish as the failed companion, and the regular cast, who do their usual fine job.  I particularly love the moment where, after Adam wonders where all the aliens are, if this is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire in the year 200,000, the Doctor distracts him and Rose by telling them to go have fun: "You can't just read the guide book, you've got to throw yourself in.  Eat the food, use the wrong verbs, get charged double and end up kissing complete strangers.  Or is that just me?"  But then after they leave, his happy grin quickly changes to a more serious look -- something's wrong and he's going to find out what.

It's not a significant story and it's unlikely to be at the top of anyone's list -- it's a bit too understated and quiet for that -- but nonetheless I quite like "The Long Game".  It's got its own charms, and it's nice to see a small story doing its own thing -- which makes it something of a shame that the final story of this series is going to retroactively make "The Long Game" more important than it otherwise would have been.  I prefer to think of it as that charming little story between bigger events: the return of the Daleks last week, and Rose's dad next week...

January 5: "Father's Day"

This is something of a curious episode.  On the one hand it wants to be a hardcore tearjerker, designed to pull long and hard on the audience's heartstrings and throw in a bit of SF to make it plausible.  On the other hand it bends over backwards to achieve this goal -- often flying in the face of the rules it's just established.

Rose saves her dad's life. ("Father's Day") ©BBC
There's certainly nothing wrong with using SF as a means to tell a story like this (in fact, it's a fine old tradition), and Paul Cornell makes a number of clever decisions in his script.  It's not the most surprising thing to make Pete Tyler rather less than the upright citizen his wife told Rose he was, but pushing this as far as Cornell does (he makes dodgy deals, he apparently fools around) is a good move -- and throwing a personality as explosive as Jackie's into the mix gives us even more opportunities to see just how rocky this marriage is.  (On the other hand, Jackie's clearly a bridesmaid and thus presumably under a bit of stress, so maybe that's just getting to her.)  Caught in the middle is Rose, trying (and largely failing) to not let on that she's Pete's daughter from the future, while the Doctor is furious at her for saving Pete's life and starting this all in the first place.  That might actually be the best part of the whole episode, the Doctor's angry and disappointed conversation with Rose.  "When we met, I said travel with me in space.  You said no.  Then I said 'time machine'," he says, and while Rose denies that it was premeditated part of you wonders how true that is.  Nevertheless Cornell packs in the interpersonal relationships -- the Doctor telling the ready-to-be-married couple, "I've never had a life like that," his efforts to try and save the day without killing Pete Tyler, the way Pete and Rose interact -- with Pete realizing from Rose's descriptions of him as a father that he was actually meant to die earlier that day...  In terms of interpersonal dynamics "Father's Day" comes out a winner.

The SF side of things is more problematic, as "Father's Day" sets up some basic rules for the Reapers and then largely ignores them.  "The older something is, the stronger it is," we're told, but the Reapers seem to take out an adult pushing the young Mickey on a swing and not Mickey himself.  Stuart's dad is one of the first people we see grabbed, but Stuart, Sarah, and their friends are left untouched.  Baby Rose makes it through the whole thing.  The Reaper that gets into the church has no problem devouring the Doctor, even though he's likely older than the church itself.  (And, compounding the issue, the Doctor announces right before he's eaten that "I'm the oldest thing in here", but it doesn't seem to do him much good.  Then there's also the related problem of why we never see the Reapers ever again -- you'd think they would have shown up in something like "The Wedding of River Song" or even "The Fires of Pompeii" -- but we can't really blame Paul Cornell for other writers ignoring what happens here.)  And then there's the car that keeps circling the block, appearing and vanishing.  It's not at all clear why that's happening in the first place (other than to provide a solution to the problem) -- no explanation is given as to how the universe is intelligent enough (for lack of a better word) to keep trying to kill Pete with that car, or why that would even fix everything, given it's happening at a different time and place.  It seems the universe is more concerned with who lives and who dies, rather than the actual events and how they play out.

If you're willing to play along with the episode and get immersed in all the character moments, and if you're willing to accept the story's basic message of "everyone is important, no matter how insignificant they may seem", then "Father's Day" is full of great scenes and lots of good drama.  It certainly knows how to play up those moments, and the basic idea of the paradox really helps sell the episode.  It's only when you start to think about the details and how this is all actually meant to work that things start to fall apart.  How much you like "Father's Day", therefore, is directly proportional to how much you agree with the message and can ignore those nagging problems, and it's not hard to see how viewers might come down on either side of that fence.  I personally rather like it, but it's definitely not without its problems.

January 6: "The Empty Child"

And so, sixteen years after the show first dipped its toe into the waters of World War II with The Curse of Fenric (a story, you might recall, about vampires attacking a British army base in the northeast part of England while a small Soviet force tried to steal a computer), Doctor Who dives headfirst into the subject in "The Empty Child", set in London during the Blitz.

The child in the gas mask is looking for his mummy. ("The Empty
Child") ©BBC doesn't.  This is set during the Blitz, certainly, and we get some details here and there to support that, but Steven Moffat (who you might remember from Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death -- he's gone and done Coupling since then and thus at this point is also quite a big name in British television) is more interested in the Blitz as a backdrop rather than an event.  Instead, we get a suspense-filled episode as a child wearing a gas mask goes around following people in London -- and those who've encountered him are terrified of him.  That's really the main thrust of this first part: the Doctor does some investigating, which leads to the discovery that anyone who's come into contact with the boy develops the same symptoms -- physical trauma and a gas mask (why the gas mask gets fused to the body and not any of the other clothes is left unanswered).  It's a really creepy idea that they do a good job of selling -- director James Hawes makes good use of angles and lighting to enhance his shots.  But perhaps the most impressive part of this main storyline is the scene around the dinner table, where Christopher Eccleston shows just how good he is with children.  We've never really seen this Doctor interact with kids before, but there's something magical about this moment, as he jokes with them but also gets information from them -- it gives you a look into why Eccleston took the job in the first place.

And while that's going on, Rose clings to an unmoored barrage balloon while a German air raid is happening, only to be rescued by a charming man named Captain Jack Harkness, who is emphatically not from 1941 (seeing how he has a spaceship and all). John Barrowman makes a strong debut as Jack, oozing charm and rakishness, and even though he reveals himself to be a con man and may have inadvertently caused the gas mask plague, you still can't help but root for him.  Rose certainly seems taken with him -- and she seems more pleased with his actions (doing things like finding the Doctor by searching for alien technology) than with the Doctor's (asking around about things falling from the sky).  (And her comments about "Spock" are the first overt references to Star Trek in televised Doctor Who.)  Jack in fact seems here to be written as almost the opposite of the Doctor -- both "freelancers" but behaving in different ways.  We'll have to see if they carry this through to the second part.

It's a very good set-up episode -- the empty child is incredibly effective in its eeriness, and his plaintive cries of "are you my mummy?" are deservedly memorable, a juxtaposition of the helpless with the deadly.  The moment where Dr. Constantine succumbs to the plague is really quite horrific, and the final scenes in the hospital, where Jack finally meets the Doctor and describes the con, are also good -- and the cliffhanger is really effective as well.  And look, they've moved the "next time" trailer to after the credits (supposedly at Moffat's insistence), to avoid spoilers for anyone who wants to remain ignorant of the next episode's events.  (Although this trailer isn't nearly as "spoiler"-y as the one after "Aliens of London" was.)

January 7: "The Doctor Dances"

Great cliffhanger resolution here, as the Doctor sternly tells the advancing patients to go to their room -- reasoning correctly that the people here have a connection with the main child who is acting as the leader.  "I'm really glad that worked," the Doctor says.  "Those would have been terrible last words."

If the first episode concentrated on a sense of suspense and creepiness, this episode is more of an action-based one, with more chases and a couple death-defying feats near the end.  That's not to say that there's no suspense or creepiness on display here -- indeed, there are just as many worrying moments, with the bit with the typewriter (an added scene when the episode was running under length) and Algy's transformation into a gas mask victim being two particular highlights.  It's also really wonderful how the Doctor's solution to the cliffhanger comes back to bite them.  "I sent it to its room," the Doctor realizes, as he, Rose, and Jack look around the room in the hospital that the child was kept.  "This is its room."  It's moments like that, presented with supreme confidence and panache, that help sell this story.

But perhaps even more impressively, they've also got time for some character moments.  Steven Moffat seems to delight in puncturing some of the show's more sacred cows -- the sonic screwdriver is scrutinized and comes up somewhat lacking ("Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, 'Ooh, this could be a little more sonic?'" Jack says disparagingly), but most pertinently the question about whether the Doctor can be involved in anything beyond a platonic relationship is brought up playfully, most often using the euphemism "dance".  "The world doesn't end because the Doctor dances," Rose says, and while she's actually talking about dancing here the subtext is clear.  (And, in case you missed it, they make it about as explicit as they can later, when Jack proves to be interested in both women and men: "Relax, he's a fifty-first century guy.  He's just a bit more flexible when it comes to... dancing.")

Jack watches as the Doctor and Rose dance in the TARDIS. ("The
Doctor Dances") ©BBC
But there's a third meaning at work as well, one that's often overlooked even though it's referred to in the title.  (After all, the first meaning makes for a really strange name and the second doesn't happen, unless we really missed something off-screen.)  Even though he may not be the smoothest suitor (or even be interested in being a suitor at this point), when it comes to saving people and doing the right thing there's no one more adept.  "You want moves, Rose?  I'll give you moves," the Doctor declares, as he sends the upgraded nanogene software to the rest of the nanogenes.  And thus we get an absolutely joyous resolution, as everyone affected by the gas mask plague (thanks to the nanogenes) is restored to perfect health: "Everybody lives, Rose!  Just this once, everybody lives!"  The Doctor dances with joy as he's able to save everyone.  It's a beautiful moment, and everyone affected does live -- even Captain Jack, who was ready to sacrifice his life to stop a German bomb from killing everyone in the railyard, is saved by the Doctor and brought onto the TARDIS before the bomb explodes.  Looks like they have a new traveller aboard.

"The Empty Child" / "The Doctor Dances" is a supremely confident story, one that moves at a good clip with a swagger, as if it knows just how good it is.  It helps that they've made this a two-parter; a single episode version wouldn't have been nearly as good.  We get some fabulous performances from everyone and a new companion in Captain Jack Harkness, who'll go on to have lots of adventures without the Doctor (although none of them will ever explore or even refer to the missing two years of his life as a Time Agent that he mentions as a motivation here).  It's scary, it's funny, it's brave, and it's unabashedly happy.  "The Empty Child" / "The Doctor Dances" isn't just a standout story of Eccleston's tenure, or of the BBC Wales run, but of the entire programme.

January 8: "Boom Town"

Oh look, it's our first sequel of the BBC Wales run -- we even get a brief recap of the events of "Aliens of London" / "World War Three" at the beginning in case you've forgotten who "Margaret Blaine" is.

Jack, Rose, the Doctor, and Mickey stop Margaret Blaine from
escaping. ("Boom Town") ©BBC
It's kind of a weird episode though, is "Boom Town".  We get some really lovely scenes with the TARDIS crew, joined by Mickey and clearly having a great time in 2006 Cardiff.  It's especially nice to see how effortlessly Jack fits in, creating a really fun dynamic with the regulars.  I also really like the way he's incredibly enthusiastic about Margaret's tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator.  ("It's a surfboard," Mickey says, after Jack explains what it does.  "A pan-dimensional surfboard, yeah," Jack replies.)  Captain Jack will rarely be better than he is in these first series episodes, and we won't really get another "chummy" moment like we do at the beginning for a long time.

But then Russell T Davies decides to give us a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, with a returning villain who may not actually be as bad as we thought -- it's certainly hard not to draw parallels with TNG's fifth season episode "I, Borg" (in which the Enterprise finds a lone Borg and decides after talking to him that maybe they're not so bad after all).  To Davies' credit, though, he never goes full bore with the "she's just misunderstood" aspect, and in fact the moments where Margaret claims just that sound more like a desperate plea to avoid being executed than genuine remorse.  Nevertheless, it's hard to shake the idea that Davies really wants this to be an examination of both Margaret and the Doctor.  In this light, it looks like it wants to be the counterpart of stories like "Dalek", taking a hard look at the character of the Doctor.  Unfortunately, it runs into two problems: first, unlike "Dalek", this character examination is the main plot of the episode, rather than a sidelight, and so it does feel a bit lightweight; and second, the Doctor's analysis of Margaret feels a lot more compelling than her probing questions to him (even if he doesn't seem to have ready answers for all of them).  "You've been in that skin suit too long," the Doctor tells Margaret.  "You've forgotten.  There used to be a real Margaret Blaine.  You killed her and stripped her and used the skin.  You're pleading for mercy out of a dead woman's lips."  We're supposed to be thoughtful about the Doctor's lifestyle and motives, but Margaret's questions don't hold as much weight as that moment from the Doctor.  It also doesn't help that she turns out to be selfish anyway, willing to destroy the whole planet in order to surf her way out of there -- which makes it even harder for us to take her points seriously.

The other, more minor quibble is regarding Rose and Mickey's scenes.  The exploration of their relationship is actually rather good, and Mickey's decision at the end to ignore Rose is a striking one (even if it'll be completely ignored in the next story).  There is, however, something rather frustrating about listening to Rose describe to Mickey all the cool planets she's been to without having experienced any of them ourselves.168  After all, so far we've been to Earth, two space stations orbiting Earth, and, er, that's it.  This is in part because of a calculated move on Russell T Davies' part, to ensure that the younger, more mainstream viewers aren't scared away by anything that looks too much like a "cult" show that they therefore wouldn't be interested in -- remember, for a large part of the audience, this show isn't about "an adventure in space and time" (as the Radio Times once put it) but instead is about Rose's relationship with the Doctor.  But it's still a bit perverse to hear about these places without seeing them ourselves.

So "Boom Town" is ultimately a really uneven episode -- the good moments are really good, but the weak moments almost cause the whole episode to collapse under the weight of the surrounding scenes.  This is worth watching for the performances and the interaction between some of the characters, but not much else.

Oh, and one additional note: we finally see the Doctor notice how the words "Bad Wolf" have been following him around for the past few episodes (the clue meant to keep longer-term viewers interested and guessing), even if he ultimately dismisses it as coincidence.  Except that the next episode is called "Bad Wolf"...  (And the trailer at the end of this episode appears to spoil the big cliffhanger at the end of that one.)

January 9: "Bad Wolf"

And right after our first sequel we get our second, as this two-parter deals with the consequences of the Doctor's actions in "The Long Game".  Well, sort of.  This episode says that the problems Earth faces in 200,100 are the result of what happened on Satellite Five a hundred years earlier, but given the reveal at the end that the Daleks have been working behind the scenes for quite some time, it looks like they're more likely to blame.

But here we are, at the beginning of Christopher Eccleston's final story as the Doctor, dealing with those consequences mixed with a healthy dose of reality television.  It's rather tragic that this is the end of the ninth Doctor, because Eccleston's performance here is so good.  He was never really "off" in his performance, but those early episodes have some moments of what feels like forced jollity -- perfectly in keeping with the characterization, but there nevertheless.  But here there's none of that.  We get all the range Eccleston's been showing the whole season, but there's never a sense that it's forced, even when he's asked to turn on a dime (such as in the Big Brother house, when he learns that the losing contestants are killed and he goes from annoyed to confused to determined in the space of a few seconds).  He's also incredibly charming with Lynda and seems genuinely pleased at the thought of her traveling with him once this reality television situation is sorted.  But then there are his more serious moments -- he's very intense when he's silent, after he thinks Rose is dead -- and it's really wonderful how he doesn't say a word until "Let's do it" to Jack, who immediately springs into action.  But his intensity here and in the speech to the Daleks at the end are marvelous to behold.

"Do I look like an 'out of bounds' sort of guy?" ("Bad Wolf") ©BBC
Captain Jack also comes off really well in this too.  He's highly entertaining in his reality TV moments ("Ladies, your viewing figures just went up," he tells the two droids after they remove his clothes on live TV, and then there's the moment where he pulls a concealed blaster from somewhere while naked -- "You really don't want to know," he tells them when they ask where he was hiding it), but what's more striking is how he seems to instinctively follow the Doctor's orders and settles in comfortably as a subordinate.  He even calls the Doctor "sir", and not facetiously either.  Really, the only one who doesn't shine in this episode is Rose, and that's because she spends a lot of this episode either forced to play The Weakest Link Deadly Edition or thought to be dead.  (And don't worry, she'll get a chance to stand out next episode.)

The reality TV stuff (the main plot of this first part) isn't as biting a satire as it could have been -- partly because the production companies that own the rights to these shows have given permission to use their logos and music and such (and thus wouldn't be terribly thrilled with too barbed an approach) and partly because Russell T Davies is an admitted fan of the genre.  As such, the parodying focuses more on a "what if?" scenario regarding deadly game shows -- not exactly the most original subject (and one Doctor Who itself had already sort of tackled in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy), but one that they get a surprising amount of mileage out of.

But ultimately this is about bringing all the "Bad Wolf" clues to a head (complete with a recap of some of their appearances during the course of the series), as the Doctor realizes that "someone's manipulated my entire life," and giving us the big reveal at the end of the episode that the Daleks are back, somehow -- and in the grand Terry Nation tradition of waiting till the end of the episode (and referring to them as something other than "Daleks" -- "my masters", in this case) before making the big reveal, even though the previous trailer spoiled the surprise (and now that the episodes are 45 minutes, you have to wait twice as long as when Nation did it).  But now they've shown themselves; the end of the ninth Doctor is almost here.

Fantastic cliffhanger, though:
DALEK: We have your associate.  You will obey or she will be exterminated.
DALEK: Explain yourself.
DOCTOR: I said no.
DALEK: What is the meaning of this negative?
DOCTOR: It means no.
DALEK: But she will be destroyed.
DOCTOR: No!  Because this is what I'm going to do.  I'm going to rescue her.  I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I'm going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
DALEK: But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan.
DOCTOR: Yeah.  And doesn't that scare you to death?  Rose?
ROSE: Yes, Doctor?
DOCTOR: I'm coming to get you.

January 10: "The Parting of the Ways"

The opening moments of this episode are really impressive, with the TARDIS charging toward the Dalek mothership to rescue Rose.  (And it's still spinning as it travels, I'm pleased to say.)  There are so many Daleks streaming out of their saucers that the end result is worthy of a feature film, never mind a television show.

But while there are some impressive visuals in this (not just that shot, but the one of the Emperor in all his glory surrounded by Daleks, or Jack destroying the Dalek in the TARDIS), the best moments in "The Parting of the Ways" are the character interactions.  The Doctor's confrontation with the Emperor, where he's being unnaturally cheerful, is impressive (and the times when that mask slips are also really good) -- and the moment where he reenters the TARDIS, leaning against the door with his head bowed, listening to the Daleks outside, is astonishing.  Captain Jack also shines in his efforts to rally his troops in what he knows will be a futile gesture, an effort to buy the Doctor more time, showing off his leadership qualities, and his farewell kisses to both Rose and the Doctor -- each delivered in exactly the same way -- are quite lovely.  "Wish I'd never met you, Doctor," he says.  "I was much better off as a coward."  He also gets a great death scene: "Exterminate!" a Dalek grates.  "I kind of figured that," Jack replies defiantly, arms open wide as the Daleks kill them.  The Daleks themselves are an impressive force; their fanatical worship of the Emperor (whose story of how he survived is close enough to that of the Dalek's in, er, "Dalek" for them to plausibly be the same individual -- again, it would explain all the early 21st-century reality shows we see here) is scary enough, but their decision to invade the Gamestation (another great shot, by the way) and head to the lower levels for no other reason than to exterminate everyone is genuinely chilling.  "Dalek" reintroduced the Daleks; "The Parting of the Ways" reestablishes them as a galaxy-conquering force.

Rose-as-the-Bad-Wolf can stop Dalek blasts. ("The Parting of the
Ways") ©BBC
And then there's Rose, who's willing to go to the end with the Doctor but is tricked into heading back to her own time, so that the Doctor can fulfill his promise to Jackie to keep Rose safe.  She's frustrated and angry, and she tries really hard to explain how she feels to Jackie and Mickey: "The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. ... That you don't just give up.  You don't just let things happen.  You make a stand.  You say no.  You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away..."  That speech sums up the ethos of the show right there.  It's the realization that the "Bad Wolf"s have been following her, not the Doctor, that seems to ultimately convince her to break open the TARDIS console so she can go back and provide our first convenient deus ex machina ending to a BBC Wales series.  (Although the way the sequence with the chain and the truck is shot suggests there's no way that should get the TARDIS console to open, and definitely not based on the way we see it open.)

Christopher Eccleston regenerates into David Tennant. ("The
Parting of the Ways") ©BBC
But while Rose might become the Bad Wolf, the heart of this story is ultimately the Doctor himself.  It's a tour de force performance from Christopher Eccleston as he frantically tries to save humanity from the Daleks, full of intensity and a huge breadth of emotions -- but the best moment isn't while he's wiring up the delta wave transmitter or confronting the Daleks: it's during his prerecorded message to Rose in the TARDIS, when he turns to look at her and gives that gentle, easy smile.  It's a beautiful moment in an episode filled with intensity.

But what's most interesting is that we can see the completion of the ninth Doctor's character arc here, from someone cold and aloof and faking cheerfulness to someone who's learned how to feel again and is ready to move on -- and his decision not to activate the delta wave and doom all of humanity (in what we now know, in light of subsequent revelations, is a very similar setup to what he (believes he) did on the last day of the Time War) shows how far he's come.  "What are you, coward or killer?" the Emperor asks.  "Coward.  Any day," the Doctor says, unwilling to make the same choice again and stronger for it.

And then Rose saves him and wipes out all the Daleks (and brings Captain Jack back to life too, even if the Doctor doesn't seem to know this -- or else why would he leave Jack behind?) but is dying from the Time Vortex flowing through her, which leads to the Doctor kissing Rose to pull the Vortex out of her.  It's what the series has been building to, but it's written in such a way as to give the audience the kiss many of them have been waiting the whole series for without upsetting the old fans (who were irate at McGann kissing Grace in the TV Movie).  But the Doctor ends up sacrificing himself to save her (becoming the second out of three Doctors to date to give his life for a friend), getting a fabulous departure in the process:
DOCTOR: I absorbed all the energy of the Time Vortex, and no one's meant to do that.  Every cell in my body's dying.
ROSE: Can't you do something?
DOCTOR: Yeah, I'm doing it now.  Time Lords have this little trick, it's sort of a way of cheating death.  Except it means I'm going to change, and I'm not going to see you again.  Not like this.  Not with this daft old face.  And before I go—
ROSE: Don't say that.
DOCTOR: Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what?  So was I.
And with that we get our first regeneration standing up instead of lying down --supposedly because David Tennant hadn't been cast when Eccelston finished his scenes and it was easier to match standing shots rather than lying-down ones, but it's also a much more heroic-looking pose.

And so we say farewell to Christopher Eccleston, who leaves after just one series.  The reasons why he left are still unclear (Eccleston's still unwilling to more than hint at them, and no one else is saying anything), but nevertheless he was (and is still) proud of the year he did on the show.  He should be; not only did he help relaunch the show and make it a huge success, but he took the character of the Doctor and turned it into a genuine person rather than just a sort of archetype.  It's a fantastic performance from an amazingly talented actor, and the show was lucky to have him.

But what a way to go out, eh?  "Bad Wolf" / "The Parting of the Ways" is, like Eccleston's performance, a tour de force -- an unabashed "season finale" full of action and drama.  Everyone excels in this, turning a tale about reality television into one of the biggest threats the Doctor has ever faced on screen.  It's still BBC Wales' best season-ender to date.  In a word, fantastic.

Kudos, therefore, to Russell T Davies and everyone who worked on this series.  It was definitely a gamble to bring Doctor Who back, and in such a way as to capture as large an audience as possible, but they succeeded handily -- and with the strongest run of stories since, well, season 26 -- but season 18 before that.  And what's more, they did so in a way as to retain the spirit of the original show, not by rebooting it or changing it but by simply updating it for the modern viewers -- just like the programme has always done.  Definitively, emphatically, Doctor Who is back.

Now the question is, can they keep it up?


163 If you look at all of Doctor Who's logos over the years, a curious pattern emerges: for the first 26 years of its life (plus the 16-year interregnum), the logos, while often changing dramatically in design, all follow a basic pattern: the word "Doctor" stacked on top of the word "Who".  But from 2005 on, the words are lined up side-to-side.
164 The last "proper" serial, Survival, was shot on 625-line PAL video running at 50 fields (essentially half-frames) a second.  (The TV Movie was shot on 35mm film running at 24 frames per second -- not that you'd really know it from looking at the finished product, which looks like everything else on Fox from that time period.)  Since Survival, the visual grammar of television had changed -- film was deemed to look better than video, so video was given a "filmized" look (essentially removing frames to make it run at the same rate as film), which allowed it to look like film but still retain the advantages of video.  This is the format that Doctor Who was shot in, and the "film look" continues today even while the resolution has increased from SD to HD.  (Another reason why the modern HDTVs that interpolate extra frames to give a "smoother" look are a bad idea.)
165 A problem: the Doctor dates the events of The Ark as roughly ten million years in the future, which is a far cry from five billion.  So either there was an impending Earth death that was avoided at the last minute (er, except we see the Earth burning up on-screen in "The Plague" (The Ark 2)...), or the Doctor is just really far off on his guess.  (Which wouldn't be the first time -- see, for instance, his assertion in The Dalek Invasion of Earth that the events of The Daleks occurred "a million years ahead of us in the future", and then compare with comments in Planet of the Daleks (presumably contemporaneous with Frontier in Space -- so 2540 -- in order for the plot to have any hope of making sense) that the Doctor's journey into the Dalek city occurred "generations ago".)
166 You can tell Russell T Davies and company want to evoke the feel of the old Pertwee UNIT stories (also set in the near-future) as well as suggest that these are events that could happen, just not right this moment.  They want to avoid the controversy over assigning dates to the UNIT stories by explicitly setting the present-day stories one year in the future -- hence the "12 months" bit.  But while they try to stick to the "+1" dates (most notably in "The Sound of Drums", which has a US President-elect -- making the intention late 2008/early 2009), the incidental anomalous details start piling up, which makes assigning dates to these stories often just as difficult as the original UNIT problem they were trying to avoid.
167 Unlike the Hartnell stories, which all now have generally agreed-upon titles, there's no such consensus for the BBC Wales multi-part stories -- and there doesn't generally seem to be a working title for the whole story of any of them.  Occasionally you'll get portmanteaus of the individual episode titles (e.g., Bad Parting for "Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways") or references to things like "the 'Aliens in London' two-parter".  Some people will refer to the whole story by the first episode's title, but while that works for things like The Impossible Planet it's a bit of a damp squib for other stories (as, say, "Evolution of the Daleks" is a significantly better name than "Daleks in Manhattan", but it's the name of the second part).  Or you can just do what I'm doing and list them both out -- unwieldy but effective.
168 Well, unless you're the sort of person who reads the tie-in books -- Justicia, the setting of the second Ninth Doctor Adventure The Monsters Within, gets a name-check here.  In that book Justicia's explicitly Rose's first alien planet -- a moment you'd think we might have been allowed to see, rather than just read about.