The return of The Doctor – the ninth, in the guise of Christopher Eccleston – after 16 years off our screens was announced in 2004. A year later, on 26 March 2005, Russell T. Davies presented the very first episode of the new era: Doctor Who was back on BBC1. That first episode was titled "Rose", also the name of the Doctor's first assistant/companion (former teen pop star Billie Piper). Nothing was the same.
We decided to rewatch that first episode to see how it held up.
Here's the title sequence. Let's all "sing" along to get in the mood:
Scotty Bryan: Straightforward opening titles. None of this TIME crap.
Bim Adewunmi: Much London. So Piccadilly Circus. Very Henrik's (aka Fenwick's, right?)
Ailbhe Malone: Nothing unusual here. We all know that Henrik's is a general department store in general swinging London town.
Tom Phillips: Trying a bit hard here with the THIS IS A COOL MODERN TV SHOW NOW.
TP: Mickey is terrible.
BA: It's like a montage from a terrible British romcom (that I'd pay to see at the cinema). Or T4's As If.
AM: Are those her work clothes?! I mean, I work at BuzzFeed and even I'm not that casual.
WHERE THE HELL IS WILSON?
Rose walks down a corridor in the basement of Henrik's calling, with increasing alarm, for "Wilson".
TP: Wilson? Wilson? Wilson?
SB: Wilson is so fucked.
AM: LOL MAYBE WILSON IS THAT FOOTBALL FROM CASTAWAY that's why he is not answering.
BA: Wilson? WIIIIIILLLLSSSSOOONNN??!!
[This has literally been the only line of dialogue for the past three minutes.]
SB: I don't mean to be giving spoilers, but it doesn't look that good for Wilson right now.
AM: Spook level is low. Could be more spooky.
[The dummies do a spooky thing.]
AM: OK, now more spooky.
[Rose calls out to whoever might be collecting the lottery money in Wilson's stead]
AM: "MUCKING ABHAT"
BA: "Is that someone mucking about?" in her faux-Peggy Mitchell voice.
AM: Derek? Wilson??? WHO IS THIS?
SB: I remember having a long debate in the mid-noughties about how I didn't think that she would be a good replacement because her Billie Piper album wasn't that good.
AM: Derek and Wilson are the Ant and Dec that never were.
INTRODUCING THE DOCTOR
SB: "RUN." I love how shamelessly it goes straight into classic Doctor Who running down a corridor. It's like, "Don't worry, it's still Doctor Who."
BA: "RUN." Eccleston is a DON.
SB: Why did they start with the LAMEST villain ever? I mean, "Let's open with an army of plastic models threatening to kill LOL OK"
BA: "Living Plastic creatures." Like Hollywood.
TP: The Autons are a classic villain. They were in Jon Pertwee's first episode too.
SB: Never heard of them. Srsly. And I like Doctor Who a lot.
BA: "I'm the Doctor by the way. What's your name?" He's no James Bond, is he?
AM: "Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!" – the bit where I felt Eccleston was really the Doctor.
[Having told Rose to run, the Doctor heads upstairs to destroy the "relay device on the roof". Shortly after she flees – clutching a mannequin arm – the top two floors of Henrik's explode.]
SB: THE CGI HASN'T AGED WELL, HAS IT?
BA: The CGI looks basic and charming.
AM: I like how Rose commits to the prop. She does not let go of that arm. The arm comes home and everything.
[Back at home, we meet Mickey (Noel Clarke), Rose's boyfriend, for the first time. He soon leaves for the pub.]
AM: Billie Piper gives such good eye roll. Mickey is such a chump.
SB: To think that Mickey and Billie ended up living happily ever after in an alternate universe on a beach or something.
TP: No, they didn't.
BA: YOU TELL HIM, TOM.
SB: Are you the Doctor Who pedant or something? God, the fandom can be annoying sometimes.
BA: There's a lot of pink, isn't there?
AM: I just want to take a moment for Billie's bedhead. And her pink room. ALL OF IT IS SO GOOD.
BA: This is the pinkest room in the world, right after Barbara Cartland's house.
The Doctor comes to Rose's flat, and Rose's mum Jackie (Camille Coduri) attempts to flirt. Jackie, noooooooo
SB: "THERE'S A STRANGE MAN IN MY BEDROOM..." says Jackie. So bad. So bad.
TP: Billie's mum nooooooooooo.
BA: Billie's mum has made me cringe my way into the next episode.
AM: I like how as an alien he knows how he takes his coffee. So stylish.
TP: "That won't last – he's gay and she's an alien" is a quality line. [The Doctor is leafing through Heat magazine]
*Patrick Stewart face* "ACTING."
THE HARDEST WORKING PROP AT THE BBC
AM: The prop! It came back! But didn't Mickey take it to the pub? Did it go to the pub and come back?
TP: Oh right, yeah, the cat flap. It came back through the cat flap. I only just realised that, 10 years later.
BA: Eccleston's choking acting is a BEAST. This is amazingly cheap. I am delighted.
SB: I can imagine the instructions from the director: "So you're going to wrestle a plastic hand that is attacking your face. Feel angry."
TP: Eccleston's really smiley acting is bizarre. I mean, I thought it was bizarre at the time. But it's really weird looking back on it.
AM: That was a very Tennant "sort of, yeah", wasn't it?
SB: Ten years on I still remember this scene being really, really long. Like they walk through a car park and talk about feelings.
AM: "Let's go for an exposition walk!"
BA: "Really though, Doctor. Tell me – who are you?" Classic Companion Bants™.
SB: It's safe to say that the Eccelston speech there was the first time I realised that I really liked this Doctor.
SB: I love the ooo-oooo-oooo-ojhhhh-yyyyyyy music.
BA: "NOW FORGET ME, ROSE TYLER." At home, My Chemical Romance plays in my goth-lite heart. But the ethereal music is too much.
[Rose goes over to Mickey's to use his internet.]
AM: "Here's my woman" Mickey has listened to too much of that modern garage music and become a LAD LAD LAD.
TP: Look, I know they have this problem: how to you give the companion a home life, but not make them seem unsympathetic for leaving? Give them a crap boyfriend. But Mickey is so crap that you just think Rose must be a bit of a numpty for going out with him in the first place. (This worked a lot better with Amy and Rory.)
BA: Shoutout to www.search-wise.net, probably acquired by Google a few years later.
SB: Dearching for the Doctor on "search-wise" is just as bad and as unrealistic as when Andrew Garfield searched on Bing or something during the Amazing Spiderman movies.
SB: MAKE SURE YOU CONTACT CLIVE, GUYS. IT'S IMPORTANT.
BA: Shoutout to that guy from that thing, who is playing Clive.
SB: Why is there a bike with a chandelier of seaweed in Clive's garage?
BA: The Photoshop is terrible. Like, really SHIT. Titanic, JFK assassination, every socio-political event of the last several hundred years? HE'S BEEN THERE. Real Zelig shit.
AM: THE DOCTOR THROUGH THE YEARS!
SB: This is the most technologically advanced garage I have ever seen in my life.
AM: Clive, I was with you until the drawing but you've gone full weirdo.
The Doctor through the ages, assisted by terrible Photoshop
[Outside Clive's house, Mickey is waiting in the car when he spots a suspicious-looking bin. He gets out to investigate. This is a mistake.]
AM: That bin is such a great actor. Well done, that bin.
BA: Shoutout to the bin! A tour de force performance.
SB: I wonder whether someone has put "A Bin - Doctor Who" on their resume.
AM: "If you check my portfolio, you can see that I played 'Lead Bin' in Episode 1".
SB: I am checking on IMDB whether the bin has been in other things.
TP: Pretty sure that bin was in the last season of Broadchurch. Classic character actor.
SB: I remember finding the burping bin hilarious. I still do, 10 years on.
BA: THAT BIN HAS BURP COMIC TIMING.
AM: I would watch that bin in so many things. Othello, with added Bin.
SB: Mickey's acting has improved.
I fought the bin – and the bin won
[After Mickey's been plasticised.]
BA: He looks like a shit emoji. The hairline is clean as fuck, though. Like he went for a shape up at the barber's that afternoon.
TP: Noel Clarke has found his calling here.
[At dinner, Plastic Mickey tries to get information about the Doctor out of Rose]
AM: This is the most they've chatted so far. Billie loves her new bin boyfriend. Billie <3s the bin 4 ever.
SB: There's only four people in that restaurant.
[The Doctor soon appears, and rescues Rose from a suddenly violent situation. Mickey's hands transform into weapons]
BA: Go-go-Gadget chopping board hand! Headless chopping board hands! ("the sequel to Edward Scissorhands," says TP)
[Rose and The Doctor flee, after ripping Mickey's plastic head off]
FIRST LOOK AT THE NEW TARDIS
BA: SHE'S IN THE TARDIS. WE HAVE OUR FIRST LOOK INSIDE. The Ooo-oOo-weeee-ooOooh MUSIC IS BACK. Rose says: "The inside's bigger than the outside." ("Take a drink," suggests AM)
AM: Still looks so cool. 10/10
SB: Doctor Who Tardises in order of greatness: Matt Smith's; Christopher Eccleston's, Tennant's and then Capaldi's.
AM: "Plz, I hate acronyms," Billie weeps, as the Doctor explains "TARDIS".
BA: The sound of the TARDIS "engine" is the sound of my childhood.
BA: The Doctor's a bit of a dick. Showing his disdain for earthlings already.
SB: Love how he says "you wouldn't understand" when he explained how the TARDIS flies really quite easily.
AM: "STUPID APES" is the name of my nu metal band.
TP: I'd forgotten how much they made the Doctor a dick right out of the gate in this. Bold.
[The Doctor explains the living plastic (the Nestene Consciousness) to Rose, and reveals a handy vial of plot device ("anti-plastic"). They go in search of the transmitter, which turns out to be the London Eye.]
AM: Anti-plastic is the name of my new emo noise band.
TP: ANTI-PLASTIC. YOU KNOW. LIKE THAT THING THAT EXISTS.
BA: ANTI-PLASTIC? GTFO, BRUH.
BA: This running across the bridge, holding hands thing, scored with a tinny synth track is so shit. I love it.
SB: Are they in London? I can't tell.
TP: Murray Gold presses the "demo" key on his Casio keyboard.
SB: It does sound like an open bag of pasta falling down a flight of stairs.
AM: "Discover London! With the Doctor!"
TP: "There it is. The Nestene Consciousness. Living plastic. Screensaver on Windows 98."
BA: "I seek audience…" "The Shadow Proclamation - What Is it?" This all sounds like a Troy McClure documentary.
SB: We've never heard of the Shadow Proclamation since, have we?
AM: That was a soliloquy to a green screen.
BA: I wish all mannequins were as nice as the mannequin from Mannequin.
BA: Love the hints of darkness they're giving us here: the war he fought, how he couldn't save everyone…
TP: Yeah, that's my favourite bit in the whole episode.
SB: The Coca-Cola London Eye, there. Knew the sponsorship deal wasn't a good idea.
[The negotiations with the Nestene Consciousness do not go well. The anti-plastic is discovered and confiscated from the Doctor, and the attack commences early.]
AM: Billie's mum shops at Jane Norman, such a noughties shop.
SB: Why do all of the mannequins looks exactly the same?
BA: This is just like Westfield on a Saturday, tbf.
SB: No, every single day at Westfield.
TP: Billie's mum is not good in a crisis.
ROSE "BUFFY" TYLER TO THE RESCUE
TP: BUFFY MOMENT. ~SLIGHTLY UNDERWHELMING~ BUFFY MOMENT.
BA: Mickey's like, "Leave him, he ain't worth it."
AM: This is like the bit in Jurassic Park 2!!!!1!!
BA: ACTION BILLIE TO THE RESCUE.
[Rose's gymnastics "training" kicks in, and she saves the day, kicking an Auton – and the anti-plastic – right into the Nestene Consciousness. The mannequins cease attacking/begin their awkward dance back to display windows. PS: Clive is dead.]
SB: MANNEQUIN REWIND DANCE.
AM: These film and TV aliens need to rethink this whole "mothership" thing. It keeps getting blown up. You need a flexbile hub. Work-from-home invading.
BA: That poor bride mannequin. She was just trying to live her life, man.
SO LONG, MICKEY!
[The Nestene Conscioussness vanquished, the Doctor returns Rose and Mickey home. He asks Rose if she wants to come along for other trips in the TARDIS]
BA: STRANGER DANGER, BILLIE. Stay on earth and try for those A -Levels.
SB: "You could stay here and sleep or eat, or you could go anywhere," says the Doctor. To be honest, staying here sleeping and eating doesn't seem half bad don't knock it.
[Mickey clings to Rose's leg like an infant and Rose declines the offer. The Doctor leaves.]
AM: Can u not Mickey. Get it together.
[The Doctor returns with a sweet offer: "Did I mention it also travels in time?"]
SB: A kiss to Mickey there. "Yeah, see ya, bye". OMG NEXT WEEK IS "MOISTURISE ME, MOISTURISE ME!" FROM THAT MY FAMILY WOMAN.
"Goodbye, my lover"
SB: It hasn't aged as well as I thought it would. And it's not just the CGI, some of the plot things as well, were a bit rough around the edges.
TP: The direction was trying way too hard to be "modern" and "funky": angles! quick edit! It felt very 90s, the pacing.
AM: The first half was like a teen drama. I thought it was a bit naff. And then it got good, "Oh, I remember this! I like this!"
BA: The whole time, I was thinking As If.
SB: Reminds me of other Russell T. Davies things – the first wow. Cucumber, Queer As Folk. "Get them in, get the attention."
TP: Yeah, he always overstuffs his opening episodes. You're right about Queer as Folk – all the Daily Mail bait was in episode one, then it settled down. The best bits – the bits that made me love it then – in retrospect are still the things I like about it now: the talk of the time wars, the bits where he does seem actually alien, all the good lines, like: "lots of planets have a north".
BA: It is a great line.
SB: I remembered how much I liked Eccleston back then. And I think he's been overshadowed because he was such a brief Doctor, just a 13-episode stint. My fave is still Matt Smith.
BA: So how do you rank the Doctors having rewatched this episode, then?
SB: 1. Matt Smith 2. Christopher Eccleston 3. David Tennant 4. Peter Capaldi.
TP: Tennant is still my favourite, but that's an emotional connection. Smith is actually the best at doing it, I think. It's all about the transition from the jokes to the serious, how suddenly you're dealing with a centuries-old alien.
AM: Yes! I loved how old and weary Matt Smith could make himself seem. I really clicked with Tennant, and I watched the Eccleston epoisodes after this. I like the Doctor and Rose in this episode. They've got a good relationship in this. Often with Matt Smith and Amy, it was aways like the idol thing, and even now with Clara and the Doctor - what's that? But here they're pretty much on equal footing – he's got skills, she's got skills.
TP: That's the one thing I'd kind of forgotten, actually: the way she's not overawed by the Doctor in most of the episode.
SB: What I love about "Rose" as an episode is how so much of the Doctor Who narrative seems always link back to Rose, so you know SO much about the episode, even though it hasn't been on for 10 years and you've only seen it once.