It’s ten years since Doctor Who returned to our screens! Happy anniversary! Don’t you feel old?
After all, the Ninth Doctor made his debut on Saturday 26 March, 2005. No matter your age now, it’s probably worth putting the date in some context. Tony Blair, not Harriet Jones MP for Flydale-North, was UK Prime Minister. The first YouTube video ever was still a month away. The mobile phone in your pocket was probably a Nokia 1100 and it had all your Snake II high scores on it. What I’m trying to say here, is that a lot can change in a decade. You can now get Snake on your iPhone.
And then, Christopher Eccleston grabbed Saturday night’s hand and ran and wow. Suddenly age didn’t matter. We were all kids again.
We take that first season for granted now, forgetting just how much pressure to get it right there was on showrunner Russell T Davies, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, and everyone who was part of it. But it did get it right. First time. And that first season brought with it a lot of firsts for the entire show and its 42 year history.
So here are 9 fantastic firsts for Doctor Who that we saw in that all-too-brief Eccleston Era…
First big trailer
Doctor Who had trailers before, but they were just pieced together snippets. Never had that promotion been so explosive or cinematic.
Christopher Eccleston outruns an explosion, tells you how dangerous the universe is, and makes the offer of a lifetime. How could you refuse?
It’s a trend that continued: we had Ten making a similar offer for Season 2, then Ten and Martha engaged in repartee far better than any they had in Season 3. Donna sat at a dramatic campfire for Season 4, and then there was a seriously weird trip down the 3D rabbit-hole for Eleven and Amy. Last year we had the odd sight of Twleve being electrocuted by picking up his phone (he clearly patched it into the console incorrectly, shame Handles wasn’t there).
A decade on, we’re now used to the audio-visual bombasticity, and the ludicrous situation of having teaser trailers for the actual trailer, but the straightforwardness of that first introduction is still the best the show has ever had.
First episode named after the companion
In a sign of just how focused toward the companions and their families the returned show would be in the RTD era, Episode 1 departed from the typical grandiose titles of time-travels past (though they’d soon return), and was simply named after new companion, ‘Rose’.
Technically it’s not the first episode to refer to a companion in its title, as the first ever episode, ‘An Unearthly Child’ was in reference to The Doctor’s granddaughter Susan, but it is the first to ever use a companion’s name. There’s a nice symmetry too, don’t you think, having both opening episodes reference the companion?
First burpy bin
The first and only burpy bin. In ‘Rose’, a single council wheelie bin possessed by the incredible alien might of the Nestene Consciousness defies the ‘Glass and cans only’ rule, and gobbles up Mickey Smith. It’ll be eating hot ashes next.
‘Om-Nom-Nom-Nom!’ the bin would no doubt say if that scene was filmed today. But as it’s only 2005, it just burps. Yes. Go back and watch it. It does. For no reason, the bin burps. It’s not like it’s even eaten Mickey. Perhaps it’s a resultant gas release triggered by the molecular replication of organic matter into a semi-synthetic polymer clone. Or maybe, as I prefer to think, burpy bin is that rare waste receptacle with a sense of humour.
First mention of The Time War
This one was a biggie, and at the time seemed like both the dramatic culmination of a plot that began in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ (and rumbled on in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’ and ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’), and a whole new direction for the show.
It’s in ‘The End of the World’ that we learn The Doctor is the last of his kind and that his people and planet are gone (notice how he never names his home – we wouldn’t hear the word Gallifrey until ‘The Runaway Bride’), all as a result of ‘The Last Great Time War’. He’s no longer a renegade on the run from his people. He’s a survivor on the run from his past.
It was a huge shift in the mythology of the show and created a new unexplored facet to a character many thought they knew. Suddenly we as viewers were all on the same level of knowledge. As we’d find out in later years, we didn’t really know the first thing about the Time War or The Doctor’s role in it.
First farting aliens
Just imagine if, while the First Doctor was warning the Sensorites ‘I don’t make threats, but I do keep promises’, one of them had let off a cheeky squeaky guff. Or that, while the Third Doctor had been exchanging rapier witticisms with The Master, Roger Delgado had cocked an eyebrow, tensed his face slightly, shifted in his seat, and let rip a two-cheek fanfare that could be heard by the Sea Devils. Inconceivable, yes?
Not for the family Slitheen who – in a sign that the returned show was still uncertain about how kid-friendly it should be – gleefully bottom-burped and bum-trumpted, and blamed it all on ‘the gas exchange’. Unless Skaroth of the Jaggaroth slipped a ‘silent but deadly’ at some point during ‘City of Death’, the Rexacoricofallipatorians became the very first aliens in the show’s history to break wind.
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