So I’ve started rewatching Doctor Who right from the beginning (I mean, erm, Chris Eccleson beginning. I don’t have the stamina for old who, sorry) in at attempt to see why I used to enjoy it immensely and now I don’t, at all.
I’m only two episodes in and:
- The way the Doctor looks at Rose. He’s always checking up on her, taking care of her - not in those huge I WILL END TIME FOR YOU moments, but in small ways, like checking if she’s okay after the first alien encounter, rushing after her when she runs away upset… It’s the little things that give their relationship a warmth and a realness that I sorta miss in Who these days.
- They banter. The second I wrote this down I realised Twelve and Clara banter a lot too, but there’s it’s a kind of clever quickfire of jokes, while here it’s more a… realistic version? Again, smaller and more modest, and all the more effective for it. idk, this one is hard to describe. (”Is that the technical term, jiggery-pokery?” “Yeah, came first in jiggery pokery, what about you?” “No, I failed hullabaloo”).
- I’ve seen an accusation against Moffat that he doesn’t write actual people as companions, he writes the Barbie version of real people. And I can see where that’s coming from, because Rose is very very grounded in real life. She’s got a mom, a job, a school career, a boyfriend, mates, a house… And it all looks real. She’s someone I could know. (While I’ve never known a kissogram-turned-model or a nanny-turned-teacher without any word of how they got where they are.)
- Nine has this reputation of being the grumpy gloomy Doctor, but in two episodes he already has smiled more than Twelve in an entire season. He’s just continually delighted by everything. Sentient trees? Massive grin. Cute human figuring out something on herself? Whee! Shiny tech? Ooooh! There’s a sense of curiosity and wonderment and genuine delight in life in all its variety that makes it a joy to watch, tbh. I sometimes got the sense with Twelve that every alien has simply become an enemy by default; with Nine, every alien is a source of joy- until proven otherwise.
- Speaking of: the first villain Nine confronts? He emphatically does not want to kill it and only wants to parlay and does so by appealing to feelings. There’s no grandstanding, no arrogance. He just tries to persuade them how cute and little Earth is, then asks them, politely, to leave. He even says please. When’s the last time Twelve was actually polite to invading aliens?
(- That said, the moment where Nine watches Cassandra die is chilling. Part of that is contrast: Nine’s been bouncing around like a happy kitten for two episodes, and suddenly he’s dead serious. All things die, and all things have their time. Knowing what we know now about the Time War (not Moffat’s retcon, I mean the Doctor blowing up Gallifrey) it’s suddenly really obvious how fresh and raw Nine’s grief is And those little references to the Time War are really really effective in that way.
- And this is the big one, imo: the Doctor is kind. He messes up a lot but he seems upset that he messed up. Where with Twelve you get this feeling that he finds dealing with emotions a waste of time and only tries because Clara keeps badgering in, Nine actually does care. When Jabe dies, the first thing he does is go to her companions to tell them, for example. It’s like… there’s a difference between being socially inept but fundamentally kind, or being socially inept because you just don’t care.
(Other stuff: The immensely cheesy special effects - the wrestling with the plastic arm! The bin melting! Then there’s aaaaalll the hand-holding, which gets an eerie edge when you take the touch-empath thing into account - poor lonely Doctor. Also SO MANY PEOPLE DIE. And quite casually too. That’s a thing I used to accuse Moffat of, but I kinda forgot that on Doctor Who, people always die. Gonna see how that one evolves, though. And finally, there’s the continuity: Nine looks in the mirror at some point and goes could’ve been worse, which I thought is supposed to mean he only just regenerated, but then there’s the bit about him being on the Titanic. Also, did nine ever fight in the war or was that all eight’s doing? (first one to say “war!doctor” is gonna get a slap))