First we get word that the SciFi Chnnael turned down the U.K.'s new "Doctor Who," finding it lacking.
Now we’ve our own first two appraisals, and the news doesn't get any better.
“Bottom line: Excrement,” says one reviewer. “It feels nothing, nothing like Doctor Who, more like a cheap sitcom.”
“The main fault is in the script,” notes the other, “Sure, it does a great job in introducing the Doctor and Rose but that's just about all it does.”
We begin with “Davros”:
Hi Herc, just saw the pilot ep of the new Doctor Who show. If you decide to run this, call me "Davros"
Doctor Who Pilot - "Rose"
Alien plastic creature invades London causing mannequins and plastic rubbish bins to come alive and attack people. Yes, seriously.
My take: From the cheap opening credit sequence to the hammy and frequently inaudible dialog it feels like a fan-produced parody of the original series. Cheap production values and muddled, silly plotting give it the feel of a Saturday morning kids show.
The opening episode deals with an alien tub of goo that can control anything in the world that is made of plastic. Despite the title of the series being Doctor Who, we actually follow a young girl called Rose throughout the episode, with the Doctor being reduced to an almost secondary character. The Doctor himself has been "sexed up" and now looks about 30, with a leather jacket and acts as if he has an amphetamine habit. Eccleston plays the character over the top and "wacky". It's a forced, affected performance that had me cringing. The acting in general feels lightweight, as if they are playing it for laughs, and given the script they were producing maybe that's understandable.
In the opening montage we meet a girl called Rose, it's a fast cut sequence of shots of the girl going to her job in a department store, folding clothes, having lunch, uh... having some more lunch and then back to folding clothes again. All set to loud, frantic, thumping music that felt as if it belonged in a scene where someone was trying to defuse a bomb
The show is shot on video tape. Yes, video tape. If the BBC felt rebuffed that SciFi in the US passed on the show, maybe they should have spent a bit more money making it look like something that was actually produced by professionals.
The music is arguably the worst thing about the episode. It's loud, (in many scenes the dialog is totally inaudible under the score) desperate and totally unsuited to the action it apes. When I say "apes", you can see that they have tried to create a sense of drama and urgency in the action and direction and failed, so they've used the score like a bloody great club to bang us over the head. Like near the end: the music is blaring urgently while the Doctor and Rose run hand in hand across a bridge towards the menacing ferris wheel that is the source of the alien's power - the actors can actually be seen laughing. Actual, "god I feel like a dick" laughter.
Throughout the show the music desperately tries to convince us that we are watching something exciting and dangerous, despite everything our bored eyes and brains are telling us. Also, it'd be one thing if it was a good score, but it's generic "adventure" canned crap with a "techno" feel to lure the kids in. Speaking of which, that's clearly the aim of the whole show. Busty streetwise teenage sidekick, maverick leather-wearing Doctor, fast cutting and nonsensical dialog and plot. This steaming turd has "focus group" written all over it.
At times the action veers wildly out of control and turns to slapstick comedy. Oh yes. At one point the Doctor is attacked by the severed arm of a mannequin. And if you're thinking "surely now, in 2005, that doesn't mean the actor flails around the set holding a rubber arm to his throat?" then I must answer, sadly, yes. Yes he does. Then Rose does the same thing. In a living room, with the Doctor falling over a floral-print couch as he fights off this menacing... arm. The mass mannequin attack at the end is another perfect example of this. I was sitting there thinking "no, no, no, no, no, no..." It's stupid. Break-dancing shop mannequins attack, moving slower than a grannie in a zimmer frame. I know it's a homage to the original series, when exactly the same thing happened, but that was decades ago. Audiences are more sophisticated now and it just falls flat.
Other elements: the Internet conspiracy theorist who has been tracking the Doctor for years. Interesting concept, one that could have been used to powerfully connect the new series to the preceding forty years of Who history - but no. No mention of the previous incarnations of the Doctor at all. I hope I am wrong but I got the uneasy feeling that with this "re imagining" they have written off everything that has come before and started the universe again from scratch. The scene itself is poorly shot and acted. The "lone nut" shows Rose historical photos of the Doctor present at various historical events, and yes, the Kennedy assassination is one of them, a fact alone that made me want to kick my television in. Fictional time travelers have shown up on that fucking grassy knoll so often over the years, there's probably a waiting list for temporal tourists to get in. The photos themselves are badly, BADLY photoshopped.It actually looks like they used the same photo of the actor's face for all of them.
The scene where Rose's boyfriend is eaten by a CG wheelie-bin: 'nuf said. Oh, except that the VFX in this scene is really poor, and the actor's performance is just pitiful. You just want it to hurry up and eat the poor fucker - he's desperately thinking "how the hell do I play this" and you can actually see that in his face.
The VFX. The Mill provided the visual effects. They are a world class company but they obviously fielded their B team on this one. Low budget, tight deadline, dodgy kid's show shot on DigiBeta? I'm surprised they even took the job let along allow their name to appear in the credits. They did do a good job on the tub monster though.
Bottom line: Excrement. It feels nothing, nothing like Doctor Who, more like a cheap sitcom. Maybe it can improve but given that it's clearly being produced by people who think the whole property is a joke, I hold out no hope.
Oh, and just one quick note to the producers: shoot it on FILM you cheap fuckers. Jesus Christ, your show looks like an episode of the god-damned East Enders*.
Pride of Pimlico opines:
First time poster here after many years of lurking.
A buddy popped round to my apartment yesterday clutching a DVD and wearing the most manic of grins. He popped the DVD into my machine and I nearly fell off the sofa when I realized that I was watching the pilot episode of the first new series of "Doctor Who" to be made since 1989.
I'm not gonna bother giving a spoiler free review because fans pretty much know everything about the series already but I will preface by saying that this may not be the version that airs on March 26. I heard yesterday that there'd been more reshoots for it as they still weren't happy with it after pre-showing.
The title sequence deliberately attempts to recreate the mood of the final Pertwee, early Tom Baker and Mcgann credits. The signature tune is a recreation of the original Delia Derbyshire version but this time in full surround sound as opposed to hiss ridden mono. If this is the finished set of titles as opposed to a mock up then the show is in trouble from the get go. It lifts wholesale from one of the TardisCam sequences that were posted on http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/doctorwho/tardiscam/index.shtml a few years back. A sequence like that might have looked good on a desktop back in 2001 but it sure as hell doesn't work when screened on a 32" tube in 2005. Everyone knows that the logo is crap so I'm not even gonna bother adding my five cents to the debate on that one.
Once we're free from the titles we see a short of the Earth from space and zoom right down to Earth. We open proper on new companion Rose as played by Billie Piper and in the course of a few minutes and a pretty effective montage sequence we get to learn who she is, where she works, who she's dating. Yadda yadda. She's working in a central London department store and happens to locked in the basement one night whilst collecting money for the staff lotto syndicate. Her life will never be the same again once a set of mannequins come to life.... Enter the Doctor as played by Christopher Ecclestone to save her life and the planet. It seems that someone, or something, has placed a transmitter in the department store which is causing plastic to come life. The Doctor thinks that all he has to do is to destroy the transmitter which is hidden somewhere in the store and the alien threat will be thwarted. He bids farewell to Rose and blows up the top part of the store.
Next morning Rose awakes for work and is swiftly reminded by her mother that she doesn't have a job to go to anymore. The tv is screening a news report on the explosion at the store. Rose's mom is more concerned about how much compensation her daughter is going to get because of the trauma she's endured since the explosion. Rose's boyfriend enters the scene and adds little more to the narrative than flesh out Rose's lifestyle. Rose notices that she has a mannequin's arm resting on a chair and asks her boyfriend, Mickey, to dispose of it when he leaves. He throws it into a massive garbage can and the camera zooms in as the rattling sound starts to magnify. Back in the apartment strange rattling noises are heard and Rose goes to investigate. Someone is trying to dismantle the cat flap from outside. Could it be one of the mannequins? No, it's the Doctor. He's tracked a signal to the apartment. Rose let's him in and instantly her mother is hitting on him. He politely declines and enters the front room whilst Rose makes a cup of coffee for him. Somehow the arm has made it's way back to the apartment. Suddenly the plastic arm comes to life and starts attacking the Doctor. He manages to break free and the arm flies across the room before landing on Rose's face. A quick burst from the sonic screwdriver and the Doctor is able to save Rose. What is going on she wonders. She wants explanations and the Doctor is not exactly being forthcoming. She walks with the Doctor back to the TARDIS and it's here that we learn a little about his motivations and personal philosophy. It's quite well done and is nicely understated not like the ham-fisted approach taken with the 96 TV movie.
Rose wants answers and like all savvy teenagers knows that the internet is the best place to find them so she trundles off to her boyfriends apartment so that she can use his computer. After a brief online search she comes across a crackpot conspiracy theory site that is all about the Doctor. She knows that the only way she's going to make sense is to contact the site.
One of the great things about the original show was that a normal suburban street could suddenly be far more sinister and they've maintained that tradition here. Rose visits a guy called Clive who has collected reams of data about the Doctor. Wanna know who killed Kennedy well just ask the Doctor because it seems he had a ringside seat.
Poor Mickey he hasn't had much to do so far and to top it all he gets attacked by a garbage bin. No we're not talking Daleks here. The Nestene Consciousness which is the enemy of the piece an control all forms of plastic. I bet the kids will be frightened to use a garbage bin ever again after witnessing this one come to life.
Rose meets Mickey again and this girl must be a total airhead not to notice that something isn't right with Mickey. They decide to go grab a pizza and whilst sitting down for her meal she's saved once again by the Doctor. The Doctor exposes Mickey as an Auton replica and rips the head from his body so that he can use it to trace the signal that is causing plastic to come to life. The Doctor and Rose escape and we see the inside of the TARDIS for the first time....
The TARDIS interior seems to excite people just as much as what the new Doctor is like. It's a cross between the one from the Peter Cushing Dalek movies and the 1996 TV Movie. It's huge but doesn't really inspire the viewer. You don't get the WOW factor that you got when you saw the interior in the first episode back in 1963. It looks nice but that's about it. Perhaps when we see more of it in future episodes it might make more of an impact.
The signal is traced to the Millennium Wheel in central London and as usual the Doctor faces and vanquishes the alien threat. Scrub that because it's Rose who saves the day by dropping an anti plastic solution into the vat. They complete the adventure and Rose decides to travel with the Doctor.
I loved the original series. Ok so it had really cheesy effects but look past them and you got some pretty rich storytelling. Not this time around. Ok so some of the CGI isn't quite up to par but by and large it's pretty good. The main fault is in the script. Sure, it does a great job in introducing the Doctor and Rose but that's just about all it does. I expected so much more from this franchise and am left wanting. If the pilot script is a fair representation of what the rest of the series is going to be like I can see why the Sci-Fi Channel turned it down.
Performances are pretty inconsistent. Noel Clarke who plays Mickey just mugs to the camera all he time. He seems to think that because it's a kids show he doesn't have to give a decent performance. Big mistake dude. As for Rose's mother, well I can't even begin to describe her. There aren't enough negative adjectives in the world to successfully capture the sheer awfulness of her performance.
Rose didn't do it for me. I can see potential so perhaps I might revise my opinion within a few episodes. At the moment she's just nothing special.
Now let's get to the meat and potatoes. Everyone wants to know what Christopher Ecclestone is like. Anyone who saw his portrayal of Steven Baxter in "The Second Coming" will have a decent approximation of how he's doing it. Add to that mix a dash of Tom Baker's manic wit, Jon Pertwee's authority and Sylvester McCoy's chess player on a thousand levels. The kids are gonna totally flip over him. He's going to be an intergalactic pied piper inviting millions of child television viewers to join him on his voyage every week.
The pilot is nowhere near as bad as I thought it was going to be. It's good but not great. Ecclestone could end up being one of the all time great Doctors. Let's see how he handles the the threat of the Daleks.....
Since this is my first post call me Pride of Pimlico