What I wrote before rewatching
What I thought at the time: OK, that's a very well done reintroduction of the show for a new audience. Nice work. I really think they could have been a lot more sympathetic to Mickey at the end given what he's been through, but I can kinda see that maybe you need to establish Rose's companion characteristics by having someone to contrast her with. And: Oh dear, the action direction in the climactic scene was terrible, please tell me British TV as a whole hasn't forgotten how to do this sort of thing with too many years of kitchen sink stuff.
What I think now: The Mickey thing looms a lot larger, because it's the start of a long pattern that has disturbing racial elements as well (every main companion's intro has a "not good enough" person who happens to be of an arguably-more-disadvantaged racial group: Julia for Martha and Penny for Donna). And thank fuck it was just Keith Boak being shit.
- The title sequence. Not so much the music (though I don't think it's actively bad, it's just not nice and weird) but the actual title sequence is a nice updating of the classic versions.
- The opening crash-zoom to Earth. Overused since, but very good.
- The way everything in
CardiffLondon is massively iconic. Twenty red double decker buses round every landmark (which then helps to sell the actually Cardiff bits because they have double decker buses in them too). It's nice, I like the hyperrealistic feel.
- Some of Keith Boak's directorial tricks for shortcutting passage of time and stuff when it's not about action. The opening sequence in particular establishes Mickey/Rose very well. There's a reason Boak is a trendy young director.
- Teh Billeh. It's easy to forget she's a good actress given some of the shit she sometimes gets given to say (I'm not thinking about Who here so much as Secret Diary). But watching this reminded me of how much better she is than what I'd feared given her previous career.
- The creepy bit in the basement. Not actually scary to watch but totally sells Rose being scared.
- The Doctor's intro, both the "Run!" moment and the way the whole episode serves as an intro to him via Rose. All of their scenes together have great dialogue. The turn of the Earth speech is dead good.
- It has Autons in it. Somehow I always forget that, 'cos I'm thinking of it as the reintroduction epsiode. But it has Autons in it. That's so great. Back in the very olden days, How Many Times A Monster Had Been In It was supposedly important, so the Autons counted more than say the Axons, because they had Spearhead and Terror. I remember believing this somehow when I was tiny and so I'm always pleased about returning villains for the villains' sake as well as just the recognition factor. Apart from that, they're an excellent monster for the "modern day" world. I'm sure Rusty could have come up with something equally good, but he didn't need to and having a classic shoutout helps with establishing that it is still the same show.
- The way they treat the TARDIS. The first shot of the TARDIS as Rose runs past it is nice and understated. The TARDIS theme is lovely. Rose's "uh, what?" reaction is great too (but see below). I've never been hugely in love with Bryan Hitch's "coral" design but it's well done. "It's a disguise."
- Jackie and Mickey! They're both great. In particular, knowing where Jackie's going makes her comedy stuff much more palatable.
- Ecclescakes can act. At this point what he's been given to do is OK because it's all the iconic stuff and it hasn't got too deeply into the Time War PTSD bits that annoy me. In fact, this episode gets it just right: the Doctor is prepared to take action against the Nestenes after exploring all other possible avenues. That not-quite-an-emo-tear
that makes me think it's Fitz's jacketafter "forget me, Rose Tyler, go home" is stunning.
- Clive! I had completely forgotten about him. How the hell did that happen? So sad that he died. He is a pleasant character and used for good jokes about fandom. Double win.
- "What? What? What is it? What? Oh. Fantastic." (Though I do subscribe to the "he knew and was testing her out" theory.)
- The location for the Nestene lair is well-chosen and dressed.
- The Shadow Proclamation-y stuff is nice and cosmic-sounding. Rusty's good at that in his way. Also "I couldn't save your world, I couldn't save any of them!"
- The proper Auton gun noises. That's the sort of little detail that it'd be easy not to bother with, and really shows the labour of love side of it. Also I had been playing a lot of Destiny of the Doctors in the lead up to the new show coming on. (It's a terrible, terrible game. But I still enjoy it because you get to walk around something that's occasionally recognisable as the TARDIS and Ainley Master is batshit insane at you at irregular intervals. And you spend a lot of time dodging Autons and they make the noise.)
- They still can't do convincing CGI fire four years later (Survivors). And they must have known they couldn't do it then, so why bother trying? Especially when it's not that hard to blow up a prop (Daemons did a not-too-bad job thirty-plus years previously) and we know they had Mike Tucker.
- Eccleston's "I'm pushing this hand into myself" acting. NOT CONVINCING. And I sort of blame Boak for it, though it's more about misjudging the tone of the scene than pacing. That should be a scary bit that it's possible to understand Rose misinterpreting, not the other way round.
- The music is intrusive in a few places: I particulary noticed that it goes on too long in comedy mode into the beginning of the "sort of" scene.
- I want to put Plastic Mickey in the Good, because he is funny, but the problem is that the idea that Rose doesn't notice straight away, given the way they play it, makes her either stupid or having an incredibly poor opinion of him, when she's already been established as neither of these things.
- The pacing of all the action direction, pretty much. Mickey and the wheelie bin goes on too long (I have no objection to the burp, but I don't like it enoguh to put it in The Good). Rose running round the TARDIS confused by its transcendentalness while the door gets bashed down. Nine vs the Autons on the platform is unbelievably stupid and long-winded and makes Nine look useless even when he's not particularly, and undermines Rose's "I got the bronze" moment. The stuff on the streets -- especially Jackie's bit with the brides -- isn't very good either but it's not as bad. There's a reason Boak is a trendy young director, but dammit, they should have checked he could do action before they hired him to RESTART THE SHOW. Epic fail.
- The CGI of the Nestene face is not very convincing, and it's not as though animated molten plastic is something anyone's got real world experience so they should have been able to do something that didn't fail to look like it.
- The treatment of Mickey, and to a lesser but still troubling extent, Jackie. But, actually, not. It's weird. The real issue is that the episode wants to set up a "Rose wants more from life than this, and the Doctor can give that to her" thing. But her life is not actually that bad and while that doesn't mean it's not perfectly legitimate for her to want more the externalisation of that desire onto the most important people in her life sits really badly in contrast to what's actually portrayed of her relationships with them in the episode until literally two minutes from the end. She phones her Mum in the middle of the crisis and at the end to make sure she's OK. She's very affectionate with Mickey (this episode makes me ship them quite hard, and it did at the time but I forgot) and while she takes the, er, mickey out of him a bit it's not in the slightest bit cruel. She's very upset when she thinks he's dead, justifiably annoyed with the Doctor for his dismissiveness, and up until the alley is very much about looking after him during the climactic battle sequence. (There's a bit in the early scenes in the flat where she's a bit judgey of the two of them, but not too harshly and she has just been involved in the whole Auton/crazy terrorist dude business.) So the fact that at the very end she does suddenly come over all dismissive and "Thanks for what?" "Exactly" just seems weird and either makes Rose look fairly horrible, or gives credence to that theory that it's the "travels in time" thing that really gets her going and she's really planning Father's Day from the beginning. (The "He's not invited" from the Doctor I don't have so much of a problem with, his exposure to Mickey is not the same as Rose's.) Basically, it makes no sense, and it's an early example of RTD's tendency to undermine his own thematic-or-however-you-want-to-describe-i
t intentions because of his natural tendency to breathe more life into his supporting cast. (ETA: Another possibility the text supports is that she's an adrenalin junkie and is really turned on by the danger and having lived through it. I will have to keep an eye on that to see if it holds up as an interpretation.)
Lots more good than bad there, and even the big worrying bit is undermined by everything that leads up to it such that it doesn't really make sense. This is a very encouraging start.
(BTW, did they clean up the Nestene Consciousness's "Time Lord" for the DVD? I could swear Jabe was the first to say it unambiguously on screen in the new series and that Nick Briggs just sounded all roary and growly on that line just like the rest of the Nestene dialogue. But this time around it was almost too clearly audible.)
ETA: BBC3 is just starting Human Nature. I would just like to point out before Father's Day comes up in six posts' time that I love that pissmidget more than anything and think Timewyrm: Revelation is at least one of the Real Beginnings of the NAs. So it's not that I don't like Paul Cornell. (Of course I may yet discover some deep and abiding love for Father's Day, which is kind of the point. But, er, don't hold your breath.)