2.06.2014

The Doctor Who Project: Ranking Series One


Welcome back, Whovians! If you're just joining us, my friends Justin Wasson, Jaime Hobbes, and I will be spending the next several weeks talking Who. Last week, we each chose our top ten favorite episodes (limiting our choices to the reboot). Now we're going to break down each season. We will give our individual thoughts on each episode (using synopses from IMDB), and then give our own personal ranking on a scale of 1-10 "Sonics". As an added bonus, I will then average our Sonics together to give an overall rank and then arrange the season from best to worst at the end. Should be fun! Let's get started!


In 2005, BBC revived Doctor Who and a whole new generation of fandom was born. Taking helm of the TARDIS was veteran actor Chris Eccleston, who gave the role a fiery zeal. It was Eccleston's powerful portrayal of a character I had previously considered a bit too cheesy for my taste that drew me in and made me the fan I am now. I only wish he'd made maybe one more season before stepping down.

Episode 1: Rose

Rose Tyler is just an ordinary shop worker living an ordinary life in 21st century Britain. But that life is turned upside down when a strange man calling himself The Doctor drags her into an alien invasion attempt! (IMDB)

Justin: I didn't know what to expect from this episode, and by the end I wasn't sure I would care for the show. Rose teams up with the Ninth Doctor to fight the Autons (who first appeared in the 1970 Spearhead from Space episode with Jon Pertwee aka the Third Doctor). The effects were so so, and I didn't care for Rose's supporting cast: her mom Jackie Tyler (Camille Corduri) and her boyfriend Mickey Smith (Noel Clark). In fact, I kept hoping they would be killed off. Even the inside of the TARDIS was blech to me, as it seemed too much like the inner part of an ear. I did enjoy the Doctor's jovial yet rugged attitude, plus his explanation that he can feel the Earth moving through space. In the end the show left me wanting more for the same reason that piqued Rose's interest: Time Travel. 5 Sonics

Jaime: Okay, let's see what this show is all about. Cheesy special effects, thick British accents, is that a mannequin arm? What the hell? Well...that was interesting. The charm of Christopher Eccleston in this episode is the only thing that made me watch the next one. "By the way, did I also mention it travels in time?"
5 sonics

Allison:
I have to say, I'm with my compatriots here all the way. This episode suffered mightily from Weak Pilot Syndrome. The mannequin thing was only marginally interesting, Rose's mom was a jerk, and the special effects were ridiculously lame. I tell people every time they start with this episode to just stick with it, though, because it really DOES get better from here. The major saving grace for the episode is Eccleston and his chemistry with Rose. 5 Sonics

Average Sonics: 




Episode 2: The End of the World


Rose goes off on her first adventure with the Doctor who takes her 5 billion years into the future to view a cataclysmic event: the destruction of the Earth. (IMDB)

Justin: Now this is what I wanted. The future (or really just time travel). Outer space. Aliens. Mystery. Incorrect references to things from the past (or our present). I was excited to watch more episodes after this, and that's what I think the episode Rose should have done for me. 7 Sonics

Jaime:  Time travel! Aliens! Time travel is what interested me most about Doctor Who when I first began watching the show. And to see the destruction of earth? I kind of had the same feelings as Rose, why would people gather and celebrate to watch that? I thought the aliens in this episode were interesting, but overall the episode was a little cheesy. The saving grace was seeing the Doctor and Rose's relationship develop a little more. And we learn more about the Doctor.  6 Sonics

Allison: One of my favorite parts of studying astronomy is the event of our dying sun becoming a red giant and expanding beyond our orbit, absorbing the earth. This is the first time I'd seen a sci-fi show venture so far into the future, and I immediately admired the writers' ambition to speculate with pure abandon. I suppose that's what has kept me such a fan. Additionally, I enjoyed the whole "spectator of the end of the world from a distance" thing, and it had a very Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide feel to it. A major improvement on the pilot episode.
7 Sonics. 

Average Sonics




Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead

The Doctor has great expectations for his latest adventure when he and Rose join forces with Charles Dickens to investigate a mysterious plague of zombies. (IMDB)

Justin: A good episode to play against the previous. For the most part I felt this was a boring episode, but I enjoyed the ending. The banter between the Doctor and Dickens (Simon Callow--who has played the part of the writer several times) was funny. The episode also accomplished a goal it might not have set out to attain: making me research the real life of Charles Dickens. 4 Sonics

Jaime: I liked seeing the TARDIS travel to the past. And I found it amusing that the Doctor was shooting for one time period and missed. Sometimes I wonder if he can even control the TARDIS. This was a good episode, but it doesn't stand out for me. I think the idea of zombies in 19th century London is a little hokey. But I did like the addition of Charles Dickens. 4 Sonics

Allison: Jaime and Justin seem thick as thieves here, but I'm going to have to be the odd one out and say I really dug this episode, and it's one of the standouts from the Eccleston run thanks to the writing of Mark Gatiss, who seems to have an affinity for writing in this time period (as we'll see over the course of the seasons). I love the portrayal of Dickens and the setup of the reanimated corpses. The special effects also take a huge step up in this episode. 6 Sonics

Average Sonics:




Episode 4-5: Aliens of London/World War Three

The Doctor returns Rose to her own time - well, sort of - but her family reunion is ruined when a spaceship crashes in the middle of London. What is the origin of the spaceship, and where has the Prime Minister gone in this time of crisis? (IMDB)

Justin: I love that the Doctor can't go to the right time in a time machine (something I'll touch on with season two), and returns the declared missing Rose back to her home. Jackie and Mickey (or is that Ricky) continue to receive my death wish. The Slitheen are pretty generic villains--except they eat too many beans, but the introduction of Harriet Jones (played terrifically by "Shaun's mum" Penelope Wilton) was welcome.
5 Sonics

Jaime: I am a fan of Jackie and Mickey. I like the idea of the Doctor being a part of Rose's entire life, including her family. And once again, the Doctor can't control the TARDIS and brings Rose home 12 months after she left instead of 12 hours. This episode introduces the Slitheen, an interesting alien family that wears the skins of humans. In this case, the acting Prime Minister. What I liked—aliens in London! Rose's independence and bravery. I also liked seeing the Doctor accept Mickey, and protect Mickey. Harriet Jones was a great character in this episode. What I didn't like—the bathroom humor was funny, the first time. Then it was overplayed. Flatulence can only be amusing for so long to someone over the age of ten. 6 Sonics

Allison: Ah, the Slitheen (a.k.a. Farting Pig Aliens). They are perhaps my least favorite race in the Whoniverse. Unfortuantely, the Russel T. Davies era is rife with pig aliens as we'll see throughout the series. I am not amuse. Luckily, the main and supporting characters come to the rescue here, keeping an already not very interesting plot from falling completely flat. But like my friends, I love the character of Harriet Jones and the fact that the Doctor has trouble controlling the time in which his TARDIS lands. We also get a lot more development from Rose and her family. I'm starting to become attached to these folks, even if the stories they're put in aren't always the greatest. 5 Sonics

Average Sonics



Episode 6: Dalek

The Doctor and Rose travel to the year 2012 and land in a museum of extra-terrestrial objects accumulated by the very wealthy Henry van Statten. He's particularly proud of one device he's acquired but has not yet been able to make functional, and to the Doctor's horror, it turns out to a very old and very dangerous enemy from the past. (IMDB)

Justin: I love when we pass "the future", Twenty-twelve has come and gone, and I think our real future was cooler. A great (re)introduction to the scary Who villain the Dalek was creepy, and this episode helped "Exterminate" any bad feelings I still had about the show. 6 Sonics

Jaime: This is actually one of my favorite episodes and just barely missed being in my top ten. I didn't know it at the time, but the Daleks are a long standing enemy of the Doctor. I liked the idea of an underground alien museum. Seems all too likely. This episode also shows the Doctor's anger and Rose's effect on him. He wants to kill the Dalek, but Rose shows true compassion, even for an alien. This was an exciting episode. And at the end, we have a new passenger on the TARDIS. 10 Sonics

Allison: I'm with Jaime on this. "Dalek" nearly made my top ten. It is the first episode that truly demonstrated the Doctor as a dark character, a man of war and secrets, someone harboring a deep well of shame, anger, and sadness which we can only begin to guess about this early in the game. The most pivotal moment is when the Doctor's greatest enemy tells him he would make a great Dalek, and you realize it's sort of true. That's the power of Eccleston's acting prowess and I love the gravity he added to this role. I also appreciate that the otherwise slow and lumbering trashcans actually managed to be frightening. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics:




Episode 7: The Long Game

The Doctor and Rose arrive in the year 200,000 to see The Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. But something has gone wrong - someone is holding back the development of mankind. Who could have done this? And why? (IMDB)

Justin: I was again excited about a trip to future, and eager to see more of what I thought was a new companion to the Doctor: Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley). Instead I'm treated to something very sinister, and found myself loathing the frosty Editor (Simon Pegg). Overall an ok episode, and an ending that was right up there with the Ninth Doctor's wit. 5 Sonics

Jaime: I enjoyed the idea of a space station beaming information across the galaxy. And, hello, Simon Pegg! What a great guest star in what I thought was an exciting and well-written episode. Also, a little foreshadowing to a later episode in the season. 7 Sonics

Allison: I love the weird and wacky Orwellian feel of this episode, with the brain implants that help reporters beam out information and a great unseen "Oz" type character controlling things behind the scenes. And when we do finally get a glimpse of the "man" behind the curtain, it's a little horrifying. Simon Pegg is always a welcome addition, and as the episode's title suggests, we're also beginning to get a feeling of a major story arc here. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics:



Episode 8: Father's Day

Rose asks the Doctor to take her back to the day her father died. What was intended to be a case of mere observation winds up being a deadly wish fulfillment when Rose decides to prevent her father's death.

Justin: Two things I enjoy: Paradoxes and not watching something from your past that you haven't seen in a long time. This episode covers both of them quite well. The reapers could have been anything silly, but--in my opinion--what made this episode great was the heart it had. It was about missing someone, discovery of your ideas vs reality, and just cool time travel paradox jibber jabber. I get sad when I think about the subject matter. 8 Sonics

Jaime: Aw, now this is the kind of time travel stuff I really dig. Rose insists on the Doctor taking her to see her father, who died when she was only a baby. Not only do they do that, but Rose saves him from his death creating a paradox. The whole concept of this episode is the kind of science fiction I enjoy. A person seeing their parents younger, and not always in a good light. I was happy Rose was able to meet her dad and be with him in his final moments. Needless to say, I cried. 8 Sonics

Allison: My first Doctor Who tears were shed in this episode, and they certainly wouldn't be my last. I love when time travel deals with the bad results of our good intentions. To save the people we love from an untimely death is a chance almost all of us would take, but what happens when we alter that timeline? I also loved seeing Rose come to terms with the stories she'd heard her whole life about her dad, and the reality. This episode deals beautifully with grief and letting go. 9 Sonics

Average Sonics:




Episode 9 & 10: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances

Rose and the Doctor find themselves in 1941 London when the TARDIS receives an emergency signal from another time-traveling vehicle. While the Doctor tries to determine where the object may have landed, Rose goes off in search of a child she can hear calling for help. When she gets herself into a precarious situation, she's rescued by the rather handsome RAF Captain Jack Harkness, who owns a time machine of his own. (IMDB)

Justin: These are wonderful episodes. Why? Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Star Trek references, creepy gas mask kid, repetition of an eery phrase, and the Doctor's line "It's sonic, totally sonic. I am sonicked *up*!" in response to Jack's questioning of the usefulness of a screwdriver in a fight. 9 Sonics

Jaime: This one is in my top ten. It was just that great of an episode(s). And it was the first Doctor Who episode I found to be a little creepy. "Are you my mummy?" I mean, come on. That kid was scary. I loved the setting, the great lines, and of course the introduction of Captain Jack. But what makes this my favorite, is that everybody lives. The joy of the Doctor when he shouts this to Rose just makes you grin with him. For such a dark, spooky story to end with The Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack dancing, well that is the joy of Doctor Who. 10 Sonics

Allison: This is the first episode written by current showrunner Steven Moffat, and as I have come to expect, things always seem to take on a whole new dimension, intelligence, and quality when he's at the helm. This episode is stunning, and I don't mean specifically John Barrowman's good looks and charm. The setting, the creep factor, the dialog, the pitch perfect ending all add up to one of the greatest Who episodes ever made. Brilliant historical fiction with a dark twist but enough joy at its core to keep me smiling. This is what Doctor Who is all about for me. 10 Sonics

Average Sonics:




Episode 11: Boomtown

Stopping off in present-day Cardiff to recharge the TARDIS, The Doctor, Rose and Jack encounter an old foe in the midst of hatching a scheme that could destroy the entire planet. (IMDB)

Justin: Not mentioned in the above summary is the return of the Slitheen, but instead of being generic, this Slitheen (Annette Badland) comes off human. If she wasn't so dag nasty evil I would have cared more about her. The "date" her and the Doctor go on is funny as get out, this is juxtaposed by the date Rose has with (maybe he'll die this time) Mickey. 5 Sonics

Jaime: Eh, just didn't overall enjoy this episode. I liked the banter between the Doctor and Margaret Blaine over dinner, and her failed attempts to kill him. Nothing about this one stood out for me. Though a part of me was glad to see Rose and Mickey kind of call it quits. And at this point, part of me is wondering why the aliens are so obsessed with London. 4 Sonics

Allison: Gotta go with my pals on this one and give "Boomtown" an overall meh. Then again, how do you follow up the gorgeous brilliance of the previous two episodes? I will say that I did like that dinner scene quite a bit, though. Also, the whole Bad Wolf thing is coming to the fore. What does it all mean?! Stay tuned for a better episode. 4 Sonics

Average Sonics:




Episode 12 & 13: Bad Wolf/The Parting of Ways


Jack, The Doctor and Rose have been kidnapped and forced to play terrible and deadly games. But what happens to the bodies of the murdered contestants? And what sinister plot do the games hide? In part two, the Dalek fleet is poised to destroy the Earth and only The Doctor, Rose, Jack, and a band of television producers can stop them. (IMDB)

Justin: This first half is nothing spectacular. Humor here and there, but mostly setting the stage for the second half. This is where it gets really good. Intense action, death, rebirth, and an answer to the Bad Wolf plot that has been weaving through the first season. I was sad to see Chris leave as the Doctor, but was very welcome to having David Tennant take over as the Tenth. Oh, and I even warmed up to Jackie and Mickey. Crazy. 8 Sonics

Jaime: So much going on in these two episodes. Once again, we find ourselves on Satellite 5. The opening is brilliant. I loved the game show elements. What was good about this episode was the story. It was so well written and the pace was perfect. I was heartbroken for Rose when the Doctor sent her back to London alone. But this is when we see that she has come full circle. She takes the heart of the TARDIS into herself to save everyone, including Jack who had been killed by Daleks. We also see why the Doctor is feared by the Daleks. The Oncoming Storm? That is bloody genius. And we see a softer side of him, too. But in order to save Rose, the Doctor is forced to regenerate. No one forgets their first regeneration. I wasn't sure what to expect . . . And then there was Ten. 9 Sonics

Allison: Loved being back on Satellite 5 and seeing the seeds planted throughout the season beginning to sprout. The game show element was inventive and I liked the general suspense and humor it created. It was also great seeing the Doctor's softer side as well as a major improvement in the likability of Jackie and Mickey. A couple things that niggled at me a bit. First was the whole Bad Wolf thing. I get that it was a message spread throughout time, but the whole thing had weak legs to me and never seemed to quite unify itself with the overall mythos. Maybe that's because it was never entirely clear why that choice of wording was used and what it was supposed to symbolize. It's like the writers were like, "Hey, let's just draw a random phrase out of a hat." Two, the Doctor's regeneration felt very rushed, and I wasn't a big fan of his final lines and their somewhat sardonic delivery. It was almost as if Eccleston had bloody well had enough of being the Doctor and just wanted it over with. And maybe that was the case, but it robbed me of the emotional heft I was expecting from his farewell. Still, the moment when he says Rose needed a Doctor, I was like "Me too me too!" Overall, I was happy to see Tennant's face. 7 Sonics

Average Sonics:



Episodes Ranked Best to Worst:

1. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
2. Dalek
3. Father's Day
4. Bad Wolf/The Parting of Ways
5. End of the World
6. The Long Game
7. Aliens of London/World War Three
8. Rose
9. The Unquiet Dead
10. Boomtown

Overall Sonic Average for the Season:





Well that does it for the first season! We'd love to hear your feedback on our rankings and wonder what your favorite and least favorite episodes of the Chris Eccleston run are. Drop us a comment and stay tuned as we delve deep into David Tennant's debut next week!