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Caves and Twins: Rose

So, what did I make of Rose on a repeat viewing. Was it Spearhead From Space or was it, well, Rose?

Russell T Davies, not a man given to modesty, remarked recently how he’d dug out Rose – the story that relaunched Doctor Who in 2005 – and rewatched it for the first time in years.

He had feared that it would not look that impressive but, blow him down with a feather, it was wonderful and funny and clever and lovely!

Was it? I don’t think I’ve rewatched Rose since 2005 either but it was on the telly the other night. I loathed Rose at the time and was not keen to rewatch it either, but I thought I’d give it the RTD test.

Rose is a funny one, because a couple of years before it hit the screen I’d mused that a rebooted series could do a lot worse than a rehash of something like Spearhead From Space. Fast, simple, scary. Maybe RTD had the same thought, or maybe he just wanted an established monster with a neat set-up that could frame a knockabout story and act as a bone thrown to fans.

Whatever the case, I nearly went upstairs and burned my copy of Doctor Who – The Unfolding Text afterwards, back in March 2005. Weirdly enough, I loved The End of the World the next week and got back into the swing of it.

So, what did I make of Rose on a repeat viewing. Was it Spearhead From Space or was it, well, Rose? I was eating a bowl of soup at the time so simply jotted down these thoughts on what was playing out on sceen.

The start

That’s not the theme tune!
Terrible bontempi Randall and Hopkirk (Rebooted) music to start
Micky established as complete arse by eating a sandwich in a funny way at Rose

Rose doesn’t like her job
Ponderous shots of Billie in lift
I can pinpoint the exact Graeme Norton moment here

The next bit

Thankfully music drops off but there’s no spooky music in place when the Autons threaten Rose, unless it’s a Harry Potter/Midsomer Murders interpretation

“Run!” Good opening line for the new Doc but the dreaded music kicks in again.

Eccleston ponders two more seasons of this shit

Beans on toast – there’s a meme we’ll be seeing a lot of over the next five years

“Run for your life!” – like that bit

The inescapable music is almost like a soundbed, chuntering away underneath a 14-year old Radio 1 Newsbeat presenter

Moments of Rose just standing around while she waits for a bomb to go off, like a startled cat working out what to do next following a loud noise

Really bad SFX of the burning building – remember reading Bonnie Greer on the Newsnight Review commenting on how cheap it looked. This is what she was thinking of. It was also at the point that, allegedly, a flaming sofa nearly killed a harmless Welsh pedestrian.

Trademark ‘people running around, wacky camera’ thing that’s a constant of Nu Doctor Who that renders any action sequences instantly laughable

The first proper introduction to two really annoying characters – Micky and Jackie.

Thoughts at this point

Fast. Really fast. But like a Big Mac and strawberry milkshake. Empty calories that leave with a sugar rush and subsequent crash – all headache and nausea and guilt.

It’s not frightening. Almost everything is played for laughs. It’s no coincidence that Moffatt’s were best received for years. His episodes were scary.

RTD makes another mistake. He mistakes not being too scary with ‘not taking itself seriously’. So any potentially scary moments are full of mugging or people laughing or silly sound effects or silly music.

For a long time Doctor Who was very careful to be the show that was aimed at children but didn’t patronise them. At times during the RTD era – Rose for example – it blundered way over that line in a way that’s often hard to watch. Seriously, what age group is this aimed at?

Is stuff like Rose a deliberate kick against the po-faced US sci-fi dramas of the time? With a liberal sprinkling of Joss Whedon through a British kitchen sink lens.

Chav culture references embed this firmly in the mid 00s and already serve to make the programme feel dated.

Rose’s flat

We get a Yeti in a toilet in Tooting Bec moment that turns out to be Ecclestone in a tower block peering through a catflap. If I were Ian Levine I’d probably assume this was a cast iron reference to Survival.

Jackie quickly established as a slag and the Doctor as asexual. Pity it didn’t last.
Eccleston gets his cards

Gay and alien. Heat. Little Britain. 2005.

An ears comment. I once caught sight of Eccleston’s email address – it had the element ‘MrPunch’ in it. Nice.

Regeneration trauma?

Eccles mugging just wrong; he looks unhappy doing it.

Why does Rose ignore what’s going on right in front of her when the Doctor is being attacked by the Auton hand?

Early bit of squirming about between Doc and companion on the floor.

Outside the flat

“See ya” “Hello!” “Sort of, yeah” – do these lines even sound good on paper?

Running and bad music – one of a number of traits that could have formed a mission statement for the next five years.

Eat chips, goto bed and watch telly – another one to get familiar with.

Peter Moffat-esque long shot from Boak.

Earth revolving. Bad but well played by Eccleston – his Doctor remains one that was difficult to pin down.

The Clive bit

Internet bit well played – we nearly get a moment of dramatic tension.

“She’s a she” – heh.

Mark Benton playing himself again – is he an Ian Levine cipher?

Appalling Photoshop on Kennedy pic.

Nice speech from Benton.

Wheelie bin = nice idea in promising a set up (plastic=death!) that has remained frustratingly unexplored.

The burp is the TV equivalent of shovelling e-numbers down a kids throat.

Bad bad bad CGI.

Why doesn’t Rose notice that her BF looks like Theo Walcott, only knows one word and inexplicably drives his car all over the road?


Things almost get a little frightening here with Noel flashing an unnerving, unnoticed smile but then immediately goes back to ‘idiot’ for no apparent reason. And Rose doesn’t notice at all. Brilliant, brilliant Rose…

Silly wrestling and silly music and silly screaming as it’s played for laughs again.

Nice TARDIS reveal.

First properly decent Doctorish moment in the TARDIS as Eccles stops jamming and mugging and shouting for a second.

First appearance of ‘stupid ape’ meme.

“Lots of planets have a north!”

Anti plastic – something you can get away with precisely once (or not – see also Boomtown, TEOTW, The Parting of the Ways in this season alone).

Ecclestone quintuple take on the London Eye doesn’t come off at all due to poor scripting and poor direction – and then we’re back running through treacle with Murray Gold – terrible music that sounds like an off cast from the Vic and Bob reboot of Randall and Hopkirk while we see more running on a bridge.

Nestene HQ

All Auton/Nestene things that are interesting (plastic comes to life, automata, facsimiles) are dealt with in throw away comment.

The Nestene Consciousness is a vat of liquid that can talk -apparently, as none of the sounds it makes could be recognised as speech – that is ‘terrified’ of TARDISes and parlays with other races via the articles of a galactic constitution. What next? Sutekh at the UN?

Weird one-sided conversation that is meaningless without knowledge of story arc and gibberish as we can’t understand from the Nestene.

Auton invasion

Back to dreary Jackie who survives about ten thousand autons not shooting her for some reason – bad direction.

Autons break out and promptly… shoot out the back of a minicab, numerous plant pots and a fat bloke. Curiously unthreatening. The fan/Levine cipher is killed off. Hmm.

The action of the Auton invasion is conveyed through a cameraman having a fit. Eventually Jackie gets her cue, having stood still for about a minute looking confused, while people are gunned down by walking shop-window dummies, and runs away screaming – having spent the last 40 seconds looking like she’s trying to solve a particularly hard puzzle.

A scene that last for three hours where Jackie is menaced by bride Autons, the Doctor does nothing, Micky establishes just how useless he is and Rose – for the first time among billlons of subsequent times – saves the day by swinging on a chain. Awful, leaden direction.

A scene that could have been great shows a couple of twitching Autons. The sum of the Auton invasion includes a backlit double decker, two tiny fires and some rubbish. That’s even less impressive than hijacking a bus.

“You were rubbish” – that’s the Doctor firmly emasculated for the next three years.

The end bit

“Work and food and sleep” – yes, we get it.

Micky mugs like a twat.

Weird slomo final shot.


Moffat said he puts in scares for the kids and jokes for the adults, but RTD never seemed to bother with scares. Everything in Rose says ‘jokes for kids, different jokes for adults’. It left me feeling completely cold.

Here’s something I read recently from Moffatt’s 2011 series press launch, which sums up how I feel about Doctor Who.

“You put the jokes in for the adults, and you make it scary to appeal to children. They absolutely rank the best Doctor Who episodes in order of frighteningness.”



Eccleston does OK with some shonky stuff
Confident start for Billie


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