Andrew Jero continues his critical look back at each of the Doctor's eras. Today it's the turn of the Ninth, Christopher Eccleston.
In the second in my series of articles I will be taking a look at Christopher Eccleston’s era as of our favorite Time Lord. I'll offer up examples of the Ninth Doctor's better stories, middle of the road stories and his worst stories, and with those pieces of evidence justify why, for me, his Doctor appears second to bottom in my list of favorites.
Starting with by far the best of the Eccleston era, Dalek. Derived from the Big Finish audio adventure, Jubilee (which featured the sixth Doctor), this story utilized the Daleks really well, I believe the only other time in the revived series that has come close to this was Into The Dalek. But it was this 2005 story where the classic foe is first reintroduced, and it's done very well. Atmospheric and engaging, a brilliant choice to not feature an entire army of them and bring it down to a one on one level.
It wasn't perfect though, not by a long shot. The most annoying thing is
the Doctor's reaction to the flying Dalek. While it was
pertinent that he was surprised in 1988’s Remembrance of the Daleks, it
should be no real revelation that Daleks can fly to Eccleston. I know it is for all the new viewers who had never seen the series prior to 2005, but the Doctor could've not reacted that way whilst all around him displayed shock. Also, although Dalek does feature one of my least favorite companions, Rose, we actually encounter a companion who is even worse (yes, surprising I know) in Adam. A companion who really served no purpose in this story at all, and was simply there as cannon fodder for the rest of the cast.
Next up, the first Eccleston episode I watched, The End of the World. A kind of interesting story, it tells us that some day the Earth will burn and the human race will watch it go by. A cool and creepy concept, but when you pair it with Doctor Who’s worst ever villain - no, not Erato - Cassandra, the story begins to dip fast. The outcome of the serial is predictable (and this is a problem that echoes throughout the next five years) and so ultimately, although the premise is interesting, The End of the World leaves no lasting impression on the viewer.
Moving on to The Unquiet Dead, a story that actually would’ve worked well had the direction lived up to the script (similarly to The Happiness Patrol). The poor direction of the piece, and the underdeveloped characters leave you not wanting more, but needing more for any of it to work at all, and while the inclusion of the “A Christmas Carol” theme was cool, it just didn’t do enough to completely save the story (see a reoccurring theme here?).
There are moments in Doctor Who that frustrate me, a lot. One of them occurs in the Aliens Of London/World War Three two part story. An 'adventure' which currently resides in my bottom fifteen all time episodes. Not only was it puerile and pointless, but it had that moment of frustration. It's all down to one line. One line!
The line in question is the “900 years in time and space.” It appears again in similar form during series four's Voyage of the Damned, when the Doctor tells us that he’s 903. Then in Time of the Angels he is 907.
Why the frustration, you may be asking? Well in the season twenty-four story, Time of the Rani, the Doctor is 953. So if he’s 953 in his seventh incarnation how can he be only 907 in his eleventh? The new series has messed with so much of Doctor Who that didn't need messing with, and the age thing is the most annoying in my view. Why? Because it's such a simple point that Russell T Davis could've easily got right. It's not like the Doctor's age is a obscure plot point from a rarely viewed episode. Why couldn't Eccleston's Doctor said “1100 years in time and space.” or any larger number than 953? Minor continuity errors I might be able to overlook. But this is not acceptable. And frustrating.
Anyway, what is Andrew’s least favorite ninth Doctor story you may be asking? Well, that title goes to none other than the pile of garbage that was Boom Town. A story that serves little to no purpose at all. I hate the Slitheen to begin with, and trying to make me feel sorry for one, with the Doctor pretty much killing one himself, is never going to work. The writing is terrible, the direction laughable and the performances all around are so bad the actors should be paying us for watching it! It amazes me how people are so quick to criticize the recent series eight episodes yet if they loaded Boom Town into the DVD and watched it again straight after any story from Capaldi's recent run then they'd soon realize they have very little to complain about.
Overall, while not as bad as the Tenth Doctor's era, the Ninth's doesn’t do much better. A short tenure with extremely erratic scripts leaves little from Christopher Eccleston's time to look back upon fondly. He was saddled with some of the worst guest stars and supporting actors the show has ever seen, and was also responsible for the introduction of one of my least favorite companion in the entire history of the show.
Score out of ten for the Christopher Eccleston era: 3.5/10
Andrew Jero lives in Iowa and has a very strong love of both Red Dwarf and
Doctor Who. He enjoys acting and writing plays, television scripts,
and short stories. Follow Andrew on Twitter.