Doctor WhoTV

Doctor Who: The Complete First Series: The Ninth Doctor 2005 (DVD review).

As I originally reviewed the original 13 episodes as they appeared on screen, the focus is on things for this DVD boxset, which I’m spotting this time and then focusing on the extras. What I’m still pondering is why showrunner Russell T Davies let the Doctor be called ‘Doctor Who’ in the credits. That hasn’t really happened since the 1960s and 1970s.

The audio commentary

With the first episode, ‘Rose’, considering that Clive (actor Mark Benton) had photographs of the Eccleston regeneration doctor at different events in the past and yet the Time Lord notes that he’s only just regenerated, these must be events in his future, so where was Rose while this was going on? So did he leave her behind at some point to fulfil her appearance in these events?

I always wondered with ‘The End of the World’, how the Doctor was so callous as to let Cassandra (voiced by Zoë Wanamaker) explode, but considering we later know he did far worse than the War Doctor, maybe it makes more sense here.

With ‘The Unquiet Death’, I’d totally forgotten that Gwyneth the Maid was played by actress Eve Myles, and there is a connection to the rift, which we will also see again much later. It might also solve a quandary. Although her body might have died in 1869, passing through the rift does make it conceivable that she was resurrected in our century as Gwen Cooper and why Jack Harkness recruited her for Torchwood when she was an ordinary police officer, as he would have spotted she was as unusual as he was.

The disc says there’s commentaries, and other than pressing the button, nothing else happens—not even a kickback to an episode. Instead, after a little thought, I went back to the first episode, used the Blu-ray player’s own command structure, changed the language command key, and up it popped. Normally, I watch an episode and then follow through with the audio commentary. For the first disc, I shall have to do all three commentaries, one after the other.

For the first story, ‘Rose’, producers Julie Trantor and Phil Collinson and showrunner Gareth T Davies go over some of the problems with filming in Cardiff, including Cardiff Council giving away their schedule for filming in the city in the news. Five days were spent in London, although you would have to work hard to spot the way they cut the scenes in. The same with CGI tidying up scenes and the autons. It’s a shame they couldn’t go the way of the original series and get the real thing. It’s a common problem that you can’t time action scenes, but it does explain the events for the next episode, which I tended to think was a spoiler at the time.

The second episode, ‘The End of the World’, has producer Phil Collinson and The Mill special effects supervisor Will Cohen discussing the details of the episode, pointing out just how much wasn’t there when the actors filmed. In the opening credits, as per Russell T. Davies instruction, the blue tunnel indicates the future and the red the past. That looks like a description of the Doppler effect to me. Oh, it also took 3 months in post-production.

‘The Unquiet Dead’, the third episode’s audio commentary, is with director Euros Lyn, writer Mark Gatiss, and actor Simon Callow. It’s pointed out that there are elements of ‘A Christmas Carol’ about the plot, and this is also a failure for the Doctor as Dickens and Gweneth essentially save the day. It’s also a twist on locations, with Swansea masquerading as Victorian Cardiff because it looked less modern and had the right square.

The fourth episode, ‘Aliens of London’, has an audio commentary with executive producer Julie Gardner, special effects guru Will Cohen, and actor David Verry, aka acting prime minister Joseph Green, aka Jocrassa Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen. The filming for this new ‘Doctor Who’ series started with this episode, and they point out which scenes were filmed first. They also made a lot of extra scenes to build up the screen time. One thing that struck me about David Verry’s voice is that if they ever had to do a voiceover of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, he has the right vocal inclination for it.

The fifth episode, ‘World War Three’, has producer Phil Collinson, script editor Elwen Rowland, and actress Annette Badland. Things you learn include passing episodes through a Harding machine to ensure any strobing is at a safe level, the continual redressing of rooms, and how scenes were often filmed months apart. All scripts go through the BBC’s editorial policy and legal advice departments before being filmed.

The sixth episode, ‘Dalek’, has actor Bruno Langley, scriptwriter Robert Shearman, Dalek voice Nick Briggs, and visual effects boss David Houghton, although picking him out in the commentary is tough. Highlights include the museum, which is a single corridor, and the rest of the show, which is entirely computer-generated imagery. Where the Dalek was concerned, it was filmed in order, so it moved from dirty to clean. The blue light from his eye-stem is also rather fierce in the actors’ eyes. They are all in frequent praise of director Joe Ahearne.

The seventh episode, ‘The Long Game’, has director Brian Grant with actors Bruno Langley (Adam Mitchell) and Christine Adams (Cathica Santini Khaden) on audio commentary. From what is said here, Mitchell was stealing tech to help his ailing father, although it looked to me like he was stealing history and hence computer tech for his own use. Of real significance is Adams pointing out she rescued the Doctor—the second time this has happened in this series.

The eighth episode, ‘Father’s Day’, has writer Paul Cornell with actors Shaun Dingwall and Billie Piper and, for the latter, the first time she had seen any of the first season episodes at the time. A dozen vases were made for Dingwall to carry, although no one notes how many were actually smashed. The episode was also recorded in December, and most of the key cast members had heavy colds. Director Joe Ahearne upped the emotional content of the scenes. No one notes that this is the third episode that the Doctor didn’t actually save the day.

The ninth episode, ‘The Empty Child’, has writer Steven Moffat, special effects supervisor David Houghton, and actor John Barrowman, who actually turns into a good character by confessing some of his own ignorance and asking questions of the others, making it one of the better ones to listen to. The areas of special effects were often designated as a silver ball for where to look. On top of the Tulu spacecraft, Barrowman’s first scene was in a green room, although there was no explanation of how the darkened shadows were achieved. Moffat points out that there were four complete drafts and another twelve or thirteen minor polishes, some while filming and not being able to use the kids at night, but leaves me with the question as to just when was the final scene filmed on Barry Island. Mike Tucker created all the balloons, but the rest was CGI. There were also three hero gasmasks, and the rest were Russian imports.

The same audio commentary team continues to the tenth episode, ‘The Doctor Dances’, when Barrowman reveals that he, Eccleston, and Piper were the earliest actors selected. He also tried various accents for the part, and they decided against Glasgowian. He only stayed in a British accent until found out by the doctor and then switched to American. Moffat explains that tape recorders did exist in World War II, but only in Germany. Oh, the translation of the words from German on the bomb actually read ‘Rubbish Wolf’. For the life of me, I didn’t even see words on it.

The audio commentary for the eleventh episode, Boom Town’, is by producer Phil Collinson and actors Annette Badland and John Barrowman. Highlights are Badland being disturbed by her facemask looking like a death mask and the Tardis interior looking somewhat like a jellyfish. Barrowman pointed out that the Doctor’s forehead flashing red light and the mirrored ball that Badland played with are shop items, and they were filmed in a very cold February. The sequences where the Doctor and Rose were running were done by their doubles, as the actors weren’t available. Barrowman also points out that the TARDIS console he was wiring was only a prop. Obviously, because they wouldn’t let him near the real one. There was also no mention of his new hairstyle for this episode. I checked on their discussion on Slitheen toys, and yes, they have made them but not the human skins. It looks like the Slitheen will have to get those the old-fashioned way.

The twelfth episode, Bad Wolf’, has an audio commentary with executive producers Julie Gardner and Russell T Davies and producer Phil Collinson. They start discussing the ease of getting TV game permissions, although ‘The Weakest Link’s music had to be obtained separately. I imagine the show has to do that, too. All the hosts gladly volunteered their voices, although I do tend to agree they were too robotized to be recognisable. Considering how computers can duplicate voices these days, I hope that’s revised in the future. Davies frequently points out that the episode was running short and adds back bits from the games to bulk it up.

The thirteenth episode, ‘The Parting of the Ways’, is with executive producer Julie Gardner and actors John Barrowman and Billie Piper, and this is her first time seeing this episode as well. There were only four practical Daleks, and much of the episode was green screen. They also pin-pointed scenes that were the final ones filmed, but I’ll leave you to listen to them on that. Gardner is wrong, though; both the Daleks and Cybermen have been in the TARDIS in the past. The enthusiasm from all three is infectious, as are their giggle asides.

The Extras

There are extras on every disk. Let’s start with disc #1, where ‘Big Breakfast Interviews Christopher Eccleston’, running at 12 minutes, is just that. Recorded a couple days after he’d been working six days a week for eight months and before he decided to leave the show. I’ll pick out some highlights. Eccleston, although not a Who fan, liking only the regenerations and seeing what was inside a Dalek, was drawn to the new series because Russell T. Davies said scripts are always the deciding factor in TV success. With each episode lasting 45 minutes, he also said that was equivalent to doing two series. This really is worth watching.

‘Destroying the Lair’, running at around 3 minutes, has special effects director Mike Tucker showing how they made a 1:6 scale model of the Great Intelligence Den so they could destroy it.

‘Meet Doctor Who With Russell T Davies’, running at 15 minutes, also includes producer Julie Gardner as they film themselves having a chat and show various aspects of making the Autons episode, including outside broadcast in Cardiff. History, folks. There was a 2005.

‘Walking the Dead’ is actually a video diary, running for 18 minutes, by Mark Gattis going through his preparation and writing the third script. Throughout, his hair frequently changes colour, and it’s obvious he’s doing his own acting career at the same time. His script is frequently changed as he removes characters and changes plot elements, and even he notes that he’s finding it difficult to peg down and get into shape for a story he originally thought of 30 years ago. The following up, ‘Laying Ghosts’, is another 3 minutes of Mark Gatiss discussing his story.

Following that, spread over 3 minutes, there are the three trailers and a 47-second storyboard showing how one of them was put together.

On disc #2, the 5-minute ‘Deconstructing Big Ben’, special effects guru Mike Tucker explains and shows the top of the Big Ben tower was made both in CGI and model for the wingtip to destroy. It took a second to get the right shot at its destruction.

‘On Set With Billie Piper’ runs for 19 minutes and is basically the actress filming behind the scenes of six episodes. It’s rather interesting seeing her stunt double clinging to a rope and the real thing in a scene with Chris Eccleston. Watching the running, I can understand why his successor decided to wear plimsols.

On disc #3, 5 minutes are devoted to ‘Mike Tucker’s Mock of Balloons’. If ever there was a choice of watching this extra, do it after the tenth episode rather than break the illusion. Tucker shows how it was made in different materials and how enough footage was made for it to be incorporated into the CGI shots.

On disc #4, 20 minutes are devoted to ‘Designing Doctor Who’, initially starting with the construction of the TARDIS interior and the console details with designer Edward Thomas before being introduced to members of his team and what they do. If you have ideas about working in this arena, you’ll need artistic skills and be able to do modelling in any medium.

‘The Adventures of Captain Jack’, running for just over 3 minutes in 2005, is John Barrowman talking to the camera about his character and how he got the job. Aspects of this ultimately end up being used in the series. He also thinks the character could dovetail with ‘Doctor Who’ in his own series. I wonder what happened to that idea.

Doctor Who Confidential

The final disc is devoted to ‘Doctor Who Confidential’ with 14 episodes running at 12 minutes. As I reviewed them when they were first shown on TV, I’m going to focus on anything said then that they wouldn’t do and then did. Take the opening one where they said they would keep a consistent single costume per Doctor, and we already know Ncuti Gatwa is regularly going to change clothes, even more than Jodie Whittaker did.

Considering the ninth Doctor admitting that he doesn’t do family, you do have to wonder what he considers Amy Pond and Rory Williams and later their relationship with River Song. The same with messing with the TARDIS design; that was until the Moffat years. Russell T. Davies points out that there have been very few stories involving time itself. My kind of memory can recall several earlier ones; however, since 2005, there’s been far too many.

I disagree with Davies’ decision to keep the tech light on. ‘Doctor Who’ is full of tech, from the TARDIS to the likes of the Daleks and Cybermen. It doesn’t need to be explained; just be consistent. The number of deaths has been maintained across future series.

It was interesting watching this first season again. Compared to later seasons, I didn’t feel so worn out watching it, although I think I’m better used to the pace now. The main result of this is that I want to watch the next season, which should speak for itself.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: BBC, 2011. 13 50 minute episodes with extras. Price: varies. ASIN: BBCDVD3965)

cast: Chistopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, John Barrowman and many, many more


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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