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The End Of An Era: My Russell T Davies Top 5

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Doctor Who fans like to divide their favourite show into clearly-defined eras, and while the eras can usually be defined by the Doctor, often , they are defined by script editor/producer team. Now, with David Tennant having left the TARDIS, and Matt Smith taking over the reins, the Russell T Davies era has officially come to a close. It really is amazing to think that in the last 5 years we have had 60 new episodes of Doctor Who, two new Doctors, and a third one about to begin. In the no man’s land between 1989 and 2005 there were a few blips: the TV movie in 1996 with Paul McGann (a one-off pilot made in an attempt to kick-start the series on US networks), and a few animated audio stories on the BBC website, but not much else. Books and Big Finish Audio  kept the series alive, and did a very good job of it too. But the fans, myself included, longed for that fabled return to the small screen.

Enter Russell T Davies.

Now,  I’ve spent more then my fair share of net time reading what other Who fans think of the new show. Time and time again I see a lot of RTD hatred, or at least frustration. They complain that he made too many changes – not least among them was that he made the Doctor fall in love. Now, if you had asked me in 2004 could the Doctor ever fall in love with one of his companions, I would have vehemently said ‘No! Never!’ But my imagination is far more limited than RTD’s and by the end of the first season, when the Doctor and Rose kiss and the Doctor absorbs all of the energy from the time vortex, thus triggering a regeneration, I was completely and totally won over.

I certainly haven’t loved everything about new Who, and I certainly haven’t loved every RTD story, that would be absurd, but I definitely haven’t hated anything about the new show. Sure, he has his silly moments, moments where he goes too far for the sake of a laugh or an ‘epic moment’, but his exuberance, his love of the show, his brilliant, and often hilarious dialogue is just so infectious, that I’m willing to forgive him his excesses (think most of The Stolen Earth), and enjoy the ride. He created his own universe full of unique characters while at the same time managing to work in enough continuity references to the classic series to make every fanhuman melt. For a show that spent 15 years in the wilderness and was more remembered for its creaky sets and dodgy effects than anything else, the fact that it is now one of the most successful television shows in Britain (and gaining ground in North America as well) is a tribute to Davies’ vision and his tremendous show-running skills.

So to celebrate the end of an era, here are my Top Ten RTD Moments*

5. 9 into 10

We barely knew Doctor #9, but his regeneration scene is touching and beautifully done. At this point, having just finished watching The End of Time part 2 a few weeks ago, I like 9’s change better than 10’s.

4. The dinner chat from BoomTown

This is a low-key episode. Some may even say a filler episode. But upon a second viewing I found that I enjoyed it immensely, possibly because I wasn’t expecting much from it, and also because of this great restaurant scene (or scenes, as they are broken up between scenes with Rose and Mickey). Before the Doctor takes Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer Day Slitheen back to her home planet to be executed, the Doctor lets her enjoy her last evening by taking her out to a restaurant in Cardiff (dinner and bondage…). It’s a non-traditional Doctor Who scene, but the way it explores the Doctor’s psyche is very well done. Davies’ dialogue is a joy to listen to; humour and pathos mingling dangerously like poison dropped into a glass of wine.

3. The Bad Wolf cliffhanger

I have a feeling RTD loves the ‘big moments’. This is a great cliffhanger. First there’s the shock of the Daleks returning, which would be the traditional place to insert the cliffhanger, but RTD turns it around and makes the Daleks the victims of the cliffhanger instead of the Doctor. The Doctor lays it all out and tells the Daleks exactly what he’s going to do to them, and the Daleks are left shaking in their metallic casings. The beginning of the next episode adds a further thrill by showing the TARDIS hurtling, missile-like toward the Dalek ship to save Rose. Brilliant.

2. Derek Jacobi is the Master

I had actually managed to avoid this spoiler. I knew that John Simm was playing the Master, but I had no idea that Derek Jacobi was also the Master. The majority of Utopia was decent, nothing to write home about, but watching Jacobi speak the lines: “I. Am. The Master”, whoa nelly how the chills ran up the back of my neck. And Jacobi sells it like few other actors could. His delivery is so over the top, yet so incredibly sinister. It’s the kind of moment that I’m not sure would resonate with casual viewers of the show, but for this fan, it was a terrific thrill and encapsulates everything fantastic about Davies’ revisioning, reimagining, rebooting, revitalization of the greatest show on television.

1. Midnight – the whole darn episode

The series 4 bottle episode. One set, a handful of characters, barely any special effects, and great writing. This is one of the best episodes of the new series, and probably RTD’s best individual episode. It’s largely about the power of words, and for once the Doctor, companion-less and pitted against an enemy he doesn’t, or ever will, understand, is completely and utterly out of control.

Honourable Mentions:

–    Rose trying to get Queen Victoria to say ‘We are Not Amused’ (Tooth and Claw)
–    Daleks fighting Cybermen
–    Cybermen fighting Daleks
–    Love and Monsters (whole episode)
–    “That’s the kind of man I am,” (The Christmas Invasion)
–    Leaving Rose on Bad Wolf Bay
–    The water zombies in The Waters of Mars
–    The final reveal of ‘he will knock 4 times’

*(I’m only including episodes that he wrote. I know he probably contributed bits and pieces to every script, but, not being privy to that kind of info, I’m sticking with his stories only)

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