Rating: Doctor Who, Season 1

We have continued our rewatching-and-rating project into a series with a bigger fan following: the rebooted Doctor Who that began its broadcast life in 2005. We know that there are a lot of Who fans out there who are passionate about the series and feel strongly about certain episodes and characters. Here’s how we felt about the first season, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion Rose.

  1. “Rose” – 4
  2. “The End of the World” – 4
  3. “The Unquiet Dead” – 4.5
  4. “Aliens of London” – 6
  5. “World War Three” – 6
  6. “Dalek” – 4
  7. “The Long Game” – 4.5
  8. “Father’s Day” – 5.5
  9. “The Empty Child” – 8.5
  10. “The Doctor Dances” – 10
  11. “Boom Town” – 5
  12. “Bad Wolf” – 4
  13. “The Parting of the Ways” – 3

It’s a rocky start to the new show, which is understandable given how much weight this first season had to carry: living up to the nostalgia for the old show while proving that the Doctor Who formula could be made fresh, new, and relevant for a new generation. The average episode rating for this season is 5.3, which is low but decent.

The lowest-rate episode of the season is the finale, “The Parting of the Ways,” in which the Doctor faces off against a Dalek invasion of Earth in the future while Rose desperately tries to get back to him from the present. It rated only a 3 for several reasons. There are pacing and structural issues with the story and its ending relies too much on an almost literal dea ex machina. We find Dalek stories generally weak because the Daleks are flat as characters and overpowered as antagonists.

The standout best episode of the season, though, is “The Doctor Dances” at a full 10. In WWII-era London, the Doctor and Rose deal with both dashing Time Agent-turned-con artist Jack Harkness and a monster that looks like a little boy in a gas mask but who turns those he touches into mindless gas-mask-faced shadows of themselves. As the conclusion to a two-part story after the very strong “The Empty Child,” this episode is full of both sparkling wit, clever sci-fi ideas, and powerful human drama.

This season’s heart (or hearts) are in the right place, even if it doesn’t always deliver. The “dig in the couch cushions and see what you find” special effects budget of the old show was always part of its quirky charm, but the fist season of the new show clearly struggled to live within its means. Not every episode pulled off the right balance of whimsy and pathos. Still, this season did what it needed to: it brought us back the Doctor and the TARDIS and prepared the way for greater adventures to come.

We know there are lots of other Doctor Who fans out there, and some of you probably feel quite different about this season and its episodes. We’d love to hear your take. Let us know which episodes of season 1 worked for you or didn’t.

Image: Doctor Who Series 1 via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.


10 thoughts on “Rating: Doctor Who, Season 1

  1. The Cheesesellers Wife November 27, 2017 / 12:03

    Great season, and I love The Doctor Dances. However, its NOT season one, but season 27……….


    • Erik November 27, 2017 / 12:51

      People assume that television series are a strict progression of season to season, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint they’re more like a wibbly-wobbly ball of telly-welly… stuff.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The Cheesesellers Wife November 27, 2017 / 13:54

        Especially concerning the good Doctor!. Note I didn’t count the film –although I do like it and Paul McGann.

        They say you can tell a lot about someone when you find out their Favorite Doctor. I use it as a good way to determine someones age!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Erik November 27, 2017 / 14:04

        I loved Tom Baker back in the day when we got the old serials late on Saturday nights on PBS. In the new series, David Tennant has won my heart(s).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eppu December 3, 2017 / 13:39

    Another David Tennant / Doctor 10 vote here!


    • The Cheesesellers Wife December 3, 2017 / 16:28

      I just re-watched the 50th anniversary special — Tennant and Smith but also John Hurt AND Tom Baker. Bliss!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. paulliverstravels January 22, 2018 / 08:18

    I don’t like the Daleks either. When Doctor Who tries to handle SF on a Star Wars/Star Trek level it usually falls flat for me, while when Doctor Who does intimate and creepy it does it very, very well. The foundations of these shows are built differently and better handle different story structures.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erik January 22, 2018 / 10:08

      I think that’s a good observation: Doctor Who does small stories much better than big stories.

      Liked by 1 person

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