I finished the first series of the revitalized Doctor Who last night, and I’m still processing all my thoughts (I plan to continue with the show, and with Torchwood, so more to come, I’m sure). I think the flaws in the concept are significant. The Daleks are too powerful to be truly interesting arch-enemies. If you can’t turn someone, or shove them down an air shaft, or through general cleverness rather than unprecedented turns of events, there isn’t much material to fuel an ongoing battle, which I assume is one of the reasons we never see the Time War. There are a lot of inconsistencies in the rules about what changes to time bring grave consequences and which are just, even necessary—and it’s not always clear which changes stick. The cheesy effects are part of the nature of the show, but in an era of updated television and movies, they’re distracting.
All those flaws aside, it was an awfully compelling 13 episodes of television. A lot of that’s to do with the show’s basic cleverness. It’s a nice bit of sniping at British television innovations like Big Brother and The Weakest Link to imply they’re the result of extremely nasty alien technology. The reinterpretations of historical events like the Blitz are evocative without being objectionably revisionist. “Father’s Day” is one of the better ghost stories I’ve ever watched.
But really, I think most of it is the way the show handles Rose Tyler. If there’s a character capable of transforming our understanding of the Mary Sue concept, or at least the idea of an audience stand-in, she is undoubtably it. I talked about this a little on NPR, but it’s so rare to see female characters heading out simply for the sake of adventure, not to protect anyone, or to uphold a cause. The moment in the series when Rose says goodbye to Mickey and runs joyfully back onto the TARDIS made me incredibly happy. It was such a delight to see her going for it. And it felt right when she had to reckon with the consequences of abandoning him, and transforming herself through experience. It’s a subtle gender role reversal, but for all the women who waited on widows’ walks, in castles, on farms without anyone to work the land while men went out and saw, and conquered, and defined the world, Rose Tyler is a champion.