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New Series Episode 1:
Rose Tyler's life is turned upside-down when she encounters murderous living mannequins in the basement of the department store where she works. She is saved by a mysterious man who calls himself “the Doctor”. With the reluctant help of her boyfriend, Mickey, Rose delves deeper into the mystery of the Doctor, and in the process uncovers a threat to the entire world: the Nestene Consciousness has returned and once again seeks to dominate the Earth.
The dawn of the twenty-first century was perhaps the bleakest period in Doctor Who's storied history. Unlike the years spanning the broadcast of Survival and the Doctor Who telefilm, during which a party interested in a Doctor Who revival seemed to lurk around every corner, the property now appeared virtually dead as a television concern.
There was, nonetheless, the occasional furtive sign of hope. In 1999, Russell T Davies was briefly attached to a revival entitled Doctor Who 2000. Davies had written the Doctor Who: The New Adventures novel Damaged Goods in 1996 but was best-known as the creator of the controversial drama programme Queer As Folk, as well the 1991 science-fiction series Dark Season. Two years later, Dan Freedman, producer of BBC Online's first Doctor Who webcast, Death Comes To Time, was reported to be championing a new series in which the focus would be on a Time Lord called the Minister of Chance, who had been introduced in the audio play and who would serve as the Doctor's successor.
It appeared, however, that the BBC was now focussing on developing Doctor Who as a feature film. Davies' project had been scuppered when BBC Films engaged Paul Anderson (director of movies such as Mortal Kombat and Event Horizon) and his production partner Jeremy Bolt, working in association with Artisan Entertainment, to develop such a movie. And while BBC Films parted company with Anderson and Bolt several months later, efforts continued over the next several years to bring Doctor Who to the big screen.
Finally, in 2003, the patience of the BBC's television wing wore out. With BBC Films making no headway with Doctor Who, BBC1 Controller Lorraine Heggessy arranged for the property to fall once again under her aegis. The man entrusted with spearheading the series was Russell T Davies, whose stock had continued to grow since 1999 with such well-received programmes as Bob & Rose and The Second Coming. He had quietly resumed lobbying the BBC to revive Doctor Who around early 2002. Joining Davies as executive producers were Mal Young, BBC Controller of Continuing Drama Series, and Julie Gardner, Head of Drama for BBC Wales. BBC Wales would in fact be the production home of the new series, as part of an overall effort by the BBC to decentralise its traditionally London-based television production; this was particularly attractive for Davies, himself a Welshman. Heggessy confirmed the return of Doctor Who in an interview published on September 26th, 2003.
This was just the start of a long road back to the screen for Doctor Who, however. The first task was to assemble the key creative team. Most notably, Phil Collinson was announced as the producer at the start of 2004; his previous credits had included Peak Practice, Born And Bred, and the supernatural drama Sea Of Souls. Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that Davies would be scripting the premiere episode of the new series himself. Amongst other writers contacted about the series was Harry Potter author JK Rowling, who declined the invitation because she was too busy working on the sixth Potter novel.
By this time, it was clear that the production team was planning to bring Doctor Who back to its roots as a family programme which could entertain the adults while still spooking the younger members of the audience. Nonetheless, the new series would not be a “reboot” of the original continuity: the title character would be the Ninth Doctor, and other familiar aspects of the classic series would be retained. This ethos was laid out in a pitch document developed by Davies, which also introduced the new companion, Rose Tyler, as well as supporting characters such as Rose's mother Judy (subsequently renamed Jackie) and boyfriend Muggsy (later Mickey). Davies further suggested that the robot dog, K-9, might be reintroduced during the season as an additional companion for the Doctor and Rose, but this idea did not come to fruition.
Meanwhile, as the principal crew started to take shape, the most important task facing the production team was the search for a lead actor. Amongst the performers approached by Davies was Hugh Grant, star of films such as Four Weddings And A Funeral and Love, Actually. Grant had played an incarnation of the Doctor in the 1999 Comic Relief spoof The Curse Of Fatal Death, but turned down the role this time and was never seriously in the running. One star who was widely touted as a top contender was Bill Nighy, who had also appeared in Love, Actually as well as other movies including Underworld. The Daily Mail even reported Nighy's casting on March 20th... but on the very same day, the BBC announced that the new Doctor would in fact be played by Christopher Eccleston.
Eccleston had worked with Davies on The Second Coming, and had specifically requested that Davies consider him for Doctor Who (although Young had already suggested him as a potential series star). Eccleston felt the series would provide him with a vehicle to shatter the perception of him as an actor interested only in serious dramatic roles: he was best-known for drama programmes such as Cracker and Our Friends In The North. He also counted a number of film credits to his name, such as the Oscar-winning Elizabeth, cult favourite Shallow Grave, summer blockbuster Gone In Sixty Seconds, supernatural thriller The Others, the David Cronenberg science-fiction movie eXistenZ, and zombie horror 28 Days Later. Eccleston had been asked to audition for the Doctor Who TV movie, but had declined as he was not interested in associating himself with such an established franchise at the time.
For the new Doctor's costume, it was agreed that a more low-key approach would be taken than for previous incarnations of the Time Lord, with a battered leather jacket being the signature piece of apparel. Although this image was suggested by Davies' pitch document, it was also reflective of Eccleston's desire to ensure that his clothes would not dominate his performance.
With the Doctor cast, attention now turned to finding an actress to portray Rose. Davies and his team finally settled on Billie Piper, who had ridden the wave of teenage pop princesses to the top of the British charts beginning in 1998. Born Leian Piper (her first name being legally changed by her parents while she was still an infant), her ambition had always been acting rather than singing, however, and in 2003 -- two years after abandoning her music career -- she found acclaim with a role in The Canterbury Tales. She subsequently appeared with Orlando Bloom in The Calcium Kid and was starring in the horror movie Spirit Trap (alongside Sam Troughton, grandson of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton) when it was announced to the press on May 24th that she would be playing Rose -- after whom the first episode of the new series had been named. This title was a further contraction of the name which had appeared on Davies' contract -- “Rose Meets The Doctor” -- which itself was abbreviated from Davies' pitch document description of the episode, “Rose meets the Doctor, and the journey begins”.
Soon thereafter, two other key roles were filled. First, playing Jackie Tyler would be Camille Coduri. Coduri had gotten her start in theatre before collecting a number of roles in both movies and television, including the feature films Nuns On The Run and King Ralph. Noel Clarke, meanwhile, won the role of Mickey Smith. Recipient of the 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer on the basis of his work in Where Do We Live, Clarke had also appeared in TV series such as the relaunched Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Metrosexuality.
At around the same time, the director of the first recording block -- comprising Rose, Aliens Of London and World War Three -- joined the programme. This was Keith Boak, who had directed episodes of series such as Holby City and The Knock. Davies, meanwhile, had hewed largely to his original pitch outline in scripting Rose, including the return of the Nestene Consciousness and their Auton servants from Spearhead From Space and Terror Of The Autons. The Autons appealed to Davies due to the iconic imagery of their original Seventies appearances, and also because their nature would allow Rose to spend much of the episode dubious of the alien origins of the threat.
Boak began recording scenes for the new programme on July 18th in Cardiff, marking the first time episodes of Doctor Who were being taped in the UK in almost fifteen years. Work on Rose began on the 20th at Howell's department store, posing as Henrik's. Recording on the 21st and 22nd involved the Auton attack on the shopping mall, which took place around the Queen's Arcade. Cast and crew then moved to London for five days. Various landmarks were visited on the 26th and 27th -- most notably the London Eye -- while the next three days were spent at Brandon Estate, which served as the location of the Tylers' flat.
August 2nd and 3rd saw taping move back to Cardiff and the basement of the University Hospital of Wales, for scenes set in the cellar of Henrik's. August 4th was a studio day, involving material at the Tylers' apartment; as with most studio scenes for the new Doctor Who series, recording took place at Unit Q2, a warehouse in Newport. On August 22nd, La Fosse restaurant stood in for Tizzano's Pizza Restaurant. The venue for the subsequent three days was the disused Ely paper mill, the site of the Nestene's lair. Lack of time at this location forced the abandonment of a sequence in which the Mickey whom Rose initially comes across turns out to be a second Auton duplicate. It is this faux-Mickey who betrays the existence of the Doctor's secreted vial of antiplastic, inciting the Nestene Consciousness' anger. The real Mickey would then have been revealed, still imprisoned.
August 26th saw the alleyway scene recorded at the Hayes, and then the start of four studio days which also encompassed September 1st, 2nd and 6th. More scenes set at the Tylers' were recorded at this time, as well as those at Mickey's, Clive's, and in the TARDIS. This should have marked the end of production on Rose, but Block One had fallen badly behind schedule, resulting in an extra week being given to the episodes.
Consequently, recording continued on September 8th: Taff Terrace in Grangetown was the location of Clive's house, while Channel View Flats was the site of the stairway in the Tylers' estate. The next day involved material behind the pizzeria, which was actually on the grounds of the Cardiff Royal Infirmary. More Henrik's footage was captured at Marks & Spencer on September 10th; this was also the first of two consecutive studio days. Additional recording on the 11th involved the elevator scene, set at BBC Broadcasting House in Llandaff.
Model work then occurred from September 14th to 16th at the BBC Model Unit Stage in London. Soon thereafter, however, it was realised that the rapid pace of the editing meant that Rose was underrunning. Davies extended the scene where the Doctor and Rose walk from her flat to the TARDIS, and this material was taped (as part of Block Two, including The End Of The World and The Unquiet Dead) on October 18th at Lydstep Flats in Gabalfa. On November 10th, supplementary footage of Jackie in her bedroom was captured at HTV Wales' Studio 1 in Culvershouse Cross.
Serious promotional efforts on the part of the BBC began in earnest on January 1st, 2005, when the first teaser trailer -- which had been posted on the BBC's Doctor Who website a month earlier -- was screened. Additional teasers followed on March 8th, with the first full trailer broadcast on the 15th. The BBC also launched its redesigned Doctor Who website on March 8th; on March 23rd, this was inventively joined by a subsite intended to be a “real” version of Clive Finch's site. BBC2 held a Doctor Who theme night on March 19th, screening documentaries and even a Doctor Who edition of the quiz show Mastermind.
But perhaps the most potent publicity for Doctor Who came on March 5th. On this day, an employee of a company associated with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- which had secured the transmission rights in Canada -- leaked a copy of Rose onto the Internet, exactly three weeks in advance of its premiere date. Although the employee was subsequently fired, the result was an unprecedented storm of press and public attention paid to Doctor Who.
Rose was broadcast on March 26th, and secured an average audience of 10.8 million viewers -- the highest tally for Doctor Who since a strike-bolstered The Creature From The Pit in 1979, when the television landscape was much less competitive. Perhaps even more impressively, its audience appreciation figure of 76% was the best in the programme's history to that point. Doctor Who's extended and sometimes interminable hiatus from television screens had ended not with a whimper, but with a very, very loud bang.
|Updated 17th October 2009|
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|Previous Story: Doctor Who (1996)||Next Story: The End Of The World|
|Next in Production: Aliens Of London / World War Three|