A while back I considered whether S9 might be my new favorite. The writing, particularly of the first two and last two stories, seemed to reach new levels of depth and richness. The season is not without its flaws, but its best bits stand out brightly.
As my meetup group progresses through S1, for many years uncontested in its top spot, I find little to criticize. While its peaks may not reach the heights S9 achieves, nor does it suffer its slips.
Most recently we watched the first New Who two-parter, “Aliens of London/World War Three.” Best remembered for its farting aliens, the episode did not endure in my mind as anything great. On the rewatch, however, it turns out to be the showcase of some excellent material:
- The development of Rose’s relationship with Jackie and Mickey, and the grounding of her character
- The introduction of Harriet Jones, “MP Flydale North”
- The first New Who appearance of UNIT
- “Mickey the idiot” saving the world from his home PC
- The beginning of trust between Mickey and the Doctor
- The foundation of a friendship between Mickey and Jackie, which endures throughout the RTD era.
- The Doctor’s confession of the truth behind his adventuring:
- Rose’s courage and quick thinking in the face of death
Even the farting aliens, something I imagine RTD dreamed up to satisfy his internal (and eternal) nine-year-old, have a scientific reason for their ridiculousness: the gas exchange that allows their enormous bodies to fit inside a suit of human skin. Not only that, but the fact of the farting helps the Doctor determine the nature of the enemy in time to save Mickey and Jackie – or in time to help them save themselves. This balance of horror, silliness, and heart is one of Doctor Who‘s strongest features. I can’t find fault with Russell’s choice.
We haven’t rewatched S9 yet, and we’re only a little way into S1. Time will tell if Nine, Rose, and Russell will retain their throne or if Twelve will manage to unseat them.