For many fans, the episode Rose was their introduction to Doctor Who. But how was it for fans of the Classic Series? Here’s one fan’s personal account of how it felt when the series came back.
Today, we celebrate fifteen years of the New Series. A lot has changed over the last one-and-a-half decades. But today is a good day to look back at that fresh start for Doctor Who. No, more than that: it’s a good day to be reminded of how much that opening episode meant to fans of the Classic Series.
I’ve written before about my own personal experience of the Wilderness Years – specifically, how I grew up as a fan of the series during that time. Growing up without an era of your own isn’t exactly the best way to enjoy Doctor Who. But it does make you perhaps more appreciative when a new era does eventually come along.
On the other hand, it also meant that I – and indeed, many other fans – had to endure an agonizing wait after the announcement that it would return. Almost a year and a half. Sometimes, there are gaps between series now that are just as long, at least in terms of actual time. But honestly, I don’t think any gap has or will feel quite as long as the wait for the beginning of the New Series.
The long wait
You see, we didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect. Oh yes, we knew what Doctor Who had been in the past. But what of its future? A series made for the twenty-first century had to be different in some way. It had to update the formula to appeal to a new audience.
But how much would it change? Back in 2003, Battlestar Galactica had a complete reboot and gave us a show that was darker and maturer than its predecessor. It was a radically different show built on the same original ideas.
Would the New Series of Doctor Who be the same? Christopher Eccleston was officially listed as “the Ninth Doctor”, so we knew that it wasn’t going to be a complete reboot. But would it have any of the style or charm of the original series? How much would it appeal to a family audience, something that had (for the most part) been a core part of Doctor Who on television?
Every single day, there was something new to speculate, worry or flat-out panic over. Christopher Eccleston seemed like an unusual choice to play the Doctor, but we kept an open mind. However, what was particularly worrying was when the new companion was announced: Rose Tyler, as played by…Billie Piper. The former teen pop singer.
Honestly, this seemed like a particularly worrying bit of stunt-casting – something that was arguably problematic about much of Eighties Who. Still, we had to wait and see whether the casting would pay off.