Doctor Who Discussions: Season 1 – The Parting Of The Ways

Goodbye, Christopher Eccleston!

The Parting Of The Ways
The Parting Of The Ways

The Parting Of The Ways doesn’t actually spend all that much time with the Doctor. He, Jack and Rose are divided and we follow each of them separately. The Doctor is trying desperately to build the Delta Wave that will destroy the Daleks, Jack’s fighting furiously to give him time to do it, and Rose is battling to get back to the Doctor after he tricks her and sends her back to Earth.

I’ve always thought that the Doctor is very unfair to Rose in choosing to send her home without asking her what she wants to do. But this rewatch of the season has given me time for reflection and I think I get it now. It is unfair of him, and I can’t blame Rose for wanting to get back to Satellite One. But the last time the Doctor and Rose met a Dalek, back in the bunker in Utah, he had to make a choice that he thought condemned her to death. When faced with the decision again, can you blame him for wanting to choose the alternative? He loves Rose. She came into his life when he was intensely vulnerable and unimaginably sad, and her friendship helped him to start healing. The irony, of course, is that it’s his friendship that has changed her too, and made her determined to get back to him.

There is only one part of this episode that I could do without, and it’s when the Doctor kisses Rose in order to absorb the energy from the Time Vortex. It’s an unfortunate pattern for New Who – especially Russell T. Davies’ run – that they always find a way for the Doctor to go about kissing his companions. I’m not against the kissing in general – I actually think the Ten and Donna one is hilarious, and absolutely perfect – but it just doesn’t feel like something that works for Nine and Rose. When Jack kisses him goodbye, that works (and we should mention it, because the first person the Doctor kisses in New Who is a man? Unprecedented!). The kiss between Nine and Rose isn’t really about romance, but it can be interpreted that way, of course, and I just think it distracts a bit from the bigger picture. But that’s, I guess, quite a small personal bugbear.

After that, well, it’s time up for Nine. Rose brings Jack back to life – I wonder what the repercussions of that will be? – and then the Doctor says his goodbyes. It’s almost Tennant Time.

You don’t need to be a Doctor Who superfan to know that Christopher Eccleston wasn’t happy during his run on the show, and many of the issues sprang up from the production itself. That’s the reason we only get one season with his Doctor, and it’s the reason that for a long time, Eccleston avoided a lot of the carnival that surrounds any actor who puts their face to the Doctor, even after their time in the TARDIS is long over.

In recent times – super recent in Doctor Who history – Eccleston has started to make tentative steps back towards the show. He’s put his voice to Big Finish audio dramas, resurrecting the Ninth Doctor for his legions of fans. Because there are legions of them. It might be surprising to the casual viewer; many people are of the opinion that David Tennant came in and blew New Who out of the water. But there is a large swathe of the fanbase who remember Eccleston very fondly. For a certain bunch of people who were just the right age to tune into Season 1 with their parents, he is their Doctor. The one who introduced them to a whole new world, and they never looked back.

I don’t really believe in saying that only one person could ever have played a part, because there are always other perfectly capable actors who certainly could have. But the actor who took up the Ninth Doctor needed to balance the weight of the Time War, and all the drama that brought to his run, along with having the lightness of step to endear the Doctor to a whole new generation of fans. Kids who had never seen any Classic Who didn’t know the Doctor as anyone except a guy who had destroyed his planet, and that really is an uphill battle for any actor to face. Many people could have played it, I’m sure. But they chose Christopher Eccleston, and I am grateful that they did.

His dramatic performances are never less than perfectly nuanced, with silent flashes of vulnerability that outshine any Doctor actor until we get to the mighty Peter Capaldi. At the same time, his warmth and comedic timing are a joy. I’d rather have this one excellent season with his Doctor, with its fully developed and completed character arc, than dilute it with whatever might have come next. There are things about Season 1 that I know aren’t perfect, but Eccleston is not one of them. From the first moment to the last, he never put a foot wrong, and The Parting Of The Ways is a bittersweet end to his note-perfect performance.

READ NEXT: Doctor Who Discussions: Season 1 – Bad Wolf 

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