Re-evaluating Ecclescakes

Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston

As mentioned elsewhere, I recently introduced my David Tennant/Nationaltreasurejohnbarrowman-loving wife to the very first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child. She grew up on Sylvester McCoy-era Doctor Who and therefore – as she tactfully puts it – “Never got into the show”.

She loved An Unearthly Child enough that she wanted to watch more old episodes, and after watching Tom Baker classic, The Ark in Space, we’re now watching Christopher Eccleston’s run.

Now I’m on record as not especially liking that first series of nu-Who. But re-watching these episodes again, I’m realising a few things:

  1. BBC3 has a sense of irony: my copy of The Long Game turned out to be the over-run of an England v Wales rugby match
  2. Nationaltreasurejohnbarrowman really could act – I wasn’t imagining it. Clearly, Torchwood sucked the life out of him. I’m hoping he recovers soon, since he is a national treasure who livens up our screens.
  3. Christopher Eccleston and his Doctor were quite fun at times – at least in the beginning. Maybe he just got gloomier as the Daleks turned up towards the end: I’ll update when we’ve finished the rest of the series.
  4. The scripts weren’t as bad as I recalled. The End of the World was quite good, as was The Unquiet Dead. In retrospect, they’re all not bad at all, bar a few poor performances here and there, and I liked the characterisation and character development that occurs during that first series. Even the farting Slitheen aren’t as embarrassingly bad as I’d remembered.

Have I mellowed? Have the goalposts been shifted by later series’ extravagances? Has repeated exposure reduced the impact? With the weight of expectations placed on that first series gone, am I more tolerant of its flaws? Or did I have Who-phobia after years of officially “not liking it much” that I needed to overcome?

What do you think of the episodes? Have you re-watched the Ecclescake episodes recently and changed your mind? Did you always like them? Or am I just going soft and need to go to a reviewing boot camp?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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