Ten years ago today, we were all watching episode two of series one, with a carnival of monsters, the debut of Zoe Wanamaker’s Cassandra, the Doctor flirting with a sexy talking tree and an ep that was pretty Douglas Adams-y in tone, only done proper with the right balance of jokes and drama.
After the utter joy and elation of last week’s triumphant series opener Rose, by the time we all sat down to watch this we’d had the shocking news, the Thursday before this episode was broadcast, that The Miserable Northern Git was off after just one series, which was pretty disheartening as he was really bloody good. Will we ever really know the truth about what, besides Keith Boak, pissed off Eccleston so badly that he quit just as he’d started?
I doubt it, but my best guess is that the Execs, stuck in their Cardiff offices, mishandled the situation by letting their leading man feel that his concerns weren’t important enough to warrant the action he was calling for, whatever it was. They were probably up to their eyeballs in trying to stop the entire shoot going off the rails and underestimated how strongly Eccles felt about what was happening on the set. He, meanwhile, was sat in his trailer thinking “This is sh#t. Do I really want to go through another year of this? Nah. F#ck it, I’m off. Sod `em.” Or maybe not.
Fandom’s collective reaction was an almighty WTAF? Was I the only one who was just the tiniest bit suspicious when Eccles appeared on the Doctor Who edition of Mastermind with John Humphryes and talked about the role in the past tense? It was still a shockeroonie when it was confirmed, but can you imagine how The Parting of the Ways would have gone down if they’d managed to keep it a secret!!!
Meanwhile, back on Platform One…
It’s well known that Raffalo was a late addition when the episode was found to be under-running, so this edit dispenses with the services of the doomed blue space plumber. The scene where she gets dragged into the vent [how exactly do those tiny metal spiders manage that?] pretty much duplicates the scene with the Steward so I cut it, which meant a slight trim to the start of his scene to make sure the music didn’t jar. I also cut Rose’s reaction after phoning her mum as, even allowing for culture shock, she’s five billion years in the bloody future, what does she expect? Even she’s dead, never mind Jackie!
Something else that gets the chop is Eccles dodging the fans, by which I mean the ones in the story. Much like the rubbish “turning of the earth” speech the previous week, this sequence never really convinced me. Apart from anything else, like the sheer idiocy of the design, if you look closely you can see that he could easily slide under the bloody things. As storytelling obstacles go it’s not exactly the best is it, if anything it’s rather too literal, so it gets cut.
It’s here that we get our first real mention of The Time War, although it was mentioned in passing in Rose. It’s strange watching this again, now knowing what we know from The Day of The Doctor. That 2013 retcon that isn’t really a retcon changes our perspective on Eccles’ 2005 “survivor’s guilt” and makes it rather less dramatic, as we watch the poor old soul torturing himself over something we now know he didn’t do, even though he thought about it when he was John Hurt. We didn’t know that back then but we do now, with the result that the scene where Jabe feels sorry for him gets cut too, so that we can find out about the Dr’s troubled past at the same time as Rose does.