From a wide shot of gorgeously blue Earth, we zoom in rapidly to an alarm clock going off in the pinkest room of all time (dear god, the various clashing shades, my eyes) to wake up along with our audience surrogate character Rose, whose hair looks much like mine in the mornings.
What’s Rose all about? Well, in a series of rapidly changing quick clips, we watch Rose heading to work at the aimed-at-her-demographic clothing store Henrik’s (in a hoodie that is of course, pinkpinkpink), goofing around at lunch with her boyfriend Mickey as he does some hip-hop-happenin’ dance moves that are a cross between Michael Jackson and hackey-sacking (their love is clearly a love made of ginormous dorkitude), and generally going through her tedious, uninspired day up until the moment at closing time when she gets stuck with the task of bringing the lottery winnings to Wilson, the store’s electrician. Nothing could possibly go wrong while she does that! Right? Rose makes her way through a deserted basement, calling for Wilson as she walks past mannequins. Knowing that there’s going to be a huge wrench made up of exciting danger thrown into Rose’s hum-drum life, I whimpered a little as Rose rehearses the old, “Hello, is anyone there?” gambit while we wait for those damn mannequins to twitch and start coming after her.
Of course the door slams behind her, the creeptacular mannequins advance, and Rose quickly shifts from her “Okay, I’ve got the joke,” brave-facing to the stumbling over boxes, running away portion of our entertainment. As the mannequins lift their horrible plastic hands to smack Rose into the hereafter, a real live man (well, hello there, Christopher Eccleston, six feet of swaggering real live man from any angle) grabs her hand and shouts, “Run!”
They take off hand in hand, fleeing to the elevator. In a last ditch evil effort, a mannequin reaches through the closing doors of the lift. The man yanks his arm clear off, explaining “Plastic,” to Rose. “They’ve got to be students,” Rose blurts out as she tries to puzzle through who the hell would dress up like mannequins for a joke (Greendale Human Beings, perhaps?). “Well done,” her rescuer replies, only to follow with a brisk, deflating, “They’re not students.” Silly Rose, they’re clearly living plastic creatures, being controlled by some central relay!
By the way, Wilson’s dead (hey, who gets the lottery winnings, then? Too soon?), and Rose’s new pal is off to blow up the building and the fiends inside and might well die in the process. “But don’t worry about me, go on home and have your beans on toast,” he dismisses her, shunting her outside. She freezes, stunned, and he reopens the door. “I’m the Doctor, by the way; what’s your name?” “Rose,” she answers. “Nice to meet you, Rose—run for your life.”
Outside, Rose moves along in some confusion before finally taking the whole “run for your life” thing to heart and crossing the damn street. She hears a boom and turns to see the entire building explode, the windows blowing out, people running everywhere, dogs and cats living together—as the chaos increases, she begins to run, legging it right past an old-fashioned blue police box.
Back at home, Rose watches coverage of the explosion on the telly as her mother Jackie chatters on the phone to concerned friends about all the exciting compensation Rose might get for being in the vicinity of the explosion. I’m pretty sure Jackie just talks on the phone all day, drinks tea, and shops. I love her already.
Mickey arrives to make sure Rose is okay. Oh, no, she wasn’t even in the building when everything went down (following Doctor’s orders not to tell anyone what happened). Hovering!Jackie and Antsy!Mickey aren’t really Rose’s cup of tea, though, so she dispatches them by hanging up on Jackie’s pal who knows a guy at The Mirror (who offers 500 quid for Rose’s story) and sending Mickey off to watch a match at the pub. Oh, and take that little souvenir of the possessed mannequin with you, would you, Mickey? Because animated plastic arms are the sorts of things you ought to just chuck in a bin and think no more about.
Rose wakes up at 7:30am again the next day; with her place of work blown up, she’s out of a job. Good thing too, according to Jackie, because “that shop was giving you airs and graces.” That shop? Also, apparently Jackie fibbed about nailing the cat door shut, because Rose hears a cuddly creature outside scratching at the door.
Surprise, it’s not a cuddly creature at all—it’s the Doctor! “What are you doing here?” he demands. “I live here!” “Well, what did you go and do that for?” His nifty gadgets have led him to her flat, but maybe he’s got his readings wrong, because “You’re not plastic, are you?” he asks, and raps her smartly on the forehead before cheerfully pronouncing, “No, bonehead!” I’m busy drawing hearts around him when Rose offers him a coffee (and the Doctor dashes the “I’m in my dressing gown with a strange man in my bedroom,” hopes of poor lascivious Jackie, who obviously can’t find the right sort of men on the estate).
While Rose gets the coffee, the Doctor pokes around the flat. “That won’t last; he’s gay and she’s an alien,” he pronounces while paging through a gossip magazine. He learns Rose’s surname is “Tyler” from looking through her mail, tries and fails to shuffle a deck of cards impressively, and comments that The Lovely Bones has a sad ending after he reads it even faster than Speed Reader from the Great Space Coaster (How much do you want to bet that guy was a scary alien?). “Could have been worse, look at the ears,” he muses, examining himself in a mirror. Must be a shiny new body for him.
There’s a scuffling sound. The Doctor asks, “Have you got a cat?” Rose complains about the strays round the estate while the plastic arm comes back to life to strangle the Doctor. Rose rolls her eyes at these antics, but the hand flying toward her and trying to suffocate her puts an end to that skepticism (see all the fun stuff you can do without any special effects?). Finally the Doctor disarms it (haha) pronouncing it “armless” (okay, his joke, way better than mine).
The Doctor prepares to leave but Rose threatens to go to the police unless he tells her who he is, and what’s going on. “Just the Doctor,” he says as he strides along outside and she jogs along to keep up. “Hello!” “Is that supposed to impress me?” Rose demands. “Sort of,” he admits. Why are all these plastic things keep coming after her? Oh, the entire world revolves around her, does it? Nope, she was just in the way; they were trying to get him. “You’re saying the entire world revolves around you,” Rose points out. “Sort of, yeah.” “You’re full of it,” she shoots back, and “Sort of, yeah,” he admits with a grin (fetch me my swooning couch, please).
At last the Doctor explains he disarmed the armless arm of arm-i-ness by cutting off the signal to what was controlling it. So what was with those animated mannequins? “Is someone trying to take over Britain’s shops?” Rose jokes. Oh, no, they just want to take over the human race and destroy it (much, much more comforting than a price war for the retailers of the UK).
But who is he, really, she asks? Kids don’t understand when they learn the Earth is revolving, he begins by way of explanation, because it looks like everyone and everything is standing still. But the Doctor can actually feel it revolving (which sounds damn uncomfortable; I would likely not be able to keep upright were this my row to hoe). He takes her hand and he says he can sense the turn of the Earth, the planets hurtling around the sun. “We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny world, and if we let go—” He drops her hand. “That’s who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler, and go home.” She turns to leave, but at the grinding sound and rush of wind, turns and runs back—but he and his blue police box are already gone.
Rose goes round to Mickey’s to search for information on the Doctor online. “Any excuse to get in the bedroom!” Mickey calls after her when she heads for his computer. She stumbles onto a site, “Who is Doctor Who?” with the Doctor’s photo on it, providing info to “Contact Clive.”
Mickey drives Rose to Clive’s and makes awesomely dorky tough guy faces at everyone in the neighborhood. “Dad, it’s one of your nutters!” the boy who answers the door calls out when Rose asks after Clive. “She?” Clive’s wife asks incredulously when Clive explains “she” is there to talk about the website (apparently Mickey gets his regular share of wacky Doctor fanboys, but not so many of the fangirls—Rose and fangirls, rep-re-sent!).
“This Doctor keeps cropping up all over the place,” Clive tells Rose in his shed of Doctorial Obsession. Clive’s got pictures of the Doctor at Kennedy’s assassination (don’t worry: he was not behind the grassy knoll), with a family who canceled their trip on the Titanic at the last minute (lucky bastards), and in a drawing from 1883 Indonesia, just before the volcanic island Krakatoa erupted. “When disaster comes, he’s there,” Clive explains. “He brings the storm in his wake, and he has one constant companion.” “Who’s that?” Rose asks. “Death.”
Outside, Mickey waits in the car, making more awesome ridiculous suspicious faces when he notices one of the wheelie bins knocking about. “If the Doctor’s back, then one thing’s for certain; we’re all in danger,” Clive tells Rose in the shed. On the street, Mickey moves toward Certain Danger, going to investigate the jumpy bin. “He’s singled you out,” Clive continues. “If the Doctor’s making house calls, then god help you.” Mickey sure could use some help as the bin yanks him in with its plastic-y tentacles of DOOM and cartoonishly burps (ew).
Rose heads to the car, telling Plastic!Mickey that Clive, who thinks the Doctor is an immortal alien, is off his head. Forget him; it’s lunchtime—how about pizza? “Pizza!” Plastic!Mickey repeats, looking ecstatic and very, very plastic. “Or Chinese,” Rose muses, because she can’t be bothered to notice when someone replaces her boyfriend with an Exact Plastic Replica.
At lunch Rose examines the menu, but Plastic!Mickey only wants to talk about the Doctor. But he’s not very good at extracting information, instead fritz-ing out with a stuttering list of rapid endearments: “Sugar, sweetheart, babe, sugar,” while she tries to figure out exactly how low his blood sugar might have dropped over at Clive’s and wave a waiter over.
“Your champagne?” someone asks. They didn’t order champagne. It’s the Doctor: “I’m just toasting the happy couple!” Pop goes the cork, right into Plastic!Mickey’s stretchy forehead; a moment later the cork shoots out of his mouth and suddenly he has horrible plastic pizza paddles for hands! No, no, those would melt right in that authentic brick oven! He and the Doctor struggle, and the Doctor yanks off his head, which says, “Don’t think that’s going to stop me!” Rose pulls the fire alarm and orders everyone out, while Headless Plastic!Mickey runs about in a murderous manner.
The Doctor and Rose escape out to the alley, where his blue police box is waiting. “What’s that tube thing—use it!” Rose yells, trying to get out the locked metal gate. This is no time for the Sonic Screwdriver, though. “Tell you what, let’s go in here,” the Doctor says, disappearing into the blue box. As Headless Plastic!Mickey makes headway (haha!) on the metal restaurant door, Rose gives up and runs into the blue box, only to stop short when she sees the sci-fi stylings of its huge domed interior. There’s a great bit where she runs out, backs up and stares, before running in a bewildered circle around the police box. But when Plastic Mickey actually manages to break down the door, throws her lot back in with the Doctor and hops inside again.
“All right, where do you want to start?” the Doctor asks pointedly as Rose gapes around her. “It’s bigger on the inside. It’s alien. Are you an alien?” “Yes, that all right?” he asks. This is the TARDIS, he explains: Time And Relative Dimension In Space. When she begins to weep he excuses it as “culture shock,” but hello, she’s upset Mickey’s probably dead. “Oh, I didn’t think of that,” the Doctor says absently. “You pulled off his head, you didn’t even think, and now you’re just going to let him melt?” Rose cries. Because whoopsie, Plastic!Mickey’s noggin is indeed melting away in the TARDIS’s works, nearly foiling the Doctor’s plan to use it to track its source. “Almost there,” the Doctor encourages the TARDIS before running outside.
“You can’t go out there, it’s not safe!” Rose yells, but they’re somewhere else entirely, because that’s the magic of the TARDIS! Oh no, Rose will have to tell Mickey’s mother—and darn it all if the Doctor hasn’t completely forgotten about Mickey again. “I’m busy trying to save the life of every stupid ape blundering about on this planet, all right?” he snaps when she criticizes him for callousness. She knows he’s an alien now if he doesn’t understand—but wait, “If you’re an alien, how come you sound like you’re from the north?” “Lots of planets have a north!” the Doctor replies defensively. But there’s no time for placing accents now; back to the business of catching aliens who want to take over the planet so they can kill all its inhabitants and consume Earth’s toxins as dinner.
If only the Doctor could locate the transmitter, which must be round and massive, he explains as he stands with the London Eye illuminating his head like a ginormous halo. A “huge metal circular structure,” he rants (as Rose tried to give him the nod to say, yeah, she’s found it already, hi hi, terribly big Ferris Wheel right behind your head, cough cough) “round and massive!” Finally he cottons on. “Oh! Fantastic!” He grins and they run to the source holding hands, because they are already a super adorable duo ready to fight interstellar crime hand in hand!
After Rose spots a way underground (again speeding things up for the Doctor), they climb down to find the Nestene Consciousness (which I heard at first as “Nesting Consciousness,” and was subsequently horrified that a globular melt-y thing was about to birth its young). He’s got Anti-Plastic to stop it in its tracks, but though Rose says, “Tip in your Anti-Plastic and let’s go!” the Doctor’s determined to negotiate first. He still spares a moment to roll his eyes at Rose when she spots an apparently still living Mickey tied up in the corner, though.
“That thing down there, it’s living, Rose, it can talk!” Mickey says, totally traumatized. “Doctor, they kept him alive!” Rose yells. “Yeah, that was always a possibility, to maintain the copy,” he dismisses, finding this development way less exciting than locating the Consciousness. “You knew that and you never said?” she asks incredulously. “Can we keep the domestics outside, thank you?” he scolds in reply.
“Am I addressing the Consciousness?” the Doctor asks brightly when he reaches the globular melt-y being in the vat. He invokes Convention 15 of the Shadow Proclamation, ordering it to find another planet to kick around. Though the Consciousness growls about its constitutional rights, the Doctor tells him a little story about a man named “Shhh!”, railing, “I am talking!” Suddenly, plastic goons restrain him and of course find that little vial of Anti-Plastic. Awk-ward! “That was just insurance; I wasn’t going to use it!” the Doctor protests. “I’m not your enemy, I swear, I’m not,” he continues when the Consciousness figures out he’s a Time Lord and accuses him of destroying its home planet. “That’s not true,” he protests. “I was there, I fought in the war; it wasn’t my fault! I couldn’t save your world—I couldn’t save any of them!”
Rose misses all of the Doctor’s massive residual post-war guilt, because she’s phoning her mum to tell her to go home. But nope, Jackie’s out shopping, and nothing will stop her! Except maybe horrible mannequins come to life, because the London Eye has begun transmitting to rouse the murderous mannequins of the city. Poor Clive is the first to go when the mannequins show off their handy-dandy (haha) hand guns (really, their hands turn into handguns).
The Doctor tells Rose to run, but “I never got the key!” Rose exclaims, unable to enter the TARDIS. While some bride mannequins start to hunt down Jackie on the streets above, Mickey yells, “Just leave him!” (I did have a moment of, “Mickey is horrible and heartless!” but he has just been swallowed by a bin and then chained to a pipe for hours with a chatty Nestene Consciousness growling about world invasion, so let’s cut him a bit of slack, shall we?).
“There’s nothing you can do,” Mickey tells Rose. But hell no, that’s not Our Rose! “I’ve got no A-Levels,” Rose mutters as she hacks away to release a nearby chain, “No job, no future. But I’ll tell you what I have got:” a bronze medal in gymnastics from her junior school, booyah! Take that, Nestene Consciousness—Rose executes a brilliant chain-swinging maneuver, knocks down the goons, tips the Anti-Plastic into the consciousness, and saves the Doctor from doom all in one fell swoop! “Now we’re in trouble,” the Doctor says as he catches her, totally gleeful as they get ready to escape by the skin of their teeth. Rose spares a grin for the way she’s totally saved the day before they flee in the TARDIS.
Out on the street, the mannequins all fall to the ground, again lifeless (like they should always be, okay, because I’ve had it with you, animated mannequins!), sparing Jackie and the others. In a nearby alley, Mickey gets a “the hell?” moment as he runs out of the bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS while Rose phones her mum to make sure she’s all right. “Rose, don’t go out of the house, it’s not safe,” Jackie sputters, while Rose laughs and hangs up.
“Fat lot of good you were,” Rose says a bit meanly to Mickey, who is still shaky from all of this unexpected life-threatening adventure. “Nestene Consciousness, easy!” the Doctor proclaims from the TARDIS. “You were useless in there,” Rose tells him happily. “You’d be dead if it wasn’t for me.” “Yes, I would, thank you,” he admits. Why doesn’t she come along with him? “Don’t—he’s an alien, a thing!” Mickey interrupts. “He’s not invited,” the Doctor snaps. But she should come. “You could stay here and fill your life with work and food and sleep—or you could go anywhere.” Mickey clings to Rose; though she’s tempted, she says she has to find her mum, and “someone’s got to look after this stupid lump” (which I’m sure Mickey appreciates oodles). “See you around,” the Doctor tells her, slowly closing the door. She stares, regretful, as the TARDIS fades away.
“Come on, let’s go,” Rose says to Mickey. Suddenly they hear that familiar grinding sound, and the TARDIS is back! “Did I mention, it also travels in time?” the Doctor inquires. He leaves the door open as Rose kisses Mickey and says, “Thanks.” “Thanks for what?” he asks. “Exactly,” she answers, grinning and taking off at a run for the TARDIS. And our adventures have only just begun! Join me tomorrow when I watch and recap episode 2: “The End of the World”!