My Aussie copy of the 50th set has been sent. Thought it was going to get cancelled, as it went from “in stock” to “out of stock, expected in 5-10 days” almost as soon as I ordered, making me think it was a zombie listing, but thankfully not.
I finished the first series of New Who in my daily rewatch thing yesterday (12 years on, it is still "new Who" and always will be, I suspect). That Eccleston series is still the most cohesive and high quality series the show has had. I'd argue there's only two weak episodes - the Slitheen two-parter - and even they're not that bad in the grand scheme of things. For every fart joke and slightly heavy-handed War of the Worlds style TV reporting moment, there's a bit of decent grounding humanity in Harriet Jones and anti-war sentiment.
One of the show’s biggest flaws since its revival is its continual attempts to do series arcs, which usually fall flat. Bad Wolf is the only one that’s properly successful, because it flies under the radar. And at the same time, it’s so tightly interweaved. Seemingly stand-alone episodes like Dalek and The Long Game (the most under-rated episode in the season) pull double-duty as set-up for the finale, without feeling like they’re not stories in their own right. The Slitheen story pays off by giving us Boom Town, a wonderful slow-down episode, which ties back into The Unquiet Dead. A large part of this is probably due to the small number of hired writers, but RTD keeps a high level of quality on his own scripts (presumably because he had a bit longer to work on them and wasn’t worn down by the grind of show-running the whole time).
This series also has Bad Wolf and The Parting of the Ways, which is still perhaps the best series finale the show’s had. Pivoting from sharp and slightly ludicrous satire of gameshows to a big Dalek invasion story with religious overtones, it has some of the best moments of the series, from little things like Jack’s rant at the Weakest Link producer after Rose’s apparent death (which fades away as we beautifully focus on the Doctor’s grief), Rose’s burgeoning jealousy as Lynda with a Y macks on the Doctor to big moments like the Doctor turning back Big Brother’s threatening “I’m coming to get you” into a promise to Rose, to rescue her from the Daleks.
And then the regeneration. Even this many years on, it’s bitter-sweet, as Eccleston leaves far too soon. Imagine if he’d stayed on for three years or so (presumably the final episode had a different name originally, I assume Bad Wolf and something else for episode 12). But he at least gets the best regeneration to go out with. It’s reflective, but not self-indulgent. The new regeneration effect, complete with standing Doctor, is a statement and then Tennant gets the best post-regeneration moment of the lot.
The Children In Need special is pretty good too. Ok, so the Doctor becoming manic enough to crash land the TARDIS is a bit nonsensical, but the opportunity to talk through the process and the impact of it with Rose is one used well. (Shame the DVD copy of it is missing most of the sound effects).
Unfortunately, it leaves The Christmas Invasion floundering a bit. Without that immediate follow up to the regeneration, it doesn’t seem to know what to do, so we get the Doctor unconscious for most of the episode. Seeing how people cope without the Doctor is a good idea, but one that doesn’t necessarily marry well to having to introduce a new iteration. In a way it repeats the sin of the TV Movie by wasting most of its time without having the Doctor (proper) around to do stuff. It’s also not the best of scripts, with every good moment (“wait, hang on, that’s the Lion King”) matched with one completely cringe-worthy (“it’s a fighting hand!”). Torchwood references drop like a brick every time they’re used too.