When Russell T Davies brought Doctor Who back to our screens in 2005, the first villain our Doctor faced was the Nestene Consciousness. In the episode, The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) rescues poor Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) from the department store in which she works because the mannequins are coming alive and killing people.
For those without any Who history it is a brilliant opening, one with this quirky guy rescuing a damsel in distress from weird, unknown, completely terrifying enemies. For those with a sense of Who history, it is a brilliant opening with this quirky new (to us) Doctor rescuing a damsel in distress from the Nestene Consciousness. It is an opening which is not just wonderful for its fully realized new Who universe, but because it instantly lets Who fans know that this is their show back again.
There are a large number of parallels between that Who story, "Rose," and "Spearhead from Space" which introduced us to the Third Doctor, played by John Pertwee. The purpose of this review is not to catalog them however, rather I mention it because it is one of those fascinating convergences in the Whoniverse, one which shows just how much the current series has been thought through and how everything ties together.
"Spearhead from Space" features our newly regenerated Doctor (Pertwee) with a complete lack of memory about how he got to Earth, what his history may be, and how to operate the TARDIS. Naturally, UNIT is alerted to his presence and he quickly falls in with them. Over the course of the four episodes of the series, The Doctor meets his new companion, Liz Shaw (Caroline John), and joins UNIT so he has something to do while not fixing the TARDIS. Also, he meets the Nestene Consciousness and stops them from taking over the world.
The Nestene Consciousness is a perfectly interesting enemy as far as they go (they can animate plastic), but as with all first appearances of a Doctor (and perhaps last appearances as well), the story is more intriguing for what we learn about our hero. Scenes of the Doctor examining his newly regenerated face or wondering what kinds of things he likes (fish fingers and custard being one of the more memorable ones… but that isn't this Doctor) or getting a new outfit or finding a new mode of transportation are these little windows into the new character. As great as these insights are for us in the audience, they're more important for the Doctor. They tell him, as much as they tell us, what kind of man he is, what his quirks and foibles and attitudes may be.