Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Well. Cliché it may be, but the new series goes from strength to strength, improving with each and every episode. This episode, the first part of the three two-parters in the series, opened with a recap of Rose (no doubt to remind casual viewers of Mickey and Jackie Tyler) followed by a wonderful scene where the Doctor brings Rose home 12 months on from the date she left, although he thought he’d brought her back just 12 hours on! Of course, she has been declared missing, and Mickey has become the chief suspect in her “murder.” The one thing that puts this story above it’s three predecessors, though, is undoubtedly the complexity of the plotline. The pace remains just as fast, but with a two-parter there is twice the time for twice the story….

After the Doctor tries to explain Rose’s absence to her Mother and to her Police by saying that he “employed her as his companion” - and gets a slapping for doing so! - the story starts proper as during a very flirtatious chat Rose and the Doctor talk about what they are going to do. The Doctor reveals himself to be over 900 years old to Rose in the scene, the reveals about him still being eked out slowly across the series, unquestionably the best way to do things keeping the new audience in mind. Suddenly, a fantastic CGI spaceship flies overhead, crashing into Big Ben. You can almost see the Doctor’s eyes light up! That is the kind of scene that will stick in people’s minds for years to come.

I thought the ship was done very convincingly, although I must say that the only negative thing I can think of about the episode was the feeble CSO background when the Doctor and Rose stood on top of her building. I understand that it was necessary because of the ship flying over them but even so, I’m sure they could have limited the amount of blue-screen they used in that scene.

The following scenes featuring BBC News were brilliantly done – it gave the episode a sense of reality, and really emphasised that this was on our own doorstep. The scenes in Rose’s flat provided some comic relief (that wasn’t fart-related) – the baby on the Doctor’s knee (funny in itself) wrestling the control away from him and putting “Blue Peter” on (a nice little reference to the years of features Blue Peter have run on the show), the unexplained presence of a Chinese family, and best of all the fact that the Doctor was the only person (Rose aside) showing any excitement at the prospect of humans making first contact with non-terrestrials! As the Doctor points out to Rose, most people would rather talk about mobile phones and being asked out on dates! There is a wonderful moment where he gives her the key to the TARDIS – it really is beginning to seem like there is more than just friendship between Rose and the Doctor, although it’s not sexual. It’s hard to put your finger on but it’s clearly there, although so far the implications have been no more explicit than between the Doctor and Romana in the late seventies (and she was his own species!)

As the Doctor (seen by a gob smacked Mickey) takes off in the TARDIS (adorned with the “BAD WOLF” graffiti – a little clue about the Slitheen perhaps? Wolves in sheep’s clothing anyone?) he uncovers that the alien pilot of the crashed ship was not alien after all – just a freakily enhanced pig. It is a testament to Eccleston’s acting ability that he makes the scene where the troops shoot the pig down emotional – “IT WAS SCARED!” - a scene that could easily have become farcial.

I’m sure a lot of people will quibble here about the troops just obeying the Doctor’s instructions without question, but examples of this kind of thing are littered throughout the classic series – he just has that effect on people! – and you also have to remember he asked them to initiate a military protocol which he could only have known if he was affiliated with the army in some way.

As usual, I was watching the episode with my sci-fi sceptic fiancée and I was just explaining to her about how the Doctor was exiled to Earth in the seventies and worked for a government/military organisation called UNIT. Watching the trailer attached to “The Unquiet Dead” I was trying to make out the insignia on the troops uniforms hoping that they would be from UNIT, but after thinking it through I had convinced myself that UNIT was an area the new series would try and avoid. However, not to include UNIT in a modern-day alien invasion would have actually contradicted the classic series – how could UNIT not be involved? How could the Doctor not be known to the powers that be? Of course, Russell T. Davies got the balance spot on with their minor presence. Moreover, as the new viewers know so little about the Doctor’s past to reveal that he once worked for a secret government organisation only adds to his mystique.

After following the Doctor and Rose into the TARDIS (alongside an overwhelmed Mrs. Tyler) Mickey reveals that for a year he’s searched the t’internet and history books etc. for every scrap of info on the Doctor – and as they watch on TV “alien experts” (including an forgivably unfamiliar-looking UNIT delegation - after all, Lethbridge-Stewart had already retired in Battlefield set ten years earlier and this episode is set sometime in 2006!) being gathered Mickey explains to Rose about how the Doctor once worked for UNIT. “I’ve changed a lot since those days…” the Doctor quips. It’s nice to see him refer to UNIT as “good people,” and I also liked Mickey’s line about wherever you see the Doctor’s name, you find a list of the dead; a similar comment to those made by Clive in Rose.

UNIT aside, these TARDIS scenes were exceptionally well done. Mickey was a much more compelling character than in Rose – rather than just an annoying cockney kid he was someone who had been persecuted for a year for something he hasn’t done. His jealously and anger towards the Doctor are evident, clearly not helped by the Doctor continually referring to him as “Ricky” and belittling him, 6th Doctor-style. Rose was also brilliant in the episode – Billie Piper really excelled, especially as she tried to explain to Mickey and her Mother how she feels about the Doctor. “He’s not my boyfriend – he’s more than that. So much more!” Jackie Tyler is also brilliant. Her reaction to the TARDIS is massive culture shock – and of course, fear. After all – how would you feel if your long-lost daughter turned up out of the blue, only to reveal she’d been travelling around with an alien? I think most people would call the Alien Emergency Line.

The Doctor. TARDIS. Red Alert!

Of course the Doctor is known by the government from his days on the UNIT staff – and as such, he has to be brought in alongside the other “alien experts.” When he and Rose are whisked away to 10 Downing Street, it finally all dawns on me what is actually going on…

The Slitheen. A wonderful creation. The cabinet and the General are all actors of the highest calibre; as are for that matter the rest of the supporting cast in this episode. To be fair, they had to be to be able to pull of the farting with any sense of menace, but they manage it! Their gastronomical problems actually make sense when you think about it; a huge alien creature contains in what is effectively a highly-convincing zip-up suit. There is bound to be a bit of trapped wind!

I was thrilled to see Penelope Wilton in the show as Harriet Jones. Davies’ episodes excel at conveying the sense of fear, wonder and shock “normal” people feel when they experience aliens, TARDISes etc. – and after the horror she witnesses here she really has our sympathies, especially as she is visibly doing all she can to hold back her terror as she escorts Rose away from the crowd. As a huge fan of Teachers it was great to see Navin Chowdry (Kurt!) in there too, though I did struggle to take him seriously in a straight-role.

And at last, we get a cliff-hanger, and it’s well worth the wait. It’s not just our heroes that are in danger, but ALL the characters we have come to care about – the Doctor, UNIT, Rose, Harriet, Jackie Tyler – and it was poor old Kurt who was first against the wall when the Slitheen revealed themselves. Of course, the Doctor had it all worked out by the time the first Slitheen was revealed – but of course, it was too late by then.

Or was it….

Shortly after the episode when I dropped one and my fiancée went “you’re an alien!”, I had to have a little chuckle to myself as I realised a nation full of children are going to be running scared whenever their parent’s let rip!

I am shocked and disturbed by the bad reviews I’ve read for this show. Us Doctor Who fans really are impossible to please! I thought this episode was intense. You will be hard pressed to find a better episode of “Doctor Who” ever – this episode really was breathtaking.

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