Doctor Doctor Who Guide

After two fairly frenetic episodes with little or no time afforded to characterization and depth of plot Mark Gatiss has provided a pacy yet in-depth victorian ghost story certainly on a par with the creepiness of Ghost Light, or the Talons of Weng Chiang.

Fresh from their ordeal in the far flung future (after a brief stop for chips) The Doctor offers Rose a journey into history. Plucking a date from the air The Doctor proceeds to program the TARDIS back to Naples 1860 for the simple reason that he wants to see what happened then. Throwing Rose straight into the action of piloting the TARDIS (you wonder how he coped before meeting her) they materialise on snowy streets. 

As usual the TARDIS is a little wide of the mark...i guess Rose needs some extra TARDIS tuition. Snow not being prevalent in Italy The Doctor examines a newspaper to discover that in fact they have arrived not in 1860 but 1869. To top it all they aren't in Naples but Cardiff, a fact the Doctor seems to resent. 

Of course all is not well, it wouldn't be much of an adventure series if it was and the cold opening is an ample replacement for the show's previous famous cliffhangers. The re-animated dead are genuinely creepy despite not being overly gory. And the gas creatures which inhabit them have a wonderful victorian parlour game look to them. Ok the CG doesn't really gel with the live action but i think a healthy suspension of disbelief can be afforded in this case as straight from the appearance of the re-animated grandmother at Charles Dickins story telling the viewer becomes so entranced with the fate of all characters that any niggles are chiefly redundant.

As with some of the better Doctor Who stories there is a relatively small cast. It benefits from being a later episode as we are now familiar with the Doctor and Rose and the script can concentrate on supporting characters. 

The supporting cast are actually treated as main characters rather than window dressing which "The End Of The World" and "Rose" seemed to fail on. One certainly feels more empathy with Gwyneth when she sacrifices herself for the rest of the world than we do for Jabe. Perhaps this is because she is saving the human race rather than a selection of overly rich aliens, but it seems more likely that the viewer is more sympathetic to a character who influences the plot rather than fills out a crowd scene.

The Unquiet Dead is certainly the best Doctor Who story i have seen for a long time, although i still have a few reservations about the 45 minute running time. While american shows have succeeded in this format i believe that Doctor Who set itself aside from other Science Fiction programmes by taking time over situations. Setting up plots and characters and not relying on a solution to present itself a mere five minutes from the end. Maybe the show would benefit from an hour long running time similar to other BBC Drama serials.

A final comment the Time War arc is shaping up pretty well having been alluded to in two episodes and introduced in the previous but i hope that it will not be the defining feature of all the Doctor and Rose's adventures as it is a bit hard to swallow that every new (or old) race they meet has been affected in such a way.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television