Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I suppose I should admit from the outset that I am extremely partial to a bit of pseudo-historical Doctor Who, 'The Curse Of Fenric' and 'The Talons Of Weng-Chiang' being two of my all-time favourite serials, to name but two, so it is safe to say I had been looking forward to this episode of the new series with baited breath. I was not to be disappointed as Mark Gatiss' script delivered and the production team created an episode that will almost certainly stand up to the test of time.

All of my doubts from watching 'Rose' and 'The End Of The World' regarding the 50 minute stories being too short to deliver a real story with twists and turns have been instantly dispersed with 'The Unquiet Dead'. Everything about the plot was classic Who. The Doctor and Rose arrive in the nick of time to witness a shocking supernatural scene and get involved in the thick of things all in the first 10 minutes of the story before unravelling the mystery of what is going on to the corpses that are walking the streets of Cardiff. It was intriguing, surprising and well-plotted - the first story to lay claim to any of those three adjectives in this season so far in my opinion.

What's more, the script also stayed entirely within the characterisation of the two leads that Davies created in the first two episodes of the series. Rose is wide-eyed and questioning of the worlds she is travelling to, but feisty, headstrong and willing to question the Doctor's morals whenever she doesn't agree with his methods. The Doctor meanwhile is touched by those who are innocent and is venomous to those who are not, totally in keeping with his behaviour towards Cassandra in the finale of 'The End Of The World'. Christopher Eccleston's performance remains intriguing and unique - never before has the Doctor been played with such wide-eyed innocence and enthusiasm when meeting historical figures from the past like he is when he meets Dickens here. Eccleston's energy and vigour in playing the role is intoxicating and I was just thrilled to be caught up in the moment with him. At the same time, Billie Piper is with him every step of the way. She has a better acting range than the majority of the companions from the first 'era' of Doctor Who and is giving meatier scripts to work with. She can express anger, fear, humour and excitement all at the drop of a hat and always in good measure to the requirements of the character and the script.

The supporting cast were superb through and through, with the standout being Simon Callow as Dickens. His performance as the man gradually dissuaded from his own beliefs to accept a completely alien possibility in his world was devastatingly effective.

For all my criticism of the plots of the first 2 episodes, their production was spot on, so the fear was always that when a story was well-plotted, the production might suffer, but that was not to be the case. While not as dramatically edited and directed as 'Rose' and without all the huge special effects sequences of 'The End Of The World', the realisation of the spirits was effective and did what it needed to do.

I have to say, I don't think there has been a 'weak' episode in 2005 yet, but for me this really was the pinnacle of the series so far, right up there with some of the best stories of the classic years. Everything fell into place excellently and as I'd hoped for from Mark Gatiss, a man who I thoroughly respect and admire. Here's to more of the same.

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