Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Of the first three, I can honestly say that it was the episode I was least looking forward to, yet it was the episode that reminded me most of the ‘classic series,' and the one I enjoyed the most overall. I even had my Who-sceptic fiancée on the edge of her seat. "Wow" is all I can say!

Well, I can elaborate on "Wow" - Gatiss' script is further proof that the series can work exceedingly well in this format; it reminded me so much of a Hinchcliffe/Holmes/Tom Baker era four-parter, only made bite size for today's audience. I also love the idea of the pre-credit sequence, it sets up the stories beautifully and serves as a wonderful teaser - it means we still get that "cliff-hanger feel" as the action kicks off and the howl of the music kicks in even though over half the episodes in this series are stand-alone stories. 

However, to get it out of the way first, I did think the plot had weak parts, particularly in the first half of the story – Rose's kidnap by Mr. Sneed and Gwyneth for example – it seemed to have only been put in merely to build up to the scene where Rose is trapped with the ‘unquiet dead', and to compensate for the lack of a ‘real' villain initially. I also thought the Doctor walking in and the dead just stopping their advance on Rose was a bit feeble and detracted from their menace somewhat, though I would argue that the ‘zombies/gelth' or whatever you will call them weren't what provided the story with it's moments of genuine horror, they were just a gimmick. Thanks to some classy writing, the real horror came from the human element, from our own limitations.

After all, when you come right down to it, the story was about the Doctor and his relationship with Rose and to a lesser extent with the sceptical and world-weary Dickens. Gatiss picked up seamlessly where Davies had left off, exploring in depth Rose's wonder and confusion about being able to visit the past (and for new viewers explaining the mechanics of time travel and timelines etc.) as well as perhaps sewing the seeds of attraction between the two – "You look beautiful… considering" and "I'm so glad I met you." Wonderfully and tastefully done in my opinion, at least thus far! Most importantly of all, their relationship evolves in this story Rose was proved right, and the Doctor wrong. I'd assume that most of the audience too was sharing Rose's reservations about the Gelth. This I think will prove crucial to the dynamic of the series – it's not going to be "The Doctor always knows best," it looks like there will be occasions where Rose knows best, where the Doctor can learn from her. I loved how at the start of the story the Doctor was just in awe of Dickens – totally tongue-tied by this famous historical figure, obviously a literary favourite of the Doctor's – yet by the stories end, the Doctor had opened Dickens eyes to the wonders of the universe, given him a new zest for life and the satisfaction of knowing his books will last forever. In turn, Dickens makes the Doctor realise that a Timelord he may be, and a very clever and experienced once at that, but there are still some things of which the Doctor knows nothing. Once again, the Doctor teaches, the Doctor learns.

As for the main blood of the story, it had all the key "Doctor Who" elements, with the lovely gothic touch of Mark Gatiss that had "Season 14" written all over it. The atmosphere was very "Talons of Weng-Chiang" I reckon. The dead rose from their caskets, but aha! It was aliens taking them over. Of course, the lines between good and evil aren't as black and white as they were in the seventies – though they ultimately proved hostile, the Gelth did have our pity as like the Nestene and the Timelords, they appear to have been on the losing end of this "Time War;" the intrigue around this catastrophic war growing each and every week. It is interesting to note that it was referred to as a "TIME war", and that the Doctor made a point of telling Rose that her "cosy little future" can come unravelled… Is this what happened to Gallifrey? Were the Time Lords "undone"?

Charles Dickens, portrayed admirably by Simon Callow, would have stolen the show with his witty repartee with the Doctor were it not for the character of Gwyneth, touchingly played by Eve Myles. The scenes where she looked into Rose and saw the future were the best of the episode for me – and her sad demise at the end of the story left me with a lump in the throat. From watching this episode Eccleston's Doctor seems to also share the 5th Doctor's vulnerability – a quality that made the 5th Doctor one of the most endearing of all the Doctors and produced some of the most poignant moments in the series' initial 26-year run – Adric's death, being forced to kill the Silurians and Sea Devils… Here it was Gwyneth, an innocent, a "little person" who saved the world and died, paying for the Doctor's miscalculation and his inability to solve the situation another way.

The script also had a couple of lovely little touches for the fans – I thought it was hilarious how the Doctor seemed so pleased with himself for changing his jumper. After all, it's a really big deal to a Timelord who rarely changes his clothes – I don't think his first, second, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth incarnations ever changed their outfits! Sure, they changed they coat or cloak every once in a while, but a jumper… no chance in hell! The jumper appearing identical to the one he wore before only added to the humour! I think Terrance Dicks was right when he called the Doctor a "very smelly old man."

There were some great comedy moments too – Rose accusing Mr. Sneed's hands of "having a wander"; the Doctor's derogatory remarks about Cardiff (where the series was filmed); the Dickensian quotes littered throughout the script… it was just another triumph all round. The effects, once again, were also spot on, and the location filming in Monmouth and Swansea was beautiful, especially in the snow.

A wonderful, touching, funny, and scary story, set in a winter wonderland and encapsulated by one of the closing lines from Dickens to the Doctor:

"There are more things in Heaven and Earth than dreamed of in your philosophy. Or yours, for that matter Doctor."

Last of the Timelords, brilliant, funny, fast and flawed. The 21st century Doctor!

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television