Doctor Doctor Who Guide

We've seen the Ninth Doctor in a contemporary setting, and we've seen him in a futuristic one. So how does he fare in the past?

Rather well, actually.

The BBC have always known how to pull off period settings with considerable style, and The Unquiet Dead is certainly no exception. It looks absolutely gorgeous. However, Doctor Who has never been about cosmetics – it's about tight scripts and scary monsters, and this episode has both. The story is simple enough to be told in a half hour episode, but this allows for a more sedate pace, and a chance to build atmosphere and character. There is a huge two hander scene between Gwyneth and Rose in the middle of the episode, which fleshes out both characters enormously, whilst still being relevant to the plot and the ongoing arc story. It's beautifully played by the two actresses involved, and in a delightful reversal from The End Of The World, Rose is the cause, not the victim, of culture shock with her awareness of the future.

The Doctor also has some wonderful scenes, where he not only accepts the alien Gelth at face value, but extends the hand of friendship to them. His solution to their plight is sickening for Rose, and makes us stop to think about his moral values. Clearly this Doctor sees the big picture far more clearly than we or Rose do, and it's a superbly written scene which emphasises his alien-ness so effectively, without ever feeling forced.

The Gelth themselves are a simple, yet effective creation. The CGI isn't awful (for the second episode in a row) and the walking dead would give nightmares to most adults, never mind children. The scene where the zombies trap our heroes in the cellar is easily the biggest behind-the-sofa moment of the series so far. Doctor Who has become genuinely creepy for the first time since Androzani.

The biggest delight for me, though, was Charles Dickens. Simon Callow effortlessly justifies his status as one of the top British actors of the day, and stands head and shoulders above the rest of the (excellent) guest cast. His rapport with The Doctor is a delight to behold, and his scenes in the carriage with his number one fan made me smile from ear to ear. Dickens gets all the best lines, too, my personal favourite being “What the Shakespeare…”. 

If the rest of the series can maintain the incredibly high standard of this episode, I fear I'm going to run out of superlatives by the end of April. I don't award 10/10 lightly, but this is the second time in as many episodes I find myself doing so.

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