Doctor Doctor Who Guide

As the weeks approached DW 2005 kick-off, I began to look forward to some stories more than others. I recall it being so way back in the 1980s, as DWM provided previews of upcoming episodes. Of the 13 stories preparing to dazzle in 2005, the 2 that really stood out were the Dalek episode (which will be episode 6) and the Victorian one.

I only really need to look down the list of my all-time favourite stories, to show that a Victorian setting usually means brilliant Doctor Who. I really empathize with Mark Gatiss when he waxes lyrical about this period of History. It truly was a momentous era, and one where the good and bad of Human Behaviour thrived. It’s a time that has been partially romanticized, thanks to the efforts of Conan Doyle and his contemporaries. I’m sure it wasn’t as gloriously atmospheric as the majority of Fiction presents it nowadays. Nonetheless I love my Victoriana, however idealized it has become.

It’s lovely to see the wonder on the 9th Doctor, and especially Rose, as they arrive. That first step into the snow from the TARDIS was wondrous – and a glorious moment amongst many. Billie Piper looks lovely in her Victorian garb, and it’s an interesting contrast to other Doctors to see the 9th Doctor look so out of place here.

First and foremost The Unquiet Dead is a classic ghost story – one that thrives in such a setting. Getting to the heart of the matter with setting it at an Undertakers enforces this. The ephemeral presence is brilliantly depicted – showing how FX can enrich a brilliant story. For it all to work though, the basic has to be that brilliant script. Thankfully my faith in the talents of Mark Gatiss were fully justified. I was looking forward to this and the Dalek story more than any other simply because I have loved the stories of Gatiss and Shearman in the past. 

The story is rich in characterization, and replete with horror and humour. This works because of Christopher Ecclestons “more impressive with every episode” Doctor. His objective, amongst many other things, was to counter the scares with the Doctors reassurance. Thus the monsters are scary, but the Doctor is our rock – with him with us we need not fear too much!

The whole production really gives us a superb Victorian Ghost Story. From Make Up, through Scenery, through Costumes – it’s all here – exactly as I like it. It’s the night-time too, adding a further creepiness to proceedings. The direction was as quick and precise as its preceding episodes. Here though there just seems to be so much more style. I am looking forward to watching it late at night with the lights off – it will be splendid!

Another highlight of the episode is the inclusion of Charles Dickens. I was fascinated by Simon Callows portrayal. Knowing a little about Dickens (he represents the Victorian era better than anyone) this was a fine inclusion. Thanks to Callows knowledge of Dickens (his one man Dickens play aired on BBC that same night) it is clear he understands the part. It’s the best depiction of Dickens I have seen in any production. There’s a weariness to him at the start, as befits someone who will be dead within a year. Yet the wonder emerges by the end, with a strong allusion to Dickens own Christmas Carol. Additional supporting players also are impressive and don’t let the side down one bit. Gwyneth particularly stands out, particularly her selfless nature.

Billie Piper continues to be exceptional as Rose Tyler. It seems so far this season that she has been in more scenes than the Doctor – and as she is our guide that is okay. The delightful chat with Gwyneth in the back room. The aforementioned wonder at emerging in the past. She is clearly just as much of a star of Doctor Who, this time round, as the title character.

Brilliant characters, impressive storytelling, exceptional production values – it’s no surprise that millions are flocking back to Doctor Who. For a fan who has been with the show since the mid 70s, it’s all rather amazing and magical. This series above all else is capturing the wonder just beyond our doorstep. It’s capturing the glorious ideology that we all can be incredible in our own world. Whether it’s the end of the world, or in the past, the references to us now are everywhere.

I doubt this series of Doctor Who will better this, because it’s magnificent Doctor Who. Then again I wouldn’t bet on it. This series is going beyond expectations. Mark Gatiss and the production team have truly achieved greatness here – that is lovely to behold. 10/10

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