Doctor Doctor Who Guide

A low key episode this week, very much an interlude in the series between the dramatic high of last week and what promises to be a spectacular concluding two parter starting next week. This story allows Russell T. Davies to excel at his characterisation, as we are once again confronted with the moral problems associated with the Doctor’s travels through time. Mickey returns to find his girl friend not just travelling with the Doctor but yet another man- the preternaturally handsome Captain Jack. We learn of other adventures in the TARDIS as well as Rose refers to visiting other planets with the Doctor, which is something she has yet to do in this series.

The presence of the Slitheen and the proposal to build a nuclear power plant in the centre of Cardiff were prominent in the trailers for this show. This turns out to be a nice bit of distraction by the producers as it leaves the audience with the expectation that this is going to be another run around save the world type romp that the first Slitheen story was. Instead we have a more thoughtful study of morality, retribution and redemption.

Annette Badland practically steals the show as ‘Margaret’ the one surviving Slitheen who is defeated by the Doctor and faces death on return to her home world. The best writing is in the scenes between the Doctor and Margaret, who swings between being coldly manipulative and pleading for her life.

One really feels for poor Mickey in this episode, for we already know from Father’s Day that Rose was indelibly imprinted on his psyche when he was still a young boy. Therefore when Rose rings him from Cardiff to tell him that she needs her passport and can he bring it up for her, of course he comes running to see her. We see the TARDIS crew very much from his point of view- very much a scene he cannot get into- a bunch of self-serving hedonists on an eternal jolly. Even when they involve him in the capture of Margaret he cannot get it right, whilst Captain Jack athletically vaults over obstacles Mickey runs straight into them and ends up with a bucket on his foot.

John Barrowman has very little to do this episode apart from look buff and fiddle with the TARDIS. The TARDIS itself is the one who saves the day in the end, as we learn a little more about this enigmatic living machine.

The subplot involving the nuclear power station does have one more useful purpose, for the name of the project is Blaidd Drwg, Welsh for ‘Bad Wolf’. For the first time the presence of these two words ‘following us around the universe’ is acknowledged by the Doctor and Rose. However the Doctor quickly dismisses the idea as just a trick of the mind, an unconscious mechanism where you notice something that would otherwise appear to be random and see a pattern. (This works much better on the screen, believe me!)

A lot of fans have been very derogatory about RTD’s writing for this season. I think the problem is that the writing on the other stories has generally been so good that he has seemed pretty banal in comparison. His strengths have generally been in the character based drama, some fans have suggested he should write soap, which I think is being unfair. In this episode we have less of the slap-stick puerile humour that was so irritating in the Aliens of London/ World War Three.

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