22 May 2005The Empty Child, by James Tricker
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Paul Wilcox
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Steve Hoare
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Kenneth Baxter
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Nigel Lata-Burston
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Dapo Olasiyan
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by John Byatt
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Robert Booth
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Mike Eveleigh
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Douglas Edward Lambert
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Dominic Smith
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Daniel Knight
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Jake Collingwood
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Dominic Carter
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by George Watson
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Geoff Wessel
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Adrian Jarvis
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Randy Hamilton
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Rossa McPhillips
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Robert F.W. Smith
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Paul Davies
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by David Carlile
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Jamie Dawson
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Tavia Chalcraft
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Angus Gulliver
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Mike Sharples
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Steve Jenkins
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by David Lim
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Richard Radcliffe
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Mark Francome
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Joe Ford
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Andy Griffiths
22 May 2005The Empty Child, by Steve Ferry
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Dan Robinson
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Paul Wilcox
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Tavia Chalcraft
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by David Kenyon
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by John Byatt
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Mike Eveleigh
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Alex Hasthorpe
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Joe Ford
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Robert F.W. Smith
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by David Carlile
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by David Lim
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Richard Radcliffe
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Andy Griffiths
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Phil Christodoulou
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Kenneth Baxter
29 May 2005The Doctor Dances, by Rossa McPhillips
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Paul Hayes
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Andrew Philips
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Alan Morrison
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Paul Clarke
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Ed Martin
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Matt Kimpton
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Mick Snowden
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Adam Kintopf
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Alex Gibbs
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Nick Mellish
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Robert Tymec
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Eddy Wolverson
30 May 2005The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Steve Manfred
20 Oct 2006The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, by Steven Hancock

Another incredible episode,right up there with the Unquiet Dead and Dalek and yet again I am saying this about a non RTD scripted one.I can only hope that the second part(which has possibly the poorest title for a story in the show's history) lives up to the promise created by this.

From the moment the Doctor wandered in to admire the singer,detracting him briefly from his task,I felt we were on to a winner: the period atmosphere created seemed perfect,with not a hint of political correctness as people were seen doing what most adults did in 1941- smoke cigarettes!And pretty soon a wonderful contrast was created: the Doctor right in the thick of it,caught up like a detective in a maze of mystery and darkness in wartime London,encountering phones that ring when they shouldn't,a spooky child in what at first seems a bog standard gas mask but is actually something far more chilling,and a girl who clearly knows more than she's letting on.....and then there's Rose,starring in her own mock Hollywood romance,less swept off her feet than swept from the sky,drinking champagne and flirting with Captain Jack amidst a backdrop of bangs and flashes.Splendid stuff.

Many older/long term viewers will have cringed at Rose's accusation that Captain Jack is "coming on to her" but whatever embarrassment they may have felt was hopefully quickly dispelled by Jack asking Rose if she liked Glenn Miller,whereupon the two share a romantic dance.

Christopher Eccleston was at his most impressive as the Doctor here- serious,inquisitive,with only a few well judged jokes.What with Rose's T shirt and the Doctor's speech about little England standing up,alone for a while,against the menace of nazism,why we had semi-patriotism here too....something for everyone.

A great cameo from Richard Wilson and one of the most horrifying transformations in the show's history as the plague virus finally consumes his face.Also the empty child's sister Nancy is very convincing.

Very sad that initial findings seem to show that such a great episode lost about a million viewers due to the schedule change and maybe the ITV competition.

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This is the Doctor Who episode I have been waiting for since ( I could say it all began, but I was only born in 1967) I remember watching it. For all the time periods that the Doctor has visited, he has never dealt with any machinations of the Second World War. The nearest he has come to it is in The War Games but that was WWI and soldiers transported no another period and Curse of Fenric but that was set after.

And as far as I am concerned the best "ghost" stories have elements of WWII in them, saying that only Sapphire & Steel's 100 part Second Adventure (actually it was eight, but t seemed it went on forever) springs to mind. So this story already had a heads up in my view. And it didn't disappoint.

The precredit sequence was one of the better of the series. I have find these to be hit and miss affairs. Just another nod to the theme tune which I love (another request for a fast release on CD)

The Doctor and Rose land and it's straight into the adventure. The chills start almost immediately with the "child" constantly calling "Mummy" and the incidental music assisting. I've already got chills up my spine and I'm 38 and it's daylight at 6.30pm. Rose finds a rope and is pulled up into what HAS to be the best special effect sequence (ever -- well, bar Star Wars episode III opening battle) These scenes of the blitz surpass anything I have seen in Pearl Harbor and the like. Already Rose is in peril and the clever thing in this opening escapade is that what I expected to be the cliffhanger of the story (Rose falling from the rope) was handled in the first 20 minutes.

Her eventual rescue by Captain Jack is great with her doe-eyed look and fainting pure comedy. In fact there is quite a lot of comic moments in this episode considering the very dark and sinister nature of the plot with a special note to the most unforced "Doctor Who?" line in the whole Who history. Going back to Captain Jack, which I could again and again. His bisexual tendencies have been mentioned in the media and I initially thought this might be unnecessary overkill on a theme (there have been frequent gay references through the new series so far) the throwaway line was quite minimal and funny too. In the event I hope this thread is continued.

The child actors were superb; again, British kids can perform creepy better than anyone. The child stalking the city was just plain shit-scary even just with his hand through the letterbox. Richard Wilson as the "other" doctor had limited screen time and I hope there is more of him next week but he certainly commanded his brief scenes. However, this is Chris Eccleston's best performance to date, eerily subdued but again with a huge amount of humour coming across very "human". Billie Piper again has her best role in this "Hello, Hello" - faint "Doctor Who?" etc.

As mentioned the effects were outstanding and it's a long time that I have found a cgi/special effect to send shivers up my spine. That happened during Doctor Constantine's transformation. But as I said before, it's got that WWII ghost story/gas mask voices in the air creepiness that I adore.

Finally I was really happy that they had abandoned the trailer of the next episode as I don't think they should be part of two episode stories (it was on after the end credits, but my tape switched to Confidential before it finished so I didn't see it). hopefully this will be lost altogether for cliffhangers.

Stephen Moffat shoots to the top of my list with this story and although I agree the "guest writers" have written the better stories, those badmouthing RTD should take a step back and take note that his stories are just as good and I'm sure he has had the most input in the story arc which I find the most interesting. With respect to the other producers and heads of BBC, he brought Doctor Who back successfully to our screens.

So, Empty Child heads my list beating The Unquiet Dead (finally off top spot), Father's Day, Dalek, The Long Game (purely for Simon Pegg's performance), Rose, AoL/WWIII and The End of the World.

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Well.. I really looked forward to this one, and wasn’t disappointed at all. For a change we saw the TARDIS in flight at the beginning which made a nice change and was interesting to see it materialize whilst the camera was still moving, very good. This seasons stories have been such a mish mash of the very good to average, with we're led to believe the better, more interesting ones at the end of the season, leading up to the revelations we're all dying to see.

This story was so good from the start, the sets, the costumes, all filmed at night... and launched immediately into the story. I’m not entirely sure what the point of the Doctor entering the night club was for, it didn’t really need to be there but then they had to engineer their drifting apart somehow.

Billie’s scene from the balloon was exceedingly well made, the London scenes were imaginative and brought a real sense of what it must have been like for the people of that time, occasionally it was obvious that this was a special effect, especially to old cynical die hards like me, but it was so incredibly well done you could forgive these technicians anything and I could imagine children being totally enthralled as I was all those years ago.

Captain Jack's entry was interesting; he is obviously a rogue who uses not only his mental abilities to survive but his charm and good looks too. The officers face when Jack told him he had a nice bottom too, spoke volumes. This is a fella that bats for both sides and knows exactly the effect he has on people.

I was a tiny bit disappointed in Billie’s reaction to him, she suddenly became a giggly soppy girl for a few moments and it was almost like seeing a different character, but then after what had happened, if a dashing handsome man caught you in his arms, I’m sure more than a few of us would think Christmas had come early that year.

The children were exceedingly well used, the scene in the dining room, around the table worked well, children can be sometimes the best actors and sometimes ,as Coronation Street viewers will know, the absolutely worst. Their surprise at the Doctor’s arrival was a joy, and the lad with half his dinner hanging out of his open mouth looked so normal and amusing.

There is something very chilling about these gas masks, its the old cliché of not being able to see the eyes, therefore losing all the humanity. They used this to the max, and the moment when the Doctor slowly changed took my breath away, that was so well done and very chilling, I don’t doubt there were a few wet beds that night. I'm waiting for the Great and the Good to all complain in the Guardian tomorrow, not that anyone takes any notice.

I kind of hoped that the Captain was going to keep his secrets a little longer than he did, or maybe he has, we know there’s major surprises to come... but most con men don’t own up that quickly, they don’t give a damn about anything or anyone providing there’s a profit and so to see him admit to it, didn’t feel right and was a bit of a let down. Methinks there’s more to come here.

Immediately you can see the Doctor isn’t overly keen on this young handsome man,, as he was with the lad from The Long Game and Dalek, they are a threat. I can't quite fathom out what is going on there...the Doctor has never shown any interest in the old rumpy pumpy side of things and yet here he is, happy to have this pretty bangle dangling from his arm, and acting like a normal jealous human man. I have my own theories on this and I expect I’m miles off the mark, but the last episode will be the clincher on this one hopefully and explain all.,

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable piece of British TV again, it just gets better and better, (maybe apart from Long Game) and long may she reign.

And thank god, the preview has been moved, no doubt Russell’s been reading these reviews...I would if I was him.

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‘An Empty Child’ is the best episode of the new series so far in my opinion. Why? Firstly it is probably the best written story so far, just shading it over ‘Dalek’, with good dialogue, a plot that is easy to follow, but does not feel too rushed the way a few of the one-parters have. Stephen Moffat has also managed to create a genuinely scary and suspenseful story without relying on an old monster. The TARDIS phoning ringing, the child’s creepy ‘are you my mummy’, a face turning into a gas mask, and a cliff hanger with zombies- this episode had it all.

Also excellent was the design, form Jack’s fantastic spaceship to the really authentic looking period locations and the creepy black-out streets which give the story a wonderful feel. The special effects were also of a good standard, although at times perhaps there was two much C.G.I.

On the acting front high marks for everyone, especially Eccleston, who gave one of his best performances, particularly in his scenes with Nancy and in Albion Hospital with Constantine. John Barrowman also impressed on his debut, while Billie Piper again showed that fans were wrong to be concerned about her casting. Richard Wilson was also good, although his screen time was a little shorter than I would have liked.

I for one cannot wait for part two!

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Well, this is the episode that really delivered the goods for me. The mystery ridden Empty Child marks a return to classic Who and contained at least two scenes that will remain forever with the viewer.

The Empty Child sizzled from the start and ensured that the viewer was kept on the edge of his or her seat as the drama unravelled. The point-of-view shots from the ghostly child of the title proved unsettling and the figure's appearance in various scenes were used to great effect.

The skybound scenes of peril with Rose were extremely well executed, with the boys from The Mill producing a visually stunning recreation of the blitz from their electronic box of tricks.

Richard Wilson's unfortunate demise as Doctor Constantine will become forever known as "the gas-mask scene" - possibly the most bizarre "death" scene yet witnessed on Doctor Who, guaranteed to send the adults scurrying behind their settees, never mind the children.

Solid performances from all cast members, particularly John Barrowman as Jack Harness, a stonking great script from Steven Moffat, and fluid direction by James Hawes resulting in 45 minutes of pure television bliss.

Finishing with a rivetting cliffhanger which brought back memories of many Italian zombie movies, The Empty Child proved a stunning return to the haunting '70s earthbound tales and left me gasping for more.

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To put my review in context I need to give you some background to my Doctor Who past.

I am in my late thirties and grew up as a kid watching Doctor Who. When I was nine my family relocated to darkest Africa, this meant that my TV knowledge of Doctor Who ended during the Tom Baker era. He was my fave doctor followed by Pertwee.

In the absence of the TV show in Nigeria, I read a few novels but not many. Hence my knowledge of Dr. Who while not insignificant is nowhere near geek level.

With this in mind when I moved back to England, I tried to watch episodes of the Doctor that I had missed but could not help but find it cheesy and very unscary!

But I was among the people who eagerly awaited the launch of this new series. The first episode left me a bit cold and so did the next two.

I decided that I will watch it for a couple more and if it does not improve I'd jack it in.

Well along came the episode "Dalek" which I liked and decided to stay for a few more, then we got "Father's Day" which in my opinion is the best episode so far and is a classic in the making.

Now "Empty Child" had a tough act to follow but guess what? It is a good gripping yarn.

There is always something chilling about kids acting strange. And in this episode the image of a kid with a gas mark walking around continually asking if you are it's mum, was as scary as the cybermen (they scared me the most as a kid).

In this episode we are introduced to the concepts of time agents, which is a new one to me but may be something others are aware of and which I missed.

The acting in this episode is of great quality and Richard Wilson's (good ol' Victor Meldrew) portrayal of an undersiege medical Doctor was top class.

The thing I like about this new series of Doctor Who is that it has a unique British feel to it, the manifestation of the symptoms of the disease on it's victims was something I'd only expect from an Brit's mind, it was twisted!

The whole idea of how Rose gets picked up by a blimp and just happens to be spotted by the time agent I found a bit implausible. And is it me but does Rose seem to get smitten quite often? I mean I know that Mikey is a bit of a wet blanket but he hasn't been offically dumped yet has he?

I liked though the idea of the time travelling con artist and how he tried to sting the Doctor but surely as a time traveller money shouldn't really be a problem should it.

Another good touch was how Rose vocalised the fact that the Doctor does not act in the manner of most american Sci-fi characters with thier scans and more stereotypical ways and she finds the conman more comforting when he acts more like Spock.

This is a two parter and I found it gripping enough to make me eager to watch the concluding part.

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At the very end of my review of "Father's Day", I said that Chris Eccleston's Doctor is "probably the best one in 900 years."

"The Empty Child" gave me no reason to change that view. Indeed, in this episode there was a maturity in the Doctor's character, for which I have waited for some time to manifest itself in such depth.

After what seemed to be a rough ride in the Tardis following the piece of space hardware to the centre of London, and materialising in what was a very convincing looking wartime setting, the Doctor's bumbling entry into the bar asking if anything had fallen out of the sky recently, was the only alusion to the grinning loon of earlier episodes. Injecting humour into such settings is a subtle art in itself, and this is a masterpiece.

After that, when the air-raid siren sounded and the Doctor saw the poster announcing "Hitler will send no warning", we then began to see a Doctor who had sympathy with his surroundings, and a real sense of the seriousness of the circumstances in which the inhabitants of the London of 1941 would have been.

From the initial puzzlement of the "telephone that shouldn't ring", and the first appearance of Nancy (superbly played by Florence Hoath), we see none of the attitude of past stories, but a Doctor who tries to find out about the fallen object without freaking out the people he meets. A Doctor who remains patient with the group of homeless children he meets, having followed Nancy who acquires food for them. And when the mysterious "child" appears prompting Nancy to go into maternal mode, the Doctor remains calm, asking questions and being concerned for the "child" who is outside constantly calling out "Muuummy!", but still respecting the circumstances, knowing from 900 years of time travel that something is evidently not right.

But, we must not forget Rose, who unbeknown to the Doctor has also seen this mysterious "child", and ends up hanging around in quite a different way than the Doctor thought she was.

One can almost feel Rose's hands becoming more sore and cramped, as she tries to hold on to the rope (attached to a barrage balloon) for dear life, until she finally falls, letting rip with a scream (for which she had a practice run in "Father's Day") and just when it seems like Rose is going the same way as the bombs from the very convincing Heinkel HE111s, - enter "Captain Jack Harkness", complete with attractor beam, light field, invisible space ship, psychic paper, and a sexy computer (voiced by Dian Perry). But before Captain Jack (nicely played by John Barrowman) completes the rescue, he asks Rose to switch off her cell phone because it interferes with his instruments, - a nice touch.

Then, Captain Jack begins to reveal his purpose, and is surprised by Rose's knowledge of his psychic paper and other technology, and so surmises that she must be a time agent with whom he might negotiate terms regarding the afore mentioned piece of space junk.

So, is Captain Jack going to be the one who wins Rose from the Doctor? As the Doctor never seems to break from Earth's orbit, will Rose end up flying off into space with Captain Jack in Series Two, thus explaining the reports that Billie Piper is leaving? Or am I jumping to conclusions here maybe?

Regardless of all this supposition, Captain Jack is an effective character, almost like a male - and less feisty - version of Jackie Tyler, but with a dash of Arthur Daley or Del Boy thrown in. If he is going to be a companion to the Doctor and Rose for the remaining episodes, then I only hope that Russell T. Davies has allowed for the character to really develop in his scripts, because up to now that has been my only criticism of the series as a whole.

Some of the secondary characters in RTDs writing have been seen and heard alright, but we haven't been able to get to know them beyond being incidental to the story. Although, I do acknowledge - as have many other reviewers - that without Russell T. Davies we would probably not be having the enormous privilege of seeing Doctor Who at all, considering the whole thing started in 1963, when television, special effects, and the equally wobbly budget allowed at the time were a far cry from what we have today, and made it a miracle that it ever took off anyway.

The stories not written by RTD (Steven Moffat deserves every credit for this one) have been absolute crackers in my opinion, attaining 110 per cent consistently in terms of strength of story, character development, (including primary and secondary characters) direction, and also because we have been able to not only know the characters, but also be deeply drawn into their circumstances, our heart strings pulled in twangs of raw emotion.

Examples; Gwyneth, about to strike the match in "The Unquiet Dead"; The Dalek asking Rose if she is frightened, and answering her "yeah" with "So am I".

And so it was with Doctor Constantine.

The Doctor's (Eccleston) all too brief meeting with the Doctor, played by the brilliant Richard Wilson was perfection. Doctor Constantine was so evidently a character who we were not to know for long. Yet, in only a few moments we saw his knowledge, his confusion and his fear, that what had befallen the people in the beds around him, would happen to him. I wonder how many people really did hide behind the sofa as Doctor Constantine began to change into a dead but not dead thing, calling out "Are - you my - Mummy?"

I know there has been some controversy about some scenes in Doctor Who being too scary for children, with some areas of the press fuelling the negativism, including one of the TV/radio magazines who very helpfully wrote in their choices page, "contains nightmarish imagery (including a grotesque morphing sequence) that's probably too much for little ones." Well. excuse me, but weren't the Zarbi's too much for the little ones back in the sixties? I remember having bad dreams of being chased by them, but I still watched. This is the stuff of dreams. This is the very essence of science fiction of the Doctor Who genre. This is not only science fiction, it is cutting edge drama, the like of which we did not dream that science fiction was capable of attaining. But it has, and I believe it will continue to do so, now that the mould has been broken forever.

Finally, I was impressed by the "cliffhanger" ending, this being a two part story, and this time (unlike with AOL/WW3) the BBC saw fit to listen to Doctor Who fans by getting the presenter to helpfully tell us to "look away now" if you don't want to see the preview of the next part.

But I didn't look away, because I just couldn't resist looking anyway.

The concept of the Doctor and his friends being cornered by a herd of undead/notdead zombies, made more eerie in those gasmasks was brilliant Doctor Who at its best. 10/10.

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I didn’t get to watch this until the wee small hours as we had been out for the evening but my trusty old VCR came up trumps!

I thought it started off a bit frenzied with the Doctor and Rose chasing the Mauve object through space pre Title sequence, but it soon settled down to be my favourite episode so far.

The initial scenario with Rose wandering off is Doctor Who law and on this occasion seemed perfectly natural as the young child looked lost and in a dangerous position on such a high wall!

The Doctor’s turn as a stage comic was well done with the realisation of the time scale only dawning on him as the sirens were going off with Eccleston played this down rather well and not resort to his usual face splitting grin!

It was also good to see the Doctor be very Doctorish in his investigation into what has been going on and again Eccleston was brilliant in this. The scenes with Billy Piper this week however were rather overshadowed by the exceptional CGI and the presence of Captain Jack who was played to the hilt by John Barrowman. His charm and wit having an instant effect on Rose but always played with a great deal of menace too! I loved the whole “Spock” thing too which at long last is something Rose had been looking for from the Doctor, some good old TV Sci-Fi technology.

The atmosphere that followed the Doctor was always dark and brooding and his speech to Nancy about Great Britain standing up to Hitler, alone and almost defenceless made me feel proud and very patriotic.

Little Albert Valentine was superb as the haunting Empty Child and given such a young actor was behind a mask throughout was amazing. The pleading on the doorstep and the hand through the letterbox would have had me hiding behind my parents in the 60’s no doubting that!

However for me the show stealer was Richard Wilson in a rare serious role as Doctor Constantine. He was measured and assured and his characters impending demise made his efforts to help the doctor truly heroic. I loved Ecclestons admiration for Wilson’s acting ability in the following BBC3 Doctor Who Confidential, he didn’t say a lot but his face said everything. If there was such a thing as “The Doctor Who Oscars” Richard Wilson would have my vote for best supporting Character.

The climax was again a frightening scenario setting up a great cliff-hanger for next week.

Having given this review I can tell you why this was my favourite story so far. The scenes with Chris Eccleston were all acted out without CGI (with the exception of the few seconds morphing of Doctor Constantine) and played in an atmosphere of growing tension. All the characters he played against were believable and well acted. This is also the reason Roses scenes paled beside them. Because of the use of (very well done) CGI your attention to the characterisation of Captain Jack was lost on first viewing.

A very interesting and disturbing story, with some very well fleshed out characters and a cliff-hanger. What more could a Doctor Who fan ask for?

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I generally love negative and/or vitriolic reviews; Even if I have no knowledge or interest in a film or group, if I see '0 out of 10' or 'no stars' I'll read on! So, after being pretty positive about 'The Long Game' and extremely positive about 'Father's Day', I'm rather pleased to say that 'The Empty Child' was an absolute load of....

Nah. Only joking. This was brilliant stuff. Again.

First things first. I thought this was Chris Ecclestone's finest forty(ish) minutes to date. Perhaps because the Doctor and Rose were seperated for most of the episode and allowed to develope their own plot strands? Whatever, I found the Doctors scenes with the children/Nancy/ Dr Constantine *hugely* rewarding. (well, every Doctor scene, really) From the 'teaser' when he declares that following the mysterious object is "totally" safe (Cue explosion) "Should've said 'reasonably'!" to his musings with a passing cat to his unintentional stand-up routine in the club...I could go on. (and will!)

Best of all were the scenes with the Doctor and the children. There was a real affinity here which worked superbly, particularly the Doctor/Nancy two handers. (what a terrific actress, by the way...) Thought one of the finest scenes was where the Doctor has followed Nancy using his 'special' nose. She's too polite to say "you've got a big nose and big ears", but it's a lovely and funny scene...topped by the Doctor's musings on our damp little island , saying "No...Not Here" in reference to the Nazi war machine. Brilliant stuff, and Chris carries it off superbly. I have high hopes for David Tennant, but Chris' work (particularly, for me, in this episode) can't help but make me think "b*gger, one more season would've been nice." Still, there we go....

Rose. Wonderful as ever.Just how *good* is she?! (very)...funny, smart, brave, warm...(and seeing Billie hanging from that rope in '..confidential' ; what a cool woman.)

Captain Jack...interesting character! I look forward to seeing more of the 'intergalatic rogue'.

Direction...superb. Dark shadows, surreal moments, loads of atmosphere. Previous reviewers have mention 'Sapphire and Steel' and I think the 'vibe' from that terrific series is definately present here.

Great appearance by Richard Wilson as the weary, rather noble Dr Constantine. When he suddenly 'goes' and asks the Doctor if he's his mummy...followed by 'that' special effect. Blimey, never mind the kids watching, that gave *me* a shiver! Great cliffhanger too. Brrrr...

Well played, Mr Moffat et al, then. Easily another 9 out of ten...but then taking into account great lines like "Flag woman and U-boat Captain...!" and "Mr Spock?!"....Oh, 9 and a half, then!

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I have come to several conclusions about the new series. Firstly the two part stories are just going to disappoint. The Empty Child closely follows Aliens of London in being disappointingly bad despite the amount of potential it has. Both episodes had so much dramatic potential within the original idea for them but somewhere along the way it all becomes lost. The drama and possible tension, and scare factor, is replaced by needless humour, poorly scripted sequences, one dimensional characters and even worse characters who show some signs of being interesting are killed off or just written off.

My second conclusion is that Christopher Eccleston will constantly revert to the smiling idiot of earlier episodes, as scripted by Russell T.Davies, at every opportunity possible. Instead of showing some diversity in his performance and displaying emotions relevant to the situation he decides, instead (and probably at the request of Davies) to approach every scene with a great big grin smacked across his face. Why? It totally ruins the scene. When he could be curious, interested, worried, concerned and create a really good scene he instead decides to ruin it all by grinning. It’s totally annoying, childish and makes me feel that everyone involved with the production of this series clearly feels that this is a children’s show instead of a family show. It all strikes of dumbing down and approaching it all smiling, like those constantly smiling children’s television presenters, so the little kiddies don’t get frightened! I’m sorry but its what you tune in for, isn’t it?

And that leads me onto another point. Apparently cuts have been made to this episode as producers felt it was just too horrible and scary for young viewers. Well there wasn’t anything scary. Nothing. It was all ruined by a lame script, duff performances and awful special effects. Anything that may have been remotely scary now comes across as cringe television. We were promised a scary episode and I feel utterly let down, again. But will the second part, as with Aliens of London/World War Three, manage to turn things around?

Yet more criticisms I’m afraid. Dreadful, awful, terrible, cringe-worthy special effects. There was nothing remotely good about them. They looked totally fake and computer generated, they just didn’t feel real at all. In every review I’ve done so far I’ve moaned about the lack of believable special effects and so my rant continues. If you are going to do an episode that heavily relies on special effects, and this one did in the air-raid sequences, then the effects have to look real. You’re audience has to believe them otherwise they won’t engage, or believe, in what’s happening. Now at this point people will moan about budget restraints. Well Battlestar Galactica manages to have excellent, and believable (!), special effects on a very limited budget, so why can’t Doctor Who? And as I’ve said before if you can’t have good special effects, as the new series quiet clearly can’t, then have episodes which are driven by storylines/plots and will carry much better on screen than those heavily reliant on showing the special effects which producers seem to think are brilliant. I really do think that the new series needs to return to Doctor Who’s grass routes of episodes focused on the plot, but that’s just my opinion.

The script in this episode was bad throughout, there were one or two good bits, but for the main part it was dreadful. The flirting sequences between Jack & Rose were extremely cringe-worthy. What was the write thinking off? Surely he could have come up with better scenes than that? However, Jack briefly flirting with the RAF person was quite good. The Doctor moaning to the cat about companions who wonder off was good and Nancy was good, though that actually maybe because the actresses manages to turn a awful script into a good performance. Jack is a good character but suffers from poor scripting. The episode it self once again has too much humour, or maybe just bad jokes. “What am I going to arrest you for, starving?”. A terrible, childish joke which one expects to see in a CBBC drama not a Saturday night family show.

How long did that air raid last for? Surely air raids didn’t last that long? If they did then the bombers must have come in waves of attack instead of the continuous attack that seemed to be happening on screen. The attack seemed to last for a long time and one’s left wondering what had happened to the RAF. Why weren’t they defending London? It just seemed ludicrous that the Germans would launch a raid lasting that long because A) Fuel would be limited B) It’s night time so poor vision would be a problem C) British Fighters would have more time to attack and destroy the enemy.

Richard Willson is good as Doctor Constaine but he’s killed off too early. Why couldn’t he have survived into the second part? What’s the point of killing off a character played by a talented actor after only minutes of screen time. He seemed a very promising character but instead the writer just kills him off.

However, the war time setting is a good one but I think that it would have benefited from a better storyline, or just a better script. The idea of Time Agents protecting and guarding time after the destruction of the Time Lords is an interesting concept. Hardly original though, is it? Didn’t the books set up a similar scenario after they wiped out Gallifrey. It slightly feels that the series are taking events that happened in the books and then using them in the television series, claiming their original ideas, because so few have read the books. Seeing as the books have continued Doctor Who during the many years it spend in the wilderness I think a little more respect should be given to the book range.

Captain Jack looks set to be an interesting and dynamic edition to the Tardis crew, if he gets better scripts, and hopefully his bisexuality won’t be ignored. It’s the first time Doctor Who has tackled sexuality and I hope they don’t back out from fear of critics and the Mary Whitehouse’s (RIP) cronies who watch the airwaves and complain about anything that doesn’t conform to their rather narrow-minded view of life.

Marks out of 10? On first viewing it has to be 4/10.

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One word: Brilliant. 'The Empty Child' is the best story of the series so far, and it is easy to see why. The story follows the Doctor and Rose, who arrive in London during the Blitz, trying to trace a time vessel they found in the vortex.

The plot is down to Earth with a sensible vibe that allows for much more padding, which gives the episode the unchallengeable title of scariest episode yet. The spine chilling empty child looking for his mummy is something you can imagine in a horror film, and drives one to ponder the effect this had on the younger members of the audience.

The scenes in the hospital are spooky gold, with a perfectly brilliant cameo appearance by Richard Wilson. Although it is a shame he's not on screen longer, his short-lived role allows the shock of his unearthly transformation to have a far more dramatic impact.

The plot of Jack and Rose is the part of the episode that lets it down. The character of Jack himself is bland, cheesy and generally a disappointment, but does seem to improve within the last few minutes. Perhaps it is just me being a sentimentalist in saying an American just doesn't seem to work in Doctor Who, because of it's British nature and that is they way many believe it should stay. Although the performance was a little OTT, Jack Barrowman tries his best and one is hopeful he will improve as the episode go on, although it would be a little much if he were to stay on for season two.

The acting overall is brilliant, with more strong performances from Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper, but also from Florence Hoath who plays Nancy, a promising newcomer to the world of drama.

The special effects of the episode are strong point, especially the German air raid, but it seems a shame that the opening 'time-tunnel' effect was used again in the episode, the scene was a perfect opportunity from some new space settings.

It was also nice to see the return of the 'classic' cliffhanger, and not having it interrupted by the Next Episode trailer. It was still nice to see a trailer, and proves to work better when place after the title, if only for cliffhanger stories.

Overall, this episode is defiantly the best so far, and there are high hopes for ‘The Doctor Dances'

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How many kids on Monday morning are going to wander round the playground at school saying "Mummy!" Time to get back behind the sofa kids! The Empty Child was billed as the most horrific episode of Doctor Who ever. A genuine sense of fear and foreboding permeated this episode, with a bizarre almost X-Files like plot. Plus we get a new male companion.

After the rather ineffectual Adric, sorry Adam, we get Captain Jack Harkness: Part space hero, part flash git! John Barrowman certainly has the matinee idol looks and charm, so much so I started to feel jealous of him snuggling up to Billie Piper! Nice work if you can get it John! Seriously though, Jack is a character who could’ve easily been unlikeable and annoying as Adam turned into. The difference is we’re are invited not to trust Jack right from the start. Knowing that he’s in for the rest of the season (and beyond?) its reassuring that Barrowman plays the part well and makes him likeable and more textured than the usual bad-boy-turned-good stereotype.

Florence Hoath as Nancy played yet another strong and believable female character. With her character acting as a surrogate mother to homeless kids on the streets of London, I'm guessing she’s been named after Nancy in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist? The scenes between her and The Doctor were touching and very well played. Richard Wilson was superb as Dr Constatine. Never once did I think he was going to lapse into Victor Meldrew and go "I don’t believe it!" I can’t believe he was only in it for about five minutes, but nevertheless his performance was sinister, sympathetic and tragic. And as for his extremely grisly fate…

Like many great Doctor Who episodes, The Empty Child was made memorable by some wonderful little moments that make Doctor who unique. The comedy and character moments which one would expect from Steven Moffat. The look of comic despair as the Doctor realises when he is. Rose exclaiming "Ok maybe not this T-shirt!" as she hangs from the barrage balloon. The Doctor’s interaction with the kids around the dinner table. The bizarre image of Jack and Rose dancing to Glenn Miller on an invisible spaceship tethered to Big Ben… oh, and "its a real pleasure to meet you, Mr Spock!" Priceless!

Then you had the behind the sofa elements. Who would have thought the image of a kid in a gas mask cryng "Mummy!" could be so freaky and unnerving. And the sequence as Dr Constantine’s face morphs into the gas mask was as horrific as you could possibly get for the time slot. In general, the special effects were excellent as usual, and the design of London in the Blitz was largely authentic, although the lighting probably was too bright for a blackout. Gosh, imagine that, an episode of Doctor Who where the lighting was too bright! The episode culminated in a wonderfully edited cliffhanger of close-ups of gas masks that was genuinely chilling! I can’t wait for next weeks episode and I’ve so far resisted the temptation to watch the preview that was sensibly put after the credits, thank you BBC!

Believe the hype, this is Doctor Who at it’s scariest! Mind you, as I type this, I’m watching the Norway entry in the Eurovision Song Contest which is even scarier! Imagine a nightmare-inducing hybrid of Bon Jovi, Marilyn Manson and The Village People…

"I want my Mummy!"

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That pretty much sums up what I think of this episode. It has horror, it has romance, it has history, and, of course, it has Sci Fi. The effects were superb, and the directing was top notch. Fantastic!

This has to be the scariest episode so far, the Gas masked freaks (for lack of a better name) are very scary. (or maybe I just have a phobia of Gas masks. Who knows?) The scariness was slightly diminished by the constant repitition of "Mummy?" but otherwise, it gives Bram Stoker a run for his money.

Suprisingly, there was some good humour, such as "What am I going to arrest you for? Starving?" Again, this stopped the episode from being to scary, and this was probably for the better. After all, we don't want parents phoning in and complaining, do we?

Also, the characters were very good. Captain Jack had just the right level of cheesiness to be a perfect wheeler-dealer. Nancy was good as a new take on the old "Freindly hommeless person" concept, and for this I congratulate the actress. Doctor Constantine was also good, but was a bit of a one hit wonder.

Lastly, the cliff hanger was perfect, I can't wait to tune in next week! If only I had a TARDIS. Ah well ,C'est la vie.

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I don't know how I am going to fill three paragraphs with praise for what could possibly be one of the best stories of the series and I am not just talking about the new ones! From the beginning with the rackety TARDIS being buffeted by the "bomb" to the truly spine tingling cliffhanger this was a pure joy to watch!

This story boasted a great storyline and outstanding visual effects. This makes it more and more difficult to watch the old series without cringing at every attempted "special effect" though! One of the best parts of the episode was when Doctor Constantine's face turned into a gas mask although I think that the BBC should have left the skull cracking sound in for added effect and worried about any complaints later!

The episode also rectified the problem of the controversial preview for next time seeing as this was a two parter. Even though I criticized it's presence last time I must admit I guiltily peeked at the trailer after the credits, but I dont think I was alone in doing so!

There's not much else I can say because I tire of typing out how fantastic something is! I think that this could shape up to be the best story of the new series, so I cant thank Steven Moffat enough for making such a gripping and actually scary story.

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Doctor Who at its very best. Having read a large amount of this episode I was genuinely looking forward to it from the beginning, almost rivaling that to the Dalek episode. And I wasn’t disappointed. It had the dark element that under strong writing and creative directing can really thrive. And like the Dalek episode it didn’t disappoint.

The story itself was fantastically woven together, creating a dark setting yet continuing the exploration of this series, which remains predominantly on Earth.

The CGI throughout was very good, possibly the best so far of the series, especially the skies of war torn London. The morphing scene, which I waited with baited breath, was extremely well made and well done to the production team for going ahead with this. But again there were moments here that showed the modernized, character based elements of Doctor Who. It’s about the continued exploration of the characters, including this time the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness.

What I find fascinating about any series/film is the introduction of key characters especially when they are introduced amid a relation ship that has been developing; the three’s a crowd element. But Jack was quickly brought into the story in the best possible way, the flirting element between himself and Rose. His ship, fairly reminiscing of the TARDIS, showed the character without Jack actually needing to say anything another element that I am a huge fan of in film and TV. Using objects, signals to show who someone is with out them baby feeding the audience.

Again very strong performances from the cast, Christopher and Billie were very good, as was Richard Wilson whose small screen moments added to the tension which was waiting to explode.

A dark, chilling episode that terrified kids of my friends, so all in all another well made, well written episode, possibly the best so far, possibly!

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Oh. My God.

In all my years of being a Doctor Who fan, there have been moments that made me jump, made me laugh, cry, gasp in shock...

Never before have I been actually creeped out by an episode of the show before. That's what "The Empty Child" did for me. And you know what it was, too. The boy. The eponymous Empty Child. The one running around Blitz-era London, wearing a gas mask, making telephones ring (including the one on the exterior of the TARDIS!) and radios flick on with its constant begging of "Mummy? Are you my mummy?"


I wouldn't have thought so, but considering the setting and time period, this actually felt quite a bit like a New Wave Japanese Horror film. You know the ones -- Ringu, Ju-On (The Grudge), Dark Water... very moody, very much DREAD inducing. The Ringu influence is a little obvious: the telephone rings, but begging for mummy instead of "seven daysssss...", and radios turn on by themselves instead of a television set, but all the same, it WORKED dammit! Of course, the idea that the curse affliction is a virus of some kind actually goes towards Koji Suzuki's novel sequels to Ringu, Rasen (aka Spiral) and Loop, in which he gets more scientific with the nature of Sadako's (Samara's) cursed video, and determines that it's actually a virus of some kind. (This also somewhat filtered into the non-novel film sequels to Ringu, namely Ring 2 and Ring 0 [which was actually another adaption of Suzuki's short story "Birthday"], but not so pronounced. No idea whether or not the American Ring Two picked up on this, haven't seen it yet) But I digress. The point it, IT'S CREEPY.

And what's even more amazing, is that this episode initially started out looking for all the world like it was going to be a knockabout pulp actioner, reminiscent of even most recently Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Rose swings from a blimp whilst the Nazis raid! The Doctor tries to get close to a torch singer (if only briefly)! Captain Jack, who will, incidentally, get you high tonight and take you to your special island, saves the day in his own particular brand of stolen time vehicle! WHAT A GUY!

But wait -- Captain Jack isn't really a Time Agent, he's a con man, and his latest scheme may have caused the current crisis. WHOOPS! Damn that irresponsible time travelling, the kind that the Time Lords USED to clamp down on...

There was some controversy in other reviews I've seen, about the Doctor's speech to Nancy, about how Britain was the first to "say no" to Hitler's aggression. I'm split on this -- it reads half as what Nancy needed to hear to give her hope, and half as a send-up of the old series' tendency to (over)state England's importance in the Universe. But it didn't offend me.

Overall, a mishmash of influences leads to me feeling creepy and spooked for the first time ever watching Doctor Who. That Stephen Moffat guy, he's got a future, he should try comedies next...oh, wait...

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Blimey! What an episode! It's difficult to know where to start.

The obvious place is with the crowd-pleasing special effects. They were every bit as good as anything in "Revenge of the Sith" or its overblown like. Where did the BBC learn to do that? Isn't "Doctor Who" supposed to be the programme that defines the phrase "cheap and cheerful"? No longer apparently. The blitz sequence was simply awesome: exciting, beautiful and totally justified by its context.

It was at the level of story, however, that this episode really scored. I cannot remember the last time television was as downright creepy as it was during just about every scene involving the gas-masked child of the title. I'm not sure I'm ever going to be able to hear the word "Mommy" again without my skin tingling. Only Richard Wilson's alternative "Doctor" turning into an adult version of the little monster even came close as a moment of horror.

But any suspicion that "The Empty Child" was no more than a frightfest were quickly dispelled. The period trappings were all spot-on. There was, moreover, some hugely inventive character drama in the subplot about street urchins helping themselves to the meals of families sheltering form the bombs. There was even a little humour when Rose bumped into the rogue time agent with a space ship moored by Big Ben.

And there was - a cliffhanger! Yes, I know we had one at the end of "Aliens of London", but that story was so camp I didn't know whether to hide behind my sofa or cry into the nearest cushion. "The Empty Child" climaxed with a moment of genuine threat, one which prompted the all-important question, "How are they going to get out of this?"

This episode had a little bit of just about everything and is second only to "Dalek" in terms of all-round excellence. Another one not written by Russell T. Davis ... it might almost be thought that a pattern is beginning to form. But, let's give credit where it's due; RTD is the man who mapped out this series and what I have found hugely impressive about the whole thing is the sheer variety he's built into it. No two episodes seem to be alike. Roll on the DVD box set!

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Visually this reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the screen adaptation of the thirties comic books vision of the future: all barrage balloons, tractor beam rays and such like. The CGI was shoddy. I mean, come on you Brits, we produce computer games with better graphics than that! Don’t take offence, its just that I guess Hollywood has set my expectations too high, and the more backwards countries just can’t compete.

Now this is the first episode of this show I have watched, and it seemed odd to me to wait until the end to bring on the Doctor. Isn’t he meant to be the hero or something? Old and infirm, he quickly succumbed to being turned into one of those fly-people and he just came across as a throw away cameo actor: Captain Kirk he aint!

Which reminds me: It was neat to see homage to Star Trek, the TV show that kicked off the whole science fiction thing, in the naming one of the minor characters after Mr Spock. I just wish this Mr Spock, a time agent who worked for that pretty English Rose, had a less strong accent because I could not understand him (is he Australian?) and this made it hard to follow the plot.

Sure the whole thing was cheap fun, in a thrown together kind of way, but there were huge continuity problems. In one shot Rose and her assistant were in a big room, that looked like something out of Farscape, and in the next they stood outside one of those traditional blue phone box things: If this is British humour then I just don’t get it.

To sum up, this show is what you get if you mix up Sky Captain, Star Trek, The Fly, Monty Python, Farscape and Oliver Twist together: a mess! Well done the BBC for trying, even though you got it wrong at every turn.

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AH! I knew this would be good ever since I saw a preview of it on Tonight with Jonathan Ross. It was being touted as the scariest so far, and I can't really argue against it. It was terrifically scary; my only regret was that 6.30pm today was daylight. I watched it again the same night in pitch darkness and it was very creepy. Well done Steven Moffat!

The whole atmosphere was very eerie. It had the WWII period down to every washing-line and it helped that this is a period of history I have a great interest in. Very 'noirish' as Eccleston puts it, and full credit must go to James Hawes as director. However, the Doctor's comments about evacuation were true. Although you can spot one or two kids going into the anderson air raid shelter which can't be right can it? Doesn't matter to be honest. Still a good episode.

Captain Jack Harkness was very American. Likeable too with some edge but did they really have to cut the alleged 'bisexual' bit? It was a joke as far as I was concerned. It wasn't risque at all. I know he's going to become a companion of some sort, but isn't he nearly the same age as the Doctor? As a companion, they really should be a lot older or younger [in earth terms] than him but its only been his first episode. As the episode drew to a close, we saw some conflict within Harkness and some concern at what was happening to the people around him. So he has some potential.

The whole 'Mummy,Mummy' shriek was very peculiar. To turn a kid into something scary is quite a massive feat and not to mention a great idea. It had been used to great effect in 'Remembrance of the Daleks' and it works even better here. The use of the gasmask too, its lifeless, emotionless face is more scary than any Auton or Voc Robot. Even my dad admitted it was very macabre. At 22, I'm too old to find this particularly scary but the whole atmosphere was something which should give kids nightmares for ages yet! However, I bet I'll even get a few nightmares too! As my dad commented, someone has clearly thought out of the box in telling a tale during the most overused period on television.

The plot is still very much a mystery. What's wrong with the boy? Who has spread the virus? What's with the Tula ambulance? What really is Harkness doing there? And that's why I love this. I prefer the two-parters to be honest. Aliens of London/WW3 is definitely my favourite so far and this one has trumped it as far as I'm concerned. Doctor Who stories do need time to breathe. Different layers of the plot need to be interwoven and properly explained. The cliffhanger for this one was a bit drawn out, but The Empty Child is definitely my favourite so far. I love the fact I've got to wait a week to know what happens next week, and I've still no idea what the hell is going on! Better than sex that is. know what I mean.

And I'm glad there was no preview of next week at the end, or at least, we got a warning about one which prompted me to switch straight away to BBC3!

And to top it all, I could hear my dad hum from the kitchen "Mummy, Mummy". Doctor Who is back in the people's psyche like it should be!

I just hope The Doctor Dances doesn't dissappoint!

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‘The Empty Child’ has been called a “thing of wonder” in the pages of Doctor Who magazine. Although I do not consider this episode perfect – I think it is rather flawed in one way – I really have no option but to agree. I enjoyed it very much, and it was further proof that the guest writers on this series know how to write ‘Doctor Who’ and Russell T Davis doesn’t really. I am sure that he is good at seasons and plotting, and threading in story arcs, but in his scripts you just do not get the endearing and enjoyable characterisation that fills Mark Gatiss’, Paul Cornell’s and now Steven Moffat’s scripts, particularly of the Doctor.

To be fair, none of the writers before now have made me like the Ninth Doctor – he remains rock bottom of the list of Doctors I would choose to travel with, below even the Seventh in whose company I probably wouldn’t last a day! – but their guest characters were better. Now, Steven Moffat has succeeded with both the guests and the Doctor. Considering this is episode 9 of 13 I worry that this is perhaps a bit late, but never mind, can’t change it.

Mr Moffat evidently knows his Doctor Who. The Doctor is compassionate, wonderful, humble, intelligent and brave. He does things! He gets a whole plot strand to himself, rather than letting Rose do everything! This is partly due to the added time available in a two-parter (and no story deserves two episodes in which to unfold more than this), but it is mostly to do with the fact that we have got a writer who can write it like in the old days! This is amongst the most ‘trad’ episodes so far, a fact which I ascribe wholly to the excellent characterisation of our hero. I still don’t like Eccleston’s performance, but he is undeniably at his best yet, whether whilst delivering a speech on the courage of the British Isles standing up to Nazism, appearing amongst the orphan children at dinner and putting them completely at their ease, examining the ‘corpses’ with Dr Constantine (in a fabulous turn by Richard Wilson), or any of the other beautifully-scripted scenes provided by a fantastic script.

Fantastic, that is, except in one major way. As plot devices for getting the companion out of a certain death situation with the monster go, suddenly having a barrage balloon randomly drifting over, the companion grabbing the trailing rope, and getting hauled Mary Poppins-style over the rooftops of London in the midst of an air raid really takes the biscuit! (particularly as barrage balloons were secured by steel hawsers, not a single length of rope)

It is the single most laborious reveal of a plot element (i.e. they’re in the Blitz) I can think of! Curious, then, that at the time I barely noticed it. What is more, the succeeding scene with Captain Jack made up for it, perfectly referencing old espionage movies as Jack and Rose discuss ‘business’ that could affect millions of lives – with an added Doctor Who twist, the dance takes place on an invisible spaceship tethered next to Big Ben! Switching between romantic comedy the like of which Steven Moffat is justly famous for and full-on Zombie horror (in a sequence which rather reminded me of a stunt from Derren Brown’s C4 show) was contentious in my household, one viewer remarking how silly and surreal it all was and how much it detracted from the drama. But I liked it. It’s a two-parter – let it all hang out, I say. It isn’t as if the scene with Jack didn’t add anything to the plot.

The plot, too, is nicely traditional, and I was hooked from the opening shot. A truly thrilling beginning it was, actually, mostly because we haven’t seen nearly enough of the TARDIS this series. Seeing it in flight, looking like it did at the end of all those Season 13 episodes, was lovely.

This story, in conclusion, pressed all the right buttons, and left me feeling really happy, and glad that the estimable Mr Moffat will return next Season. The balance of Doctor/Rose plotlines and horror/fun, plus the great characterisation of our hero, should become the model for all future episodes.

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After “Father’s Day” I realized that Doctor Who had found a new life. It was growing in ways that us fans could not have dreamed of. To follow up such an emotional episode with “The Empty Child” makes me want to sing from the rooftops that Doctor Who is back and it’s better than we could have ever hoped for.

From the outset “The Empty Child” is a very sinister episode which will not only spook the children but the grown up’s too. We find Doctor and Rose in London during the blitz chasing an alien craft that crashed a month earlier. When they land the effects of the alien craft have already started. Strange voices can be heard crying out “Mommy. Are you my Mommy?” as a strange boy walks the streets of London.

What we are treated to for the next 45 minutes are a stunningly visual representation of London during the blitz. The effects are so real that they blend seamlessly into the action. And boy there is a lot of action! The pace of this story is relentless; it carries the viewer along with it thanks to the tight scripting and editing.

What we have here is a chilling horror story that is fresh and original and could only be compared to such classics as “Quatermass and the Pit”. With Hollywood producing horror by numbers we can finally show then just how to do it. I can honestly say that I was excited to have Doctor Who return to our screens, I just didn’t know how successful it was going to be.

Finally, I must bring up the contrast between this story and the one penned by RTD (once again!). It’s clear that Doctor Who should not lie in the hands of a lesser scriptwriter such as Davies. If there is a feature film let’s hope that the BBC learn from the voice of the fans and get someone else to write it.

British television has finally got its jewel in the crown back on its screens and I can’t help but smile!

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Ramblings On a Seminal Point In a Series
with a Recovery borrowed from Mr Porter.

Slap me on the cheeks with a wet shiny kipper
Atmosphere with orrible’ spooky nipper
Reminding of ‘Don’t Look Now’ child haunts in Venice
Eerily seeking his Mummy with menace.
Praise for director and those in Production
For one thing we do better than any nation
In this we lead any other country.
You could tell Picard was always on a backlot
Ours is real, mixing history and sci fit plot.

Billie you need to act with your arms
For all that lovely scenic Blitz ariel display
Was marred by your swinging charms-
A lack of strength was obvious I’d say.
When you were first lifted by balloon barrage
Against a model city you looked too large
Later when viewed overhead
The landscape has perspective.
But your ascent,
Considering all the money spent
Should have been checked
Before transmission was wrecked
By a model and your arms not sufficiently bent.

Oh fellow reviewers most dear
I’ve come over all queer.
ON the settee I’ve had to lay myself down.
For Chris had screen time without Rose!
At last At last a writer who went with the Who- who knows!!!!
No gurning – no beaming, no berating the crew.
Though I presume a Time Lord of his calibre
Would have known it’s War before seeing a poster?
But one thing I realised tonight
That his comment to save the world
Although said in a tone often mistaken for sarcasm,
Was in effect his statement of fact –a truism.

The most dramatic cameo possibly.
From Wilson ever on the telly.
Effective – quick- visually stunning
Sad, powerful and enthralling
This whole ward scene on good acting relied.
Shame that his talents so quickly died
As his purpose to explain story
Ended in an early demise gory.

Now Mr Barrowman
You know you could have been the man
To have played the Who
When old Chris leaves the Tardis too.
You had charisma and charm
Yet you too had secrets to alarm
Nicely played Sir- nearly a tap dance
On your spaceship roof romance.

Now sit back folks and think on
How much was packed into Part one.
Excellent characters- believable in their plight
Lovely artistic London well lit.
Did you not feel for the young girl
Hearing her brothers heartfelt plea
After we had found out his identity.

Awards spring to mind
Of the acting and directorial kind.
X Files type lighting
Moody mysterious –exciting.
We were not just behind our settees
But on the edge drawn in with ease.
Tributes to a writer who treated his audience with respect
The tension and empathy for Nancy kept
Our family intruiged and vexed
Wanting answers, thinking as to what next!!

So I can hear from inside that little box with panels retro
The sound of singing from a Cole Porter show.
For Capt Harkness remembering his previous life
Leads Rose and the good Doc in a song of strife.

The night is young, my ship is near
So if you want to go dancing, dear,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.
You understand the Doctor well
You're his sweet sidekick -soon so will I,
It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely.
You can shout out with glee
What a swell plot this is- most gory,
You can hear child’s sad cry Mummy
Murmuring low.
“Don’t let me go”
So please dear Rose, with bottom sweet
Just let me sell you, space junk quite neat.
"It's hospital, it's ambulance,
It's detectable, so alien tech,
Good episode, it's tight writin’, awards soon.
It's de-lovely".
I left the Doctor to his plot
To prove its his show in case we’d forgot.
I believed the stories were all yours
With more screentime in your clause!!
This part, my agent said to me
Will outgrow Doctor Who consequently
But Moffat saw the light,
Brought in me, Nance and Chris to put things right...
No, No, No,No,
Why, Why, Why, Why, Why,
Will I go? Will I go?
The show is young, the future’s bright
Keep away from Mum plots- we’ll be alright
It's deciding, it’s where we go, that estate or no?
I want to see more monsters too
Not more Welsh Slitheens having a poo,
It's Eastenders, it's Emmerdale, it's worry-in’.
You can tell there’s been planning ahead
Davies and writers have planned a thread,
But I hear all my relations
Whispering low,
"Wait it’s our show!"
I brought Who back with depth and growth.
And when I leave you, just say to me,
"It's delightful, it's delicious,
It's...It's de-lovely".

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I love my job as a primary school teacher a lot, but nothing was sweeter to my ears than walking onto the playground first thing to hear my 11 year old pupils chasing after each other saying "Are you my Mummy?". "Mr. Dawson?" says Ash, "Did you see it? It was really scary!"

My sentiment precisely. I watched the episode in a hurry, rushing in through the door, I stuck a tape in the video and knelt before the TV. By the end of the episode I had edged back towards the sofa, and as I can't get behind the sofa, I'll venture I had reached my highest creep factor so far in the new series. I believe "The Empty Child" was the biggest success of the year so far. Don't get me wrong, "Dalek" was ground-breaking and "Father's Day" was sad, but this episode seemed to pass in seconds, the dark, insidious nature of the boy in the gas mask paired with the hollow child's voice was truly effective, especially in the sequence in the hallway as The Doctor crouched behind the door. Like many of my pupils I actually called out for the Doctor not to open the door! DWM once commented that Doctor Who was most effective when it entered the nursery and presented child-like things in a scary way, and I'd agree this is a fine example.

Eccleston and Piper were on fine form in their different plot threads, The Doctor and Nancy scenes were well played and seemed very natural from both performers "and what do yer ears do?" genius (plus, none of that "FANTASTIC!" stuff). Captain Jack wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting either and it seems the "Adric 05" movement ended with Adam. The Rose and Jack scenes were amusing rather than irritating, Rose being as sleazy as Jack if not sleazier! Richard Wilson only had a bit as Constantine, but the gasmask sequence was brilliant, face-cracking or no face-cracking.

My criticisms of the series so far have been levelled at the wafer-thin plots that have arisen in the attempt to deliver a rounded Doctor and companion, "The Empty Child" has give fans an intriguiging premise and terrifying set pieces, I just hope the resolution gives a satisfying pay-off. "It's because of the Time War" does not count as a decent explanation (R, UD, D, FD). I'm convinced Moffat will deliver the goods though.

All in all I loved this episode. A lot. But has anyone else noticed that the best episodes have been the non-RTD ones? What's that all about?

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Billed as the scariest 'Doctor Who' of the season so far, 'The Empty Child' lives up to the hype. Set during the London Blitz, it's a dark episode, both tonally & emotionally, with decided resonances of that other cult British sf series, 'Quatermass'. The eerie repetitive cries of the lost child, the wailing sirens, the rows upon rows of sinister gas masks -- it all added up to a chilling episode. The gas-mask scene (you know the one I mean) was probably the first time in the new series that I turned off my "I'm quadruple the age of the target audience" vibe & just reacted. The subdued score knew when to pull back and let silence do its work.

'The Empty Child' really proves the value of the double-episode cliffhanger format: the tension wound up slowly, the action never felt hurried, and we had time to grow to love Nancy (solidly portrayed by Florence Hoath) before her life is threatened. Richard Wilson was also perfect in his brief spot as the other Doctor.

I didn't warm immediately to time traveller & self-confessed conman Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and his lightning-speed romance with Rose didn't quite convince. However, his introduction to Rose provides an interesting mirror to her early encounters with the Doctor. Harkness is dashing & technically-savvy; unlike the Doctor in 'The Unquiet Dead', he wears clothes that fit the period. Best of all, after he rescues Rose he sticks around to ply her with champagne, rather than just wandering off. I get the impression he might fit Rose's ideal of a time traveller rather better than the Doctor, and I'm interested to see where they're going with the three-way relationship.

Rose got a bit of a raw deal this week, what with the screaming & the swooning, but it was about time the Doctor got to be proactive in his own show. Indeed, 'The Empty Child' was an excellent episode for him, uniting both the dark & the light sides of the Ninth Doctor.

The Beeb is always good for a costume drama, and the interiors were all crammed with authentic-looking details. The stolen meal during the air raid was a wonderful touch -- though I did wonder why a family at that time would be eating tea at half past nine at night.

Nothing's perfect. The Rose-hanging-over-the-London-skyline moments were a bit "we can do cgi, nyah!"-ish, and in plot terms, I did wonder why Harkness decided to spill the beans so early. But the cliffhanger left plenty of other questions to while away the hours before next Saturday -- where did the virus come from (my money's on Harkness's nanotech)? will Rose abandon the Doctor to go off with the Captain? can the Doctor's "red is camp" comment in the teaser just be a mauve herring?

'The Empty Child' fuses old & new-style 'Who', and gives fans a new menace worthy to join the Cybermen & the Daleks. My season favourite so far.

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Well, that was a fantastic episode! We had guests over on Saturday and all seemed to enjoy it, my wife is now a confirmed fan of this new Doctor Who series. She was genuinely scared during The Empty Child and quite annoyed that it's a two-parter as we're kept waiting for a week to discover the conclusion! She's also desperate to get tickets to the special BAFTA showing of episode 13. If the show has been able to pull a casual viewer such as her into the fold then it really has succeeded.

The Doctor and Rose find themselves in the middle of the Blitz on London, he following some suspicious children and she ending up clinging to a rope of a barrage baloon. Rose is rescued by the dashing Captain Jack, who turns out to be a time traveller himself. Quite who the "time agents" he speaks of are we don't yet know but it's all intriguing. Rose obviously takes to him and I have no doubts we'll see more of this character.

Meanwhile, the Doctor finds that the children are apparently homeless and ingeniously waiting for air rades to enter homes of families who are packed into their Anderson shelters in order to eat. But one child, always wearing a gas mask and asking for his mummy isn't allowed in the house. He also appears to be able to make any telephone ring, even the disconnected one on the outside of the Tardis and the Doctor is warned not to touch him.

It transpires that an alien vessel landed nearby, mistaken initially for a bomb, and it has caused strange casualties. The Doctor visits Albion hospital where he finds an ailing doctor tending patients who show no signs of life. All appear to be wearing gas masks, all were "infected" by the alien object and when startled all sit up despite fatal physical injuries. The hospital doctor himself has become infected, and in an excellent use of CGI his whole face sprouts a gas mask! We must assume that some alien is now living inside the victims, and that it needs the mask to filter the air though this has not yet been made clear.

The whole episode was paced well, dialogue was good and the special effects, while not an intergral part of this story were great when they were needed. The atmosphere was very dark and scary, very in keeping with mid 70's Doctor Who. The new character has truly swept Rose off her feet and is a very interesting addition to the mix.

I only hope that "The Doctor Dances" keeps up this excellence, and that the Doctor himself is able to resolve the alien goings on rather than one of his sidekicks. If so this could well go down as an absolute classic Doctor Who story, truly one of the very best.

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I am a long lapsed Doctor Who fan. We parted ways some time in the Tom Baker era. Nothing personal Tom – you may well have been the best - but I was getting older and my interests were wandering elsewhere.

Occasionally I crept back for a peek. Each time, each reincarnation, reconfirmed my opinion that the Doctor was no longer worth the candle. I enjoyed the movie. Mr McGann did fine and I was left thinking I may have dismissed poor old Sylvester just a little too lightly. But then the Doctor was gone for good, and I felt no serious loss save for that nostalgic tug we always feel when some piece of our youth disappears forever.

But now, remarkably, the Doctor is back. And even a lapsed devotee like me is going to be curious enough to sit and watch, despite all the hype.

I have endeavoured to maintain a cool and critical view of this unexpected rebirth. But I had to admit to liking some of what I was seeing. Then “Dalek” came around and I had to struggle to maintain my glee – after all what would my wife think. I had never admitted to any kind of Sci-fi weirdness. She knew I watched STNG, but only if there was no washing up to be done.

But now “The Empty Child” has aired. My wife is figuratively, if not quite literally, behind the sofa and even I might have succumbed to a very uncharacteristic case of the creeps if I had not been overwhelmed by a much stronger emotion of simple joy.

Why had I been so reticent? After nigh on a decade when the broadcasters have seen fit to churn out bilge in place of entertainment on a Saturday evening, why could I not have been quicker in embracing the jewel in its midst?

I had always thought of Steve Moffat as a good comedy writer. Clearly he is simply a good writer. And I can only assume he is a Doctor Who enthusiast. This was a Doctor Who of the old school. You could imagine this story being told thirty years ago. Maybe not so slick back then – production values are two generations further on and steeped in CGI. Maybe no so graphic either – eight year olds are two generations further on and horror has suffered from inflationary pressure just as much as cash. But “The Empty Child” is old fashioned, creepy, claustrophobic, classic Who. The fact that it shines so brightly now is proof that good stories and good storytelling are the ultimate measure of good television.

It was an excellently told story, well directed and well acted. The whole thing was a pleasure form start to finish. This whole series is a triumph, make no mistake.

I see criticisms, but only from those who study episodes like documentaries – introduce something new by all means, but if you dare create any inconsistency with three hundred previous episodes then a plague on your house. Sorry folks, but this is drama. Invent anything you like – if it works it’s good. If you can please an old Pertwee era enthusiast like me and still show millions of new viewers for the next couple of generations that quality television is not “Big Brother” or “Pop Idol” then you deserve an unqualified “Well Done”. Or more to the point “Encore, Encore”.

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Could anything beat the evocative and excellently crafted "Unquiet Dead"? Well, I wasn't so sure until "The Empty Child" came along. This is Doctor Who at its very best. Steven Moffat manages in one fell swoop to capture essences of science fiction, horror and period drama, distilling them into something extraordinary.

Immediately, from the opening scenes in the dark 1940s backstreets of London, the viewer was subjected to a sort of surrealist horror which has not been seen since the demise of Sapphire and Steel from the small screen. Everything about this episode really hit the spot. From the shock of the Tardis telephone ringing, to the increadibly eerie figure of the Empty Child himself lurking continually in the background, plaintively asking "Where is my mummy?" - all sent shivers down the spine.

Moffat clearly is a story teller of great aptitude, demonstrating the ability to drive a complex narrative forward at a fast pace without leaving the viewer behind. Intriguing new story-arc developments such as the introduction of Captain Jack tease the viewer on multiple levels.

The realisation of wartime London is executed with aplomb, the attention to detail takes your breath away - the scene with the night-club singer being just one example of this. The direction and editing are exemplarly too.

Only two things spoil what might be the most perfect Doctor Who story yet. Firstly Miss Piper herself, who I just cannot warm to, with her incomprehensible and frequent smirching of the Doctor (what is this "spock" that she wants to be given???). Secondly the fact that the episode was 40 minutes long and not 45. Is this really because Captain Jack's bisexual behaviour was cut by the BBC censors as the tabloids suggest?

Nevertheless, this episode takes the new series to an apex point. Can it get even better still? We will have to wait and see. Even if it does not, this one is more than good enough.

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Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, along comes The Empty Child to raise the bar even higher. They must be putting something into the water in the BBC Production offices, because Doctor Who has to be one of the most consistently entertaining shows on television.

I've always loved Who stories set in the past, because when they're done right, they capture an innocence and offer a glimpse into a world that (to most of us) is long gone and nothing but a memory. The Empty Child does just that.

Rose's subplot had the potential to be more than just a bit silly. Being dragged over half of London by a barrage balloon? It's the Mill's spectacular special effects that save the day. The images of London during the Blitz are absolutely breathtaking. These are big-budget sequences worthy of any Hollywood movie.

Captain Jack (as played by John Barrowman) gives a good first impression. What's interesting is the juxtaposition of Captain Jack versus The Doctor. If this series had been made by Hollywood producers, Captain Jack Harkness would've been the lead heroic character. It's interesting comparing Jack's mercenary attitude with the Doctor's more humanitarian one.

The B-plot (Captain Jack and Rose) is very amusing and entertaining, but the main A-plot is the more interesting. Along with the Gelth (from the Unquiet Dead), I can now count the Empty Child as one of the creepiest creatures that I've ever watched in Doctor Who. And Doctor Constantine's horrifying transformation is definitely the single most disturbing sequence ever put into a pre-watershed timeslot. Yikes, just yikes.

But the best part of the entire episode (for me) was Florence Hoath's performance. She is obviously one of the main protaganists in this story. Part of the reason why this episode worked so well for me was purely through her convincing and deeply sympathetic performance. And I agree with many others, Florence Hoath's would make a perfect companion for the Doctor.

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The preview promised thrills galore, with SFX coming into their own with stunning imagery. The Blitz backdrop just had to work – as it is such an extreme time for all involved. BBC would get the period feel spot on. Captain Jack looked sufficiently heroic in an old fashioned way (Doctor Who acknowledging its adventuring roots?). Looked brilliant, expectations very high.

Upon first view those expectations went through the ceiling! What a magnificent episode!

What struck me throughout was mood – the attention to detail in creating the atmosphere of War torn London. All aspects of production clicked into place to produce excellence. From the shadowy lighting to the SFX blitz bombers – this just reeked of the period. You felt right there, and as the bombs dropped, you really had no idea who and where would be hit.

Christopher Ecclestons Doctor, in his U-Boat outfit (liked that line) was brilliant here, even though so much was happening all around him. I like this Doctor more and more – and even though he is only with us for 13 episodes, I look forward to the extra stories that feature him.

Billie Piper was charming as Rose, again! Her lovely attraction to Captain Jack was delightfully played. Captain Jack also put all his credentials on the table, and I for one am intrigued where this new regular Character takes us. The story is also blessed with wondrous supporting players. The lovely Florence Hoath, as Nancy, as especially good – and it was great to see Child Acting of the highest calibre. Richard Wilson had a fairly brief role, as Dr Constantine, but it’s also great to see actors of his calibre joining the fold.

Steven Moffatt has written a peach of a script here, with the assistance of Russell T Davies. Bubbling with humour, yet profoundly horrific too. It is by turns the scariest script, and also the wittiest. The wonderful scene around the dinner table, when Nancy finds a dinner ready and waiting – and then invites the homeless children in – was a real stand-out. What a delightful, yet daring, idea! A fully cooked meal mixed with the possibility of devastation any moment. I can’t think of one thing wrong with this script – and the most wonderful thing about is that we get more next week! Out of all the episodes this year this is the one I wanted more of – and that’s exactly what we are going to get.

How authentic did it all look? Extremely authentic. From Bomb Shelters through to dining room/kitchen utensils, this was totally World War Two. Then there’s the magnificent contrast with the TARDIS and Captain Jacks ship. Both time ships are lovely designed pieces of technology.

Where this story panned out was glorious. The dark alleyways the Doctor and Nancy roamed. The smoky nightclub where the Doctor puts his foot in it. Captain Jacks time ship attached to Big Ben – how iconic are the images being used in this series – how British is this series turning out to be! I also loved the gloomy Albion Hospital – a marvellously creepy place.

Of all the different aspects of production though, it has to be the SFX that stands top of the pile here. How brilliant was the scene where Rose is carried on a rope from the dirigible! How brilliant was Captain Jacks and Rose smooching near Big Ben! How fascinating was Dr Constantines change! How scary were the Gas-Masked people/aliens (we still don’t know).

There are a good many questions here too, particularly concerning Captain Jack. I don’t recall many Time Agents in Doctor Who before, they usually pop up in Star Trek. Typical of DW to knock Star Trek to the floor, in making this Time Agent so fascinating and personable. We don’t really see how the Doctor will react to this fellow Time Traveller, and just what is Jacks agenda? Who are the gas-masked creatures – they appear human, yet I reckon they are something very different. The line that has stuck with me is fascinating “They just don’t die”.

I really thought Unquiet Dead couldn’t be bettered, I said as much in my review of that story. I was wrong, gloriously wrong – Empty Child is the best episode this series has produced. Right up there with the very best Who has ever produced. I can’t wait for next Saturday! 10/10

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Holy Moly! I was out on Saturday (we went to see a film about a man who got his face changed into a gas mask, "Revenge of the Slith" or something like that) hence I have only just watched the tape. I'm sure it wasn't planned this way, but the earlier start time can only have created a mini-generation of toddlers who will forever be traumatised by even the briefest glimpse of a gas mask. Having taped the BBC3 repeat I then got to see RTD in "Confidential", waving his arms and stating that the over-arching theme for this story would be "romance". Romance? If your idea of romance is meeting your loved one at 1 a.m. in a foggy graveyard and then moving onto an abandoned morgue for some "action" then, yes, this was romantic. RTD wasn't joking when he said that this episode was pushing the limit as to what could be shown to children. A colleague of mine is having to deal with his distressed 5 year-old who hasn't slept a full night since Saturday. He's weighing up whether to let the child view part 2, it might 'cure' him to see the resolution and reassure him that "everything turns out right in the end ...". It doesn't help that the child's mother is away at the moment ... "Mummy ... Mummy ... where is my Mummy?"

Anyway, to the actual story. I'm sure somebody will contradict me, but I cannot recall anything to equal the pure "creepiness" of the horror portrayed here. Sure, the Dalek tentacle from under the Thal cape, the Yetis wandering through London (ditto Cybermen), Autons crashing through shop windows (the first time around) and Sea Devils striding from the ocean; these are all classic images that had the power to terrify. But those were terrifying on a gentler scale, somehow offset by the fantastic elements involved. Here "The Empty Child" gives us an image that will rank "gas mask and shoulders" above those that have gone before ... I speak of the child reaching through the letter box. We don't even get to see the mutated head, just a silhouette through the frosted glass in the door ... the grasping hand, the plaintive cry ... "I'm looking for my Mummy". These unsettling elements are topped off by the simple "unknown threat" that is personified by an anonymous small boy in short trousers.

The writer, Steven Moffat, has added so many themes and references to the “Midwich Cuckoos”/”Invasion of the Body Snatchers” threads that you hardly know which way to turn. We have the kids from “Oliver Twist” looking out for themselves (and each other), the spooky abandoned hospital (a horror film stalwart, right up to “28 Days Later”), the gas masks (1980s pop video short-hand for “we are all faceless zombies”), the monkey toy that repeated the “where’s my Mummy” line (a la “Close Encounters”) … all of these elements are mixed brilliantly (brilliant in a dark way, that is) and they only felt like cliché when the undead moved in on the Doctor, Rose and the Captain for the cliff-hanger (and cliff-hangers are always clichéd, so even that’s ok). And I could even overlook the smarmy Captain Jack and his leery brand of romance (although it was good line about living his ship tethered to Big Ben).

I hope part 2 doesn’t go in for any easy explanations and that the story manages to grip in the unprecedented manner of part 1 (i.e. gripping by the throat). And hopefully the writing team as a whole haven’t blown too many good ideas in this series; I can imagine that they thought there was a strong chance that the whole enterprise (no Spock pun intended) was only going to get one series and hence have decided to hit us with both barrels while they can. Happily, Doctor Who returning for only the one season seems like an absurd idea (a bit like George Lucas leaving things at just the one “Star Wars” film).

I can only close by quoting those young sages on the Fear Factor page (at the BBC site); “As the episode ends, Samuel asks his mum: "Can we watch the next episode in the daytime? When it's light? Adam has been taking lessons from his grandma about avoiding nightmares: "This is so scary - people shouldn't eat cheese before watching it."

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There haven’t been many episodes this year that I feel would have slotted into the old series very comfortably and this is primarily due to the essential elements that have been crucial to making the new series such a success. The soap opera-ish elements, the fast pace, the kinder budget…had the End of the World been made during JNTs reign I suspect we would be horrified at how embarrassingly cheap and camp it is. The only episode I would happily shift back would be The Unquiet Dead as it was clearly written by a man who wanted to bridge the old and new series with his favourite genre from the Doctor Who’s hey day, the pseudo historical. Well now we have a second episode which I feel encapsulates everything I personally love about the old series, strong witty dialogue, good character interaction, a sense of romance about science-fiction, a fascinating setting and scenes that just would not appear in any other series. And despite all this it also includes so much of what makes RTDs Doctor Who so wonderful too, the sexual tension, amazing effects and the sense of realism that sells the story to you.

This has been my favourite episode of the year so far and I’m glad it came along when it did. After feeling disappointed with Dalek, bored by The Long Game and pissed off with Father’s Day this was something to really sit back and enjoy. I cheered, I whooped, I laughed and I hide behind a pillow…I haven’t enjoyed anything on TV this much since World War Three.

I’d like to get my superficiality out of the way first and talk about Captain Jack. What a babe. Is it just me or is there something extremely attractive about a handsome rogue? John Barrowman plays the right exactly right, charming his way into Rose’s good books so he can pull the wool over her eyes and con her out of a lot of money. Whilst I understand there is some controversy over Jack being bisexual (it’s the end of civilisation as we know it!) and suggesting that RTD has some kind of agenda (hmm, I believe there are some bisexual people about but we cannot possibly have them in Doctor Who because it’s making a statement! Which of course having a straight companion who has a black boyfriend is not! So there!) what I think people should be more worried about is his wedging between the Doctor and Rose. She is clearly head over heels infatuated with Jack and I forsee some glorious tension between the three of them ahead. But for now this dashing, quick witted criminal is a fine innovation for the series, the primary difference between a male lead that does not work (the gorgeous Bruno Langley) and one that does (the gorgeous John Barrowman) is that Barrowman gets to play somebody with an engaging character and a purpose. I know who I feel in love with!

Jack brings out a side in Rose that we have never seen before, that giggling girlie we always try to surpress but unleash when somebody charismatic and charming starts chasing you. And while I can see why the producers would want to make Rose a strong, sensible woman and they have certainly spent enough time dealing with the complexities of being a time traveller AND a daughter/girlfriend but it is now time to let her have some fun. Billie Piper captured my reaction to this episode perfectly in Rose, whipped up in the giddying sights of blitzed out London, swept off her feet by a charming conman, showing a newfound sense of confidence against the Doctor…she really has come into her own. Her scenes outside Big Ben are fantastic, not just because it is audaciously imaginative of itself but because we can see Rose growing up and enjoying her adventures. When Jack lit up Big Ben (probably not the greatest idea in an air raid mate!) I was clapping but playing Glen Miller whilst negotiating and dancing in front of the clock face with German planes whooshing around was inspirational. Could any other series have the confidence and style to even attempt this?

There was a wonderful noir-ish sense to the direction of this episode which helped give it another mask and the return of some graphic imagery in Doctor Who is long overdue. The Autons were not as scary as they once were, the corpses in The Unquiet Dead were counter pointed by some ridiculous characters, the Reapers got on my nerves (because they weren’t adequately explained)…what we need was some truly horrific monsters to get those bed sheets soaked again! And the sight of gas masked victims of the war closing in on the Doctor, Rose and Jack certainly qualifies as some of the freakiest imagery in the series. It is that sense of the unknown again and the loss of any recognisable features, like the mummies and the robots from Tom Baker’s era, these blank staring masks contain something evil and mysterious beneath them that sends the shivers up the spine. Plus capitalising on the Poltergeist horror of the scary child was a stroke of genius, and the constant, begging “Muum-mmmy” emanating from the masks was very scary indeed. You should also take into consideration how well filmed these masked people were, shots such as the tilted close up on the gas masked shadow outside the front door or the close up on eyes of the mask at the climax with no features beneath it, and you have the first successfully shit your pants scary monsters in the new series. And I am glad they took the skull cracking sound effect away from Dr Constantine’s terrifying morph into a gas mask, thanks to the incredible performance by Richard Wilson and the flawless special effects, it was already disturbing beyond belief. The kids must have been terrified!

Talking of the special effects I have to congratulate the Mill for their excellent work in this episode. I have been reading threads of people moaning about how fake war torn London looked in this episode but I have to disagree, for the amount of time and money the FX team have they have done an incredible job of realising the Blitz with a sense of scale and spectacle. Because there is such a sense of romance and excitement to the scenes where Rose is hanging from the balloon I could swallow some blurry matte paintings because it was all so ridiculously entertaining and the bangs and flashes, planes shooting past and dizzying sense of height generated by the special effects only heightened the breathlessness of it all. Perhaps the series should not be glamourising the War so much but when a setting is as vivid and rich as this I shant complain. Thanks to some stunning period detail (including musical numbers which sweep you back to the 1940’s effortlessly), convincing performances and excellent dialogue (“Don’t you eat!” one man cries at the German planes as the they soar overhead at tea time!) I was no longer in 2005 watching the telly but afforded a visit into wartime London.

It was how the episode switched tone so invisibly that reminded me of Buffy during at its peak; how one scene can scare the hell out of you (the POV through the gas mask watching the homeless kids on the street) and next can warm your heart (Nancy feeding the children on stolen food and still reminding them of their manners) and the next a gob smacking visual stomach-flop (Rose standing atop an invisible spaceship in the middle of an air raid). Not only does this keep the episode interesting but it shows what a fascinating mix of genres it can cope with, not just in one series but one episode.

Steven Moffatt should be very proud of this script which is full to bursting with excellent dialogue, the quality of which (ie making me laugh and gasp!) I haven’t heard since World War Three. He allows the Doctor much more Doctor-ish lines than ever before I genuinely got the sense that this was the real ninth Doctor, the one who followed all the others. His chat with the cat in the alley was cute (Hasn’t every Doctor had one of these moments? Despairing at the ability of his companion to wander off!) and there were numerous wonderful scenes with Nancy (especially his romantic summary of the British resistance to German oppression) and his quick fire dialogue with Rose has rarely been better (“Are you sure about that T-shirt?”). Jack and Nancy are afforded real personalities and engaged me immediately and even Dr Constantine, who is barely in two scenes, emerges a strong, sinister character.

However this is still part one of two which is both a curse and a blessing. Everything is fairly frightening at the moment because all we have is the empty child wandering the streets infecting people without an explanation to spoil the mysteriousness of it. Next week will have to try even harder to give me the willies as I fear there may be some disappointing scientific explanation behind everything. This episode definitely has the ‘first episode’ feel that the old series used to capitalise on, without having to please the viewer with answer it can concentrate on setting the scene and going BOO! And with scenes as in your face scary as the gas masked victim jumping up at Rose and the toy monkey coming to life, it succeeds admirably.

Brilliant direction, writing and performances (isn’t Christopher Eccleston’s comedian moment at the microphone wonderful?), this is sharp telly and no mistake. It is episodes like this we will be pointing at in the future when we talk about Doctor Who being re-invented with a BANG!

As I told a good friend, almost orgasmically good.

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A mysterious bomb-like object no one is allowed to approach; an eerie child clad in a gas mask calling out for mummy; German air raids; a dashing confidence trickster with his own spaceship tethered to Big Ben. As with last week, "The Empty Child" found our heroes once more back in London, but that was where all similarity ended.

I was half-preparing myself for a repeat of "The Long Game/Dalek" factor, i.e. a mediocre follow-up to a series classic. However, "The Empty Child", whilst a very different beast to the scintillating "Father's Day", is nevertheless fine, absorbing Who, and certainly the most frightening of the new series so far, if a little uneven occasionally.

First, the good points. The recreation of Blitz-era London was quite wonderful, and shots of Heinkel 111 bombers were spectacular, not something the old series had the tools to recreate. As in "The Unquiet Dead", the BBC gets a chance to flex its period drama muscles, and the results are excellent.

Ecclestone continues to impress, here showing compassion for the 'little people' once again in his interactions with the homeless children, and getting one or two neat comic lines such as the "has anything fallen from the sky?" line in the nightclub. Apart from the odd blip, such as "Aliens of London" and "The Long Game", he has been compelling to watch and as the series' conclusion draws nearer this viewer is coming to regret his departure more and more. Here he is also a bit more proactive than before, which can only be a good thing.

I must confess I was dreading the introduction of Captain Jack, but he was surprising engaging, and I loved his description of the Doctor and Rose as "flag girl" and "U-boat captain". The supporting characters were also well presented in the form of the haunted Nancy and the dying Dr Constantine, caring for the victims of the mystery plague alone in a darkened, quarantined old hospital. Was it me or was this the same hospital used in "Aliens of London"?

True horror returned to Doctor Who this week; my partner had to watch something else light afterwards as she was quite disturbed by the child, from its first appearance as a silhouette calling out "Are you my mummy?" Hopefully this will not be over-used next week however as it could grow irritating.

I had high hopes for the script, penned as it is by Steven Moffat, writer of the excellent Coupling. For the most part it delivers, although this viewer did wince when the tired old "Doctor Who?" gag was wheeled out. Overall however Moffat did continue the trend of the best scripts being produced by writers other than RTD.

Gripes? Only a minor one, but I was a little disappointed with Billie Piper this week, mainly as I found her schoolgirl-like crush and responses to Captain Jack a bit out of character; although the scenes are well-written in comic fashion, it did seem to clash a little with the overall feel of the episode, which was very much the darkest and most traditionally horrific of the new series so far in my book. And I'm still unsure about Captain Jack as a recurring character, although this could produce some good needle between him and Ecclestone, and perhaps better Harkness than Adam or Mickey. Meanwhile I found the incidental music rather anonymous after Murray Gold's marvellous contribution to "Father's Day". On the other hand, anonymous is better than intrusive.

Good to have a proper cliffhanger, and well done to the BBC for learning from the mistake of "Aliens of London" by giving a spoiler warning before showing the preview of next week's episode. Bet most of us watched the preview anyway though, eh?

Overall, a fine and chilling episode, with plenty of horror and enough unanswered questions to make next week must-see TV. And, for all my misgivings about two or three of the episodes hitherto screened, Doctor Who 2005 has remained compelling watching, and who could ask for more than that?

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I haven't enjoyed a Doctor Who story this much since The Robots of Death in 1977 when I was 12. What made The Robots Of Death special was that the design was great and it combined horror and science fiction brilliantly. The Empty Child manages to achieve all this and more.

The whole show looked fantastic (I'd better calm down with the superlatives here, I've already used fantastic and great), from Rose hanging from the barrage balloon to the gothic beauty of Albion Hospital. But what about the zombies! The gas masks give them a really freaky appearance and Doctor Constantine's transformation into one of them must be the best special effect I've ever seen on Who.

The two part format has given enough time to flesh out Captain Jack's character a bit and also given us two cliffhangers (Nancy in the house and the rest in the hospital). Superb use of multi layered dialogue gives the show something for adults and children alike. The little boy's reply to the Doctor's question about why they weren't outside London living as evacuees ("There was a man") lent a darker side to the script. So although the special effects were magnificent the script more than matched them, and the acting wasn't bad either.

Richard Wilson gave a fine cameo and keeps up the high standard of guest performances this season. It almost makes up for Beryl Reid in Earthshock (but not quite). The directors have also been able to bring out super performances from the less well known performers. Florence Hoath as Nancy is a moving and believable role. Captain Jack is something of a new direction for male companions on the series and not an unwelcome one. There hasn't been a believable male companion since Troughton's time. Harry Sullivan had all the charisma of a week dead stoat and the only reason that Peter Davidson kept Adric on the Tardis was so that he could slap him if he was feeling bored.

I thought that the director was saving money when Captain Jack explained that his spaceship was invisible (cheap prop) but it looked smart when it actually appeared. There were plenty of nods to popular culture and digs at Star Trek ("Go on do a scan for alien tech") and also some digs at the Doctor's amateurism ("at last a professional"). Rose fell for Captain Jack like a ton of bricks as soon as she saw him, obviously being a war hero and having your own spaceship is something that women find attractive! I will be interested to see how their relationship develops.

Can't wait for the next episode The Doctor Dances, which dance anyway: foxtrot, tango or pogo?

Anyway, enough of this review, I'm off home, Mummy, Mummy, let me in.

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Coupled with the initial chapter, "The Empty Child", this has been, for my money at least, the strongest story of the series so far.

To give a little background, I am someone who enjoyed Doctor Who as a child (excluding the McCoy era) but am not well versed in the 'expanded universe' of books, audio stories etc. So my review is based purely on one factor - enjoyment.

My first comment is how well paced the whole story was. "Aliens of London" and "World War 3", as the series' first two-parter, seemed to sag in places and was padded out with a lot of unneccesary Slitheen self-congratulation - not to mention fart gags. Don't get me wrong, I love fart gags, but not in Doctor Who. I digress however. The new two parter didn't let up for a second, the script was lean but detailed and the direction was spot on. As we have come to expect with this series, the characterisation was excellent, but never overplayed as it was, at least in my opinion, in "Father's Day".

Visually this two-parter was hard to fault, from the Nanogenes through to Captain Jack's cloaked ship, everything looked perfect, and the central character of "The Empty Child" played brilliantly on the strange alien qualities of the WWII gas mask. The child himself was the stuff of nightmares, his incessant "Are you my mummy?" put me in mind of "Red rum" from The Shining, along with various other horror movie stalwarts.

This was also a storyline (and there haven't been many) where the Doctor himself had a chance to shine. It has been disappointing in previous episodes to see him unable to act in the face of danger, but at the start of "The Doctor Dances" he undid all that by acting very decisively and sending the child to it's room. And it didn't end there - his deductions were impressive right until the end, where the seemingly confused strands of plot suddenly, and rather cleverly, were all tied very neatly together. And although I had my doubts about "Captain Jack" at the start, his purpose in the end made perfect sense - a rogue, a conman and an idiot. Everything the Doctor isn't, and the perfect anti-hero to set the Doctor against.

Rose took less centre-stage this time and it was nice to see. Previous episodes have been quite Rose-heavy, and although I have nothing against her, let's face it, the program is called "Doctor Who" and that's who we have switched on the television to see.

All in all, I have enjoyed the series thus far and it seems to keep on improving. I would like to see some more writing from Mark Gatiss - I was a big fan of League of Gentlemen, and I think their warped sensibility is perfect for the new Doctor. In a world of shows like Stargate SG-1 and Enterprise, Doctor Who has to compete on the quality of it's writing and it's English quirks - it's managing to do so admiribly so far, so I hope they keep their collective feet firmly on the gas pedal.

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To recap the events of the previous episode, the sudden awakening and advancing of the “infected”, although similar to the cliff-hanger in “Aliens of London” was far superior and suspenseful. But then, the whole episode already had a large degree of eeriness from the start and although I didn’t spend the week forming my own explanation of how the Doctor would escape this situation, the resolution was simple yet brilliant ending with another superb line from the Doctor with regard to his last words. I am sure there can be a cheap (or expensive) cash-in out there for Doctor Who series quotable lines.

Going into this episode, I had the feeling that the fear and suspense initiated previously had been diminished due probably to my familiarity of the story. It had a feel of the last episodes of the McCoy era with long scenes with no dialogue and plenty of intrigue with no apparent explanation. The Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack and Nancy observing as the “zombies” move slowly around. But the chills had gone. Furthermore I noticed that the special effects had been reduced from that of the previous episode but this was because the big effect of Captain Jack’s spacecraft was saved until the end.

There is still a gay undercurrent in this episode. This time a reference to the father of the house, Mr Lloyd being in liaison with the butcher. I am gay myself, and initially, I found some of these homosexual undertones irrelevant to the plot. They were quite novel to start in the episode Rose but I find that there is no reason, other than political statement/correctness to insert them into continuous storylines. For the record I don’t preach or oppose gay rights, but in turn do not think it should be (to coin a phrase) rammed down people’s throats when unnecessary. However, on watching the episode again, it becomes more apparent and relevant why Nancy was “blackmailing” this character. Captain Jack’s bisexuality by contrast does seem integral to his character and becomes intriguing as the episode progresses with references to his knowledge of “Algie” and the Doctor’s quip on who he would like to dance with.

As the story progresses I did find that the fear element was still evident, especially the ghostly typewriter and the recording tape that had run out. The shivers soon returned down my spine as the repeated “Mummy? Are you my Mummy?” continued through the story.

The Doctor as played by Chris Eccleston becomes the most “human” performance in this and the previous episode, a flippant reference to a previous adventure (the bananas, “today is Volcano day”. This to date showcases MrEccleston’s ability as an actor and more importantly, a perfect personification of the Doctor. Sometimes rude, sometimes brash but always caring and fond of the human race. It definitely was the Doctor’s episode and some might say, finally. He gets to carry the episode, solves the mystery of the alien/human hybrids and then gets to initiate the “cure”. His immense joy at saving everyone’s life is both genuine and moving.

Florence Heath as Nancy is the core character in this story and I have to admit that I had guessed her involvement right from the start but this did not diminish my euphoria when she reunited with her son. Richard Wilson was noticeable absent from most of this episode but gets one of the funniest lines of the 90minutes. I must admit I was hoping for more than what amounted to a brief cameo. John Barrowman eased into his new role with aplomb, which turned out to be quite a complicated character. Billie Piper gives her best performance of the series.

I don’t usually discuss the direction of episodes but I did enjoy some of the quirky camera angles and point of view shots used by the director which enhanced the suspense of the episode. The music also consistently improving as the season goes on.

The alien hybrids were a fantastic creation and sent plenty of chills in every appearance but I would still like to see a WW2 story with Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans or Raston Warrior Robots as the big bad!!!! (Maybe not the last one)

This episode may be just a tad inferior to the opening instalment but as a pair I rate them first before The Unquiet Dead, Father’s Day, Dalek, The Long Game, Rose, Aliens/WWIII and The End of........

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Teenage pregnancy, bisexuality ... 'The Doctor Dances' certainly proves the Doctor's been updated for the 21st Century! The concluding part of the two-parter dials down the tension (though that typewriter was eerie) & adds a good splash of humour (my gizmo's bigger than yours, the two executioners, and of course the leg at the end). Though the plot held few surprises, it was a joy watching the Doctor put the pieces together.

I'm glad Nancy proved key to the puzzle -- not to mention managed to survive being a female bit part around the Doctor. (The foreshadowing of the blond kid in the house removing his gas mask was cool.) With her mix of grief, stoicism & calm courage, she's reminiscent of the Doctor himself. I loved the way she didn't bat an eyelid when Jack's spaceship swooped overhead!

I'm really warming to Eccleston's performance now. His exuberant joy at the end might have seemed a touch over-the-top earlier in the season, but here it feels a perfect response in someone teetering on the edge. At this rate, he's going to be my One True Doctor right about the closing credits of episode 13...

Captain Jack grated less this time round: he's a much more pleasant character when he's not trying to be nice. With his calm response to certain death I suspect it's going to remain the woman's job to do the screaming. I remain intrigued by the three-way situation that's been established. I really don't know how far they can push things, given the audience they're aiming for -- but it's got me at the edge of my seat!

Hmm... Bad bits. Given how well the plot had been set up in the first part, I rather missed the creepy atmosphere of 'The Empty Child', but the most annoying bit was the obtrusive score.

Concluding episodes never quite make the grade of the original, and 'The Doctor Dances' was no exception. Nevertheless, a solid episode.

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Wow! Just watched 'The Doctor Dances' and thought it was brilliant. It had me in tears, made my heart swoon and had me laughin in pure joy. This is what the new Doctor Who series about- progressive, spunky and scary all at the same time....I few of my mates who were non DW fans watched the first one and didn’t think too much of it but I'm sure that this episode would have won them back.

Anyway I loved it and thought it was thought provoking and interesting. I was worried that the Sister/mother would have to sacrifice herself or something to that effect and that would have made it too much like the other characters who have had to kill themselves in order to save the universe. Seeing the mother united with her child, Jamie filled me with such joy which was manifold in the Doctor's dance of joy too.

I loved the sexual tension between the characters and it was great fun to see them 'dance' in their respective attractiveness to each other and the viewer. I was also amazed that on national TV there was a sexual ambiguous character such as Jack or maybe not so much that it was on TV but it was on Doctor Who. Being a gay man myself I loved the interaction between Jack and the Doctor and Rose. John Barrowman has movie star cinematic looks and is just perfect as Jack. He will cause both the husbands and wives, daughters and gay men to desire him.

The special effects were also fabulous and Jack's ship was beautiful to look at although I thought that an explosion at the end would have been good. Thought they skimped abit there but it was a good ending and left me grinning from ear to ear.

Also saw the preview to 'Boomtown' and that looks fabulous too with a welcome return of an old foe...but I am not telling....I don't want to get under your skin...

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Well, Well, Well, did the Doctor dance? Oh boy, he not only danced, he rocked, and so does the whole production team. It's official now, DOCTOR WHO ROCKS...

At the end of my review for "The Empty Child", I gave it 10/10. But this episode deserves 12/10. A Bafta, an Oscar, even give Steven Moffat a Knighthood, it really was that good.

This may all seem over the top to some, but I was seriously impressed by "The Doctor Dances". To put it all in perspective, we need to look back at a particular aspect of the Doctor's circumstances.

Earlier in the series, we saw a sometimes morose, even depressed Doctor, and as the season progressed we saw why. His race all dead in the last time war, and then a Dalek survivor, and a succession of happenings in which, although resolution was reached in each instance, it wasn't without people losing their lives. One can quite understand Clive in the opening episode when he told Rose that the Doctor had one constant companion, "Death".

Lord knows, the Doctor needed an encouraging presence from someone young and impetuous, but positive like Rose. No wonder he looked in the dumps when, at first, Rose said no to his offer of the ride of a lifetime. But he gave Rose a second chance, going back at just the moment when she would have felt the churning regret, just when she was most likely to change her mind. No wonder their relationship gelled so fast and so well. (Such a relationship would probably also work in real life). But, (sticking with this strand for a moment) the Doctor took Rose first to witness the end of the world, Rose's world. Only then could he find it in himself to tell her of the horror of the death of his world, and of his people, as if he somehow needed to do something that would make their relationship "equal".

However, back to the current episode, (alongside the last one as well) and we still saw something of this earlier Doctor, as the circumstances surrounding the Tulan space ambulance, the zombified hospital patients, Nancy, Captain Jack, and the mysterious child that wasn't a child, asking constantly "Are you my Mummy?" threatened to evolve into yet another sad chain of sadness and death.

First though, to the beginning of this one, where the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack were confronted by those eerie hospital patients whose gasmasks were part of their faces. What on earth could they do? If they touched them, then it was a life time of wandering, emptily posing the question, "Are you my Mummy?"

I don't know about anyone else, but I racked my brains through the week, trying to fathom just how they would get out of this one...

My guesses included, a door behind them which they simply turned to, opened and ran; or, I thought that maybe the Doctor would somehow distract them enough to create a momentary gap, and then (as in episode one) simply grab Rose's hand, and maybe Jack's, and say "Run."

When it came on Saturday night, and the Doctor said "Go to your room. You've made me very angry, very cross. GO - TO - YOUR - ROOM!"

I absolutely roared with laughter, and the tears rolled down my cheeks.

The Radio Times said that this bit was "as sweet as it is unexpected."

It was more than that. It was pure genius. It should in my opinion go down as The finest comical, but also serious, one liner in the history of Doctor Who.

Now, to Nancy. We already saw last week, that there were issues which went deeper than the space junk, and Nancy's "brother" Jamie.

Nancy getting one over on the self righteous Mr LLoyd, revealing his secret, one which is largely regarded as normal these days, but which in 1941 was a big, big issue, (as also would having more food than was allowed) was excellently handled, and really showed forth the mindset of 1940s society. Later of course, we were to see that Nancy herself also had a big secret, being a single teenage mother, which again, in 1941 would have been seen as a similar kind of scandal, but is now normal. In this case however, Nancy's relationship to Jamie was the catalyst to things being set right again, courtesy of the tulan nanogenes finally having the right blueprint to work from.

The Doctor's "emailing the upgrade" so that "Everybody lives, just this once, EVERYBODY LIVES!" and the enormous glee on his and Rose's faces, set the tone for the Doctor to be really lifted from the semi gloom of recent weeks, so that his "ASK ME ANYTHING, I'M ON FIRE!" to Rose in the Tardis, created the perfect moment for her to ask, "What about Jack?"

There are so many ruddy brilliant moments in this episode, that I could fill a book with them, and the fact that Captain Jack caught the bomb in the light field of his space ship, and that such a thing was/is completely implausible doesn't really matter. How are we to know what the human race may have developed by the 51st century? The point is, it is great science fiction, it is a wonderful comicbook style heroic rescue. And Jack momentarily reappearing to complement Rose on her Tee shirt was magnificent.

The only thing is now, can the series still ascend higher? It would seem that this is the expectaion, especially in regard to the reappearance of the Daleks, and a possible resolution to the "bad wolf" strand that has been thinly woven like a piece of silk thread all the way through the series. I'm glad one of the slitheen appears to have survived, and that the rift in "The Unquiet Dead" seems to have significance in next weeks story.

I only know this. On Saturday night, "The Doctor Dances" was more than just the episode title. On Saturday night, Doctor Who Rocked.

These last ten weeks, Doctor Who has not only been brought back. It has been given new life, and has stepped into a new era of science fiction as serious drama. On Saturday night, the Doctor danced.

And so did I...

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Oh boy....My expectations were high for the conclusion to this two-parter. Loved the episode title, for a start, and 'The Empty Child' had been wonderful; so what did I get?

Expectations surpassed. Don't you just love it when that happens?

This was sublime , creepy, emotional and life-affirming television...and occasionally very funny to boot.It boasted Christopher Ecclestone at his considerable best . There have been criticisms that the Ninth Doctor has been rather ineffectual at various times in this series, relying on others to resolve situations. I can see that (I've *said* that!) and wasn't impressed by the treatment of Adam, but this has become a complex and fascinating interpretation of the role, and it's a shame that as I warm to him more and more, I know that the Ninth Doctor will soon be gone. It's sad and rather wonderful at the same time. (Does that make sense?! I just mean...actors come and go, but the Doctor lives on.)

Anyways...'The Doctor Dances'. The resolution of the cliffhanger was spot on ("Go to your room!") This really was a wonderful script. I adore this programme, but I've seldom found myself laughing out loud and banging my thigh in delight whilst watching. The scene with the 'zombies' surrounding our heroes and the Doctor being very reluctant to describe his sonic device to Jack (I've got a sonic...oh, never mind.") could well be my favourite of the season so far. The way Chris plays it and ends up shouting "Screwdriver!" ....lovely, funny stuff and *very* Doctor Who. (loved the 'banana' business too)

Got to mention Florence Hoath's performance. She held all the scenes with the children together beautifully. And the moment when we realise Nancy's actual relationship with the 'empty' child; *great* acting. Nancy trusts the Doctor and saves the world in the process....beautiful stuff, brilliantly played.

A few other thoughts...Direction; faultless. Captain Jack; glad to have him on board. An engaging character with a bit of mystery about him, very engagingly played. Nice to think that the TARDIS dynamics are going to be shaken up a bit. (I assume that Captain Jack 'riding' the bomb was a deliberate 'Dr.Stangelove' ,er...'homage'?)

Glenn Miller and dancing in the special *is* this?

I think this story is right up there with the best that the programme has offered and the conclusion rocked, basically! This Doctor has obviously seen and experienced a lot of terrible things recently. His joyous cry of "Everybody lives!!" was a wonderful part of a wonderful conclusion...this was very special.

The Doctor dances? Too right he does.

Ten out of ten.

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I've just watched "The Doctor Dances" for the second time and find myself reminded of the first time I watched "Vertigo". I knew Hitchcock well enough to expect a rational explanation for the heroine's behaviour, but I had no idea what the hell it could possibly be. Similarly, here we have a lot to explain from "The Empty Child". Thankfully this episode succeeds, and how!

I whooped for joy as it finished. Now /this/ is the best one I've yet seen. I've been critical of some of this series, and with reason - some of them frankly fell flat ("Dalek" in particular being the biggest disappointment since the series began, but that's another story!). But here we have an explanation for everything that happened. It's scientifically credible (well, did the nanobots have to be "sub atomic? What are they made of then?!), it's likeably unusual, and it's got good doses of the Doctor's righteous anger, which we haven't really seen very much since the climax of "The End of The World". It's also a refreshing change to have the Doctor work out exactly what was going on and then open the ambulance to show Capt. Jack what had happened and how stupid he'd been.

And it's witty. "What did you expect in there? Cough sweets?" and "It's mauve! Only humans use red!". The wit is charming - it's very traditionally "who-ish" - in the sense that it's unusual and off-the-wall and deeply funny. Even with all of this, I'd have loved the episode. But there's more. What can I say about the ending that hasn't already been said? "Everybody lives! Just this once!" I almost wept. It's beautiful, and so refreshing. None of yer:

(in fanboy voice).... "The Horror of Fang Rock is interesting in that it is the only story in which all of the characters die...da da da da da."

Yes, that is interesting, but it's also one of the few interesting things about that story and a very depressing fact. This is beautiful because nobody dies. Alright, yes, it's set in the Blitz, which does rather imply a lot of people die, but I wish that whoever pointed that out hadn't done so because the idea of the Doctor having a good day... the look on his face as he's /almost/ praying that it goes his way, and the way he picks the child up high in the air. This is very unusual for any television. It's unusual particularly because "Who" somewhere along the way become a programme in which vast swathes of the "universe's supporting cast" die. And the sight of the Doctor throwing the nanobots at everyone - such a child-like grin on his face and quite literally handing humanity back its future: it's very moving and extremely powerful.

And then, just as Jack thinks he's had it, the TARDIS swoops in and saves him. Is that cheesy? No, because the bloody thing's got you in such a good mood that you're hoping Jack doesn't die anyway. That would have been inappropriately turgid, sad, even a betrayal of your joy. You can tell I really admire this one, yeah?

Alright. I could rant about this one for hours. It's shot at night and looks gorgeous for it, with flesh tones looking particularly good, and it's played very very well (bravo in particular to Nancy), with good doses of horror. But in the end, it succeeds because it's powerful and funny and optimistic.

More of this sort, please. I'm hooked. And the ending with that wonderful music? Gorgeous. No wonder The Doctor Dances. I felt like joining him.

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Exceptional, these two episodes represent the greatest achievement of the new series yet and showcase Stephen Moffat’s not inconsiderable talents. I knew he was a clever man when he subverted the sitcom genre with his delightfully rude and well constructed comedy Coupling but he manages to stretch himself even further with Doctor Who, thanks to its flexible format and the opportunities that affords.

He manages to script a story which touches upon many genres without siding with any of them and the result is a pleasing mix of comedy and drama which entertains to the hilt whilst telling a story that is worth following. I went and saw Star Wars this week and was blown away by its incredible production values and clever jig-sawing of all the elements that needed to be in place for Episode Four but The Doctor Dances impressed me more and not because of superior special FX (which it does boast for a TV series) but because of one scene. It comes at the climax of this episode where the Doctor and company are sheltering from the rampaging hordes of gas masked zombies and he convinces Nancy to reveal her secret to the brother. All the elements of the story converge and finally it makes wonderful sense, not only this but it utilises the morals of the setting (time period) to make a point and provides a supremely touching revelation to boot. THIS is storytelling, not the predictable dovetailing of plot details of a prequel (which with Terminator 3, Revenge of the Sith and Enterprise seems to be all the rage these days) but good, wholesome plotting that satisfies and surprises. It shocked me to think there is very little of this on television at the moment and it pleased me to see Doctor Who getting a nod in the Daily Express this week as the one bright spot in the otherwise mundane TV schedules.

It is also a delightfully optimistic story which revels in its happy climax. It isn’t the mucky, syrupy dreck that most American shows climax on with everybody grinning insanely, being pretty and pretentious but the sort of joyful, punch the air happiness that comes with a man who has confronted so much pain and misery being rewarded with a ending to a crisis that results in everyone surviving and prospering! The Doctor has never quite been this delighted by the outcome of one of his adventures and its is wonderful to experience, he positively glows with pride that the death count for this crisis is zero and considering the danger and the possible nightmarish outcome it is hard not to share his joi de vivre! Not only that but the story exploits the joy the Doctor and Rose can bring to peoples lives with their travelling. Nancy, surrounded by zombies and bomb explosions curses the war and their eventual downfall. Rose unexpectedly gives her the gift of knowledge, revealing the German defeat and bringing a touch of hope to Nancy. I found that very touching.

I was very pleased to hear that James Dawkes was returning to direct Doctor Who next year as his work on this parter is astonishingly good, almost to the level of a feature film. In fact scrap that, compare the look of this story to a recent British flick…Shaun of the Dead say and this comes out smelling of roses. The idea of setting the story entirely at night was a smart move and gives the story some visual flair; adding much menace to the interior and exterior of the spooky hospital, providing some shocking action sequences punctuated by German bombs exploding and offering some memorable scares with the groaning gas masked victims lurching from the mist swathed darkness. I always think the best camera work is that which you don’t even notice, as though you are watching a genuine event rather than a television programme but the flashiness of the camera work here is too good to ignore. I particularly found the rush along the hospital corridor at a skewered angle and settling suddenly in front of the masked child inventive and scary but the story is packed full of odd, disturbing angles that enhanced the feeling of disturbed reality.

Delight can be the only word to express my feelings on Captain Jack joining the TARDIS crew…and anyone annoyed about that particular spoiler must have noticed that he is turning up in the second batch of Ninth Doctor Adventures from BBC Books. The banter that flew about between Jack, the Doctor and Rose was electric and delivered to comic perfection by the actors who clearly have a great rapport. The ‘whose sonic device is better’ scene was extraordinarily witty with that glorious balance of scares (the approaching masked victims) and the laughs that leaves you on edge but enjoying yourself immensely. The Doctor’s anger towards Jack was understandable and not at all the ‘he fancies my bird!’ jealousy I was expecting. When we realise the extent of Jack’s involvement and the horror of what he has caused to earn a quick buck it is hard to sympathise with the guy. But then the rug is pulled out from under us twice when we realise why he trying so hard to earn the money and more importantly when he gets to be the hero of the piece by jumping on top of a German bomb that is about blow the Doctor and Rose (and many others!) to pieces. His attempted sacrifice is enough to prove to the Doctor that he is worth having about and I punched the air with delight when they turned up top rescue him. John Barrowman just doesn’t annoy me in the way he clearly has others, I find his mix of charisma, wit and egotism extremely attractive and after twenty years of watching Doctor Who I think I have earned the right to fancy the pants off of a member of the TARDIS crew. And wasn’t the way they dealt with sexuality just wonderful? No preaching or melodrama, just a subtle metaphor and we realise which way he dances (every way!) and Doctor Who quickly becomes far braver than most telefantasy shows by daring to include a bisexual male character rather than jumping on the far more relaxed lesbian bandwagon.

Richard Wilson was not in the story as much as I would have hoped (two scenes!) but he makes the most of his screen time and manages to avoid saying “I don’t believe it!” once and for that I am grateful. The story belongs to Florence Hoath as Nancy who performs wonders but with material this strong it is hardly a surprise. Nancy is a beautifully fleshed out character who, as I discovered more about her, I liked her all the more. Her quiet warning to the children she feeds that she is putting them in danger showed a keen intelligence and willingness to put others before herself and her bravery at facing the responsibilities of admitting her indiscretion at the climax and claiming her son reveals how truly strong she is. She gets some very funny scenes too, notably her sudden power snatch from Mr Lloyd.

There isn’t much more to say about this glorious episode except that it works on practically every level and Stephen Moffat should be forced to write more episodes in the future. This writer/director team is opening season two and for that we should be very grateful, the shows future is clearly in some extremely talented hands.

And the Doctor dances! How great is that?

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Two days ago, I left secondary school for good, only a short A-level period away from the outside world. Today, I saw ‘The Doctor Dances’, on the same evening that I read Lance Parkin’s ‘Gallifrey Chronicles’, freshly arrived from Amazon. It made me realise how symbolic it all is, in a way that I had hardly looked at before. I had been nostalgic and quite depressed, that my schooldays were over, and with them, the Doctor that I had grown up with – I was sure that Parkin’s novel would see the death of my beloved 8th Doctor. The new series had come and now nearly gone, and mostly I had been quite miserable at that too. But now… now I can see it in a new light, because in a way, the new series marks the end of one era, and the beginning of another. I will move in a new direction, and it seems that ‘Doctor Who’ can move with me.

The world outside is certainly a very evil place, and I am very well aware that real life is not like ‘Doctor Who’, but today I was allowed to feel just that little spark of hope that can make all the difference. “Today, everybody lives!” The image of the Doctor, laughing with joy, arms flung out and surrounded with light, like an ancient wizard, fey and mighty, is one that I hope will stay with me forever.

This, finally, and in ‘The Empty Child’ last time, was the Doctor, and I love him, fictional or not. Don’t we all? Or why are we on this site? The characterisation, that is, the writing, and what he does and says, were so triumphantly right, and it proves that even if maybe real life cannot, ‘Doctor Who’ can still be like ‘Doctor Who’. This week it was ‘Doctor Who’, not “Russell T Davies Presents ‘Rose’, featuring Christopher Eccleston as Doctor Who”! It was superlative. Funny, romantic, with a superb spaceship special effect, touching (particularly Jack’s apparent sacrifice), dark, dangerous, haunting, exuberant.

So, now I can think of the new series in a better light altogether. I can forget ‘Aliens of London’, ‘Rose’, ‘The Long Game’… as somebody important once nearly said, whatever happens, we’ll always have London, 1941, we’ll always have the Doctor. And he dances! I love it.

I really hope Steven Moffat is reading this, somewhere, because I’d like to finish with some personal praise - : Mr Moffat, you are incredible. You are, as the Ninth Doctor would say, “fantastic!”; as my friend Luke would say, “a legend”; as I would say, “stupendous, life-enhancing, cool”! Well done. Thank you!

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

Limericks to make Rick Smile or as Milk Cries

There once were some nanogenes from deep space
Who landed and misread the human race
With magical employ
They masked a small boy
But read the dominant gene with such grace.

Here were scenes of magical quality
As the Mill healed with versatility.
With golden light suffused
And a Doctor enthused
With euphoric acting quality.

There once was a chilling tape reel to reel
Bringing horror needing my nerves of steel.
With typewriter tapping
And my comfort sapping,
Due to a superb atmospheric feel.

There now is a Tardis musical hall show
Full of warm banter where insults will grow.
Heated male rivalry
To impress Rose nicely
Will develop characters and the show.

There once was an accidental error
Where the son filling his Mum with terror
Was seen walking away
Yet “to your room you stay,”
Was to the same wall breaking junior.

There once was a Captain Harkness
Who with good gadgets did impress.
But why keep the bomb so
When with beam he could tow
And dump it in the ocean with finesse?

There was once a Moffat so rare
Who gave us hope, love, and despair.
Dancing on Tardis floor,
Characters to care for,
And a Doctor mature - full of care.

There once was a seminal marked spot
Where writing, effects and acting hot
With direction true,
Combined to a brew
Potent and strong as the series best plot!

There once was an actress called Florence
Who gave an enthralling performance.
This actress will do
For assistant TWO
And should not be her last appearance!!!!

There now are themes homosexual in kind
Not adding to plot but testing my mind.
Dancing as metaphor
For a gay Doctor?
I hope issues, like guns are left behind!

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10 episodes in and I have a serious problem.

I'm running out of superlatives to describe just how good this show is.

I'm now going to commit an act of profound blasphemy, and state that TEC/TDD is now officially my favourite number-one Doctor Who story of all time. Even both 'City of Death' and 'Weng-Chiang'. Why? Because it takes everything that made the classic series so appealing, and adds a new layer of modernity to it that doesn't compromise what makes Doctor Who so great.

For instance, the solution to the cliffhanger is the most inventive resolution I've ever seen - "GO TO YOUR ROOM!". Brilliant. Not to mention Jack's sonic disruptor, and what the Doctor did to the factory at Villengard. And that "Sonic envy" dialog features the funniest mention of the Sonic Screwdriver I've ever heard. And those references to "Dancing" during the episode. It took me two viewings to finally understand what the characters were referring to. "The world doesn't implode if the Doctor dances". Maybe the Doctor wouldn't, but I might.

Only two episodes in and I'm sold on Captain Jack Harkness as a potential companion. He adds a totally new dynamic to the Doctor Who-Rose relationship, especially considering his romantic predilictions can go either way. And John Bannerman brings a real charisma and charm to the role. I'm not entirely sure what'll happen next regarding these 3, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Apart from having great leading actors, this new series has also had outstanding actors in the supporting roles. As of now, Florence Hoath is definitely my favourite supporting actor in the entire series thus far. The role of Nancy turns out to be incredibly central to the plot and its resolution, and having an actress that can bring real passion and life to the role is incredibly important. And Florence Hoath does just that, and more. We care about what happens to Nancy, and for that reason the resolution to her situation is incredibly uplifting and optimistic.

And the resolution to this episode is the icing on the cake. May I respectfully suggest that RTD send these episodes to Steven Spielberg, just to show him how it's done? The ending is uplifting, cathartic and optimistic without being overwhelmingly schmaltzy or sugary. It's the perfect resolution to everything that's happened before that point, without being contrived or pandering to the audience. Full credit to Steven Moffatt and RTD for conjuring up a great ending.

This two-parter is definitely the highlight of the entire season. It is a great example of what Doctor Who is capable of, when you have a group of talented and creative cast and crew working on this show.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

As a continuation of the previous episode Empty Child, this was all about maintaining the excellence that was displayed then. I had rarely enjoyed any single episode of Doctor Who as much as Empty Child – and I was expecting the same kind of atmosphere, the same kind of excellent period detail, the same kind of imaginative SFX, and the same kind of wonderful character interplay. Especially between the 3 leading wonderful characters – the 9th Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack.

Thankfully and brilliantly The Doctor Dances was as good as The Empty Child, and in quite a few ways better. Everything about Empty Child that I liked – Characters, WW2 atmosphere, dark Blitz streets, creepy Hospitals – were all here again.

3 things distinguish it though:-

Captain Jack and the Doctor interaction.
Stories magnificent resolution.
The Doctors joyous final scenes.

The Doctor was always going to be suspicious of Captain Jack. The obvious attraction from Rose towards Jack would have stirred things up plenty, but with Jack also being a fellow Time Traveller – well, that’s going to impact on the Doctor too. Thankfully there’s no excessive childish jealousy exhibited by the Doctor – and Rose is sensitive enough to deal with both the men in her life in this story. Captain Jack is a very good character, charmingly played by John Barrowman. There’s plenty to like about him, whatever age or sexuality you are.

The story is brilliant from Steven Moffatt. If ever there was a story this season that you wanted to spend more time with, that deserved to be fleshed out, it was this. The episodes were magnificent, with sparkling dialogue throughout. But it is that scene with the Doctor, the child and Nancy at the end that epitomized the excellence present here. Christopher Eccleston has never been as good as he was right there. The sheer joy of his solving of the puzzle. The sheer happiness when it all turned out wonderfully. It was hearwarming, and I felt like punching the air in delight.

It wasn’t only this scene that brought the episode into the upper realms though. The one that followed it, with the Doctor, Rose and Jack in the TARDIS almost equalled it in boldness and love of life. Has there ever been a Doctor/Companion team so suited to one another as the 9th Doctor and Rose? They will have a wonderful season together soon, and it has been a tremendous friendship. Yes, it would have been nice for it to continue, but what we have is great.

I’m beginning to feel rather sad that things are coming to close. We now have only 3 shows left. There are all by Russell T Davies, and the next 2 episodes don’t sound nowhere near as exciting as this Blitz story. It will be wonderful to look back on the season as a whole, and I am looking forward to resolutions of certain story arcs. But personally I virtually always prefer these kind of isolated stories. It’s wonderful that Steven Moffatt has already been confirmed for the 2nd Series.

The sheer excellence of this 2 parter, and the previous Historical of the Season Unquiet Dead, proves beyond doubt that Doctor Who works better in the past, with futuristic elements. I love the diversity of the season, with its past present and future storylines – but it is the Past that I adore on DW. More please next season.

It occurred to me the other day that we are missing something with new DW – books. DW was always just as much about enjoying the books, as enjoying the TV. The same stories in both, and I enjoyed them both too. There’s no sign of books for the new TV series, apart from original novels. That’s pretty good, for the first time original books featuring the characters currently on TV. And in this day of DVDs, well past Videos even, novelizations of TV episodes probably aren’t as relevant. Personally though I would love to see them – especially this 2 parter – how brilliant it would be to go into great detail about the Doctors adventure in the Blitz.

I really didn’t think the 1st episode (Empty Child) could be topped – but the season has done it yet again. Better, bolder, more inventive – brilliant Doctor Who. 10/10

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

Magic, absolute magic...

I had terrible forebodings about this one. As Steven Moffat was the writer, he of the nevertheless excellent "Coupling", I was expecting something lightweight and comic, and I feared the worst even after the excellent Empty Child. How wrong. This episode brought all the best elements of the new series to the boil, and how.

As mentioned in my Empty Child review I was concerned that Captain Jack might be an intrusive and OTT presence, but the interaction between the Doctor, Rose and Jack is excellent, skipping blithly over the occasional duff line knowing an excellent follow up is never far away. The exchanges between the Doctor and Jack regarding blasters and screwdrivers is simply a delight. Even the potentially stomach churning stuff at the end involving dancing works a treat. Don't remember much bisexual tension in the original series... plus ca change!

Speaking of the 'classic' series, one of the key elements was fear, and this two-parter wrung about as much as could be hoped for; even for someone way beyond his childhood years, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck both when our heroes realise the tape has run out and the child is actually in the room, and even more when Nancy points out that an invisible presence is working the typewriter. This is Doctor Who as I remember it, and more; thrilling, intelligent, emotionally involving, darkly comic and SCARY.

The climax, as Nancy admits her dark secret and the Doctor wills the nano-genes (is that the right spelling?) to recognise her DNA as she holds her son, is emotionally tense and thrilling, and what could have been sentimental and cloying is instead gripping and truly euphoric. And we the viewers get an extra bonus; following that fabulous climax, we get Captain Jack waiting for impending death having rescued everyone by removing the German bomb in his spaceship - a wonderful scene, deftly played by John Barrowman, who far from being the embarrassment I expected, makes one root for the character and add another delicious slice of last-minute tension to the mix.

Bit concerned about next week from the teaser... haven't been too impressed with RTD's writing contributions save the first two episodes, and can't see why they are resuscitating the Slitheen, of all the new characters introduced... but I'll wait and see.

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This review is for both the Doctor Dances and The Empty Child.

All I can say is wow!!!

These episodes really took me back to the old days. It was spine tingling, dark, action packed, and ontop of that a fantastic story!

When I first heard that Steve Moffat was writing this episode I had mixed emotions, mainly because I had only known him to have written the Curse of Fatal Death, the Doctor Who spin off staring Rowan Atkinson as the Doctor, which was very funny and just took the mickey out of the series, so I wasn't to sure whether these episodes were going to be any good. But I am so glad I was wrong.

What I love about these episodes is that the Empty Child gives us all these questions, what is the child? what kind of disease does this? etc and then the second part answers them beautifully. And for the first time this series we have a brilliant cliff hanger where for the first time we have no idea how the Doctor is going to get out of this one, whereas the other cliff hangers in the new series are very predictable, and very typical like in the Aliens of London where the Slitheen is walking up very slowly towards Mrs Tyler when it could've just run up and killed her. The direction for this episode was marvellous as well, so well done, as was the acting minus Captain Jack.

The idea for the Captain Jack character was a very good one, a character who tries to use his charm and good looks to win over Rose in an attempt to complete his mission. I just feel that John Barrowman played the character quite badly, there wasn't alot of dimension to the character, he seemed to be very 'plastic' in appearance and movement. I thought there could've been some better casting.

I do love the transformation scene though, when the gas mask appears on the actors faces, done beautifully, and really is quite incomfortable to watch. Just love it!

At the end however I would've liked to have seen Captain Jacks spaceship blow up, thought that would've been a good conclusion.

Now I have got nothing against homosexuals, however I think in this episode we have a few to many references to homosexuals in this episode. Firstly we had the officer who was always flirting with Jack, which I thought was probably not necessary, and quite annoying. And also the Doctor uncovered that the reason why a family received such generous proportions of meat from the butcher was because the father was in fact giving the butcher some extra meat if you know what I mean. I thought this was not necessary also, and may make the younger viewers confused.

Apart from this it was a really fantastic episode, great cliff hanger, great acting (minus John B), great directing, certainly one of the best episodes of the series so far (new series, not old) but still doesn't beat Dalek for me. I am glad however to see that the series has finally begun to establish itself, we have had some really fantastic stories recently and I do hope that we are not going to go back to stupidity with the next episode which happens to be an RTD episode.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

Having really enjoyed ‘The Empty Child’, I thought there was a danger that ‘the Doctor Dances’ might come as a let down. Thankfully my fears were unfounded as this was another stunning episode, and a fitting conclusion to the story, which made nice use of things set up in the last episode, such as the nanogenes. Also while the questions that were of most pressing importance to the story were answered, the episode raised some puzzles for future stories to address regarding Jack’s back story to accompany another ‘Bad Wolf’ reference.

For once everybody wins in this story, to the Doctor’s obvious delight. This is important because it a)shows us how much the Doctor really cares about the people he tries to help and b) it gives Christopher Eccleston a chance to act what will be remembered as one of the Ninth Doctors defining moments. Indeed there are several lovely scenes in this episode: Nancy confidently blackmailing Mr Lloyd, Dr Constantine being confronted by a woman demanding to know why her leg has grown back,- which is comical, but thankfully not played for laughs- and best of all the scene where the TARDIS crew are listening to the recording of the child’s voice, but suddenly notice that the tape has long stopped…

Again the cast all produce sound performances, with Eccleston stealing the show. In addition to the scene of his excitement on saving the day, we see his Doctor’s ability to calmly take charge of a situation when he orders the zombies to go to their room. There is also nice interplay between him and Rose regarding his dancing. Also excellent was
Florence Hoath who gave a totally believable performance as Nancy, and John Barrowman and Billie Piper put in solid efforts as well.

The special effects and design for the story were also of a high standard. Indeed all aspects of the production were fine, although the incidental music for this episode, and indeed the series as a whole is nowhere near as good as in the 1970s or early 1980s. Also some of the dialogue about the sonic devices was approaching the border with silliness, but thankfully did not cross that boundary.

Otherwise this is close to being a faultless production.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

Yup. This is my favourite story of the whole season. I'm beginning to think that two parters are best really. It was the way Doctor Who was meant to be. I've seen very few examples so far of the 45 minute format working comfortably with the Doctor Who world.

But I digress.

The Doctor Dances, while not as scary as the previous episode, was brilliant. In places such as the typewriter and when the tape ran out, it was still scary. And the characters were fleshed out very well, especially Nancy, whom I took a shine too and I don't feel guilty about it as she's "older than she looks". She was played superbly and was a complex character, tortured by being a young single mother during the Blitz which would have been shocking to Britain back then even more so. Think how shockign it is now!

I was hoping for some evil genius to be behind this, so I was a little dissappointed at the climax in the first instance. However, it works well like a neat little package when you think about it. The nanogenes are the problem and the solution and I couldn't help but feel the Doctor's enthusiasm when he saw everybody living. That was great. Very Paul McGann.

The Doctor telling Nancy to tell all was a perfect scene and I really had a lump in my throat. Also seeing the Doctor a little vexed at not being seen as the dancing type was quite nice, and when he did eventually dance at the end to a more jazzy tune, I couldn't help but get up myself and dance.

What a programme! Well done Sydney Newman but today we thank Steven Moffat! Best so far.

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television

There’s a select band of Doctor Who stories often mentioned by fans as being the ones they do or would use to convince sceptical friends and family of just how good this silly little series we know and love so well can really be. The likes of City of Death, The Caves of Androzani and so on and so forth. Now the new series has produced such a story, one that makes you really proud of the programme and must surely remind even the most jaded of fans of what they love about it. Yes, The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances looks set to become that most wonderful of things, a bona fide Doctor Who ‘classic’.

With so much so good about this story, the real question when writing a review is where to start? Well, the thinking has long been that a Doctor Who story can only ever be as good as its script, and there’s no doubting that Steven Moffat has produced what must be one of the most accomplished efforts of the new series to date, and the series as a whole of all time. Anybody familiar with his work on the sitcom Coupling – particularly episodes such as the season two finale The End of the Line – will know just how adept Moffat is at plotting, threading together all the strands of a complex story. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances is not an overly complex affair, but it is superbly structured.

From the explanation of why the three disparate alien elements – the TARDIS crew, Jack and the Chular ambulance – have all descended upon Blitz-torn 1941 London, to the explanation of what has happened to the eponymous child and its fellow gas mask-laden victims, to the child’s connection with Nancy and the ultimate resolution of the plot, it all works perfectly. Nothing it made too obvious or too subtle, and nothing is left dangling – it’s all wonderfully controlled and laid out at a well-pitched pace, it’s almost like a model of how to construct good television drama and superb Doctor Who.

Plotting is not the only string to Moffat’s bow, however, not by a long shot. The Ninth Doctor has probably never been better than he is here uttering Moffat’s lines – of particular note is the beginning of the second episode, as the Doctor and Jack converse about guns and bananas. “A good source of potassium!” indeed! At times it feels like classic Tom Baker era-stuff, although Eccleston also does things it’s hard to imagine the Fourth Doctor doing, such as his sheer joy at the end when he realises the problem has been solved and “everybody lives!” This Doctor has been through so much that his delight at the way everything has come together is particularly infectious, and once again he’s the brave, happy, heroic adventurer we’d all love to travel with, which it has to be said he hasn’t always been at times this season. Moffat also gives a knowing wink to the suddenly all-purpose sonic screwdriver – “Setting 2428!” – and creates possibly the first instance in the entire history of the series of the time honoured “Doctor who?” gag being used and not being embarrassing or annoying.

Interestingly, this handling of the Doctor leaves Rose at times, particularly in the first episode, slipping back more into the traditional companion role than ever before, although this isn’t a complaint. It’s nice to see her taken down a peg or two, namely by being left dangling from a barrage balloon hanging over London! She does get more into her typical Rose style as the story progresses, however, and her teasing of the Doctor over his dancing abilities. Of course, she also manages to swoon into the arms of the story’s leading guest star, and new companion, Captain Jack Harkness, excellently played by John Barrowman. Having only ever experienced Barrowman before as a presenter of Live & Kicking on Saturday mornings a decade ago I wasn’t really sure quite what to expect from Captain Jack, but I absolutely loved him – charismatic and confident without ever seeming too irritatingly cocky or arrogant. He brings an interesting new dynamic to the TARDIS crew, and I’ll be extremely interested to see if he continues to be handled as well in the next three episodes of the series, with Russell T Davies this time feeding him his lines.

Barrowman may have made an impact as Jack, but if awards were to be handed out for this episode then he’d have a hard fight for ‘best supporting character’ from Nancy, as wonderfully played by Florence Hoath. She’s a real discovery, and I hope that on the strength of her performance here Hoath goes a long way in the future. Nancy is part lovable cockney sparrow braving the Blitz, but there’s a lot more beneath the surface, shades of darkness as well as a world-weary kind of knowledge she seems too young for, and of course the secret eventually revealed by the Doctor at the end of the story. In fact, all of the child actors in the story deserve credit – Doctor Who doesn’t have a fantastic record with the performances of youngsters, but all of Nancy’s urchins were superb, and they never felt false or awkward, as is often the danger with putting young children on screen.

Mention too should go to Richard Wilson as the only other really notable turn in the story – he has a surprisingly small role, but he plays it excellently and gets to deliver one of the laugh-out-loud comedy lines at the end of the second episode, having had one of the most horrific moments in the first.

That blend of humour and darkness is this story in microcosm, really. Moffat’s background in television comedy means that some humour was probably to have been expected, but none of it is overly obvious or ever seems out of place. Indeed, the humour works well to contrast with the darkness present in much of the story. So for every scene of the Doctor becoming an unwitting stand-up comic, Jack wielding a banana or Constantine asking a patient if she’s sure she counted her legs properly, we have the oddness of the TARDIS phone ringing, the blank-faced ranks of the gas-masked zombies, and of course the haunting cries of ‘are you my mummy?’ There’s also a definite Quatermass tinge to proceedings with the influence being caused by a crashed spaceship in the heart of London, although the influence of Nigel Kneale’s serials over British television science-fiction is so great that it’s perhaps hard to tell whether such referencing is conscious or whether its simply bred into the psyche of enthusiasts of the genre in this country.

Yes, this story has the spookiest imagery we’ve seen so far in this series, and just as a generation of 1970s children seems to remember The Green Death as “the one with the giant maggots”, so the children of 2005 will probably grow up to speak nostalgically of “the one with the gas masks”. As well as being scripted as such, a lot of the literal darkness of the episode has to do with the highly accomplished direction of James Hawes, who shoots the thing like a feature film and has some delightfully noir-ish touches. My particular favourite shot was the pull-back from Jack’s cockpit through the open doors of the TARDIS into the console room to reveal that the Doctor and Rose had arrived to save him – a bit of a cheat in having the TARDIS land without the usual sound effect, but I’m more than willing to excuse that for the sake of such a nice piece of camerawork. Certainly, it’s good to know that Hawes will be returning to the series to helm the forthcoming Christmas special, at least.

The only instance where I felt Hawes did mis-step slightly was with the cliffhanger ending to episode one. While it was certainly much tighter and more effective that the conclusion to Aliens of London, it did still linger a little too long on the approaching menace. Similarly, Murray Gold’s incidentals – which fitted the action very well on the whole throughout the story, with some nicely atmospheric, suitably creepy moments – went all Rose on us during the cliffhanger recap in the second episode, for no apparent reason and completely against the mood of the story.

Aside from these very negligible points, however, the entire production team seems to have really pulled together to turn this story into something special. Set design, costume, lighting, and of course the wonderful effects from both Mike Tucker’s model team and the CGI specialists at The Mill… This is a perfect example if ever there was one of a massive group of people pulling together and giving their all to create a really special piece of television, reminding you of just how good this medium can be when it’s at its best.

The whole story is just so brilliantly made, written and acted that it’s impossible for all but the most churlish to find much more to criticise, I would think. And all the more intriguing for being a rare example of a Doctor Who story where there isn’t really a villain to speak of. The ending is uplifting and it really is nice to see the Doctor actually get to save everybody for a change, even the nobly self-sacrificing Jack. It’s so Jolly, the TARDIS team even get time for a nice little happy dance at the end, which despite seeming almost tacked-on and not part of the main story, works perfectly, and I wouldn’t have lost it for the world.

In short, this is wonderful, wonderful stuff. Doctor Who at its very best. If every other episode of the new series had been a complete disaster – which they haven’t been not by a long shot – then it still would have been worth bringing the show back for these two episodes alone. I already can’t wait for Moffat’s episode in season two, but for now I shall just have to content myself by going to watch the story again…

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Introduced as “the scariest Doctor Who story yet”, can The Empty Child live up to the hype?

The first thing that struck me about this two-parter is the visuals. After the ordinariness of Father’s Day, the grand depiction of the Blitz looks absolutely epic, and whilst the shots of Rose on the end of a rope aren’t quite convincing, the views of war-torn London are breath-taking. Doctor Who usually works best on a smaller scale, with narrow corridors and claustrophobic sets. This is a radical departure, and it works incredibly well. The shots of Jack in his spaceship and Jack and Rose in front of Big Ben are both beautiful and iconic.

However, as the 1996 movie proved, pretty pictures alone do not good Doctor Who make. So what of the script?

It’s well-structured, allowing for lots of character moments, and stylishly sets up all the clues you need in part one to work out the resolution, without being obvious about it. There are comedic moments aplenty – my personal favourites including Jack and Rose’s awkward moments with the psychic paper; the Doctor asking if anything has fallen from the sky; and his exchange with Captain Jack about his sonic screwdriver. As promised, though, there’s also a lot of very creepy moments indeed, especially in the first part. Add to the mix Nancy’s touching revelation about Jamie, the Doctor’s “mouse in front of a lion” speech, Rose’s emotionally charged scene where she tells Nancy about the future, and a particularly joyous Doctor at the story’s resolution, and you have an intelligent piece of drama which engages the full range of emotions.

The acting is also wonderful throughout. Richard Wilson is his usual dependable self, and his lines about no longer being a grandfather but still being a doctor are delivered perfectly, and clearly resonate with a certain Time Lord. Florance Hoath as Nancy is also wonderful at portraying this most imaginatively-conceived yet realistic and sympathetic character. And then we have Captain Jack. John Barrowman is charming, dashing, a rogue, and (so I’m told) quite handsome to boot. His relationship with the Doctor promises an interesting dynamic for the TARDIS crew, and I look forward to the final few episodes all the more as a result.

In all, what we appear to have here is a classic. Funny, scary, precisely crafted and gorgeously directed, this has to be one of the very best Doctor Who serials ever.


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Piper’s leaving Doctor Who! So what? Is the current wave of media panic finally evidence of the companion’s superior cult status to the Doctor’s? Well, this never should have been the case anyway. Develop the character of a companion, fine, but not to that degree. As someone said recently somewhere among the mass of media publications touching on the subject, ‘companions come and go’. Well, yes, since Colin Baker, so do Doctors, admittedly, and we have that with Number Nine now too don’t we? Not that I’m all that bothered on that score either, as although Eccleston is a great and intense actor, and has shone sporadically in some recent episodes, he is in my mind not suited to the part of the Doctor, at least, certainly not in the way he has been directed to portray it. So, I’m not bothered about the Tardis crew being replaced. In fact, I think it can only be a good thing, especially given the untoward attentions rather unsubtly lavished by this current Doctor on his superficially attractive companion – and one hopes such tedious developments will be swiftly abandoned when Tenant is poised at the console, although this is unlikely given RTD’s obsession with ‘sexing up’ Doctor Who (predictions of a new leggy companion in short skirts doesn’t bode too well; not to mention a leggy Doctor in a kilt to boot!).

Onto this last two-parter. Well, overall it was pretty good wasn’t it? Visually well-realised, sufficiently (though not exceptionally) creepy and suspenseful (the child’s voice down the Tardis telephone; Dr Constantine morphing into a gas masked zombie) with some very original imagery (the eerie gas-masked child) and concepts (the gas masks welded to the skin of the bodies as if part of their anatomies) and nicely (though not exceptionally) directed. Though the shot of the monkey toy with the child’s voice coming through it was quite disturbing, as was the child trying to get into the house, overall this story did not unsettle quite as much as I had hoped (though as it is on at 7pm that’s probably fair enough) and I think what it lacked very slightly was the sort of subtle and almost dreamlike eeriness of old chillers like Sapphire and Steel, a series which achieved a surprisingly tense and dread-filled atmosphere considering it was very cheap and all on video camera, and one which is still palpable on viewing 25 years later (it played on our latent fears such as people without faces, photographs etc. and so in this vein, Empty Child has at least touched, albeit slickly, on this genre of ‘not showing but suggesting’). To be more germane: take the Gothic era atmos-gems such as Brain of Morbius, Pyramids of Mars, and in particular Seeds of Doom, Planet of Evil and Terror of the Zygons – those later two are genuinely chilling in places, and that’s a lot to do with that bleak, darkly-lit seventies style of direction. Then there’s the slightly more unsung post-Gothic chillers, Kinda and Snakedance; even aspects of Ghost Light. And what about that incredibly disturbing salvaged scene from Fury from the Deep? What a loss that is. Still, I suppose Empty Child/Doctor Dances has at least come a little nearer to suggesting the nightmarish than the other episodes so far, save Unquiet Dead, which is also on a par in this regard with the screaming zombie woman walking towards the camera (a classic shot).

Anyway, this story was as I say sufficiently creepy. The best thing about it though is its fully comprehensive, multi-layered, even slightly polemical (re the young girl being a single mother; the Doctor commenting on her communal altruism with the children as ‘either Marxism in action or…’; the Doctor citing the Welfare State at the end of story) storyline which is given a full explanation at the end which is truly unusual and quite inspired (and one in which the Doctor takes his true central place as a deductive character surrounded by less incisive compatriots). In this sense especially this is a true pseudo-historical in the old Hinchcliffe/Holmes sense of the word: alien intervention in Earth history causes seemingly supernatural occurrences. Moffatt has surprised me with a sharp, well-scripted and inventive script: surprised me because although Coupling could be very witty in places, essentially it was slightly elevated doggerel with vacuous gender stereotypes and unconvincing situations; a sort of post-modern Carry On for the Blairite era.

Aspects of the story which I dislike and find unnecessary however are symptomatic of this writer’s former TV output: namely preoccupation with sex to an almost juvenile degree. Not that the sexual semiotics of this story were juvenile as in Moffatt’s sit-com output. But the mere fact that they were so palpably present and indeed integral to the script of this story warrants some comment. Far from having ever really explored even the ins and outs of heterosexual relationships, Doctor Who, under the rather visceral and scatological direction of RTD, and in this story, by the pen of a similarly driven writer, has jumped light years ahead in its sexual didactics and is now quite openly examining bisexuality as manifest in a new companion, Captain Jack. I know kids of today are far more sexually literate than back in 1989, but isn’t this perhaps the least appropriate fictional scenario in which to investigate the increasingly public (though this is fine in society itself) heterogeneity of sexual preference? Or am I just old-fashioned? I don’t think so. The point is: what does this sexual sophistication add to a programme like Doctor Who? As far as I can see, nothing at all. It simply raises the question once again: just who exactly is RTD’s target audience? Seemingly not the under-12s. In that case then, add more drama, add more horror, and show it later in the evening. The Doctor alludes to Jack being a 51st century man in terms of tastes or ‘how he dances’ as the metaphor goes, but again this begs my other chief (rhetorical) question: So what? I just don’t care to be honest whether Jack has a fetish for Movellans in rubber! What’s this got to do with anything? It seems this new companion’s character is being defined solely on the basis of his bisexuality! Isn’t that a little bit…well…puerile? Not to mention arguably unsuited to a fantasy adventure programme. It seems RTD/Moffatt want to go one step further than the suggested incest in the old Star Wars films here. Lucas missed an obvious innuendo with Obi Wan-Kenobi showing Luke Skywalker his light saber!

I’m not going to hark on about this endlessly like some sort of TV Puritan, but again I felt this thread to the story was unnecessary and detracted from the inherent drama of it. What was especially unnecessary was Harkness’s implication that he knew the officer at the bombsite intimately and most ridiculously of all, the implication that the man with all the food in his house was ‘messing around with the butcher’. What seems to be irrational about the new Who universe is that far from just touching on the social reality of sexual diversity, which in itself and in the right context is fair enough, it seems to be going to the other extreme with implications that anything other than heterosexuality is the universal norm!!! Again I urge the producer to get the balance right here and not indulge in a frankly irrelevant fantasy based on his own sexuality which is arguably beginning to hint at a Homoerotic Who. What I’m saying is, unless it comes pertinently into a storyline, just jettison the sexual politics altogether! What partly made the series so fascinating before was the intellectually lifting feel to it, the inspiring otherworldliness, and the enigmatic androgynousness/sexlessness of the central character. I know the first great error was with the repeated kissing scene in the McGann film, but that’s not an excuse to open up the floodgates to a continual stream of sexual innuendo and metaphor in virtually every single storyline.

That all said, the strength of Empty Child’s storyline manages to still elevate it far above its writer’s/producer’s puzzling attempts to anchor it with sexual/romantic tension, and this is overall a satisfying and well-realised story with the best plot in the series yet. Stylistically and dramatically however I find Unquiet Dead and Dalek superior, and Father’s Day may still have a slight edge in terms of its refreshingly emotive take on the concept of time travel. I think the key point to end on here, and for all involved to remember, is that, ironically, the pivotal sublimity to Empty Child’s plot was indeed sexually pertinent and socially incisive in its subtext of the single unmarried mother pretending her son is her younger brother, for fear of social stigma. This then is a perfect example of how the nature of sexuality, if touched on in Who, should be done: as germane to the historical context and thus challenging, didactic and plot-enhancing. Moffatt made a profoundly good judgment here and this plot revelation at the end lifted the story’s conclusion to a higher, more thought-provoking level than the initial conclusion did in serving its own function as first twist; so we had this nice, socially polemical second twist. Very well done. Jack’s bisexuality can be partly vindicated in that it shows a massive contrast in the society of 51st century Earth to that of the mid-20th. But it could have just been very subtly hinted at, not so blatantly implied as it was. Suggestionism is the key. Let’s have more of that. Next week’s episode, judging by its absurdly unimaginative plot and return of farting aliens, obviously isn’t going to have any at all.


Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ is, for me, the apex of the new series of Doctor Who thus far, a witty, creepy, and beautifully crafted tour de force in which everything comes together, from plot and script, to characterisation and acting. And best of all, we get a proactive, useful Doctor, and a use of subtext that is subtle rather than crass.

Making good use of the two episodes offered to him, writer Steven Moffat crafts a story with a gripping, intriguing plot, set against the well-realised backdrop of the Blitz. Although there is inevitably a science fiction explanation for the child that haunts Nancy in the first episode, ‘The Empty Child’ has lashings of ghostly horror, as a creepy, gas-mask wearing boy wanders the streets of war-torn London crying for its mummy in a hollow voice that reflects Nancy’s assertion that he is “empty”. There are some genuinely chilling moments in the first episode in particular, from the impossible phone call to the TARDIS, to the child’s forlorn cries as its attempts to enter the house whilst Nancy hurries her charges out the back door. Director James Hawes wrings every drop of tension out of the child’s scenes, with fast cuts to show the child appearing suddenly, and point of view shots from behind its gas mask, and the sound of its voice coming from the telephones, typewriters, wirelesses, and in one case a toy monkey are extremely eerie. The fact that it never says anything other than “Are you my mummy?” and variations on this line make it seem less than human, but as the Doctor realizes during ‘The Doctor Dances’ it may seem like a confused, lost child, but its also unstoppable, something illustrated by its remorseless pursuit of Nancy. Once the Doctor reaches Albion hospital and finds its other victims, the horror builds, as the army of zombies lying in the hospital reinforces the threat posed by the sinister boy. The cliffhanger ending to ‘The Empty Child’ is exceptionally effective, as the mindless patients come to life, advancing on the Doctor, Rose and Jack, all of them chanting the child’s habitual refrain. With two episodes to play with, Moffat is able to devote all of the first to such unsettling build up, and another scene especially worthy of note is the Doctor’s meeting with Doctor Constantine and his horrified realization that not only do all of the lifeless patients have the same wounds, but that their gas masks are fused to their heads. His grim assessment of “physical injuries as plague” is a disturbing moment, topped shortly afterwards as he tells the Doctor, “They’re not dead” and makes a noise, whereupon they all sit up suddenly. The emphasis of the story shifts during ‘The Doctor Dances’, as Moffat concentrates both on explanations and the interaction between the Doctor, Rose and Jack, but the episode is just as effective and still boasts a few creepy moments, such as the Doctor’s realization, “I sent it to its room. This is its room.”

The decision to set the story during the Blitz is inspired, with both Moffat and Hawes exploiting the potential of the setting, which is already pretty horrible. The location filming, sets, and costumes are all highly convincing, and although tape recorders may not, apparently, have replaced wire recorders until several years after the war, and although London looks surprisingly well lit during the blackout, these are minor details. Moffat is able to use the situation to complicate the Doctor’s task of finding his rogue space junk, realised in a brilliant scene as he leaps on stage in a club, and asks, “Might seem like a stupid question, but has anything fallen from the sky recently?” only to be met with howls of laughter. The look on his face when he hears the air raid siren and sees the Hitler poster is priceless. Moffat exploits the era in other ways too; as the story unfolds, the Doctor asks Nancy whom she lost, and she mentions her little brother Jamie. It soon becomes obvious that Jamie is the empty child of the title, and from there it doesn’t take long to realize that his relentless pursuit of her with the question, “Are you my mummy?” is hinting at a greater truth, especially when, during ‘The Doctor Dances’, Rose ponders, “Always, ‘Are you my mummy?’ like he doesn’t know. Why doesn’t he know?” It isn’t terribly surprising when the Doctor finally realises that Nancy is the boy’s mother, but the setting justifies her secrecy, as the Doctor understandingly refers to the terrible stigma of being a teenage single mum in Britain in the nineteen forties. Also worth mentioning is Nancy’s blackmail of Mr. Lloyd, whom she accuses of “messing about” with the butcher. There is already some debate as to whether this is an illicit gay affair, or whether Lloyd’s possession of wire cutters points to black market dealings in partnership with the butcher (either that, or extremely hardcore S and M sessions!), but either way, Lloyd has a secret that he can’t risk being revealed at that time and place, because he’ll either become a social pariah or find himself arrested, or both.

Of course, ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ is also notable for the introduction of new companion Captain Jack Harkness, who makes an immediate impression, not hindered by the fact that he’s dashing, charming, and gets some of the best lines. John Barrowman is superb in the role; it would have been easy to make Jack irritatingly smug and smarmy, but he’s very likeable and Moffat’s script reveals various facets of his character as the story progresses. Initially, he seems very heroic, a member of the air force and a mysterious time traveller who saves Rose from certain death as she drops from a barrage balloon from which she has been unwisely dangling in the middle of an air raid whilst wearing a Union Jack flag across her rather prominent knockers. Jack then demonstrates his romantic side as he offers her champagne on top of his spaceship whilst Glenn Miller plays in the background, as well as his reckless streak as he makes the ill-advised decision to illuminate Big Ben in the middle of an air raid. He then tells Rose, “I like to think of myself as a criminal”, and it doesn’t take long before he admits, “It’s a con. I was conning you, that’s what I do. I’m a con man”, and we learn that he spends his time selling various pieces of space junk to time agents, of which he used to be one. He also spends a great deal of time trying to evade responsibility, insisting, “I harmed no one! I don’t know what’s happening here, but I had nothing to do with it!” until the Doctor rather witheringly points out that Tula ambulances don’t contain bandages. As with Mickey and Adam, the Doctor is automatically distrustful of any other men in Rose’s life, and is very cynical about the likelihood of Jack returning to rescue them after he teleports to safety without them, but by the end of the episode Jack has proved himself, risking his life to dispose of the bomb, and he fairly quickly forms a rapport with the Doctor, who seems happy to have him aboard the TARDIS. This, along with the intriguing background detail of his two years of missing memories, bodes well for the remainder of the series.

Jack also spends a lot of time bantering with the Doctor, and Moffat’s pedigree as a comedy writer comes to the fore during these scenes. With Rose clearly taken by Jack’s good looks and charm, there is an inevitable game of one-upmanship being played out between the Doctor and Jack, and it is nicely demonstrated before they even meet; having begged the Doctor, “I think you should scan for alien tech. Give me some Spock!”, Rose is visibly impressed when Jack does just that and she happily murmurs, “Finally, a professional!” The similarities between Jack and the Doctor, both single time travelling men, are played up further, as Jack also uses slightly psychic paper, in this case prompting the amusing line from Rose, “You just handed me a piece of paper telling me you’re single and you work out.” Then of course we have the Doctor and Jack comparing their tools, with Jack announcing that he has a sonic blaster and the Doctor grudgingly admitting that he has a sonic screwdriver, which results in more wit as Jack asks, “Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks, ‘this could be more sonic?’”

All of which brings me to one of the triumphs of the storyline, as Moffat addresses the obvious sexual tension that Russell T. Davies has been establishing between the Doctor and Rose. There are many fans that feel that sex has no place in Doctor Who and that the Doctor should remain asexual, and it’s a view with which I can sympathize. Nevertheless, Davies has introduced sexual tension between Doctor and companion and is the series has progressed its become increasingly difficult to ignore. What Moffat does is to not only explore this issue, but also to complicate it by adding Jack to the mix, but he examines it subtly through the use of metaphor. The significance of the episode title ‘The Doctor Dances’ takes on new meaning as dancing becomes a metaphor for sex; Rose dances with Jack on top of his spaceship, and when the Doctor asks why she trusts him, she replies, “I trust him ‘cause he’s like you, only with dating and dancing”, a line that is absolutely crammed with potential deeper meaning. Especially when the Doctor responds, “You just assume I don’t dance… I’ve got the moves, but I wouldn’t want to boast”, which can be interpreted as an admittance of sexual prowess. The subsequent exchange on board Jack’s ship as the Doctor says that he and Rose “were talking about dancing”, Jack amusedly notes, “It didn’t look like talking” and Rose, puzzled, adds, “It didn’t feel like dancing” creates the impression of inexperienced teenagers fumbling in the dark. If the episode is interpreted in this way, Rose’s line “the world doesn’t end because the Doctor dances” can of course be seen as a nod to those fans who want none of that sort of thing in the series thank you very much. Later of course, the metaphor is made even more obvious, as Jack cheerfully notes that he’s got a much better chance of distracting Algy than Rose has; the Doctor informs the dumbstruck Rose, “He’s a fifty-first century guy, he’s just a little more flexible when it comes to dancing” which of course opens the door to even more sexual tension on board the TARDIS. Indeed, at the end the Doctor remembers how to dance and sweeps Rose off her feet; she tells him, “Actually I thought Jack might like this dance” and the Doctor raises an eyebrow at his new companion and replies, “I’m sure he would. I’m absolutely certain. But who with?” All of which is great, and subtly done, although with this metaphor in mind, it’s rather worrying that when the Doctor claims he’s remembered how to dance, he does so like a teacher at a school disco. Make of that what you will.

One concern that I had after watching ‘The Empty Child’ was that in ‘The Doctor Dances’ Jack might prove to be a Mary-Sue character, who would be made to look good at the Doctor’s expense. Instead, in a series that has seen a curiously ineffectual Ninth Doctor, ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ redresses the balance, as the Doctor proactively sets out to solve the mystery of the child and resourcefully works out what is going on from various clues that Jack has completely missed. It is the Doctor who resolves the cliffhanger, realizing that on some level the child really is still a child and ordering it, “Go to your room”, and later he keeps his sonic screwdriver hidden so that Jack will use his blaster, allowing the Doctor to see some of his technology and work where he’s from, or at least where he’s been. He spots the similarities between the ability of the nanogenes in Jack’s ship to heal tissue and the ship’s ability to “on-com” with the powers exhibited by the child and realises that nanogenes released from the Tula ambulance are responsible for what has occurred. He works out that Nancy is Jamie’s mummy, and in doing so saves the day; the scene in which Jamie is restored and the Doctor jubilantly swings him up in the air is a joy to behold, as the Doctor’s plea, “Oh come on! Give me a day like this! Give me this one!” is answered. Best of all, he saves everybody, performing a “software patch” on the nanogenes, as a result of which, “Everybody lives Rose! Just this once, everyone lives!” And he saves Jack too, materializing the TARDIS on his ship in the nick of time. Perhaps not coincidentally, Christopher Eccleston gives his best performance in the role to date, and he gets some great lines and scenes, including his inspiring “a mouse in front of a lion” speech to Nancy. Later, Billie Piper gets a similarly touching scene, as Rose tells Nancy, “You win”.

The supporting characters are also well crafted, and superbly performed by the guest cast. Richard Wilson’s Doctor Constantine is a great character, a tired and dying man who tells the Doctor, “Before this war I was a father and a grandfather. Now I’m neither, but I’m still a doctor” and who has resolved to spend his remaining time caring for those whom he can’t help in any other way. Wilson brings great dignity and gruff compassion to the role, and after Constantine is restored at the end, he also gets a comic moment (something Wilson is well known for thanks to One Foot in the Grave), as the old lady indignantly tells him, “My leg’s grown back” and he deadpans, “Well, there is a war on. Perhaps you miscounted?” Nancy too is a great character, and Florence Hoath conveys her grief and fear convincingly throughout, but also her resolve and the strength of character to protect her charges and stand up to Mr. Lloyd.

Finally, although I’ve mentioned several examples above, it really is worth noting that Moffat’s experience at writing Coupling results in some genuinely funny lines that are a world away from Russell T. Davies’ increasingly sledgehammer wit and propensity for toilet humour. Examples not mentioned above that I can’t resist mentioning include the Doctor’s “Not sure if it’s Marxism in action or a west end musical” when he finds out what Nancy does, and Nancy’s response to his claim that his nose has special powers with, “Yeah? Is that why it’s, er… Do you ears have special powers too?” His switch of Jack’s gun for a banana is a very amusing moment, especially when he adds, “Don’t drop the banana!” and answers Jack’s urgent query “Why not?” with “Good source of potassium.” Later, after Jack has mocked his sonic screwdriver, he asks his companions to list their assets, prompting the caustic response, “Well I’ve got a banana and in a pinch you could put up some shelves.”

Overall, ‘The Empty Child’/‘The Doctor Dances’ is my favourite story of the season thus far, and quite possibly destined to be regarded in the future as a genuine classic. One question is left unanswered however; what exactly are subatomic robots made out of?!

Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

One of the things that annoys me most about the new series is Russell T. Davies's refusal to take his job seriously: he fills his scripts with unsubtle subtexts, gives planets and monsters comedy names and has a general nudge-nudge-wink-wink-aren't-I-postmodern attitude. One good by-product of this though is that when another writer is allowed to pen an episode it very often looks doubly good-and that is exactly what has happened now, for The Empty Child two-parter is one of the scariest and best episodes of Doctor Who that I've seen for a long time.

As no other episodes are written by Steven Moffat or directed by James Hawes I had very little idea what to expect, but I was generally optimistic. This was paid off very quickly with one of the best directorial touches I've ever seen in the series: Rose sees the child perched on a rooftop and the camera cuts jerkily closer towards the eerie figure, much as James Whale did for Frankenstein. What follows is a truly spectacular piece of effects work as Rose dangles helplessly from a barrage balloon; a lot of the time with Doctor Who I find myself defending scenes that, while ambitious, are a bit too much for the budget to manage (I'm thinking The Web Planet here); now I can happily say that producer Phil Collinson, the Mill and of course Billie Piper rose to the occasion (no pun intended) in superb form.

Moving on like a roller coaster, we are then introduced to the new companion, 'Captain' Jack Harkness, excellently played by John Barrowman. He seems like a more interesting character than Rose: although nobody is criticising Piper's skills as an actress the whole working-class-girl vibe is hardly original. Now we get a rogue time-travelling con man with his own memory-loss story arc being set up, which looks to be very interesting. He is given an excellently designed ship (which feels more like the TARDIS than the TARDIS does), and the scene with it tethered to Big Ben is brilliant, if a little indulgent.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, with Christopher Eccleston playing him to his usual standard, has been investigating the mystery of the Child. He meets the kind-hearted Nancy, beautifully played by the lovely Florence Hoath, whom I would say is the best guest star in the series since Simon Callow in The Unquiet Dead. A very sympathetic character, with the idea of her helping out the street kids through the loss of her brother (more on that later) being very touching. From her we come to Albion Hospital and an excellent cameo from Richard Wilson, who delivers a huge amount of plot. Although subtle exposition has never been one of the programme's strong points here it works well through a combination of acting, writing, and an exceptional core idea. This culminates in one of the programme's scariest ever scenes, where Richard Wilson's face transforms into a gas mask in a truly horrific moment. It is exactly the kind of thing that used to scare me as a child, and is in fact so frightening that the BBC's decision to tone down the sound effects seems rather pointless and tokenistic. In truth this scene has provokes less outcry than I was expecting, and I must stress that I am in no way criticising it: I thought it, like all the rest, was brilliant.

This is, in truth, a very scary story. It is a real contender to the title of Scariest Story Ever, which for me still goes to The Curse Of Fenric (it's something about the Second World War, I swear). The two stories have a lot in common, such as the flawless period detail, the lovely scene where Ace / Rose comforts Rev. Wainwright / Nancy about the uncertain future, and ordinary people being converted into monsters. This seems like a good point to mention the monsters: like the Autons in Rose and the Reapers in Father's Day they aren't actually named on screen, so I've been thinking of them unofficially as the Plaguebearers, which seems to fit the bill. They are seriously frightening, as gas masks always look slightly grotesque at the best of times. What makes the Plaguebearers scary is the concept behind them, the knowledge of their dreadful internal injuries, and the aforementioned transformation scene. They are very original spin on the traditional zombie, and it takes an excellent writer and director to turn "are you my Mummy?" into a genuinely chilling line.

With the Doctor reunited with Rose we move on to part two, The Doctor Dances. It gets off to a strong start with a superb line about famous last words, proving that comedy writers are indeed the best people to write comedy. It then resolves the issue of the cylinder fired to Earth by Captain Jack hitting and killing a child, which is something I'd had a problem with after part one. I'd been a bit sceptical about part two as the first episode had been largely carried on the sense of mystery, and I was wondering if it would stand up to repeated viewing once the plot was explained. I needn't have worried, with the mystery giving way to some superb dialogue and a race-against-the-clock feel that I always find exciting.

This leads on to its dramatic climax, which fulfils all the criteria for something epic: out heroes stand by an alien device in a disused railway station while German bombs fall and the Plaguebearers advance. This leads to a final twist revelation followed by an unexpectedly moving resolution. The enormous optimism of the finale makes the lighter moments of the episode, such as the dancing Doctor, fully justified as opposed to an episode like Inferno where the pessimistic tone makes the jokey ending seem inappropriate.

The only thing that worries me is the proposed return of the Slitheen next week; I can't think of any other episode that I'd least like to see a sequel to. How about a third episode of The Empty Child? I don't want to end such a positive review on a negative note, so to sum up then, on behalf of fandom I would like to thank everyone involved in production for giving us a quite brilliant story that along with Dalek is surely going to stand as one of the highlights of 21st Century Doctor Who, for however many years it lasts.

Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

It’s an odd thing, reviewing. Writing bad reviews is easy, you just let loose with your critical cannon, taking smug pot-shots at easy targets and winching up the bitch factor until you come off looking cool. Writing good reviews, on the other hand, is a right pain in the word-processor, because there isn’t really anything to say beyond “Good this, isn’t it?”.

For that reason, and for that reason alone, I despise The Empty Child. I have nothing to say about it whatsoever. It is, quite simply, magnificent.

After apparently leaving not a dry eye in the country in Father’s Day, Russell T’s meticulously planned season moves to the opposite end of the anatomy, threatening the safety of children’s mattresses everywhere with the most deliberately frightening story since Tom Baker’s gothic heyday. That it does so with little more than an air-raid siren, a toy monkey and a kid in a gas mask says all you need to know about the talent behind this show. But that it combines the fear factor (“Chilling” to “Terrifying”, according to the BBC’s adorable clique of fear forecasters) with drama, intrigue, a fiercely-paced plot, laugh out loud comedy and enough emotion to bring tears even to the eyes of a reviewer irritated by not having anything complain about… That tells you what you really need to know. This isn’t just good; it’s a classic.

The script comes courtesy of Stephen Moffat, author of, among other things, the Dr Who sketch The Curse of Fatal Death and the hit sitcom Coupling (recently exported wholesale to the US, with the only changes being the accents, the location, and the substitution of ‘hit’ with ‘cancelled’). Justly famed for his use of complex narrative devices in the tired old genre of sitcom, Moffat has a real eye for structure, with the result that this is by far the most strongly plotted story of the season. With comedy and drama being essentially the same but for the nature of the punchline – it’s all about disguising the set-up so you can’t see the pay-off coming – The Empty Child is as well constructed as one of his jokes, combining terror, action and mystery in a story that intrigues as much as it scares, and keeping all the subplots and elements balanced until the crucial resolution. When the end arrives it turns out to be feel both surprising and inevitable, the mark of true storytelling - and after two episodes spinning from chills to thrills to witty banter, it still manages to find new emotional territory, hitting an emotional high by finding a conclusion that not only works, but matters. It can’t be easy creating a fresh character arc for the regular cast when you’re ten episodes into the season, but Moffat manages it, by putting a romantic comedy at the heart of a horror story, and then not playing by the rules of either. If only it hadn’t worked, I could have had a bitchy reviewing field-day, but no – his whole script is flawless, gripping and beautiful. Damn his eyes.

Mind you, the visual side of things was even worse, in the sense of being even better. Even a great script can be ruined by rubbish execution, which would have been handy for me, but no, there are remarkably few flaws on display. The taut, gripping direction is absolutely terrific, conveying a creepy, shadowy view of night-time London, and keeping the sense of menace only barely hidden in the background even during the lighter scenes. Use of point-of-view camera feels like a genuinely frightening way of telling the story rather than a budget-saving measure, and the lighting – or rather the darking, in most scenes – adds a real sense of cinematic scope. The period setting is exquisitely realised, with studio sets and location work combining perfectly to bring a rainy night in the Blitz to life, and even the budget-stretching cgi dogfights over London only marginally straining the credulity. It comes to something when you can’t even rely on Murray Gold to cock up the score, instead delivering a subtle, haunting soundtrack that adds to the tension, underlines the emotion and effortlessly fleshes out the scale of the piece without ever overpowering it. Even the bloody editing is great.

Bringing life to all this is a genuinely exceptional cast, led by Christopher Eccleston’s glorious Doctor, who after being arguably somewhat neglected in recent stories is, to every reviewer’s irritation, once more back on top form. His handling of the complex, layered emotions of many scenes is a joy to behold, and his own joy at the conclusion a truly moving moment, only surpassed by the insanely un-Whoish, gloriously perfect closing minutes that round off his character arc. This more modern Doctor had already beeen accepted on an equal footing with the technobabble-spouting, frock-coated fops of older generations; after his performance in The Empty Child, it’s hard not to say he surpasses them.

The fabulous guest cast is, gallingly, equally good, from Richard Wilson’s gravelly cameo as Doctor Constantine (it’s a credit to him that he never once comes across as ‘that bloke from One Foot in the Grave) to John Barrowman’s masterful Captain Jack. Even the scenes with the de-evacuated children, which could so easily have become a stage-school-accent bloodbath or a Twin Dilemma disaster, either one a reviewer’s wet dream, remain instead utterly naturalistic, thanks in large part to the stabilising presence of Florence Hoath, whose phenomenal performance as Nancy threatens to steal every scene she’s in.

Unfortunately even that doesn’t count as a criticism, as Billie Piper is on hand to steal it right back again, starring in sweeping, FX-laden money shots (of which there are ridiculously many) and acting her little socks off in funny, intimate scenes with the Doctor and Captain Jack. John Barrowman, meanwhile, is every bit as charming and attractive as Rose seems to think, which won’t do the ratings any harm, and his more-doctor-than-the-doctor characterisation is, contrary to my initial hopes, actually great fun, making the Doctor come across as all the more human and, by highlighting his flaws, much more ours.

There was a faint hope, between the showing of the two episodes, that in competition with Jack’s fancy-schmancy wrist-held computer thing the sonic screwdriver had become far too useful, able to double up now as a Star Trek medical scanner, as well as a pen, a computer-pad stylus, a radio jammer, a lock-pick, a spot-welder, a gun and even at one point, rumour has it, as a screwdriver. If it turns out the Cybermen are allergic to it too, I planned to bitchily point out, the props department won’t have anything left to build. But then they go and make a plot point of exactly that, and it turns out not to be a criticism but a glorious piece of witty, clever storytelling.

As the last minutes of The Doctor Dances played out, all hopes that this might turn out to be a Stones of Blood anti-climax faded away. This is a cast-iron classic to the end; terrifying, suspenseful, hilarious, gripping, uplifting, pacey and perfect. As a reviewer I hate it with every bone in my body. As anything else, I want to have its babies. But I still don’t have anything to say.

Good, isn’t it?

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Now, THAT's what I call a two parter! This blitz-based chiller has to be right up there for highlight of the season. With its suspense-filled resistance to revealing the nature of the threat until the very last, some excellent film-noir direction from James Hawes, and some lovely comedic vignettes, this story is as close to the gothic classics of the Hinchcliffe era.

Its both Doctor Who and the "What if?" genre of SF at their best. Nano-technology has been in the scientific headlines a few times in recent years, and like the Cybermen, Pan Global Chemicals and others before, we have a superb cautionary tale of what can go wrong with supposedly safe & helpful advances.

The inclusion of Captain Jack is inspired. He's like Sabalom Glitz with style! At every stage of his characterisation, you're thrown off in unexpected directions, convinced he's not a good guy, until, on the verge of a heroic, selfless act, he is brought aboard the TARDIS. Maybe we'll never know whether he would have found a way out, or whether he would have gone through with it. It doesn't matter. The Doctor now as a companion that, like Turlough, neither he nor the audience will be able to trust implicitly. If this is Doctor Who for the Buffy generation, ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the series' equivalent of Spike.

Richard Wilson is convincing in a role that, initially, you may think he is going to feel out of water in. Offhand, I can't recall any genre appearances from him before.

The war-urchins are definitely better than the usual child extras we get on British TV, and their situation genuinely tugs at the heart-strings. The intelligence of Nancy shines through, and we have a genuine heroine in the young mother, hiding her past, but nonetheless striving to ensure a future for herself and her charges.

Eccleston manages to put some genuine warmth into the character as he almost preys for the nano-genes to put right their mistake. I have a feeling that Eccleston's most perfect portrayal will end up being in "The Parting of the Ways".

My only complaint about this "Classic Nouveau" is the "NEXT WEEK:" stinger. My thoughts on the Slitheen have been recorded here previously, so I approach Boom Town with a sense of exhaustion and dread. If next week is anything like as poor as "Aliens of London/WWIII", it'll be following the highest peak of quality in the run.

See you in Cardiff.

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As of this writing, this two-part story seems to be the fan favorite from the Christopher Eccleston season, according to both the Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings page and this site’s own 2005 fan poll. I would not rate it quite so highly, but overall it is an extremely satisfying story, and my enthusiasm for it is dampened mostly by the issues raised by the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness, which I’ll deal with below.

But let’s get to the good bits first (and there are many). The story is well-plotted and quite spooky, delightfully in keeping with the traditions of the classic series. At its best, Doctor Who was always a mystery-horror show in a sort of sheer sci-fi drag, and this story combines the various genre elements in a harmonious way that many fans will find familiar and wonderful. The eerie dead child and its zombie offspring provide many chilling moments (of which the best probably comes when Dr. Constantine illustrates that the bodies in his ‘morgue’ are still very much alive), and of course Constantine’s own transformation is horrifying, and a wonderful throwback to the ‘body horror’ so often employed in the old series. The Blitzkrieg-era London locale is fairly well realized, historically, and more important it’s just so wonderfully British, a most fitting setting for this UK TV institution. Steven Moffat’s script might be the wittiest of the Eccleston season – “I don’t know whether it’s Marxism in action or a West End musical” is only one of many funny lines – and Eccleston’s Doctor is truly Doctorish most of the time. (His exchange with Jack about what happened to the weapons factory at Villengard is hilarious, and perfectly in character.) The action set pieces are scary and fun, and if Rose’s adventure on the rope is a little silly, and looks a little fakey, it is so in the grand style of what’s come before – replace the CGI with CSO and it could be Jo Grant up there. The revelation of Nancy’s true relationship to Jamie might ultimately be a bit easy to guess, but it’s nonetheless satisfying in terms of the overall drama. And the sci-fi resolution, too, works well . . . at first, the idea of medical nano-robots ‘repairing’ everything they encounter struck me as a little silly, but on reflection I think it’s actually a pretty nifty idea. (Maybe it was the Tinkerbell dust that *represents* the nanogenes that made it seem silly . . . .)

But the story isn’t only interested in this drama, of course – it also introduces the new companion. And John Barrowman is an immediate presence at Captain Jack – I confess, from hearing the character described before actually seeing the series, I was expecting much, much worse. There’s extremely little camp about Barrowman’s portrayal; the actor really does choose to play Jack straight, which may sound funny, but by that I don’t really mean ‘masculine,’ I mean unself-conscious. Jack may be written as boastful and cocky, but in Barrowman’s hands the lines become obvious jokes at his own expense – it’s very easy to see the ordinary guy behind all this ‘captain’s’ affected suaveness and bravado.

The problem is, Barrowman’s good acting doesn’t really make up for the way his character is used. (At least, it doesn’t here.) A sidebar: in this first series of the new Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies has truly created a new dynamic between the Doctor and his companion Rose. It is as close to a love relationship between Doctor and companion as the series ever got (possible exception: ‘The Movie’), and yet Davies opts not to consummate it. He seems to want to have it both ways: to play with sex, and yet never to develop the Doctor and Rose into an actual romantic/sexual couple, something which, while it would certainly outrage older fans, would at least make his winking and nudging pay off. And apart from a kiss that isn’t necessarily a kiss in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ (it’s in a non-sexual context, after all), Davies ultimately gives us nothing, remaining coy about the Doctor’s sexuality and his interest (or lack thereof) in his pretty blonde companion.

That’s all fine and dandy, and elsewhere I’ve written that the use of sex and sexuality in the new Doctor Who is actually quite understated anyway (and I meant it as a compliment). So what’s the problem, then? Only this: why the hell does Davies make us sit through so much unnecessary, intrusive love-triangle nonsense if he’s never going to actually *do* anything with it? And that’s where Jack comes in to this discussion – although Davies and Moffat happily give him a lot to do (and plenty of jokes), probably his main purpose in this story (as was the case with Adam Mitchell in ‘Dalek’) is to make the Doctor jealous when Rose expresses interest in him. Now, there are fans who have rationalized this as simply another example of the Doctor’s traditional selfishness, bringing up such examples as the First Doctor’s pouting in ‘The Chase’ when Ian and Barbara decide to leave him. But there’s more to it than that, given that Jack is introduced from the very outset as a sexualized character (ogling Rose’s bottom while patting Algy’s), and given the story’s rather forced and artificial focus on dancing. Jack is clearly presented as a sexual threat, and the Doctor responds, indeed, like a posturing punk watching somebody else flirt with his girl at a high school dance. Some fans don’t mind this, I choose to ignore it; either way, it’s an annoying distraction from the otherwise tense and dramatic plot. Not to mention the fact that it reduces Rose, who has made a most satisfyingly active companion to this point, to the status of a love object.

But ultimately, the story is entertaining and worthwhile despite these objections, and, as I said, the love angle hasn’t really played out into anything significant – yet.

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Abbey Road. My mother’s pasta. My girlfriend Ellen. Amelie. The colour blue. Freesias. The Time Traveler’s Wife. Any film score by Thomas Newman. Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody. And now, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. What do these things have in common, you ask? They are all things that, to me, make life worth living. Proof that, sometimes, God just gets things exactly right.

Mauve alert. Yes, mauve. We are in the presence of greatness. From the opening moments of The Doctor Dances, it’s clear that a lot of care has been taken with this story. The script is immediately funny, and we’re excited by the chase through the vortex that accompanies the familiar ‘sting’. When the TARDIS materialises, Rose finally makes reference to the fact that they’re always landing on Earth. With this and her comments about ‘scanning for alien tech’, Steven Moffat is just continuing the digs in the ribs that he started with The Curse of Fatal Death, his brilliant little Comic Relief effort that dragged me firmly back into the world of Who five years ago.

This warm, fuzzy feeling continues when the Doctor jumps up on a stage in a crowded nightclub and makes everyone laugh, while Rose follows a weird boy in a gasmask and is dragged up into the sky by a rope attached to a barrage balloon. (Why did she even grab the rope before looking up to see what it was attached to? Hang on, who cares?) So she’s hanging in the air, and we get a stunning view of the London skyline as it transforms into something far more sinister… and strangely familiar. Oh dear. This is a London air raid. A beautiful one. And I mean beautiful. Never have I been so impressed by the art direction on this show. It looks like a painting – a masterpiece – but at the same time feels deadly realistic.

Er… until she’s beamed up into an invisible spaceship. Oh well. Who cares about realism when we’ve got a ship like this? And the delightful John Barrowman as “Captain” Jack Harkness? I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like Jack at all, especially considering all the bad publicity the character has had. But what can I say? The guy’s all charm. John Barrowman really knows how to carry off this role, and it’s actually refreshing to hear an American accent, just like it was in Dalek. The guy looks great too, in his WWII uniform.

Meanwhile, the Doctor talks to a cat, a voice on an unconnected phone, and a mysterious woman who vanishes. When that TARDIS phone rang, I got more chills than those “phone ringing” scenes in The Matrix or Scream. And isn’t this dialogue all terrific? I laughed when the Doctor picked up the phone and said, “Hello?” Then I laughed harder when he said “This is the Doctor speaking.” And even harder with “How may I help you?” Okay, this series has already had its fair share of laughs so far, but this is the first time a comedy writer has had his hand at it. And he’s just done so well. This stuff is funnier than Buffy. And it also tugs at your heart-strings, in every scene with Nancy and her homeless kids. There’s so much affection here, it’s easy to just believe they’re all real people. Florence Hoath is terrific as Nancy – I wish she’d been my nanny.

Up in the air, Jack and Rose are having champagne next to Big Ben. And this is just so beautifully shot, especially when Jack does his “flash” move and lights the clock-face up. Who wouldn’t be swept off their feet by this guy, with his ship, his gadgets, his uniform, his Glenn Miller, and his tendency to “scan for alien tech”? But things are getting more serious now, with this mysterious child in the gasmask following people and crying for his mummy. This stuff is scarier than Hinchcliffe. Via Nancy, the Doctor searches out Doctor Constantine, a brilliant turn by Richard Wilson, who at no point I expected to cry out that he didn’t believe it. Testament, really, to Wilson’s acting ability.

What are these creatures in the gasmasks? Not dead? Physical injuries as plague? You can just tell the explanation – when it eventually comes – will be brilliant. Perhaps not in the hands of a lesser writer, but I trust Moffat. First of all, though, Constantine is taken by the plague himself, in what I believe to be the scariest moment in the history of this programme. I’m twenty-three years old, and when his face distorted into the shape of a gasmask, I wanted to rush and hide behind the sofa. Thankfully, Rose and Jack showed up and the Doctor began to ruminate. “DNA is being rewritten,” he mutters, “by an idiot.” Told you. The explanation is already intriguing. And of course Jack is a con-man – who didn’t figure this one out? Anyway, we’re now up to our obligatory cliffhanger. True, it’s another “surrounded by monsters” cliffhanger, but really, how many others are there? Scary ones, anyway? And it just gets scarier, when we reach Room 802, and hear that chilling recording from the child. The child that’s right behind them.

Right, cue a runaround in the hospital. Fantastic! And throw in some great jokes about the sonic screwdriver, and you’ve got a perfect chase. Too bad that git Jack is able to beam out of there… sometimes you just can’t adore a guy who’s got all the answers. But once he’s out of the picture, we’re left – finally – with the Doctor and Rose again. I discovered at this point how much I enjoyed seeing these two together. It was sad to know they were soon to be parted, especially when Rose teased the Doctor about… ahem, dancing. Should’ve expected stuff like this, really, from the writer of Coupling. And surprisingly, I didn’t mind any of it. It was subtle enough, and obvious enough, if you get my meaning.

Finally we’re out of the hospital, and we’re at the crash site. This for some reason feels like a UNIT story, or even a Troughton story. Nothing wrong with that. When Rose is captured, and we see that scar on her guard’s hand, we know what’s about to come. The soldier’s transformation isn’t as shocking as the first one, but it’s still pretty gruesome. After a little while, things are getting sorted out – via a bit of bickering from the Doctor and Jack, and some musings from Nancy about the Earth’s future. She didn’t know we’d won the war, but her comments did make me think about how war had changed us as a people. But never mind that, this is Doctor Who, remember? Back to the action. The Doctor gives us plenty of Doctor-ish exposition about nanogenes – shades of Red Dwarf – and just as they’re surrounded by “empties” again, Nancy steps forward and faces the truth. The child isn’t her brother, he’s her son. So the nanogenes must learn. Thankfully, they eventually do. And as the Doctor says, just this once, everybody lives! Fantastic!

I’m so glad James Hawes is returning to helm the second series, and that Steven Moffat is contributing The Girl in The Fireplace. I can’t wait for these episodes, on the merit of this two-parter, which comes dangerously close to being the best Doctor Who story of all time. Everything in this story just fell into place perfectly. Acting, script, direction, plot, pacing, humour, horror, suspense, music, lighting, art direction… like I said at the beginning, this time, God got it right.

Just this once.

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As a two-part story, ‘The Empty Child and ‘The Doctor Dances’ is a queer fish. More than any other segmented story, it really is a tale of two halves, with the first half being more horrifying and the second being very light-hearted in comparison. When watched as stand-alone Episodes, this jarred quite a lot, but how does it cope when regarded as one long adventure?

The first thing that struck me was how many tiny bits really stood out for me when I watched the Episodes as one story. Moments which were memorable, such as Rose and Captain Jack dancing on his Invisible Spaceship or the possessed Typewriter, still stand out, but several other smaller moments also prove themselves to be equally memorable; such moments include the TARDIS phone actually ringing like a normal telephone, Captain Jack contemplating his supposed oncoming death in his Spaceship and virtually every time Richard Wilson is on screen.

This tale of two halves still feels like just that- a story split into two pieces. The switch between backseat humour and forefront horror to forefront humour and backseat horror is very noticeable indeed, and if anything else smacks of greater disappointment. The transition is not slow, but very quick and perhaps if a scene had been included in-between, then the change would have been handled more smoothly. As it stands though, one cannot help but raise an eyebrow when the atmosphere changes so suddenly and unexpectedly.

One thing that did improve slightly, though still not enough for it to be forgiven, was the actual ending where the Doctor dances with Rose. The scene itself is beautifully lit and well-directed, with the TARDIS lights pulsing to the rhythm of ‘In The Mood’ in a way I wish my room did whenever I listen to a CD. Despite this, it still seems unnecessary and a bit embarrassing, but not as much as it was the first time I watched it. I guess that I was just prepared this time round, so I wasn’t as surprised by it.

The resolution of the two Episodes carefully toes the line between acceptable and cop-out. Certainly, if it were not for the Doctor’s back story and the high number of deaths seen elsewhere in Series One then the nanogene conclusion would come as a complete cop-out ending. As it stands, it still smacks slightly of cop-out but works fairly well nevertheless, and it is nice to see everyone smiling if nothing else. Steven Moffat could so easily have ruined this ending, but instead he makes it work by carefully never overstepping the boundaries into pure sugarcoated sentiment, preferring instead for the sugar to only shine dully.

The acting throughout the two Episodes is excellent too. From his very first moment, John Barrowman as Captain Jack impresses and you are firmly confident that nobody could have played the role better than him, nor would you like anybody to try to do so. The slow transition that his character undertakes is handled really well, and is by far one of the highlights of Steven Moffat’s script. When he is contemplating his death, he manages to sum up his character in a few short sentences, and you realise that despite his roguish exterior, deep down he is a nice person, and more than worthy to join the TARDIS crew, which, of course, he does.

As Nancy, Florence Hoath is a joy to watch and, again, the idea of anyone else getting even close to playing the role as good as she does is, to be honest, laughable. To put it simply, Hoath is perfect and well deserving of as much praise as she can possibly get.

Special mention must also go to Richard Wilson as Doctor Constantine, who rather impressively manages to make a long-lasting impression despite his relatively little screen time. This is certainly helped by the Gas Mask scene, though his delivery of certain lines is great too- when he painfully tells the Doctor that he wants his Mummy, it is horrifying and full credit must go to Wilson for making it so.

James Hawes’ Directing throughout both Episodes is excellent, and he shows that he is dab hand in any situation, be it the comedic aspects (The Doctor and Captain Jack arguing), or the scary aspects (the excellent scene where the Gas Mask breaks out of Doctor Constantine’s face in a very painful fashion), everything here is very nicely Directed, and Hawes is equally competent be he on location, or inside a house or a Jazz Lounge. There are some shots that stand out from the crowd, but my favourite probably has to be the slow pull-back from the interior of Captain Jack’s Spaceship into the TARDIS consol room, which is beautifully shot and lit.

Murray Gold’s incidental music is a subservient party throughout the two Episodes, instead allowing the period pieces to take centre-stage, though when his music is heard, he makes it count and really adds to the ambience being painstakingly created in ‘The Empty Child’. His music for ‘The Doctor Dances’ has the same position, yet here the score seems less imaginative with the ‘scary’ music not working as well and coming across as a bit clichéd, a lot like the ‘scary’ elements of that Episode itself.

In all, the two Episodes as one story works in its overall favour and yet also shows up its shortcomings even more than before. It is ‘The Doctor Dances’ which stops this two-part story from attaining the dizzy heights to which ‘The Empty Child’ is on its way towards and this is a real pity. When watched as a whole, this feeling of disappointment is slightly weaker though still undoubtedly present; parts such as the Doctor dancing shed their embarrassment slightly, though still prove themselves to be on the wrong side of discomfort.

The acting throughout is great; the Directing is brilliant; the Special Effects are exemplary; the script is fairly strong though at odds with itself and its own mood. The repeated use of “Are you my Mummy?” throughout is brilliant and remarkably creepy, so congratulations to Noah Johnson for delivering said line in such a superb way.

The rapid switch between the two very different atmospheres being generated in the two Episodes comes as a disappointment, and it is a severe pity that more could not have been done to keep up the horror content, though I suppose this would have made the nanogene solution seems like a total failure of the imagination.

I still feel that, as a two-part story, this lets the viewer down and that it ruins what it sets up by changing its ambience totally and without warning but the peaks, to be honest, just about outnumber the troughs and so what should be a crushing disappointment is relegated to a state of irritating.

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After a fun little roller-coaster ride comprised mainly of "one-off" stories, we are treated to our second two-parter of the season. Admittedly, I was approaching this story with a bit of hesitancy knowing it would not be resolved by the end of the episode. The new format of the series seemed to be working much better with just one-episode stories and although a cliffhanger ending seems to constitute a sense of "truer Who", our last two-parter seemed bit weak in comparison to the many "fantastic" (as the good Doctor seems so fond of saying these days) one-parters we've seen this season. I was starting to feel sure, already, that the day of the cliffhanger needed to be done with. That this latest story would, like the little Slitheen debacle, be half-decent, but would pale in comparison to such great one-part stories as "Dalek", "Father's Day" or "Unquiet Dead".

I was already starting to feel right in my convictions as the story began. The whole pre-title-sequence-intro was nice and very "Whoesque" (I always like it when there's a little bit of dialogue in the TARDIS interior before our heroes go and face their new adventure) although a tad difficult to understand over all the noise and mood music. But then, we arrive in war-torn London. And, for a while, my doubts about two-parters tend to deepen....

The story seems off to a bit of a shaky start. I almost wondered, as we are treated to a series of nearly proposterous sequences involving ringing TARDIS phones, overly-redundant gas-mask-wearing boys and companions hanging on to blimps if maybe the whole story wasn't actually taking place on Earth. If, perhaps this some kind of surreal "dreamscape"-type story like "Mind Robber" or "Celestial Toymaker". It would certainly tie in nicely with all the other neat twists and turns the series has been taking in its first new season. But no, we are expected to believe that a woman can hang somewhat indefinitely from a blimp while being bombed by German fighters and that Rose is just dumb enough to grab onto a rope without checking out, first, how its tied (shades of the Doctor at the end of Episode one of "Dragonfire"). As I watch these developments, I'm almost starting to wonder if this will be the one story of the season that "got it wrong" and will be the equivalent of a "Time Flight" or a "Creature From the Pit". But I hang in there and try to keep my mind open.

But then, along comes Captain Jack Harkness and the story starts taking some better turns. It helps, I think, to know that he will be a recurring character and so I'm paying better attention to him than perhaps one needs to this early on in the story. But even if I hadn't read the spoilers about him becoming a regular on the show, I found myself warming up to the Captain quite quickly. Although I can agree with some of the points made in negative reviews I've read regarding this character, I still find myself really liking him. In fact, as the series progresses, I almost feel like he could merit his own spin-off show since he is so multi-layered. But, at this point, we are just getting introduced to Jack and the introduction is going along very well. He's a bit roguish, bringing back to me hints of some of the old Robert Holmesian scoundrels like Garron or Sabalom Glitz. And I've always enjoyed the intergalactic conman character - he's a fun little icon to play with in a sci-fi series.

As we return to the Doctor's storyline, some of the surreal elements seem to be getting better treatment now. The Doctor appearing mysteriously at the dinner table is definitely a bit of a "magical" moment and the ensuing arrival of our mysterious boy becomes a bit more scientifically plausible. Although, the constant asking for his "Mummy" is beginning to grate a bit. Still, some of the spookiness is really starting to set in nicely. And this is easilly the "darkest" of the Who stories to come out in the season. I'm also starting to warm up to the overall "feel" of the story at this point. And some of the commentary going on about the Second World War is very moving too. Particularly the whole "mouse standing up to a lion" speech given near the end of the episode.

Then we go to the hospital and get yet more explanation of what's going on. Mister Moffat, I will agree, is masterful at building up a sense of intrigue - he seems to know exactly when a viewer is about to get tired of not getting any of his questions answered and gives us just enough hints to keep us interested. We can see that something is obviously messing around with human DNA but we still can't figure out who or what is at the bottom of this. And that is enough to keep us wanting to tune in next week as the somewhat subtle cliffhanger comes in to play.

Whatever doubts I had about the quality of this particular story get very quickly dismissed as episode two starts up. There is a great little chase sequence going on in the hospital and the banter with the Doctor and Jack is very amusing. Jack is blending in with the TARDIS crew really well and we can see some character development going on already as our conman begins to develop a bit of a conscience over what he's done. And the eeriness of the story is now going through the roof. With some genuinely bone-chilling moments that the classic series could never achieve. Oddly enough, the empty child chiming out "and I can hear everything you're saying" over the radio was the moment that spooked me out the most. Even though there were several other occassions that would seem to be more effective in their "scariness"! Just goes to show how quirky I can be, I suppose.

With the chase sequence settled down and the Doctor and Rose trapped in a store room of some sort, a whole new type of atmosphere settles in to the story. One that can only be termed as "classy". With the 1940's music piping through, we discover why the story is given the title is has. And again, Rose and the Doctor have a little bit of that "eighth Doctor/Grace Holloway" formulae developping between them (albeit, somewhat more subtley since there has still been no onscreen snogging going on yet). This particular sequence is what truly and finally "sells" me on this story. The two leading actors execute it so well and with such finesse that I truly find myself regretting that Eccleston is not sticking around longer with the series. He does some things with the Doctor that no other actor in the role could manage. And though that can be said for all the actors who have taken on the part, somehow Eccleston does it in much greater abundance than other Doctors. He has truly made the role his - and that shines through wonderfully in such moments as the "near-dance" he and Rose have in the hospital store-room. As much as us fans hate to see the Doctor "getting some action", we're almost rooting for him and Rose a bit in that moment. Especially now that the competition for Rose is getting even thicker with Captain Jack in the picture.

With the "classy" bit now over, we go back into a bit of runaround. With things getting more and more interesting as more and more of the plot comes together. The mysterious gas-mask-wearing boy and his army of zombies finally makes sense. And again, we see Moffat's gift as a writer as he makes us wait just long enough before dishing out the necessary explanations. There's also some great suspense going on here. With the bomb now only minutes away from dropping and we have no clear idea how the Doctor will save the day.

And then, once more, the story takes on a very different atmosphere. Not just in the context of this particular episode - but in the entire history of the series as a whole. I was shocked and amazed to find myself "misting up" a bit during "Father's Day" as Rose's poor Dad most go off and do what we all know he needs to do in order to resolve the conflict. I didn't think Who could be that genuinely touching. But I didn't think the series would achieve such a moment again so quickly with the resolution of "The Doctor Dances". As the nano-genes swarm around mother and child, I found myself getting glassy-eyed as the Doctor removes the gas-mask and a real boy is once again underneath it. It was both triumphant and very moving. I had no idea this new series would be so deft at playing with my hearstrings - and that's one of the things that is truly amazing me about it. That Doctor Who can very legitimately bring me to tears. In the old days, of course, some of the special effects could make me cry - but those were an entirely different kind of tears!

The denouement of the whole tale takes a bit longer than most of the stories have but we are treated to yet more of that sense of "classiness" that I so enjoyed earlier in the story so it doesn't really bother me. Poor old Captain Jack is in his space ship about to die. At last, he's definitely become a good guy and we don't want to see him go. His "emergency protocol" of having the computer make him one last drink was a real hoot! And that slow pan back from his cockpit to the interlinking TARDIS console room might even qualify as a "classic moment" in the series. It's all very stylish without trying to be overly intentional about its stylishness. Something that can happen in less-carefully-crafted sci-fi stories. But everything about the new Who series seems to be handled so well by its creative team that it can get away with all kinds of neat and novel concepts. Such as actually showing the Doctor dancing in his console room with his companion and even going to such lengths as actually using the sequence as a name for the whole story! Once again, an old hardcore fan like me can enjoy just how well this series is blending "the old with the new" and feels confident that no matter what Russell T. throws at us. He'll do it well. The show moves from strength to strength with him at the helm as producer. Poor old JNT must be a bit jealous of just how well some of the revisionist work Davis is doing is being so well-accepted! After all, he changed the show just as radically back in the 80s. Perhaps we just needed to be "starved" of on-screen Who for a bit before realising that re-inventing itself regularly is one of the finest features of this programme.

Anyway, in the final analysis, "Empty Child" holds up much better if you watch it back-to-back with its second episode rather than having to wait the week you had to wait when it was transmitted. All the wierdness and mystery is much more justifiable now that you know where it's all going to go. And when you think about some other "bigger picture" aspects of this tale, you can really feel some enormous hope and enthusiasm for the series. Once again we have a truly great story being told. Making it now four stories in a row (from "Dalek" onward) that just seem to have little or no real flaws to them. And when you take into consideration that Steven Moffat can not only write great comedy T.V. like "Coupling", but can also write some great hardcore sci-fi drama, one becomes even more impressed with what Doctor Who is offering the public. In a nutshell, it's some of the best television of 2005! Whether you're a Who-fan, a sci-fi geek or just a casual viewer - this is, undeniably, some great storytelling.

Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

Steven Moffat’s two-parter, like “The Unquiet Dead,” it had a very “Talons of Weng-Chiang” feel to it, not only in it’s dark tone but also in it’s more light-hearted moments. All in all, the story is another classic – and I mean classic – right up there with “Caves of Androzani,” “City of Death,” et al.

The opening scene of "The Empty Child" throws us right into the action with the Doctor and Rose chasing the Tula ambulance. I had to laugh at the Doctor’s little digs at humanity; “red is just humans,” and how “you can’t go anywhere in the universe without bumping into Earth.” I thought the latter comment especially funny, as by the looks of things we don’t get a single episode in this series set away from our Solar System, except “Parting of the Ways” perhaps? Wishful thinking! Even this budget will only stretch so far.

When the TARDIS lands, a month too late as per usual, I loved the quick succession of brilliant scenes we had to enjoy. We had the Doctor wander into the nightclub with his immortal line asking “if anything had fell from the sky”, followed by Rose first hearing the Empty Child’s voice, following him up onto a rooftop then being swept away by a barrage balloon! When the Doctor comes out of the club to find Rose gone, he strokes a cat (how 6th Doctor!) telling it how he wishes he could find someone who got the “don’t wander off thing.” Brilliant! The ringing phone was also a nice touch, and the introduction of Nancy was also wonderfully done. What is she hiding?

As for the scenes of Rose, Union Jack T-shirt and all, hanging from a barrage balloon from the sky in the middle of the Blitz… well. What can you say? On a TV budget the special effects were superb. More importantly, it introduced us to John Barrowman’s fantastic character, Captain Jack Harness. If you can forgive him for saying “excellent bottom” instead of “nice ass” or something american (which after all, he is a time agent posing as an american… I think) his introductory scene is brilliant. I loved how the “cellphone” creeped into the story again, and I couldn’t contain my laughter when he told her to turn it off because it was interfering with his tractor beam!

The Doctor stumbling onto Nancy’s air raid feeding frenzy was my favourite scene in the episode for a number of reasons. First off, both the Doctor and Nancy are brilliant in the scene. The Doctor’s dialogue is superbly written in fluent ‘northern,’ right from “good here innit” (a catchphrase of my brother’s) to his line about looking for a blonde in a union jack – well, a “specific blonde.” I loved his line about him not being sure whether it was “Marxism in action or a West End Musical” – mirroring the audience’s thoughts exactly! Trust him to take two slices as well! When the child arrives, causing everyone to scarper, it is a truly chilling scene. There is something about a gas mask that is really, really frightening. Put a child in one and as far as horror and creepiness goes, you’re onto a winner. I was impressed with how the Doctor was the only one who opened the door to the child; still after all he’s been through the optimist. But, aha, the child has gone.

The Doctor follows Rose to the site where the Tula ambulance crashed and another wonderful tete a tete ensues. Again the dialogue is dazzlingly written, “my nose has special powers,” says the Doctor when Nancy asks how he was able to follow her. “Do you ears have special powers to?” is Nancy’s savage reply, which isn’t just funny because the Doctor’s ears are quite big, but because of all Rose’s jibes that he should be more ‘Spock!’

Incidentally, I thought the Spock jibes were a great idea and worked brilliantly in the context of the story. Doctor Who has always been about good stories and characters, not too heavily reliant “alien tech.” No disrespect to the Star Trek franchise which I’m also a huge fan of, but they’ve always had far more money to spend on such things and it’s great how Rose – a typical child of the late 20th century – sees the Doctor as quite lo-tech and so when the flash Captain Jack comes along… crush!

“You want to know about the bomb? You need to talk to the Doctor,” says Nancy. Spoiler free-people must have thought “what?” and for a moment thought they were going to bring in Tom Baker, Davison, Colin Baker, McCoy or even McGann but no….

Meanwhile Captain Jack is entertaining Rose on the roof of his Tula warship, dancing with her, flirting and setting her up to be conned. It’s blatantly obvious how much Rose has fallen for the dashing Captain, especially with all his flash alien tech and champagne, not to mention his dancing. “Finally a professional.”

The Doctor and Nancy have another wonderful scene together. Somehow he knows she lost somebody, reasoning that is why she looks after all the kids, in a way making a comparison with himself. Then we have an epic and Doctor-like speech about the German war machine, “one damp little country says no…” Fantastic stuff. “I don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you lot frighten me.” Who’s he mis-quoting?

Finally we meet the mysterious ‘Doctor’, Doctor Constantine, played by the superb Richard Wilson. In his brief appearance he conveys a sense of disparity in keeping with the episode, and his line about before the war being “a grandfather and a father” and now being neither, “but still a Doctor” reminds us very much of a nameless Doctor we know – and I don’t mean the starship Voyager’s E.M.H. The premise of “physical injuries as plague” which becomes apparent as the Doctor examines all the victims is a very original idea for the show, and the big reveal – “what was the cause of death…. They’re not dead” – when all the zombies sit up is a classic Who moment.

Doctor Constantine’s horrific transformation reminded me of the nightmarish imagery in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” movie. As I said earlier, gas masks are somehow inherently disturbing and see one grow out of someone’s throat… bone chilling stuff. I bet that scene put many a child behind the sofa. And to think this episode was shown EARLIER than usual!

When Jack and Rose find their way into the hospital the confused Jack is pleased to meet “Doctor Spock,” before realising that they aren’t “time agents” after all and so he can’t con them. Instead, he insults them by calling them “Flag girl” and “U-boat captain” (how many times can the Doctor’s appearance be attacked in one episode?)
Before he bleats out apologetically, almost pleadingly, “I’m a conman. That’s what I do.” The Doctor, of course, takes an instant dislike to the flash Captain.

Then we get the second cliff-hanger of the season, much more understated than the first, and all the better for it. The zombies advance on the Doctor, Rose and Jack, while the Empty Child closes in on Nancy… “are you my Mummy? Are you my Mummy…” So, how are they going to get out of this one? The Doctor is going to give the zombies a telling off. “Go to your room!” Fantastic, though as the Doctor pointed out, it’s a good job it worked because they would be crappy last words, especially compared to “it’s the end… but the moment has been prepared for,” “…it’s time to say goodbye… might regenerate…” and the like.

As "The Doctor Dances" begins proper, Jack reveals his con and the plot starts to come together. The interaction between Jack, the Doctor and Rose is superbly written and performed here. Jack’s “Volcano Day” joke is wonderfully turned on it’s head by the Doctor (does anyone else think that would have been a better title than “The Doctor Dances”?) and the whole banana joke was brilliantly executed, especially the Doctor implying he blew up the weapons depot where Jack got his gun, then switching a banana for Jack’s weapon! “Bananas are good.” Immortal words. The banter goes on as the Doctor is too embarrassed to say that his sonic device is a ‘screwdriver,’ and it’s Jack’s weapon, ironically, that saves them from the marauding hordes of zombies on their tail. When Jack takes the mickey out of the Doctor for having a sonic screwdriver the Doctor comes out with another classic “you ever been bored? Ever had a long night? Ever had a lot of shelves to put up?” Absolutely brilliant script-writing. It looks like this menage a trois is going to be a lot of fun to watch.

I also enjoyed the scene where Nancy returns to the house she’d taken the children to eat at only to be caught by the obese householder. Nancy’s gall is impressive as she blackmails him not only into letting her go, but into getting her some wire cutters, some more grub and letting her have a Johnny Cash before she leaves!

The scene with the Doctor, Rose and Jack in the Empty Child’s room where the tape runs out is the first of two brilliantly terrifying scenes. The young child’s voice is awfully harrowing “I’m here can’t you see me?” The way he ‘sings’ everything makes him even creepier.

Shortly after, Jack does his most Spock-like trick of all and is ‘beamed up’ to his ship. At this point we are still wondering about this intergalactic conman… has he taken off and left the Doctor and Rose to their fate, or will he really help them?

The second creepy scene of the episode sees Nancy go back to tell the children she is going to the bomb site because the Empty Child isn’t following them, it’s following HER. Just as Constantine implied in the previous episode, only Nancy knows why the Empty Child is stalking her, and at this point most of us are still guessing. The typewriter being controlled by the child is executed beautifully. It’s directed so well you get used to the noise of it in the background, then when you see the little boy who was writing the letter isn’t operating it anymore it’s a big shocker. Very creepy indeed.

The Doctor gets sulky as Rose goes on and on about Jack’s good looks, how he saved her life and how he’s like the Doctor, but with dating and dancing etc. The Doctor makes an effort not to be insulted, but just like with Jo Grant and her bloke all those years ago in “The Green Death” he’s seething. “…you just assume I don’t darnce…”

“You got the moves? Show me your moves. The world doesn’t end because the Doctor dances,” Rose says, holding out her arm to the Doctor. Of course, he doesn’t dance with her, just examines her hands disapprovingly as he realises they’ve been healed and the pieces of the puzzle start fitting together in his head. His line about Rose “setting new records for jeopardy friendly” was another nice line; as I keep saying the dialogue by Moffat is brilliant.

As Jack comes to the rescue, ‘beaming up’ the Doctor and Rose, we realise it’s possible he’s not all bad, just like when Han Solo returns to help Luke blow up the Death Star in “Star Wars.” Still, he’s no angel as he’d be the first to admit, and he does, boasting about how he stole his Tula warship from a gorgeous lady. We also get the first big reveal about his character here – he was a ‘Time Agent,’ whatever one of those may be, and the ‘Agency’ wiped several years of his memory. He wants them back. This memory block gives his character a real edge. The good looks and charm we saw in “Empty Child” were okay for an episode or two, but if they’re making him a regular he needs the kind of depth something like this gives to his character. I hope it gets a good payoff and he wasn’t just a “nice guy” during those missing years. It is also in this scene the Doctor first sees the nanogenes and pieces it all together. Watching “The Empty Child” I thought the premise of “physical injuries as plague” was a unique idea, and it is nice to see it being backed up with a scientific explanation that seems half-plausible!

Meanwhile Nancy is captured trying to re-enter the bombsite. She is chained up and left under the supervision of an soldier showing the first symptoms of “Empty Child Syndrome.” His commanding officer, who I think was called Algie (presumably the same officer Jack spoke to in “The Empty Child”) leaves Nancy in his custody despite the solider calling him “Mummy!” Florence Hoath as Nancy once again puts in a wonderful performance, pleading with the solider to let her go, trying to reason with him. When he is completely overcome by the Syndrome, she cleverly byes some time by singing a lullaby to him…

I love the shot of the Doctor, Jack and Rose walking through the bomb site. The lighting is superb, Murray Gold’s score is as epic as in “Dalek”, it’s a shame the scene couldn’t have lasted a second or two longer.

I only have one real complaint with this two-parter, and it’s all the bi-sexual innuendo which is a bit over the top. Fair enough if you want to imply that “51st century guy” Jack is bi-sexual, but why make the Army officer, Algie, gay too? Even the man who’s house Nancy stole food from was “messing about with the butcher.” I think for something watched by kids and families it’s a little bit too much.

When the Doctor realises the plague has now become airborne as we see Algie transform horrifically, it becomes obvious we are building up to the story’s climax, though like in “World War Three,” it does feel a little early. Luckily, the climax here it stretched out right until the episode’s end.

As the zombies march relentlessly towards the bombsite we are treated to a delightful scene between Rose and Nancy, very similar to “The Unquiet Dead” scene with Rose and Gwyneth. This one is probably even more profound; how can Rose convince a girl who looks up into the sky and sees a devastating war raging, that the world isn’t about to end? The look on Nancy’s face when she realises who wins is priceless. It’s a really beautiful scene.

I love the ending of the story. So far it has been a dark story in almost every sense, from the lighting to the setting to the plot to the horrific imagery shown. At this point everything is bleak, the Doctor is giving a trademark speech about how unstoppable the nanogenes are and how they will turn the whole human race into zombies, and even Jack realises what his con has led to. He even appears to feel guilty.

“There’s never been a little boy born who wouldn’t tear down the world to save his Mummy… and this one can…”

But just as a fate worse than death is about to take all out heroes, the Doctor finally works it out. Nancy is the Empty Child’s Mother. “Are you my Mummy? Where is my Mummy?” The Doctor persuades a reluctant Nancy to admit the truth to the Empty Child, Jamie, her son who she’d always claimed was her brother to protect herself from society’s scorn. “Yes, I am. I am your Mummy.”

The Doctor is rubbing his hands together, looking up at the sky. “Gimme a day like this please… clever little nanogenes!!!” then we are treated to a rarity in this series – even the Doctor cannot believe it – an old fashioned Hollywood happy ending!


Normally I hate such things but it just works so well. Even Doctor Constantine and his patients are saved when the Doctor takes the nanogene “software patch” and, let’s say ‘manually’ “e-mails the upgrade,” with particularly humorous consequences as the nanogenes not only restore all the zombies’ humanity but heal all their injuries… one woman’s leg even grows back. “Perhaps you miscounted?” suggests Constantine, Richard Wilson’s comic timing still perfect.

So the Doctor is running into the TARDIS, waving his arms all over the place, laughing and grinning like a Cheshire cat. He even has an 8th Doctor-like “I know everything” moment when he tells Rose what she got for Christmas when she was twelve. “I’m on fire!” he exclaims. “But what about Jack?” asks Rose.

Jack has taken the “Splichter Wolf” (‘Bad Wolf’… sigh) bomb into space and is now facing certain death. He’s very cool about it though, supping his drink and reminiscing on his sexual misadventures with his executioners… but of course, it really is a happy ending and the TARDIS arrives to save him just in the nick of time.

The story that began in the darkness and despair of 1941 London in “The Empty Child” ends as “The Doctor Dances,” albeit with a bit too much bi-sexual innuendo (still!), but at least it’s the Doctor and Rose who have the last dance.

“All things considered, fantastic!”

Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

The new series seems to be starting out much like the first year or two of Big Finish did where we have a very high number of stories either on or near Earth. On the one hand, I can't complain with the resulting good stories they're getting, but on the other, I think it's getting to be about time we went across the universe and did as the aliens did. So, my heart sunk just a bit when we saw Earth as the destination at the beginning.

It didn't stay there long though as we plunged headlong into London during the Blitz and what's definitely the creepiest set-up we've had yet, and one the older episodes rarely if ever matched. One might think that during a war that the scariest thing that's going on is the war itself and the doomed future one's nation might have should it lose (I've been thinking that almost every day since 9/11/01). This story managed to find two stories of fear that are even better than that. One is very personal (to do with Jamie and Nancy) and one is a threat even greater than what the Axis powers were up to (zombie-fying virus going airborne and ready to turn the whole world into gasmask people). So, well done to Steven Moffat for being so creative and punching WWII both above and below the belt.

Speaking of below the belt, how about that Captain Jack, eh? He's ready, willing, and able to "dance" with anything that moves so long as it looks excellent to him. (And is it really coincidence they went for an actor who looks so much like Tom Cruise? ) Fortunately, his relaxed and futuristic sexuality is kept in proportion with the rest of his character, which is an oh-so-smooth con man with a terrific wit and a mystery or two, yet who seems friendly enough. I'm really warming to him, and I'm glad he joined the TARDIS crew at the end. If the one-liners he spouted in this story keep coming, I'll be very pleased. Top of them all has to be "Who looks at a screwdriver and says, 'ooh. This could be a little more sonic.'?"

The other main character who was introduced but regrettably didn't get to stay on was Nancy. Streetwise is too weak a word to describe her... more like streetgenius, the way she organizes the starving kids into stealing food from the house of someone she can blackmail, and in a big way. Streetstrong might be another one, since the war has hit her really, really hard, and yet she hasn't let how despondent she is about it all cripple her. She just gets on with things. I like that the Doctor and Rose twice try to cheer her up out of this... the Doctor with his patriotic speech and Rose by telling her that they're not going to lose the war. The first doesn't really work on her as far as we can see... the second sort of does since by then she's believing in anything. Getting her son back alive at the end of the story and seeing the whole plague end as well must have really turned her back around. The Doctor boasts later of having a really great day (where for once, no one died), but I think Nancy's got him beat here. Jamie, Dr. Constantine, and the others didn't do too badly either.

On now to plot matters, and Moffat's ingenuity shines again (except for one niggle I have for the end). If you make a list of the sci-fi elements in this story, they're actually not that great on paper. There's con man Jack setting up a little temporal con that's not all that original... and there's the nanogenes inside the Chula war ambulance that are lifted from either "Star Trek the Next Generation" or the SciFi Channel seasons of "Mystery Science Theater 3000"... and then there's Jack's own warship with the invisibility and the teleporter that only works for one person (except when it doesn't)... none of it's really that new. What made it all work so well was the way they're all presented and revealed, where in the first episode we both have and haven't got all the clues we need to figure out just why people are turning into gas mask zombies or why Jack's there and son on. Few of us successfully guess at the motives of this story because there are in fact no logical motives behind what's going on, but rather, three mistakes. "Make mistakes and confuse the enemy" as the Doctor once said, and it works on audiences too. The mistakes I speak of were a) Jack's mistake in thinking the ambulance was empty and bringing it there, b) what Nancy considers to be her own mistake in getting Jamie killed, and c) the nanogenes mistake in how they try to fix people up wrongly, with their gruesome consequences. The Doctor asks at the end of part one "What's the point?" and the reason he and we can't work it out is that there isn't one. It was just a series of unfortunate events. And that's why the story was so entertaining.

As for our regular characters, the Doctor and Rose, this is a story that achieved perfect balance between them. Rose gets to have her thrilling adventure, travelling over London by barrage balloon (even if it's a stretch that she didn't look up to see what the rope was attached to) and meet Captain Jack and swoon over him and banter with psychic paper and so on. Meanwhile, the Doctor gets to do some real investigating and uncovering of secrets like he always used to but doesn't seem to get as much time for in the new series, mostly because "part one" is missing from most of the stories. That wasn't a problem here, and Chris Eccleston really gets to shine as a result. The relationship between the two characters gets a chance to grow too, particularly in "The Doctor Dances," and some of that chemistry we were told these two were having before the series began really began to cook here in a way it perhaps hadn't before now... at least not as much as that between the Eighth Doctor and Charley. Again, I suspect this is a function of the time it takes to tell these moments in a story and how there just isn't enough in the one-parters. Anyway, I really enjoyed how Jack's presence gets the Doctor to have to come out of his own shell and be more approachable with Rose and actually try to dance with her, which he finally does at the end. His response line to Rose's invitation earlier is another classic. "Show me your moves," she says, and the Doctor answers, "Rose, I'm trying to resonate concrete."

It's almost like Steven Moffat has experience writing stuff like this. Hmm.

On to more superficial matters...

I _love_ James Hawes' direction, and think it's the best we've seen in the series so far. I'm very glad to hear he's coming back for more with at least the Christmas special to come. The ultra cold weather on the shoot actually helped as it made Nancy look even sadder than she would've normally done since you can see it in her face so well.

The music was much stronger than in earlier episodes, and in particular the scenes at the end where Nancy tells Jamie she is his mummy. At last Murray Gold is starting to prove the faith the producers had in him to give him the entire series to do. Maybe this is just a function of his having a little more time to work on it?

The CGI was _exceptional_. I can't recall ever seeing the Blitz shown on TV or film in such an awesome way anywhere else... I'm sure someone will correct me here and point out a film where it was done better, but nevertheless it was wondrous to behold. Kudos to the Mill!

I've only got two problems with the story... both in "The Doctor Dances," and they're both minor enough for me not to dock much from the point total below. Just a tenth I think. Anyway, the first one is the historical glitch where they had a magnetic tape player and recording of Jamie's therapy sessions in the hospital, several years before the first one was available in Britain. Maybe this is the Bad Wolf's doing in the same way that the errors in things like "Invaders from Mars" were the NeverPeople's doing, but somehow I doubt it. The other story issue I had is with Captain Jack at the end and the German bomb. Why didn't he fly his ship to an uninhabited area of Earth rather than into outer space? Had he done so, he could've just got out of the ship or teleported out of it and let the ship blow up with the bomb without having to worry about the fact he had no escape pod on his ship. This point needed some more work.

All in all then, 9.9 out of 10. Probably a classic in fact.

Filters: Television Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor

I’ve always been a huge fan of multi-episode story arcs that take two episodes or more to fully develop the story they are trying to tell. The last season of Star Trek: Enterprise was mostly made up of two or three-parters. Having to wait until next week is always exciting. You just never give up guessing what will happen next week, and make the prospect of viewing part two or three even more exciting.

So, with the new series of Doctor Who in full swing, I anxiously await the two-part adventures. They bring the great memory of the original series, waiting until the next week to see what happens next. The first two-part adventure, “Aliens of London” and “World War III,” was a mixed blessing. The first episode was alright. The great suspense, acting, and production values were let down by needless fart-jokes. The second episode, however, was much better.

For me, the second two-part adventure was the one I’d wanted to see the most. As a historian, I always enjoyed watching the Doctor Who adventures that took place in the past. And, while I know that it’s science-fiction, I always look to see if the look and feel of the period is captured correctly. So, with immense excitement, I sat down to watch “The Empty Child,” and then “The Doctor Dances.”

“The Empty Child” washed all my concerns away within the first ten minutes. The period feels right, and the scenes of the London Blitz are exciting, and as historically accurate as you can get within a science-fiction story. The main story itself is also fascinating. The scenes of the empty child, and those he has infected, are terrifying. I never thought that the idea of a “disease as injuries” would work, but it does so brilliantly. And the eerie cliffhanger ending sends chills up the spine, and you wonder what’s going to happen next.

After “The Empty Child,” I thought that it would be hard to come up with a clever follow-up. But the second part of the story, “The Doctor Dances” not only does so, but it proves to be the best episode of the series to date. The visual effects, storytelling, and acting are all at their peak of success. The explanation of what is going on may seem awkward on paper, but works brilliantly on screen. The ending of the episode is really well-done for two reasons. Not only do we see an emotional reunion of Jamie with Nancy (who, it turns out, is not Jamie’s brother, but is actually his mother), but we get to see what has to be a first for Doctor Who: for once, no one dies. It is these fantastic elements that make this episode a classic.

Christopher Eccleston continues to prove himself to be a fantastic Doctor. After his dark turn in “Dalek,” I thought his performance couldn’t get any better. But he proves me wrong in this adventure. We not only laugh at his jokes, and are shocked by his revelations. At the end, we feel what he feels when he realizes that everyone will live at the end of this adventure: we are all filled with joy. His brilliance as an actor continues to surpass expectations for the character.

Billie Piper also continues to shine as Rose. She reminds me a lot of Sarah Jane Smith from the original series. She always seems to get herself into trouble, but manages to always make us laugh. Piper has proven that she can stand side-by-side with Eccleston, and is never over-shadowed by him. Not only that, but she is very attractive to boot!

The new character introduced to the show, Captain Jack Harkness, is very interesting. John Barrowman gives a great performance in the role. He’s not only funny and intelligent (for the most part), but proves that he is worthy of a leading-role in the spin-off series, “Torchwood.” I can’t wait to see what else he can bring to the character in the next few episodes.

In closing, I feel that “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” are the destined to become THE classic adventure of the Eccleston era. But the journey isn’t over yet. There are three more episodes left in the first series of the show. Let’s see how the Doctor will do when he faces his old enemies Margaret (from the first two-parter), and the Daleks in the series’ closing two-part adventure, “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways.”

Filters: Series 1/27 Ninth Doctor Television