Celebrating Father’s Day with Doctor Who

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Brilliantly, but perhaps also obviously, Pete isn’t anything like Rose expected. He’s not the wonderful man in the perfect marriage that Rose was always told about; Pete is fallible. More than that, he’s already failing. His marriage is strained, his business non-existent. Rose gets to know her father as he is, not as he was remembered. It’s really compelling drama; we’re seeing Rose build a relationship with a person, not with an idea, all while having to confront her preconceptions about her father.

Today’s Yahoo article is about Father’s Day – not just the day, but the Doctor Who episode! I’m quite fond of this episode; it’s one of the highlights of Christopher Eccleston’s first season.

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Doctor Who: A tribute to Christopher Eccleston’s “fantastic” Ninth Doctor

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Today, the 26th March 2016, marks eleven years since Doctor Who returned to our screens – almost as long a time as it had been away. It’s strange to think, really, just how long it’s been since Christopher Eccleston first graced our screens as the Doctor, bringing Doctor Who back with a bang.

The Ninth Doctor is, for me, a bit of an oddity. He was the first Doctor I ever saw, true, but I only caught the very end of his tenure; Bad Wolf was my first episode, and then a week later the Doctor regenerated. So, I’ve not exactly got a big emotional connection to him – but I do have a huge respect and affinity for the character.

Yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of NuWho! Weird to think, that. I’ve reached a point now where Doctor Who has been a part of my life for longer than it hasn’t.

To celebrate, then, I’ve written this tribute to the Ninth Doctor, who really was… fantastic.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Doctor Himself

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This is what I wrote, way back when I first started on these reviews, months and months ago. Quite a long time ago really, thinking about it.

The Ninth Doctor is, for me, a bit of an oddity. He was the first Doctor I ever saw, true, but I only caught the very end of his tenure – Bad Wolf was my first episode, and then a week later the Doctor regenerated. So, I’ve not exactly got a big emotional connection to him.

As well as that, I don’t tend to watch his episodes very often, so I’m not all that familiar with them – I know the basic plot and sequence of events, but there’s lots of little things that surprised me when watching Rose for this review. 

That, coupled with his relatively short run, means I’m just not quite sure about him – sure, he’s a good Doctor, but how good? If I were to one day rank the Doctors, where would he stand on that list?

Here I am now, 13 episodes and several months later. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on the Ninth Doctor now, as it goes. He’s not an oddity anymore; he’s a really fantastic Doctor.

One of the things I love is his story arc.

When we first meet the Ninth Doctor, he’s wounded. He’s carrying a lot of survivor’s guilt, and he’s not wholly comfortable in himself. He’s trying to be the Doctor again though, he’s trying to go back to how he used to be. That’s why he’s in the shop, trying to stop the Autons. That’s probably also why he stopped the Daniels family from getting on the Titanic – trying to save their lives.

Interestingly, this actually fits really well with John Hurt’s Doctor, now that I think about it. John Hurt gave up the title of the Doctor, he lost that name. He stopped being the Doctor. And now here we have Christopher Eccleston showing us the Doctor trying to settle back into himself, before we even knew that was happening. There’s all sorts of things like that actually, if you look back on the series, especially in RoseThere’s the Doctor’s initial reluctance to commit to anything other than being “nobody”, and a sort of wry smile where Rose first calls him “Doctor”. It’s a strange sort of backwards prescience, but it’s nice, and kind of fitting in a show about time travel.

In a few of these reviews, I said Christopher Eccleston seemed a bit at odds when he was trying to appear happy. Awkward smiles, not quite laughing at the jokes. I put it down to Christopher Eccleston not quite getting it right. That’s obviously a mistake on my part – I was missing the point. It was deliberate. It was the Doctor who was awkward and not quite happy. The Doctor, out of his element when he wasn’t in the midst of the action, because it’s been so long since he wasn’t always in the midst of the action.

Over time though, you can see this change and develop. You see the Doctor becoming more heroic again, and a little less callous. Towards the start of the series with his rather grim dispatching of Cassandra, stony-faced and determined; by the end of the series, he’s clearly troubled about the thought of doing similar to Margaret Slitheen.

It all culminates in one of my favourite moments of Series One, if not New Who as a whole.

In The Parting of the Waysthe Doctor is presented with a dilemma that mirrors the final moments of the Time War. He has the opportunity to destroy the Daleks, but it’s at the expense of the Earth and everyone on it – at this point, probably the closest thing he has to a home and a family.

When it was the Time War, he made that choice. He wiped out both Time Lords and Daleks, and he’s been living with that ever since. And here… he doesn’t. It’s a fantastic moment, despite how bleak it is. It’s the moment where he becomes the Doctor again. Finally, after all that’s happened… the Doctor is the Doctor.

(Of course, when you take John Hurt’s incarnation into account, on some levels it’s more tragic. He was always the Doctor, because he never did destroy Gallifrey. He just didn’t know it. It’s only now that he knows he’s the Doctor – on some levels, it makes the moment more poignant)

His regeneration too is part of this, part of this moment. The Doctor sacrifices himself to save his companion, to save the woman who helped him to become the Doctor again. It’s very fitting.

The Ninth Doctor is, I think, one of the few Doctors who has quite a concrete and obvious character arc like this. It really helps, I think, and it’s one of the reasons why I’ve come to like him so much. It’s a detailed, compelling story which is presented in this series, and it’s definitely worth watching.

So… what do I think of this Doctor? Well, having already used the “fantastic” joke, I probably have to say something articulate and intelligent, don’t I?

The Ninth Doctor is… well, he’s brilliant. He’s a fantastic creation, and Christopher Eccleston and Russell T Davies both deserve plaudits for bringing him to life. He was absolutely the right Doctor for the 21st century, for a group of people who didn’t quite know or wouldn’t quite accept the Doctors of old. He opened the door and set the stage for David Tennant and Matt Smith, but he should be remembered for much more than that.

The Ninth Doctor was fantastic.

(Some jokes are too good not to use twice)

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Series 1 Overview

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So, with the series over, I thought it would be a good idea to do a sort of retrospective on the series itself, as well as a sort of analysis on the marks I gave each episode, and how it averages out across the series.

First of all, then, are the marks given to each episode, in chronological order.

  1. Rose | Russell T Davies | 7/10
  2. The End of the World | Russell T Davies | 8/10
  3. The Unquiet Dead | Mark Gatiss | 8/10
  4. Aliens of London | Russell T Davies | 7/10
  5. World War Three | Russell T Davies | 7/10
  6. Dalek | Robert Shearman | 10/10
  7. The Long Game | Russell T Davies | 7/10
  8. Father’s Day | Paul Cornell | 8/10
  9. The Empty Child | Steven Moffat | 9/10
  10. The Doctor Dances | Steven Moffat | 9/10
  11. Boom Town | Russell T Davies | 8/10
  12. Bad Wolf | Russell T Davies | 9/10
  13. The Parting of the Ways | Russell T Davies | 10/10

I made a graph, to make everything look more official and analytical.

image

It’s very obviously quite a strong series, never getting less than 7/10, although admittedly there are quite a few of those. There are some obvious standouts, and some obvious patterns.

Dalek episodes tended to fare well; both of the episodes featuring them predominantly gained 10/10, and Bad Wolf, which featured them peripherally, got a pretty strong 9/10.

Historical episodes, The Unquiet Dead and The Empty Child & The Doctor Dances, did well with an average score of 8.6/10 between them, or 26/30 altogether.

The present day ish episodes (Rose, Aliens of London & World War Three, Dalek, Father’s Day, and Boom Town) did well too, with an average score of 7.83/10, or 47/60.

Future episodes (The End of the World, The Long Game, and Bad Wolf The Parting of the Ways) got high scores as well. They averaged out at 8.5/10, or 34/40.

Now, that’s not wholly indicative of quality, given that there’s quite an imbalance in the different episodes, and it’s not really in proportion. That applies to the writers as well; because of the way it’s worked out with averages and whatnot, Russell T Davies is, technically, the worst writer.

  1. Robert Shearman = 10/10
  2. Steven Moffat = 9/10
  3. Mark Gatiss = 8/10
    Paul Cornell = 8/10
  4. Russell T Davies = 7.875/10

It’s certainly odd to look at it like that. I do consider RTD to be amongst the best writers to have worked on Doctor Who over the past nine years, but here it would appear he’s not the best. But then again, being, ostensibly, ‘the worst’ doesn’t mean that it’s not “very, very good”.

I generally don’t like to rank stories in such a way, because it’s all very subjective. Each of the stories have their own merits and values, and always very different merits and values. I often say something along the lines of “7/10, but a different 7/10 to the last 7/10, because it’s a different episode”. Odd though that may sound, it’s very true, I feel.

But, I did give the stories numerical ranks, so, rank them I have:

  1. Dalek
    Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
  2. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
  3. The End of the World
    The Unquiet Dead
    Father’s Day
    Boom Town
  4. Rose
    Aliens of London/World War Three
    The Long Game

That’s the 10s, the 9s, the 8s, and finally the 7s. Beyond that, I don’t think I could give them proper ranks – where the marks were shared, I simply left them in chronological order.

Overall, the whole series got a mark of about 8/10 (specifically 8.230769/10), which worked out as 107/130. To have only dropped 23 marks across 13 episodes is pretty damn impressive. As a series, it’s very, very strong.

At some point soon, I’ll try and write a post about the Ninth Doctor and his character arc, which will, I imagine, be altogether more interesting than this.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Parting of the Ways

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It was a better life. I don’t mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say “no.” You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can’t!

I feel… I feel weirdly nostalgic actually. As though I’ve come to the close of a great adventure. That’s a slightly ridiculous thing to say really, but it’s true. I’ve now completed the Ninth Doctor’s era. All 13 episodes, tied up in a neat little bow. One complete run.

But it’s not quite over yet. The Parting of the Ways. Christopher Eccleston’s final episode. The swansong, as it were.

The swansong – the only song and swan can sing, in its final moments – is supposed to be the most beautiful song sung by any bird. (I think so anyway, I might be misremembering. It doesn’t really matter though, it fits the point I’m trying to make)

And you know what? This really is a beautiful episode.

One of the most important things to talk about in this episode is, I think, the Daleks. This is, after all, just as much their episode as it is anyone else’s.

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The bit that sort of epitomises the Daleks in this episode, for me anyway, is actually one of Captain Jack’s lines.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are at war.

And that’s what this is here! It’s a gritty, brutal, war. One final stand, one final resistance. This episode is, I think, one of New Who’s strongest Dalek episodes, and it’s for this reason. We’re seeing an actual fight against the Daleks, full of desperation and fear.

But Daleks being Daleks, they go one better than that. They don’t just fight and kill, they exterminate. In one of the scariest moments of the episode, they go and kill all the other people who are hiding. Who didn’t believe in the Daleks. Who are having their worst fears realised. To see quite so many Daleks, swarming in and surrounding everyone… that’s scary. That is a scary set of Daleks.

There’s so many other fantastic moments in this little war, all of it adding together to create this dark, hopeless fight. There isn’t a line wasted in these scenes – one, chilling, awful moment is when the female producer of The Weakest Link calls Jack, and screams at him “You lied to us! The bullets don’t work!”. And then… she’s killed, only a few moments later. Just like everyone around her. There is so, so much death.

Of course, a benefit of being the second part of a two-parter is that we know a lot of these characters already. The two programmers, male and female, and Lynda with a Y. We knew them, in a way, and we cared about them, which meant what happened to them hurt all the more. The guy, finally, finally able to admit his feelings to his colleague – and then she’s killed. And he goes into a senseless rage – and he dies too. It’s awful.

And Lynda. God, what happens to her is so painful. She isn’t safe. She was never safe. But that last scene is so much worse because it’s silent, yet we know what the Dalek is saying. We can see the flash of it’s lights. It’s an awful, chilling moment.

But it gets worse still. Jack dies. And it’s a tragic, poignant moment. We’ve seen him develop and change since he was that conman. Since he was a coward. (God, that feels like ages ago). Yet here, he’s making the ultimate sacrifice. It’s a brilliant scene. His final line, full of that trademark bravado, really works. I remember quoting that for weeks after this. Actually, no, years. I love that line.

The whole thing comes together and it gives us the best Dalek episodes of the new series.

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The other important aspect of this episode (because it’s a threefold episode, split between the Daleks, the Doctor, and Rose) is, of course, Rose.

Sending Rose home was, I think, one of the best moments of the episode. It helped to tie everything together, bringing every theme and aspect of the series to a close.

The scenes with Rose and her family were amongst the best of the episode (though having said that, every scene is pretty damn great). There’s a pathos about them, to use a big word. Rose’s refusal to accept the Doctor’s death, and her refusal to stand by and do nothing is wonderful. The speech she gives is one of my favourites of the episode, and it kinda sums up, for me, a lot of the philosophy of the show. It’s quite profound, in it’s own way.

I really loved the scene where Rose tells Jackie about Pete. There’s an element of coming full circle there. The separate threads and plotlines come together and culminate here. Jackie finally accepts the Doctor and Rose’s new life with him, and helps.

And then we have the Bad Wolf. Seeded across the series, threaded through, hinted at, referenced. It’s been there, hiding in plain sight, all the time.

I love it.

I know it has it’s detractors, I know people whine about deus ex machina. I do not care. I love it, it’s brilliant, it’s wonderful, it’s excellent.

It works in the context of the story because it’s not just a deus ex machina (well technically it is but shut up), it comes from Rose. Rose takes the machine and makes herself a god, and goes out and deliberately saves the day. And it is really, really wonderful. It’s a wonderful, triumphant moment, and I love it. The Bad Wolf storyline has been concluded, and it really is excellent.

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Now, there’s one last thing to talk about, but I’m going to try and keep it brief, because this review is getting pretty long already, and I’d like to write an overview on Nine’s entire tenure and story arc next Wednesday.

This is, I think, Christopher Eccleston’s finest episode as the Doctor. And rightly so – the swan’s final song is its best.

He demonstrates so many different sides to his character here – the anger, the compassion, the intelligence – but most importantly, there is closure. The Doctor is finally able to move out of the shadow of the Time War. When presented with that same decision once again, he refuses to make it. Coward, any day. It’s a wonderful, poignant moment. On some levels, you’re happy for the Doctor, because he made the right decision – but it’s at such a cost. It’s already been at such a cost. There is no way to escape, it seems.

But the Doctor is finally the Doctor again.

Cliched though it may be, and I know that every other person who’s ever reviewed the Ninth Doctor must have said it… but I don’t care it’s great I’m saying it.

Now that it’s the end, before I go, there’s just one thing that needs to be said. He was fantastic.

And you know what? So was this entire episode. There’s so many things I didn’t get to mention, all sorts of little details… but everything was there.

And an episode like this deserves 10/10.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Bad Wolf

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Someone’s been playing a long game. Controlling the human race from behind the scenes for generations.

Ah.

Bad Wolf.

I’m feeling rather sort of nostalgic actually. Bad Wolf was the first episode of Doctor Who I ever watched, more or less. (I’m not 100% sure, more like 90%, but this is the episode I consider to have been my first one). Nine years ago today, give or take an hour, I started watching Doctor Who. I’ve passed a point where Doctor Who has now been a part of my life longer than it hasn’t been. That’s just mad to think about.

And, as first episodes go, it was one hell of an episode, wasn’t it?

So, Bad Wolf opens with the Doctor in the Big Brother house. It’s a very funny opening, and it works really well. The Doctor, in a way he doesn’t tend to, acts like the viewer would. He asks pertinent questions, he mocks the game, he finds it all very ridiculous. It carries through to Rose as well, as she laughs about being on The Weakest Link. I loved that actually, it really suited the tone of it. Of course you’d laugh at something like that- it’s totally absurd. (Actually what I found hilarious is how Jack got swept along with it, the only really willing participant – “I have to find the Doc- what do you mean you need to change my look?”)

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What I also liked about this was the very creepy, almost insidious build up of threat. It was rather interesting to watch back actually, because I didn’t really remember it all that well it turns out. I’d just sort of assumed, probably because I already knew, that the whole killer game show thing was obvious from the outset, but it wasn’t. It’s very slowly revealed, pared back bit by bit – until we start seeing people die, and it begins to kick in. As a reveal, I think it’s rather well done. (It’s good enough for me to forgive them the Daleks, who I wouldn’t have revealed until the very, very last seconds. Ah well.)

Another rather stand out aspect which I liked was the characterisation. It’s something I don’t really mention often, and that’s kinda a shame – there’s always really great characters in Doctor Who, always deftly created and well acted. (Or maybe I just love everything and I’m looking at it all through rose tinted glasses!)

Lynda (with a ‘y’) was a really great character. The first companion who could’ve been, I think. I do wonder, perhaps, if she would have been a companion had Christopher Eccleston stayed on? Probably not. I think she was always created to die, which is… nice, in a way. Dramatically I mean.

Once again, I loved seeing the interactions between Jack and the Doctor. They’re a great, really comfortable team. It’s a shame we never did get a season with Jack as a companion. (Incidentally, one of my favourite Doctor Who books, The Stealers of Dreams, has Jack in quite a prominent role, and it’s really fantastic. Recommended)

The final cliffhanger then… ooh, that’s very nice. The game show aspect is more or less dispensed with, and we get down to setting up the plot for next week. The Big Bad. The Big Bad Wolf, even. Our overarching enemies, who’re here for the ultimate showdown…

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Well, it was hardly going to be the Face of Boe, was it?

It’s a really great episode this one. And I’m not just saying that! There’s so many great elements here, I only got to touch on a few of them. I’ll give it a 9/10, because it really is that great – the only thing that, perhaps, I’m sad about is that the game show aspect wasn’t developed more, or given more attention. Seems almost like a lost opportunity.

It’s an odd one that, having TV on TV. Doctor Who doing TV. At the start of this review, I was talking about how Doctor Who has been a part of my life for such a long time… and then, we’ve recently had the 50th Anniversary… at the minute, I’m writing an essay for my English class about the influence of TV…

Doctor Who?

Well, it was never just a TV show, was it?

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Boom Town

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Let’s see who can look me in the eye.

This was the bottle episode. The cheap one, where they had to save money. There couldn’t be an Auton invasion of London, or a spaceship crashing into Big Ben. Platform One and assembled aliens were both out of the picture, as were WWII and Victorian Cardiff.

But… Doctor Who has a very long history of taking monetary limitations, and coming out with something fantastic. The chameleon circuit and the Police Box shape, for example, was borne out of a lack of money. And that’s become one of the show’s most enduring images. (I like to imagine the explanation of the chameleon circuit and the TARDIS exterior were because this was the ‘cheap episode’, and that’s why they exist)

So… cheap. Yeah. But… so what?

This episode doesn’t open with spectacle, but suspense. We see Mr Cleaver, telling an offscreen presence about the deaths and the dangers of this new project. It’s pretty interesting already, even if it doesn’t quite have the same hook as previous episodes. There’s mystery and intrigue rather than action and explosions. (Not that I’d ever pick one over the other. Both is good. Both is always good)

But… actually, no, it doesn’t start that way. Even before that, there’s a ‘previously on’ trailer – nowadays, everyone just knows – which tells us we’re going to be dealing with pre-existing characters and referencing earlier episodes. But that’s a good thing! What that does is allow us to see, and to examine, the consequences of the way the Doctor lives his life. It’s the first time we really see this in NuWho, and it’s going to become a bit of a theme over the years.

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It’s examined in a really interesting way – Margaret and the Doctor’s dinner is a really fantastic scene, with some really interesting questions put forward. Is the Doctor content to ‘execute’ her? Is he actually responsible for that, if he returns her? Doesn’t she deserve mercy?

Another stand out moment was the “Can you look me in the eye?” moment, in the TARDIS. It was very, very good, a great piece of writing in my opinion. (One thing I would perhaps have preferred would have been if, in the edit, they’d toned the music right down. It didn’t really fit, what they had going on there – it should have been much lower, more sinister. Subliminal, almost)

Christopher Eccleston’s acting of these scenes was pitch perfect – the steely eyes, the blank expression, the calm demeanor. Fantastic. Annette Badland is great as well, moving between threatening and pleading, and keeping it all very natural.

Something I was also quite fond of, and would maybe have liked to have seen more of, was the interplay between these four characters. It was really fantastic – Rose, Jack and the Doctor just seemed to be having so much fun together, which I always loving seeing. Doctor Who is, at it’s heart, quite an optimistic show, and to see the characters enjoying life… it’s nice. (Can you imagine a second series, with Rose, Nine and Jack? That would have been amazing. Just picture it. Wow.)

Mickey was pretty great as well. The way his relationship with Rose was portrayed was, I thought, quite intelligent – his getting angry was another demonstration of the consequences. It’s not just the Doctor, it’s the Doctor’s lifestyle. A lifestyle Rose has begun to live…

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It’s also a really funny episode. Lots and lots of funny moments, right alongside the darker stuff. And it never jars – everything fits together perfectly. My favourite exchange was this one:

Cathy Salt:  And then just recently Mr. Cleaver, the government’s nuclear advisor?

Margaret Blaine: Slipped on an icy patch.

Cathy Salt: He was decapitated!

Margaret Blaine: It was a very icy patch.

Absolutely brilliant. Margaret has a lot of funny lines throughout though, she’s a really great character.

The ending, admittedly, is probably one of the weaker elements of the story. It is a bit… deus ex machina, as it were, and does only exist to set up next week’s episode. (I know the budget wouldn’t have supported it, but maybe it would have been better if the TARDIS got a bit destroyed in the process, rather than just a panel popping open?)

It also conveniently avoids giving any sort of answer to all those great questions that were posed throughout, which is a little bit of a shame.

So… in all, a very, very good episode, which I would definitely rewatch. The ending does let it down a little, but I’m still going to give it a strong, and possibly slightly arbitrary, 8/10

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Doctor Dances

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Just this once Rose, everybody lives!

Another week, another episode. We’re back again in 1941 Britain, height of the Blitz, middle of the war, with all hell about to break loose. Time travel really opens up a lot of possibilities, it’s fantastic. So many different stories and settings and opportunities. I wonder, perhaps, if the show had just been about space travellers (Relative Dimensions in Space) back in 1963, would it have made it 50 years? (Maybe. Star Trek and all.)

Digressing somewhat though.

Right from the bat, this episode hits the ground running (unlike this review. Oh, it’s almost like I planned it). The resolution to the cliffhanger is really very clever – “Go to your room!” – and segues right into a brilliant joke. There’s a precedent set for the rest of the episode – smart moments, and fantastic jokes. As it goes, that’s a pretty good standard for a Doctor Who episode – smart and funny is a great baseline.

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One thing that stands out is just how smart it is. It’s really intricately plotted, and it fits together brilliantly. Every part of the episode which is important later on is foreshadowed and set up ahead of time – nothing feels like it’s come out of nowhere, as it were. It means that the episode plays out really well, and just… works. Perhaps not the most articulate praise I’ve ever given an episode, but it’s definitely the most meant. If that even makes any sense at all. What stands out to me is the Chula ambulance reveal – it’s the nanogenes. We’ve known about the nanogenes ever since the start of the story, but we haven’t noticed them. This isn’t an “I’ll explain later moment”, it’s a “Look, in the corner of your eye…” moment, and the story benefits for it.

Something which benefits from all of this forethought are the character arcs; Jack and Nancy in particular get some pretty great material. With Nancy, you can see her progression from harbouring the guilt and denial about what happened to Jamie, to eventually becoming a lot more hopeful about the future – something which comes, I think, from Rose’s conversation with her about the end of the war. That was a really nice moment – amidst all the destruction, in the middle of that bleak airfield, Rose gives Nancy hope for the future. I loved that.

What was great about Jack, and this carries on over the next few weeks, is that he does start out as being a lot more selfish, and a lot more self serving, before changing – he starts out making jokes about Volcano day, and finishes willing to sacrifice himself to stop ‘Volcano day’. It’s a fantastic character arc, and it’s really well acted by John Barrowman. It shows, again, the ways in which the Doctor can influence and inspire people.

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Finally then. It’s Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor, not Nine Years of Captain Jack and Nancy. Once again, Christopher Eccleston gives a fantastic performance – some of the best moments are where he gets angry at Jack for his reckless behaviour. Maybe he sees shades of the old disaster tourist he used to be in Jack…?

Of course it’s not just the angry moments he pulls off well – all the interplay about the bananas and the squareness gun are brilliant. For an episode which is renowned for being scary, it’s one of the funniest scripts that we’ve had across nine years. There’s a joke every few minutes – my own favourite is the “Dr Constantine, when I came to you, I only had one leg!”//“Well, there is a war on, is it possible you may have miscounted?” joke.

So… another really great episode. I’m going to give it another 9/10 – it’s a really, really great episode. Taking the two parts of the story together I think I would have given it 10/10 as a 90-minute movie episode.

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: The Empty Child

doctor who the empty child review steven moffat james hawes christopher eccleston ninth doctor captain jack john barrowman rose tyler billie piper

You’re amazing. The lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me. Off you go, then. Do what you got to do. Save the world.

You know, this episode has something of a reputation, doesn’t it?

Widely held up as one of Steven Moffat’s best episodes, considered by many to be one of the best episodes of Series One, and it was voted as the 5th Best Doctor Who Episode Ever in DWM’s Mighty 200 poll in 2009. And, it’s won a Hugo Award.

So it’s a little bit of a big deal actually, isn’t it?

The real question though… well, the real question is whether or not it stands up to my requirements…

One of the things which stands out, almost immediately, is that this is actually really, really, funny. There’s a couple of jokes that are quoted a lot, like “I don’t know if it’s Marxism in action or a West End musical”, or “I’m looking for a blonde in a Union Jack T Shirt. A specific one, I didn’t just wake up with a craving” but my own favourite is nearer to the beginning, when the Doctor’s in the nightclub. The whole exchange where he asks about something falling from the sky and making a large bang, then realising he’s in the middle of the Blitz… priceless. It’s a joke that only really works once though probably – I already know it’s set in 1941, so the effect is lessened… but it’s still hilarious. So’s Christopher Eccleston’s expression, it’s fantastic.

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Another thing I liked about this episode was that, in being a two-parter, it was allowed to take the pace a lot more slowly. It got to a point, about 35 minutes in, when I realised that all of the preceding scenes would have had to be condensed down to 10 minutes if this were a normal episode. It was nice, actually, being able to take things more slowly, and show the quieter character moments. I must admit, it’s something I sometimes miss in the show now (which is not to say they don’t exist, obviously, just that there’s fewer of them).

The fact that we had the time spent with the kids, or with Dr Constantine, meant that the threatening moments had a far greater impact than if we hadn’t already had those crucial scenes with them. Dr Constantine’s transformation is one of the best moments of the episode; it’s wonderfully structured, foreshadowed and hinted at well, and when it actually happens, it’s actually rather frightening. And in establishing what happens to him, it makes the cliffhanger even more potent later on.

The Empty Child himself, or itself, is actually really creepy, isn’t it? It’s got a very, very eerie voice. A sort of… quality to it. I suppose that’s why, bar “Exterminate!” and maybe “Delete”, the most quoted monster phrase from recent years is “Are you my mummy?”. That’s always a spooky, spooky thing.

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Something I like about the cliffhanger, though it’s probably just coincidental, is that the scene with Nancy underneath the table echoes the scene in Matilda, where Matilda is under the table in Trunchball’s house. It’s a really tense scene in that movie, and some of it translates into this scene as well. I imagine the point was to have connotations with hide and seek, that sort of thing. Juxtaposition of the mundane and the threatening. Very good, very Doctor Who.

On the topic of children, it was pretty interesting to see the Ninth Doctor’s only lengthy interaction with children. It was particularly interesting to think about it in terms of the 50th Anniversary, and the 2 billion children on Gallifrey. There’s a few Time War references in there anyway, like “Before this war, I was both a father and a grandfather. Now I am neither, but I am still a Doctor”, and “You lose someone. That’s why you’re doing this, helping people”. The way he reacted to someone calling through the TARDIS phone was interesting as well.

The Doctor was pretty at ease with the kids at any rate, which was nice to see. Happier than he seems around adults at times even.

So… a very, very good episode. I’m unwilling to give it a ten out of ten though, because it doesn’t quite feel like an episode, more like… the first half of a ninety-minute film. Which it is, really. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. So… hmm. I did give Aliens of London its own grade, didn’t I?

Alright. I’ll give it a provisional and ever so slightly arbitrary 9/10

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Nine Years of the Ninth Doctor: Father’s Day

doctor who father's day review billie piper rose tyler paul cornell shaun dingwall joe ahearne ninth doctor christopher eccleston russell t davies

Rose, there’s a man alive in the world who wasn’t alive before. An ordinary man: that’s the most important thing in creation. The whole world’s different because he’s alive!

I have a book. In fact, I have several. (Did you guess?)

The particular book in question, though, is called Doctor Who: The Shooting Scripts (2005). It’s a fantastic book, and it’s definitely worth picking up a copy. It’s a big, hardback book containing the shooting scripts for Christopher Eccleston’s series as the Doctor.

And as part of each script, there’s a little introduction by each of the writers. In his introduction, Paul Cornell writes that, for him, Doctor Who has always been about “big emotions”.

Well, he certainly managed that here.

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This episode revolves around Rose and her family; she asks the Doctor to take her back to 1987, so she can be with her father when he dies. Already that’s a brilliant idea, and you can see all the different possibilities – it’s just begging to go wrong.

And, of course, go wrong it does.

Rather than just be with her father Pete as he dies, Rose averts his death. She changes her personal timeline in a big way. Her father lives – and she gets to know him. There’s no Back to the Future style fading away here – Rose stays, and deals with the immediate consequences, rather than ramifications further down the line.

Brilliantly, but perhaps also obviously, Pete isn’t anything like Rose expected. He’s not the idealised man in the idealised marriage that Jackie always told her about; Pete is fallible. More than that, he’s already failing. His marriage is strained, his business non-existent. Rose gets to know her father as he is, not as he was remembered. And that’s absolutely brilliant – it makes the whole thing feel a lot more real.

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Shaun Dingwall, who plays Pete, gives an absolutely brilliant performance. He probably rivals Simon Pegg as best guest actor of the series; the relationship between him and Billie Piper is absolutely pitch perfect. Everything about it is absolutely right. The best scenes of the entire episode – and I’m sure this has been said again, but I’ll say it again – are those where Rose and Pete properly talk. Talk about the picnics and the bedtime stories, or about being bald… they’re very poignant moments, which are brilliantly written and performed.

The Doctor and the Reapers have a pretty interesting part of the story, though they’re not really the point of it all. Still, what’s Doctor Who without monsters? Christopher Eccleston gives another great performance here – I really liked his scenes with the soon-to-be-married couple. Very Doctor-y. His anger at Rose was also very well done.

So, in all, another great episode. The season is shaping up pretty well, isn’t it?

8/10

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