Doctor Who 1.03: The Unquiet Dead

Watched this plus Aliens of London last night. This is what I thought in 2005:

It’s so much fun having a show that I can squee over πŸ™‚

The first thing to say is that, IMHO, this is the best episode yet. Atmospheric, intriguing, some lovely character moments and thoroughly absorbing.

I’ve always been a fan of Doctor Who historical adventures. Space-ships and futuristic stuff? Cool, but often not provoking as much emotion in me. Contemporary stuff? Always fun, often more emotional resonance for me, but still not that different from other shows. Historical settings with sci-fi elements? Very, very cool.

Doctor Who is probably the only show where I can accept backwards time-travel without getting irritated by the theoretical physics behind it.

So a historical adventure set in the 1860s with aid from Charles Dickens was something that I was looking forward to. And I’m glad to say that it worked. Victorian era is always good to do ghost stories in. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the people, clothing and atmosphere that lends itself well to ghosts. The script was great. Yes, maybe if I’d been analysing as I went then I might have guessed that the Gelf would turn out to be evil. But I honestly wasn’t watching it that way. I had a feeling that Gwynneth wouldn’t survive – it may be a new rule that anyone Rose befriends will meet a sticky end – but didn’t put it together until the final scenes.

The idea of the Gelf, the gas and the rift worked well. It explained the goings-on, the zombies and Gwynneth’s increasing psychic powers. Maybe it wouldn’t hold up if I worked too hard at unravelling it, but I’m not going to so :-p~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon Callow as Charles Dickens was just brilliant. He’s always great to watch and he threw himself into that role. Loved it πŸ™‚

Gwynneth was another great character. I liked her observations of our world from Rose’s memories. Her comment about Rose seeing her as ‘stupid’ made a lot of sense and added something to both of their characterisations. I was genuinely sad that the Doctor couldn’t save her, even though I couldn’t see how she could carry on in her time and place with the knowledge that she had gained.

Hopefully the zombies were scary enough to terrify the kids. They had me a little worried (not a big zombie fan) and looked pretty darned creepy. This was the kind of episode that seemed geared to scaring the kids and evoking the old ‘hide behind the sofa’ response that Doctor Who is famous for. Not every DW episode was scary – many were just fun adventures – but I can remember having some scared moments as a kid. ‘The Curse of Fenric’, ‘Survival’ and ‘Vengence on Varos’ stand out in my mind and I still can’t quite bring myself to watch ‘Survival’. I’ve got ‘The Curse of Fenric’ on my list with Amazon rentals – it should be arriving next week and I’ll find out where it’s still scary for me.

Rose and the Doctor have, sadly, got chemistry in buckets. Damn. I’m going to be working hard to resist the shipper instinct with them. Absolutely adored the Doctor’s admission that she’s beautiful ‘for a human’ – perfect delivery there πŸ™‚ And the dying together moment was great, too. Damn those writers giving us a sexy Doctor who has chemistry with his attractive assistant.

Rose is growing on me a lot. She’s very human in her responses to everything, but you get the sense that the Doctor sees the potential for more in her. She also grounds the Doctor and tries to force him to remember that her morals are different from his. Her enthusiasm for their adventures is lovely and she doesn’t take crap from anyone, even the Doctor.

And she looks great in Victorian get-up *g*

I’m also becoming a huge fan of Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor. The combination of manic enthusiasm and moments of solemnity, even deep sadness, gives him a personality of his own as well as a reference to previous incarnations.

We now have a title for this mysterious war: the Time War. The hints are just enough to leave me itching to know more without overwhelming the stories. I know that it’s going to be revealed gradually over the remaining weeks and I can’t wait to find out what it all means. My opinion has changed from “not sure about where I want understanding of canon to be tampered with” to “give me more, now, now, now”. I’m such an easy target for this stuff πŸ™‚

I’m sure there are other things that I wanted to pick out, but right now I’m drawing a blank. Except to repeat that I loved this episode πŸ™‚

I’ve just discovered a new cure for headaches: coffee and a bag of marshmallows. Who knew?

Pretty much everything that I said, I still stand by.

Except the comment on Rose in that costume. I’m so sorry, but all I could think as I watched last night is how bad Rose’s posture is! Oh, wow, she really needs to stand up straight. That dress was not built for slouching.

This was the episode that I now think of as the one that kick started things, the one that showed just what Doctor Who could be and where I started to really believe that it was going to work. The first couple of episodes were fun, but this is the one where I sat up and went “wow”. It was chilling in places, beautiful in others, and just right in tone and pacing. I’ve been a fan of Simon Callow since Four Weddings and a Funeral, so I loved seeing him here a Dickens made the journey from worn and jaded to being filled with the wonder and joy of what could happen around him.

This was the written by Mark Gatiss, who has an episode in the upcoming season, so it was the first time that we saw a non-Russell T Davies scripted story. At the time I was so grateful that he’d done a brilliant job of bringing Doctor Who back that I was willing to overlook any weaknesses in RTD scripts. Now I’m happy to admit that RTD is good, but definitely not the strongest writer on the show. He has only written the script for one of my favourite eps (Turn Left) and Mark Gatiss is definitely one of the stronger writers.

It’s also funny to see me talking about the chemistry between the Doctor and Rose. By the end of season 2, I’d had quite enough of that! Here, though, it really is done in a gentle, subtle way and I think that’s as much due to the difference between Eccleston and Tennant as it is a difference in script writers.

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