It's Day 3 of my NaBloPoMo challenge, and thus time for Episode 3 of Series 1! So far in series 1 we've had the attack of the creepy mannequins and a visit to the death of the Earth. So what's next? A journey to the past, of course! In this case, Christmas Eve 1869, in Cardiff, Wales, complete with a ghost/zombie storyline that somehow involves Charles Dickens.
I found it kind of amusing how much they had the Doctor diss Cardiff in this episode. Because, if you know anything about Doctor Who, you know that Cardiff is where they currently film the show. So the fact that he keeps commenting about it like it's some podunk town is pretty funny (and most likely did not sit well with some Welsh people).
Anyway, the plot of the episode is that the Doctor is planning on taking Rose to 1860 Naples - since he wants to take her to the past now that she's been to the future - but something goes awry in the flight, and they end up in 1869 Cardiff instead. They then find themselves involved with an undertaker named Mr. Sneed and his servant girl Gwyneth, who have been having issues with their cadavers waking up and walking around like zombies. As aforesaid, Charles Dickens gets involved in all this as well, as the initial zombie victim in the episode had a wish before she died to see Dickens's one-man show, which was taking place that evening, with him performing his story "A Christmas Carol."
I thought the gal who played Gwyneth, Eve Myles, did a great job in this episode. Apparently, she also plays Gwen Cooper, a main character on the spin-off Torchwood. I might watch Torchwood just for that, even though it stars John Barrowman, my impression of whom has not been positive so far, even though I've only really seen him in the Doctor Who Brit List special.
Somewhat of a spoiler: the seemingly-innocent Gelth - the token alien in this episode - end up being, well, demons. Not "angels" as Gwyneth called them when they visited her via her inborn clairvoyant abilities. Somehow I think I expected this, but with this show you know aliens can take all sorts of forms, and so I was ready to believe the Doctor when he just said they were aliens and nothing more. And I suppose they are, from another universe as the Doctor states, but at any rate they are revealed as malevolent, and it takes some quick thinking from Dickens and a heroic act from Gwyneth to stop the Gelth from destroying the human race just to acquire bodies.
The concept of Gwyneth's clairvoyant abilities and the ghosts/Gelth scenario is actually not too surprising, when you think about it. Spiritualism - a sort of religious movement tied to being able to contact the dead - was very popular in the 19th century, as were occult ideas such as Theosophy. Therefore this sort of idea actually fits into the time period.
I also like the way Dickens was portrayed in this episode. Unfortunately, I'm not as much of a fan of his as I would like to be -- the only novels of his I've read are Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, and those were both for school. Here he is played by Simon Callow (though I swore it was Michael Gambon for some reason; his first scene reminded me a lot of Gambon Dumbledore). Callow is well-known for his writings on Dickens and has played him in a one-man show called The Mystery of Charles Dickens as well as in movies and TV shows. (I imagine his one-man show is similar to the one my parents and I saw by David Payne, An Evening with C.S. Lewis - which is definitely worth seeing if you get a chance. You can see a clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4Vx6L3MhIg&noredirect=1). The scene of Dickens doing a recitation/reading of "A Christmas Carol" in front of an audience in this episode actually has a basis in fact - he did indeed do tours of such readings from 1868 to 1870. And, just as the Doctor mentions at the end of the episode, he died in 1870, leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished.
This episode, more than any so far, reinforces the "for the good of the many" attitude the Doctor seems to have. Even if Rose begs him to save one innocent person (Gwyneth in this case), he will refuse in order to do the greater good of saving the rest of humanity. This attitude does get him in trouble though in this episode, when he trusts the Gelth and offers to help them out, only to find out they aren't what they seem.
We also find out a bit more about the Time War in this episode via the Gelth. They say the universe convulsed as a result of the Time War, and it was "devastating to higher forms." You can see the Doctor's expression become pensive when they say this, as if he's remembering that horrible time over again. Clearly he's got shellshock and some serious survivor's guilt, though he doesn't want to show it.
The token "Bad Wolf" reference for this episode comes from Gwyneth, who utters "the Big Bad Wolf" when she's with Rose and her clairvoyance kicks in.
Interesting note: Dickens doesn't understand the Doctor's use of "fan" meaning to be a fan of something. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term "fan" derived from the earlier term "fanatic" (which Dickens would have known), but in this meaning seems to be of American origin and thus may not have been well-known in Britain at the time.
Also, fans of Dickens will notice details relating to him in this ep. First of all - and the thing I noticed - they made Callow look exactly like how Dickens looks in all the usual pictures of him, right down to the beard. Thus I recognized him as Charles Dickens immediately. When Dickens is on stage, the work he's reciting is his story "A Christmas Carol," as aforesaid. Also, when the Doctor rides with Dickens in the carriage, he references several of Dickens's works in his fanboy excitement (Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Martin Chuzzlewit, the death of Little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop, and the short story "The Signal Man"). Later, when the Doctor enters the morgue, he says "Urgh. Talk about Bleak House," which refers to another of Dickens's books, Bleak House. When Dickens escapes Sneed's, the Gelth ghosts go into the door knocker, which may refer to the scene in "A Christmas Carol" when Scrooge's knocker turns into Marley's face. As the Doctor and Rose are leaving, Dickens refers to his book The Mystery of Edwin Drood. And at the very end, as Dickens is walking away, someone says to him "Merry Christmas, sir" to which he replies "Merry Christmas to you. God bless us every one!" which mirrors Scrooge's words at the end of "A Christmas Carol."
Oh and I finally got the answer to my question about where the heck Amy and Rory got those clothes for the 1890's in "The Power of Three." Apparently, the Doctor's got a whole wardrobe of period clothes somewhere in the TARDIS. Near the bins (meaning he's got trash bins too; not sure why - but that's what British people mean when they say "bins").
Overall, a good episode. Looking forward to what's next!
The Love of the Doctor and Rose Tyler
Part Three: Journey to the Past
Since the theme of NaBloPoMo this month is "Love and Sex" (probably because of Valentine's Day), I feel compelled to write something about love in my posts. Hence, since I am exploring Series 1 and 2 in this challenge, I am going to write a little special essay throughout the month about the growing love between the Doctor and Rose. Please note I am in no way an expert on relationships.
In this episode, the Doctor and Rose journey together to the past. Their relationship seems to have improved, based on the early part of the episode when they're in the TARDIS. Later they end up in danger of possibly dying from the attack by the Gelth, and he admits that he's glad he met her, to which she replies the same. Now, I suppose this is the sort of thing that comes out when you and a friend are in mortal danger, but it does show a progression in their relationship.
The Doctor does actually seem concerned about Rose's safety this time. He makes her change into period clothes to avoid a riot, steals Dickens's hansom cab to go after Rose when she's kidnapped by Sneed, and tells Dickens to get Rose out of the room when she starts coughing from all the gas. He also shows concern when she says it's impossible for her to die before she's born, and explains to her that because time is not linear as we suppose, time could twist and she could be born in the 20th century and die in the 19th, and it would be his fault cause he brought her there. (This is somewhat similar to what the Weeping Angels do; they send you back in time - to before you were even born to begin with - and force you to live out the rest of your natural life. However, your life in the past before being sent back by them will apparently still happen, since in "The Angels Take Manhattan" Amy tells the Doctor to visit her younger self and encourage her, an idea that supposes that her younger self has not been erased from existence).
So, they've been to the future, and they've been to the past. What could be next? Well, based on the "Next on Doctor Who," aliens attacking London and a UFO running into Big Ben. Another test awaits our dear couple! We'll see what happens!
See you guys tomorrow for Episode 4!
Quotes from The Doctor Who Transcripts.