Doctor Who: The Unquiet Dead

Doctor: 'I'm so glad I met you.'
Rose: 'Me, too.'

That's three times in three episodes that Rose has almost died: once in the present, once in the future, and this week she almost died in the past. (Ghosts from A Christmas Carol, anyone?) So, is Rose ready to admit that life with the Doctor is simply too dangerous? Errr... not really, no. I have to say, were I a ten year old boy again, I'd have been terrified by tonight's episode. In fact, even as an adult, seeing Mrs Pearce come back from the dead, all Danny Glick eyes and mouth spewing forth blue vapour, I was still looking for a cushion to hide behind. A very macabre Dickensian tale from Mark Gatiss—quite literally in view of the fact that Dickens himself played a central role.

We had two heroes this week. Firstly, there was Gwyneth, Gabriel Sneed's clairvoyant servant. Poor Gwyneth. Her angels didn't turn out to be angels after all, they were Gelth—disembodied aliens, existing in gaseous form. Their purpose? To take over the planet, of course. What self respecting alien baddie doesn't have this as a modus operandi? Thankfully, several million Gelth were no match for Gwyneth, who in traditional Doctor Who fashion, saved the world by sacrificing her own life. (Can you feel that religious symbolism?)

The other hero of the piece was Charles Dickens, played by popular British thespian, Simon Callow. Callow's no stranger to Dickens—he's both played him on television before and written extensively about him. His character started out the episode an unbeliever, forced to reassess his belief system in light of all he sees and experiences. Luckily, by the end of the episode he was a changed man. Despite legging it when things got a bit hairy, he still had the courage to return and save the day—even though his theory was in reality little more than a hunch. I wonder what 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Blue Elementals' would have been like? Shame he didn't get to finish it.

And while Dicken's was struggling to deal with his own cognitive faculties, the Doctor was likewise struggling to keep a level head. His love of new races clearly hampered his clear thinking abilities tonight. He obviously has a deep affection for all alien races—even those trying to kill him—but I do wonder whether guilt played a part in him agreeing to allow the Gelth to survive in human cadavers. It was, after all, the Time War that stripped them of their bodies—a war the Doctor was actively involved in. Is this why he agreed to let them indulge in such a revolting method of self preservation? The Doctor likened it to organ donation—but it seemed more akin to zombie-ism.

Rose was fun too this week. Her 'nice bum' comment was a perhaps a little scandalous for poor Gwyneth, but where did Gwyneth get the idea that Rose is a lady of breeding? She has a Cockney accent for goodness sakes! As ever, Rose provided a nice counterbalance to the Doctor, her humanity tempering his sometimes all too alien thinking. The Doctor saw the Gelth inhabiting the dead as a 'different kind of morality', whereas Rose saw it as an anathema. In the end, rather fittingly, it was Gwyneth's death that brought them back together.

Other Thoughts:

—This is the third consecutive episode in which the Doctor's failed to save the day. In 'Rose', it was Rose who defeated the Nestene Consciousness. In 'The End of The World', although he played a part in saving everyone, it was Jabe's sacrifice which allowed him to ultimately succeed. And in this episode it was Gwyneth and Dickens combined who save everyone's bacon. (Mmmm...bacon.)

—Mark Gatiss wrote this episode. Many will know Gatiss as one quarter of British comedy team The League Of Gentlemen. ('This is a local shop for local people!') He also played the part of Richard Lazarus in season three episode, 'The Lazarus Experiment' and penned second season episode, 'The Idiot's Lantern'.

—A second Bad Wolf reference this week: 'The things you've seen... the darkness... the Big Bad Wolf.'

—Dickens cries out 'what the Shakespeare,' an exclamation poking fun at the phrase 'what the Dickens' (although the saying itself has nothing to do with Charles Dickens and everything to do with the devil).

—Many will recognize the actress who played Gwyneth (Eve Myles) as the same actress who plays Gwen Cooper in Torchwood. In the later episode 'Journeys End,' the Doctor asks Gwen whether she's from an 'old Cardiff family,' suggesting a link between present day Gwen and Dickensian psychic chick, Gwyneth. I did notice a slight resemblance.

—The story was set in Cardiff 1869, just 18 years after the story, 'The Next Doctor.'

Billie says...

I liked this one a little better than last week's, mostly because of Simon Callow's wonderful Dickens. I loved all the little references to A Christmas Carol and the other little touches, like the very Dickensian character of Sneed, the amoral undertaker. Loved the Doctor as Dickens' number one fan. And I thought that last exchange between the Doctor and Dickens ("My books, Doctor. Do they last?") was quite touching, considering that Dickens didn't have long to live.

Plus, there was Gwyneth, who gave her life to save the world. I liked her, too, and not just because of her striking resemblance to Gwen Cooper.

I want to see the rest of the Tardis! I want a suite of my own!

Quotes:

Rose: "You can go back and see days that are dead and gone a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still."
Doctor: "Not a bad life."
Rose: "Better with two."

Doctor: "Do the death of Little Nell. It cracks me up."

Doctor: "Don't antagonize her. I love a happy medium."
Rose: "I can't believe you just said that."

Doctor: "I think it's gone a little bit wrong."

Doctor: "Mr. Sneed, what's the weakest part of this house? The place where most of the ghosts have been seen?"
Sneed: "That would be the morgue."
Rose: "Any chance you were going to say gazebo?"

Rose: "I haven't even been born yet. It's impossible for me to die. Isn't it?"

Doctor: "I saw the Fall of Troy. World War Five. I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party. Now I'm going to die in a dungeon... in Cardiff."
---
Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.

3 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Love it. The gothic era has always been my favourite period of Classic Who so this was right up my ally. It’s got everything; ghosts that are not ghosts, zombies that are...well still zombies, a Victorian setting, Rose in period dress, some witty dialogue and Charles Dickens. Perfect, everything you could want from an episode of Doctor Who.

And you know what, I also want to see the rest of the TARDIS. Wonder if the Doctor still has that swimming pool or even the art gallery, hmm…

shawnlunn2002 said...

Superb episode, by far the strongest of the first three but I love the period episodes more on this show than any other.

Did you know that David Tennant was originally considered for the role of Sneed before they made the character older?

Eve Myles was good as Gwyneth, as was Simon Callow as Dickens. Also Chris and Billie are definitely building a good rapport with each other.

It's a pity we never saw the Gelth again after this episode but maybe that's for the best.

Billie, we don't really see much of the TARDIS aside from console (although The Christmas Invasion we did have a look into the Doctor's wardrobe).

dragon_of_celts said...

Apart from "Dalek", very possibly the best of the first [new] season, in my opinion.
Not to nitpick, but Jabe's sacrifice (in the previous episode) was kind of irrelevant, since the Doctor walked through the blades after they had resumed full speed. No?