The Empty Child / The Doctor DancesBookmark and Share

Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Andrew Philips

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.