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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.


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Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

One of the things that annoys me most about the new series is Russell T. Davies's refusal to take his job seriously: he fills his scripts with unsubtle subtexts, gives planets and monsters comedy names and has a general nudge-nudge-wink-wink-aren't-I-postmodern attitude. One good by-product of this though is that when another writer is allowed to pen an episode it very often looks doubly good-and that is exactly what has happened now, for The Empty Child two-parter is one of the scariest and best episodes of Doctor Who that I've seen for a long time.

As no other episodes are written by Steven Moffat or directed by James Hawes I had very little idea what to expect, but I was generally optimistic. This was paid off very quickly with one of the best directorial touches I've ever seen in the series: Rose sees the child perched on a rooftop and the camera cuts jerkily closer towards the eerie figure, much as James Whale did for Frankenstein. What follows is a truly spectacular piece of effects work as Rose dangles helplessly from a barrage balloon; a lot of the time with Doctor Who I find myself defending scenes that, while ambitious, are a bit too much for the budget to manage (I'm thinking The Web Planet here); now I can happily say that producer Phil Collinson, the Mill and of course Billie Piper rose to the occasion (no pun intended) in superb form.

Moving on like a roller coaster, we are then introduced to the new companion, 'Captain' Jack Harkness, excellently played by John Barrowman. He seems like a more interesting character than Rose: although nobody is criticising Piper's skills as an actress the whole working-class-girl vibe is hardly original. Now we get a rogue time-travelling con man with his own memory-loss story arc being set up, which looks to be very interesting. He is given an excellently designed ship (which feels more like the TARDIS than the TARDIS does), and the scene with it tethered to Big Ben is brilliant, if a little indulgent.

Meanwhile, the Doctor, with Christopher Eccleston playing him to his usual standard, has been investigating the mystery of the Child. He meets the kind-hearted Nancy, beautifully played by the lovely Florence Hoath, whom I would say is the best guest star in the series since Simon Callow in The Unquiet Dead. A very sympathetic character, with the idea of her helping out the street kids through the loss of her brother (more on that later) being very touching. From her we come to Albion Hospital and an excellent cameo from Richard Wilson, who delivers a huge amount of plot. Although subtle exposition has never been one of the programme's strong points here it works well through a combination of acting, writing, and an exceptional core idea. This culminates in one of the programme's scariest ever scenes, where Richard Wilson's face transforms into a gas mask in a truly horrific moment. It is exactly the kind of thing that used to scare me as a child, and is in fact so frightening that the BBC's decision to tone down the sound effects seems rather pointless and tokenistic. In truth this scene has provokes less outcry than I was expecting, and I must stress that I am in no way criticising it: I thought it, like all the rest, was brilliant.

This is, in truth, a very scary story. It is a real contender to the title of Scariest Story Ever, which for me still goes to The Curse Of Fenric (it's something about the Second World War, I swear). The two stories have a lot in common, such as the flawless period detail, the lovely scene where Ace / Rose comforts Rev. Wainwright / Nancy about the uncertain future, and ordinary people being converted into monsters. This seems like a good point to mention the monsters: like the Autons in Rose and the Reapers in Father's Day they aren't actually named on screen, so I've been thinking of them unofficially as the Plaguebearers, which seems to fit the bill. They are seriously frightening, as gas masks always look slightly grotesque at the best of times. What makes the Plaguebearers scary is the concept behind them, the knowledge of their dreadful internal injuries, and the aforementioned transformation scene. They are very original spin on the traditional zombie, and it takes an excellent writer and director to turn "are you my Mummy?" into a genuinely chilling line.

With the Doctor reunited with Rose we move on to part two, The Doctor Dances. It gets off to a strong start with a superb line about famous last words, proving that comedy writers are indeed the best people to write comedy. It then resolves the issue of the cylinder fired to Earth by Captain Jack hitting and killing a child, which is something I'd had a problem with after part one. I'd been a bit sceptical about part two as the first episode had been largely carried on the sense of mystery, and I was wondering if it would stand up to repeated viewing once the plot was explained. I needn't have worried, with the mystery giving way to some superb dialogue and a race-against-the-clock feel that I always find exciting.

This leads on to its dramatic climax, which fulfils all the criteria for something epic: out heroes stand by an alien device in a disused railway station while German bombs fall and the Plaguebearers advance. This leads to a final twist revelation followed by an unexpectedly moving resolution. The enormous optimism of the finale makes the lighter moments of the episode, such as the dancing Doctor, fully justified as opposed to an episode like Inferno where the pessimistic tone makes the jokey ending seem inappropriate.

The only thing that worries me is the proposed return of the Slitheen next week; I can't think of any other episode that I'd least like to see a sequel to. How about a third episode of The Empty Child? I don't want to end such a positive review on a negative note, so to sum up then, on behalf of fandom I would like to thank everyone involved in production for giving us a quite brilliant story that along with Dalek is surely going to stand as one of the highlights of 21st Century Doctor Who, for however many years it lasts.

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Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Matt Kimpton

It’s an odd thing, reviewing. Writing bad reviews is easy, you just let loose with your critical cannon, taking smug pot-shots at easy targets and winching up the bitch factor until you come off looking cool. Writing good reviews, on the other hand, is a right pain in the word-processor, because there isn’t really anything to say beyond “Good this, isn’t it?”.

For that reason, and for that reason alone, I despise The Empty Child. I have nothing to say about it whatsoever. It is, quite simply, magnificent.

After apparently leaving not a dry eye in the country in Father’s Day, Russell T’s meticulously planned season moves to the opposite end of the anatomy, threatening the safety of children’s mattresses everywhere with the most deliberately frightening story since Tom Baker’s gothic heyday. That it does so with little more than an air-raid siren, a toy monkey and a kid in a gas mask says all you need to know about the talent behind this show. But that it combines the fear factor (“Chilling” to “Terrifying”, according to the BBC’s adorable clique of fear forecasters) with drama, intrigue, a fiercely-paced plot, laugh out loud comedy and enough emotion to bring tears even to the eyes of a reviewer irritated by not having anything complain about… That tells you what you really need to know. This isn’t just good; it’s a classic.

The script comes courtesy of Stephen Moffat, author of, among other things, the Dr Who sketch The Curse of Fatal Death and the hit sitcom Coupling (recently exported wholesale to the US, with the only changes being the accents, the location, and the substitution of ‘hit’ with ‘cancelled’). Justly famed for his use of complex narrative devices in the tired old genre of sitcom, Moffat has a real eye for structure, with the result that this is by far the most strongly plotted story of the season. With comedy and drama being essentially the same but for the nature of the punchline – it’s all about disguising the set-up so you can’t see the pay-off coming – The Empty Child is as well constructed as one of his jokes, combining terror, action and mystery in a story that intrigues as much as it scares, and keeping all the subplots and elements balanced until the crucial resolution. When the end arrives it turns out to be feel both surprising and inevitable, the mark of true storytelling - and after two episodes spinning from chills to thrills to witty banter, it still manages to find new emotional territory, hitting an emotional high by finding a conclusion that not only works, but matters. It can’t be easy creating a fresh character arc for the regular cast when you’re ten episodes into the season, but Moffat manages it, by putting a romantic comedy at the heart of a horror story, and then not playing by the rules of either. If only it hadn’t worked, I could have had a bitchy reviewing field-day, but no – his whole script is flawless, gripping and beautiful. Damn his eyes.

Mind you, the visual side of things was even worse, in the sense of being even better. Even a great script can be ruined by rubbish execution, which would have been handy for me, but no, there are remarkably few flaws on display. The taut, gripping direction is absolutely terrific, conveying a creepy, shadowy view of night-time London, and keeping the sense of menace only barely hidden in the background even during the lighter scenes. Use of point-of-view camera feels like a genuinely frightening way of telling the story rather than a budget-saving measure, and the lighting – or rather the darking, in most scenes – adds a real sense of cinematic scope. The period setting is exquisitely realised, with studio sets and location work combining perfectly to bring a rainy night in the Blitz to life, and even the budget-stretching cgi dogfights over London only marginally straining the credulity. It comes to something when you can’t even rely on Murray Gold to cock up the score, instead delivering a subtle, haunting soundtrack that adds to the tension, underlines the emotion and effortlessly fleshes out the scale of the piece without ever overpowering it. Even the bloody editing is great.

Bringing life to all this is a genuinely exceptional cast, led by Christopher Eccleston’s glorious Doctor, who after being arguably somewhat neglected in recent stories is, to every reviewer’s irritation, once more back on top form. His handling of the complex, layered emotions of many scenes is a joy to behold, and his own joy at the conclusion a truly moving moment, only surpassed by the insanely un-Whoish, gloriously perfect closing minutes that round off his character arc. This more modern Doctor had already beeen accepted on an equal footing with the technobabble-spouting, frock-coated fops of older generations; after his performance in The Empty Child, it’s hard not to say he surpasses them.

The fabulous guest cast is, gallingly, equally good, from Richard Wilson’s gravelly cameo as Doctor Constantine (it’s a credit to him that he never once comes across as ‘that bloke from One Foot in the Grave) to John Barrowman’s masterful Captain Jack. Even the scenes with the de-evacuated children, which could so easily have become a stage-school-accent bloodbath or a Twin Dilemma disaster, either one a reviewer’s wet dream, remain instead utterly naturalistic, thanks in large part to the stabilising presence of Florence Hoath, whose phenomenal performance as Nancy threatens to steal every scene she’s in.

Unfortunately even that doesn’t count as a criticism, as Billie Piper is on hand to steal it right back again, starring in sweeping, FX-laden money shots (of which there are ridiculously many) and acting her little socks off in funny, intimate scenes with the Doctor and Captain Jack. John Barrowman, meanwhile, is every bit as charming and attractive as Rose seems to think, which won’t do the ratings any harm, and his more-doctor-than-the-doctor characterisation is, contrary to my initial hopes, actually great fun, making the Doctor come across as all the more human and, by highlighting his flaws, much more ours.

There was a faint hope, between the showing of the two episodes, that in competition with Jack’s fancy-schmancy wrist-held computer thing the sonic screwdriver had become far too useful, able to double up now as a Star Trek medical scanner, as well as a pen, a computer-pad stylus, a radio jammer, a lock-pick, a spot-welder, a gun and even at one point, rumour has it, as a screwdriver. If it turns out the Cybermen are allergic to it too, I planned to bitchily point out, the props department won’t have anything left to build. But then they go and make a plot point of exactly that, and it turns out not to be a criticism but a glorious piece of witty, clever storytelling.

As the last minutes of The Doctor Dances played out, all hopes that this might turn out to be a Stones of Blood anti-climax faded away. This is a cast-iron classic to the end; terrifying, suspenseful, hilarious, gripping, uplifting, pacey and perfect. As a reviewer I hate it with every bone in my body. As anything else, I want to have its babies. But I still don’t have anything to say.

Good, isn’t it?

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Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Mick Snowden

Now, THAT's what I call a two parter! This blitz-based chiller has to be right up there for highlight of the season. With its suspense-filled resistance to revealing the nature of the threat until the very last, some excellent film-noir direction from James Hawes, and some lovely comedic vignettes, this story is as close to the gothic classics of the Hinchcliffe era.

Its both Doctor Who and the "What if?" genre of SF at their best. Nano-technology has been in the scientific headlines a few times in recent years, and like the Cybermen, Pan Global Chemicals and others before, we have a superb cautionary tale of what can go wrong with supposedly safe & helpful advances.

The inclusion of Captain Jack is inspired. He's like Sabalom Glitz with style! At every stage of his characterisation, you're thrown off in unexpected directions, convinced he's not a good guy, until, on the verge of a heroic, selfless act, he is brought aboard the TARDIS. Maybe we'll never know whether he would have found a way out, or whether he would have gone through with it. It doesn't matter. The Doctor now as a companion that, like Turlough, neither he nor the audience will be able to trust implicitly. If this is Doctor Who for the Buffy generation, ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the series' equivalent of Spike.

Richard Wilson is convincing in a role that, initially, you may think he is going to feel out of water in. Offhand, I can't recall any genre appearances from him before.

The war-urchins are definitely better than the usual child extras we get on British TV, and their situation genuinely tugs at the heart-strings. The intelligence of Nancy shines through, and we have a genuine heroine in the young mother, hiding her past, but nonetheless striving to ensure a future for herself and her charges.

Eccleston manages to put some genuine warmth into the character as he almost preys for the nano-genes to put right their mistake. I have a feeling that Eccleston's most perfect portrayal will end up being in "The Parting of the Ways".

My only complaint about this "Classic Nouveau" is the "NEXT WEEK:" stinger. My thoughts on the Slitheen have been recorded here previously, so I approach Boom Town with a sense of exhaustion and dread. If next week is anything like as poor as "Aliens of London/WWIII", it'll be following the highest peak of quality in the run.

See you in Cardiff.

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Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Adam Kintopf

As of this writing, this two-part story seems to be the fan favorite from the Christopher Eccleston season, according to both the Doctor Who Dynamic Rankings page and this site’s own 2005 fan poll. I would not rate it quite so highly, but overall it is an extremely satisfying story, and my enthusiasm for it is dampened mostly by the issues raised by the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness, which I’ll deal with below.

But let’s get to the good bits first (and there are many). The story is well-plotted and quite spooky, delightfully in keeping with the traditions of the classic series. At its best, Doctor Who was always a mystery-horror show in a sort of sheer sci-fi drag, and this story combines the various genre elements in a harmonious way that many fans will find familiar and wonderful. The eerie dead child and its zombie offspring provide many chilling moments (of which the best probably comes when Dr. Constantine illustrates that the bodies in his ‘morgue’ are still very much alive), and of course Constantine’s own transformation is horrifying, and a wonderful throwback to the ‘body horror’ so often employed in the old series. The Blitzkrieg-era London locale is fairly well realized, historically, and more important it’s just so wonderfully British, a most fitting setting for this UK TV institution. Steven Moffat’s script might be the wittiest of the Eccleston season – “I don’t know whether it’s Marxism in action or a West End musical” is only one of many funny lines – and Eccleston’s Doctor is truly Doctorish most of the time. (His exchange with Jack about what happened to the weapons factory at Villengard is hilarious, and perfectly in character.) The action set pieces are scary and fun, and if Rose’s adventure on the rope is a little silly, and looks a little fakey, it is so in the grand style of what’s come before – replace the CGI with CSO and it could be Jo Grant up there. The revelation of Nancy’s true relationship to Jamie might ultimately be a bit easy to guess, but it’s nonetheless satisfying in terms of the overall drama. And the sci-fi resolution, too, works well . . . at first, the idea of medical nano-robots ‘repairing’ everything they encounter struck me as a little silly, but on reflection I think it’s actually a pretty nifty idea. (Maybe it was the Tinkerbell dust that *represents* the nanogenes that made it seem silly . . . .)

But the story isn’t only interested in this drama, of course – it also introduces the new companion. And John Barrowman is an immediate presence at Captain Jack – I confess, from hearing the character described before actually seeing the series, I was expecting much, much worse. There’s extremely little camp about Barrowman’s portrayal; the actor really does choose to play Jack straight, which may sound funny, but by that I don’t really mean ‘masculine,’ I mean unself-conscious. Jack may be written as boastful and cocky, but in Barrowman’s hands the lines become obvious jokes at his own expense – it’s very easy to see the ordinary guy behind all this ‘captain’s’ affected suaveness and bravado.

The problem is, Barrowman’s good acting doesn’t really make up for the way his character is used. (At least, it doesn’t here.) A sidebar: in this first series of the new Doctor Who, Russell T. Davies has truly created a new dynamic between the Doctor and his companion Rose. It is as close to a love relationship between Doctor and companion as the series ever got (possible exception: ‘The Movie’), and yet Davies opts not to consummate it. He seems to want to have it both ways: to play with sex, and yet never to develop the Doctor and Rose into an actual romantic/sexual couple, something which, while it would certainly outrage older fans, would at least make his winking and nudging pay off. And apart from a kiss that isn’t necessarily a kiss in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ (it’s in a non-sexual context, after all), Davies ultimately gives us nothing, remaining coy about the Doctor’s sexuality and his interest (or lack thereof) in his pretty blonde companion.

That’s all fine and dandy, and elsewhere I’ve written that the use of sex and sexuality in the new Doctor Who is actually quite understated anyway (and I meant it as a compliment). So what’s the problem, then? Only this: why the hell does Davies make us sit through so much unnecessary, intrusive love-triangle nonsense if he’s never going to actually *do* anything with it? And that’s where Jack comes in to this discussion – although Davies and Moffat happily give him a lot to do (and plenty of jokes), probably his main purpose in this story (as was the case with Adam Mitchell in ‘Dalek’) is to make the Doctor jealous when Rose expresses interest in him. Now, there are fans who have rationalized this as simply another example of the Doctor’s traditional selfishness, bringing up such examples as the First Doctor’s pouting in ‘The Chase’ when Ian and Barbara decide to leave him. But there’s more to it than that, given that Jack is introduced from the very outset as a sexualized character (ogling Rose’s bottom while patting Algy’s), and given the story’s rather forced and artificial focus on dancing. Jack is clearly presented as a sexual threat, and the Doctor responds, indeed, like a posturing punk watching somebody else flirt with his girl at a high school dance. Some fans don’t mind this, I choose to ignore it; either way, it’s an annoying distraction from the otherwise tense and dramatic plot. Not to mention the fact that it reduces Rose, who has made a most satisfyingly active companion to this point, to the status of a love object.

But ultimately, the story is entertaining and worthwhile despite these objections, and, as I said, the love angle hasn’t really played out into anything significant – yet.

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Monday, 30 May 2005 - Reviewed by Alex Gibbs

Abbey Road. My mother’s pasta. My girlfriend Ellen. Amelie. The colour blue. Freesias. The Time Traveler’s Wife. Any film score by Thomas Newman. Rachmaninov’s Paganini Rhapsody. And now, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. What do these things have in common, you ask? They are all things that, to me, make life worth living. Proof that, sometimes, God just gets things exactly right.

Mauve alert. Yes, mauve. We are in the presence of greatness. From the opening moments of The Doctor Dances, it’s clear that a lot of care has been taken with this story. The script is immediately funny, and we’re excited by the chase through the vortex that accompanies the familiar ‘sting’. When the TARDIS materialises, Rose finally makes reference to the fact that they’re always landing on Earth. With this and her comments about ‘scanning for alien tech’, Steven Moffat is just continuing the digs in the ribs that he started with The Curse of Fatal Death, his brilliant little Comic Relief effort that dragged me firmly back into the world of Who five years ago.

This warm, fuzzy feeling continues when the Doctor jumps up on a stage in a crowded nightclub and makes everyone laugh, while Rose follows a weird boy in a gasmask and is dragged up into the sky by a rope attached to a barrage balloon. (Why did she even grab the rope before looking up to see what it was attached to? Hang on, who cares?) So she’s hanging in the air, and we get a stunning view of the London skyline as it transforms into something far more sinister… and strangely familiar. Oh dear. This is a London air raid. A beautiful one. And I mean beautiful. Never have I been so impressed by the art direction on this show. It looks like a painting – a masterpiece – but at the same time feels deadly realistic.

Er… until she’s beamed up into an invisible spaceship. Oh well. Who cares about realism when we’ve got a ship like this? And the delightful John Barrowman as “Captain” Jack Harkness? I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like Jack at all, especially considering all the bad publicity the character has had. But what can I say? The guy’s all charm. John Barrowman really knows how to carry off this role, and it’s actually refreshing to hear an American accent, just like it was in Dalek. The guy looks great too, in his WWII uniform.

Meanwhile, the Doctor talks to a cat, a voice on an unconnected phone, and a mysterious woman who vanishes. When that TARDIS phone rang, I got more chills than those “phone ringing” scenes in The Matrix or Scream. And isn’t this dialogue all terrific? I laughed when the Doctor picked up the phone and said, “Hello?” Then I laughed harder when he said “This is the Doctor speaking.” And even harder with “How may I help you?” Okay, this series has already had its fair share of laughs so far, but this is the first time a comedy writer has had his hand at it. And he’s just done so well. This stuff is funnier than Buffy. And it also tugs at your heart-strings, in every scene with Nancy and her homeless kids. There’s so much affection here, it’s easy to just believe they’re all real people. Florence Hoath is terrific as Nancy – I wish she’d been my nanny.

Up in the air, Jack and Rose are having champagne next to Big Ben. And this is just so beautifully shot, especially when Jack does his “flash” move and lights the clock-face up. Who wouldn’t be swept off their feet by this guy, with his ship, his gadgets, his uniform, his Glenn Miller, and his tendency to “scan for alien tech”? But things are getting more serious now, with this mysterious child in the gasmask following people and crying for his mummy. This stuff is scarier than Hinchcliffe. Via Nancy, the Doctor searches out Doctor Constantine, a brilliant turn by Richard Wilson, who at no point I expected to cry out that he didn’t believe it. Testament, really, to Wilson’s acting ability.

What are these creatures in the gasmasks? Not dead? Physical injuries as plague? You can just tell the explanation – when it eventually comes – will be brilliant. Perhaps not in the hands of a lesser writer, but I trust Moffat. First of all, though, Constantine is taken by the plague himself, in what I believe to be the scariest moment in the history of this programme. I’m twenty-three years old, and when his face distorted into the shape of a gasmask, I wanted to rush and hide behind the sofa. Thankfully, Rose and Jack showed up and the Doctor began to ruminate. “DNA is being rewritten,” he mutters, “by an idiot.” Told you. The explanation is already intriguing. And of course Jack is a con-man – who didn’t figure this one out? Anyway, we’re now up to our obligatory cliffhanger. True, it’s another “surrounded by monsters” cliffhanger, but really, how many others are there? Scary ones, anyway? And it just gets scarier, when we reach Room 802, and hear that chilling recording from the child. The child that’s right behind them.

Right, cue a runaround in the hospital. Fantastic! And throw in some great jokes about the sonic screwdriver, and you’ve got a perfect chase. Too bad that git Jack is able to beam out of there… sometimes you just can’t adore a guy who’s got all the answers. But once he’s out of the picture, we’re left – finally – with the Doctor and Rose again. I discovered at this point how much I enjoyed seeing these two together. It was sad to know they were soon to be parted, especially when Rose teased the Doctor about… ahem, dancing. Should’ve expected stuff like this, really, from the writer of Coupling. And surprisingly, I didn’t mind any of it. It was subtle enough, and obvious enough, if you get my meaning.

Finally we’re out of the hospital, and we’re at the crash site. This for some reason feels like a UNIT story, or even a Troughton story. Nothing wrong with that. When Rose is captured, and we see that scar on her guard’s hand, we know what’s about to come. The soldier’s transformation isn’t as shocking as the first one, but it’s still pretty gruesome. After a little while, things are getting sorted out – via a bit of bickering from the Doctor and Jack, and some musings from Nancy about the Earth’s future. She didn’t know we’d won the war, but her comments did make me think about how war had changed us as a people. But never mind that, this is Doctor Who, remember? Back to the action. The Doctor gives us plenty of Doctor-ish exposition about nanogenes – shades of Red Dwarf – and just as they’re surrounded by “empties” again, Nancy steps forward and faces the truth. The child isn’t her brother, he’s her son. So the nanogenes must learn. Thankfully, they eventually do. And as the Doctor says, just this once, everybody lives! Fantastic!

I’m so glad James Hawes is returning to helm the second series, and that Steven Moffat is contributing The Girl in The Fireplace. I can’t wait for these episodes, on the merit of this two-parter, which comes dangerously close to being the best Doctor Who story of all time. Everything in this story just fell into place perfectly. Acting, script, direction, plot, pacing, humour, horror, suspense, music, lighting, art direction… like I said at the beginning, this time, God got it right.

Just this once.

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