It’s so weird. The day my father died. I thought it’d be all grim and stormy. It’s just another day.
The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.Rose Tyler and the Ninth Doctor
Rose convinces the Doctor to take her back to the day of her father’s death, 7 November 1987. On a whim, she ends up changing his fate, creating a paradox and summoning the Reapers to the wedding of Stuart Hoskins and Sarah Clark.
When Father’s Day was first broadcast in 2005, it was exploring relatively untrodden ground for the show. Although Ace encountered her own mother in The Curse of Fenric, it was not central to the plot, whilst here it is the driving force behind the narrative. For some fans, this story is symptomatic of the soap opera feel to the revived series, with the Reapers taking a backseat to family drama. However, this is a really moving story that deals with fixed points in time nicely and gives us nice character moments.
The story focuses on the companion, Rose Tyler, and her father Pete, who died when she was a baby in a hit-and-run. With the Doctor agreeing to take her back in time to the day when he died so that someone can be with him as he is dying, Rose freezes when it comes to the punch and she convinces him to take her back again, despite the risks, which are multiplied when Rose saves her father. As the Reapers arrive, the survivors of the wedding party take refuge in a church, as the older something is, the more protection it affords. One of the aspects of this story that interested me was the idealised view Rose has of her father from her mother’s stories, which gets quickly dispelled when the Doctor and Rose attend her parents’ wedding and once she actually gets the chance to talk to Pete in the car after saving him and in the Tylers’ flat. A relationship that has been described to Rose as being perfect, is in reality, full of suspected infidelity and arguments. Equally, when asked about what he is like as a father, she paints an equally idealised image of him as a father which he ultimately sees through and realises that he will not be around to see Rose grow up. The story is packed full of emotion, culminating in Pete’s decision to sacrifice himself to reverse the effects his survival has had on time itself. The story is somewhat driven by misconceptions as the wedding that the Tylers and Stuart and Sarah, where Stuart’s father is certainly of the impression that his son is only marrying someone that he regards to be unsuitable because she is pregnant.
The antagonists, the Reapers, enter the narrative due to the paradox of Pete’s survival and are described by the Doctor as being bacteria coming to cleanse the subsequent wound. They are rather one dimensional as a foe, although the Doctor does admit that he is pretty powerless against them. The CGI hasn’t dated fantastically but they do have a good design and I particularly like the shots from their point of view as they pick off humans in their quest. Ultimately, though, this story is character driven rather than driven by the alien threat. It is perhaps surprising that the Reapers have never returned, especially considering some of the other paradoxes we have had in the revived series. However, it can be said that they only appear when time is seriously weakened: here, not only does Rose save Pete, meaning that she and the Doctor would never have to travel back to save him in the first place, but she does so in front of earlier versions of herself and the Doctor. The Reapers As the characters shelter in the church, the Doctor is regaled with the story of how the to-be-weds met, ironically being asked to look after the baby Rose and the adult Rose imprinting herself on young Mickey. The story certainly deserves praise for making us care about what happens to members of the guest cast, the majority of whom we will never see again.
The cast here do a spectacular job with this story. Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper are fantastic together, even when having the most serious argument that at the time we’d ever seen the Doctor have with a companion. The argument serves to remind us that Rose is still quite young and immature, especially when compared to the Doctor. When the Doctor tells Rose that they are no longer going to travel together, we genuinely believe that he means it, and having seen his ejection of Adam from the TARDIS in the previous story, it feels like a genuine threat. Camille Coduri is good as the frustrated younger Jackie, and of the guest cast, Shaun Dingwall stands out as Pete, who along with Billie Piper acts as this story’s beating heart. Dingwall of course would return for the second series as an alternative version of Pete Tyler.
When we met, I said “Travel with me in space.” You said no. Then I said “Time machine.”
It wasn’t some big plan. I just saw it happening and thought, I can stop it.
I did it again, I picked another stupid ape. I should have known. It’s not about showing you the universe. It never is. It’s about the universe doing something for you.The Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler
The direction and general production are pretty fantastic here too. Joe Ahearne’s direction is very good and I particularly like the appearance of the TARDIS as it restores around the key. The moment when the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors to find that it is empty is also a lovely moment. There also has to be a mention of the fantastic work done by the costumes department and set dressing in evoking the look of the 1980s with some great costumes, and attention to detail with posters especially in the early scenes.
Verdict: One of several episodes that ensures a strong finish for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor and the debut series of the revival. 9/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie) & Casey Dyer (Young Mickey)
Writer: Paul Cornell
Director: Joe Ahearne
Behind the Scenes
- The first contribution of Paul Cornell to televised Doctor Who.
- The story deals with fixed points in time, a topic which would frequently reoccur in the revived series.
- Alexander Graham Bell’s first words spoken over a telephone are incorrect. In this episode, they are said to be “Watson, come here, I need you”, when in fact they are “Watson, I come here, I want you.” According to Phil Collinson, this was an error that crept in during the recording of the line, as the line was correct in the script.
I really like the moment that the Doctor returns to the TARDIS, only to find that it is only a box.
Now Rose, you’re not going to bring about the end of the world. Are you?The Ninth Doctor (to Baby Rose Tyler)
Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Long Game