Boom Town

And I was having such a nice day.

The Ninth Doctor

Synopsis

The Ninth Doctor, Jack and Rose return to modern day Cardiff, where they are joined by Mickey. On their arrival, they find that Blon Fel-Fetch Passamer-Day Slitheen (better known as Margaret Blaine) has become Mayor of the city, with no obvious escape route off Earth and willing to tear apart the world to ensure her survival.

Review

The Slitheen are perhaps one of my least favourite creatures in the history of the show, so it is always a surprise to me that when I rewatch Boom Town that I enjoy it so much. I know that this one can be a bit of a marmite episode for a lot of people, but I feel that it does a good job of being a ‘calm before the storm’ of the finale and moves relationships between the Doctor, Jack, Rose and even Mickey to a different levels.

The story seeks to draw together the arc before sending us spinning into the chaos of the end of Eccleston’s only televised series. We get an acknowledgement – and equally quick dismissal – of the fact that the words ‘Bad Wolf’ have been following the Doctor and Rose through their travels in time and space, and the story’s resolution seems only to be there to set up future events in Parting of the Ways. The resolution does let this story down as the TARDIS becomes a deus ex machina, and it is a little frustrating after the focus on the Doctor, his conscience and ongoing theme of the consequences of his actions catching up with him is undermined somewhat by a lazy conclusion. As the Ninth Doctor has softened in his behaviour through the course of this series, it would be interesting to see if he could deal with dropping Blon back on Raxacoricofallapatorius to be killed by her race. As it is, the plot gives her a second chance, something which the Ninth Doctor has been unwilling to give some other characters, for instance Adam or Cassandra. The story is quite witty, and whilst Mickey is still the comic relief, Clarke’s performance seems to have matured since earlier in the series. I remember hearing an interview with Noel Clarke from a while ago in which he said that his attitude towards Doctor Who and acting in general changed after a car accident that occurred during production of the first series, and it is a noticeably better performance. I’ve found a link to it (below), which is worth a watch!

The story starts off really fast-paced from the arrival of Mickey in Cardiff, then slows down for introspection during the restaurant scene, but it is to director Joe Ahearne’s credit that the change in pace doesn’t affect the wider story. Scenes like the ones in the restaurant, or with Margaret in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Jack are really visually interesting. The latter uses some interesting areas of the TARDIS set which I don’t recall seeing before or after this, whilst the former could feel cartoony in the wrong hands, especially the bit with the dart. Ahearne keeps the camera tight on the Doctor and Margaret in these scenes, which makes the scenes feel quite claustrophobic. The scene in the TARDIS where Blon asks her captors whether they can look her in the eye knowing that they are taking her to her death is an interesting one, as I suspect that if the events of this story had happened earlier in the series, the Doctor might have held her gaze. Eccleston and Badland are fantastic in their scenes together, especially in that restaurant scene, where both of them are sizing each other up. The turn by Badland, when she realises that the Doctor isn’t going to let her go is also superb.

Who the hell are you?

What do you mean, “who the hell am I?” Who the hell are you?

Captain Jack Harkness. Whatever you’re selling, we’re not buying.

Get out of my way!

Captain Jack Harkness and Mickey Smith

This is quite an important episode for Rose and Mickey too. This story sees Rose realise that she has unconsciously been quite self-centred through her travels with the Doctor, to the expense of Mickey and Jackie, as we’ve seen earlier this series. The TARDIS team seem quite cliquey when Mickey arrives, and we see what the trio look like to outsiders – and it acts as a precursor to some of the smugness when the next Doctor comes along in a couple of episodes time. Rose doesn’t even realise what she sounds like when she’s talking to Mickey and all she’s talking about is the Doctor and their travels together, leading to him ultimately talking about going out with Trisha Delaney instead, despite his devotion to Rose, which has led him to coming down to Cardiff on the pretext of bringing her passport. By the end of the story, Rose seems to have realised how her behaviour has affected Mickey and is almost left wishing for a second chance, like Margaret. The performances from themselves and Barrowman are good, even if Jack takes a backseat for most of this story. I wish we had more of the Ninth Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey as a team as they have a really fun dynamic.

Verdict: Boom Town is a good episode to reflect on how far characters have come over the course of the first series. There are a lot of fun moments in here too, but it is let down by the conclusion, which feels a bit underwhelming. 8/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mali Harries (Cathy), Alan Pedrick (Idris Hopper) & Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).

Writer: Russell T Davies

Director: Joe Ahearne

Behind the Scenes

  • The episode had a working title of Dining With Monsters.
  • The episode was originally offered to Paul Abbott and would have taken place in Pompeii, with Jack discovering that the Doctor has manipulated Rose’s life to make her into an experiment to create the perfect companion. Abbott had to pull out due to other commitments.
  • Russell T Davies wanted to bring back Annette Badland, as he found her performance in Aliens of London and World War Three to be brilliant, despite her not having many lines.
  • The first story to be set in modern-day Cardiff and establishes the Cardiff Space-Time Rift as still being active, thus laying the groundwork for the spin-off, Torchwood.

Cast Notes

  • William Thomas previously appeared in Remembrance of the Daleks, making him the first performer to appear in the original and revived runs of Doctor Who. He would go on to play Geraint Cooper, Gwen’s dad, in Torchwood.

Best Moment

I quite like the scenes of the Doctor, Rose, Jack and Mickey making their way through City Hall to confront Margaret.

Best Quote

I promise you I’ve changed since we last met, Doctor. There was this girl, just yesterday, young thing…And something of a danger. She was getting too close. I felt the bloodlust rising, just as the family taught me. I was going to kill her without a thought. And then…I stopped. She’s alive somewhere right now. She’s walking around this city because I change! I did change! I know I can’t prove it –

I believe you.

Then you know I’m capable of better.

It doesn’t mean anything.

I spared her life!

You let one go, but that’s nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim’s spared. Because she smiled, because he’s got freckles, because they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.

Only a killer would know that. Is that right? From what I’ve seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on, because you dare not go back. Playing with so many people’s lives – you might as well be a god. And you’re right, Doctor. You’re absolutely right. Sometimes you let one go.

Margaret Blaine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: The Doctor Dances

Other stories mentioned:

The End of the World

Aliens of London

The Long Game

References

Noel Clarke interview with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode

4 thoughts on “Boom Town

    1. It’s a great scene and something that I don’t think the “Classic” run would have attempted to do. I really like Boom Town – Eccleston’s series ends really strongly and I’m looking forward to his first Big Finish release this Spring!

      Liked by 1 person

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