Cold Blood

Okay. Bringing things to order. The first meeting of representatives of the human race and homo reptilia. Ha! Never said that before. That’s fab!

The Eleventh Doctor

Synopsis

As the Silurians wake up under the Earth’s surface, the Doctor must attempt to broker a peace between the Silurians and the human race, whilst the humans on the surface attempt to keep their Silurian captive alive.

Review

Despite my praise (and surprise) at enjoying The Hungry Earth, the concluding part is where it largely falls apart. Whilst I could largely overlook the similarities to (Doctor Who and) The Silurians in the first part, the tribute tips over into derivation more here. There are some good things, with strong performances from the central trio and a decent ending, but this episode feels like instead of building on the previous episode’s cliffhanger, it flounders and drags, perhaps because nostalgia for the Jon Pertwee story can only carry you so far.

I do feel that this story suffers from the fact that it doesn’t feel like anything drastically important happens until the closing couple of minutes. This might be down to the fact that there’s not very much that can be done with the Silurians apart from negotiate about how best to share the planet. In fact, rather than having a looming sense of threat from the Silurians, this instead comes from the humans who are threatening to reactivate their drill to destroy the homo reptilia colony. Unlike some other great late series two-parters that we have had in the revived series so far, this neither escalates majorly nor goes off in a seemingly different direction. In this story, it takes around 28 minutes for Restac to do the inevitable and awaken the Silurian army. As a result, the conclusion of the main plot feels inconsequential as the Doctor and Eldane are forced to conclude that humanity are not ready to share the planet and the Silurians are put back to sleep for a further thousand years.

There’s also some pretty poor characterisation going on here. Malohkeh is revealed to be a human loving scientist, which seems at odds to his behaviour in The Hungry Earth, where he is seen to have already dissected Mo and seems perfectly happy to dissect Amy in the set-up for the cliffhanger. Equally, the whole family dynamic seems a little bit suspect and it is difficult to feel too much for Ambrose considering her actions in this story. She is absolutely right to be concerned for her son and her father when she discovers that Alaya’s sting has poisoned him, and Alaya plays on those concerns in the confrontation scene which results in her death. However, she is not a terribly likeable person and it doesn’t really follow that she would potentially put her son and husband Mo into more danger when she tasers the Silurian. We also don’t really get to know the family terribly well, despite spending an hour and a half in their company, so it is difficult to be too concerned about their ultimate fate. The only bright sparks here are Meera Syal’s Nasreen and Neve McIntosh as Restac, who is essentially a continuation of Alaya. Nasreen though feels sadly underused, although she does provide some grounding to Amy’s more outlandish suggestions about how the planet could be shared in the negotiations with Eldane, pointing out how impossible it would be to sell this to the human race. Meanwhile McIntosh is great when she is seething with anger, and the scene where she discovers Alaya’s dead body is superbly acted and directed by Ashley Way.

The core cast here are good, and it is another strong performance from Arthur Darvill as Rory. Especially in his scenes on the surface, it is difficult not to feel a bit sorry for Rory being stuck with people like Ambrose and Tony and it is interesting to note that he tells them that he trusts the Doctor. It feels as though there are some missing adventures here (hi Big Finish!) where the Doctor and Rory start to warm to each other here. Matt Smith is good here too, and his reaction when he realises that Alaya is dead and that any hope of a deal between the Silurians and humans is pretty much doomed is well played. It is interesting watching this story relatively closely with Kill the Moon to compare the way the Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors deal with these malleable points of time. Ultimately Smith’s Doctor is doing the same kind of thing as Capaldi’s in trying to ensure that humans make the decisions for the future. The Twelfth Doctor, however, is much gruffer and hands-off than his immediate predecessor, with Smith’s Doctor feeling as though he is gently guiding them, rather than the seeming abandonment in Series 8. Rory’s death in this story wasn’t completely unexpected when I was watching in 2010 but the ending scenes still pack an outstanding emotional punch thanks to some great acting by Smith and Karen Gillan, and the ultimate heartbreak when we realise that Amy has forgotten Rory is a fantastic gutpunch. It just feels as though this comes from a much stronger episode, and clearly has Moffat’s fingerprints all over it, rather than coming from Chris Chibnall.

I promise you, Ambrose, I trust the Doctor with my life. We stick to his plan.

Rory Williams

Verdict: Sadly, Cold Blood doesn’t really build to anything and feels like a bit of a damp squib. There are some good performances in here and a powerful ending does redeem it a bit, though. 4/10

Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Neve McIntosh (Alaya/Restac), Meera Syal (Nasreen Chaudry), Robert Pugh (Tony Mack), Nia Roberts (Ambrose), Richard Hope (Malohkeh), Stephen Moore (Eldane), Alun Raglan (Mo) & Samuel Davies (Elliot).

Writer: Chris Chibnall

Director: Ashley Way

Behind the Scenes

  • Chris Chibnall wanted the second part to focus on people making mistakes whilst under massive pressure and the accidental conflict coming from attempts to protect family. Steven Moffat believed the theme of mistakes to be appropriate for the death and subsequent erasure of Rory as the Doctor ultimately causes it when he stops to look at the Crack.
  • The story was filmed in the Temple of Peace in Cardiff, which had previously been used in The End of the World, Gridlock and Fires of Pompeii and would go on to be used again in Let’s Kill Hitler and Nightmare in Silver.

Best Moment

It has to be the final moments, where Rory is killed and erased from history completely.

Best Quote

Amy Pond and Nasreen Chaudhry, speaking for the planet. Humanity couldn’t have better ambassadors. C’mon! Who has more fun than us?

Is this what happens in the future, the planet gets shared? Is that what we need to do?

Uh, what are you talking about?

Oh, Nasreen, sorry. Probably worth mentioning at this stage, Amy and I travel in time.

Anything else?

There are fixed points in time where things must always stay the way they are. This is not one of them. This is an opportunity. A temporal tipping point. Whatever happens today will change future events – create its own timeline, its own reality. The future pivots around you. Here. Now. So do good. For humanity. And for Earth.

The Eleventh Doctor, Amy Pond and Nasreen Chaudhry

Previous Eleventh Doctor review: The Hungry Earth

Further reading

Doctor Who and the Silurians

Kill the Moon

The Dæmons

Chap with the wings there. Five rounds rapid.

Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart

Synopsis

In the village of Devil’s End, the Master is at working summoning cloven-hoofed demons to bow the residents to his will. With the village sealed off to the outside world, the Doctor and Jo have to race against time to stop the Master destroying the whole world.

Review

The Dæmons is possibly the most quintessential Third Doctor stories, and your individual reaction to this story will largely depend on your opinion of his era. It will come as no surprise to people who have read my other blogs on this era that this is one of my favourites, and I particularly love the UNIT family, so it’s safe to say that I really enjoyed this one. That’s not to say that this story is without flaws, however, and it’s certainly a divisive story in certain sectors of the fan community.

My main issue with this story is that it feels a bit too long, even though it is only five parts and I feel that it may have been a push if it had been six parts as originally intended. Whilst I like the delay in UNIT getting involved in the story, it does feel as though these scenes, as well as those with the Brigadier and Sergeant Osgood being held outside of Devil’s End by the heat barrier are just padding. In my opinion, The Dæmons would work better as a tight four-part story with fewer of these scenes. The Brigadier also gets some suspect dialogue, and it is a testament to Nicholas Courtney’s acting ability that he makes these feel real.

Despite this, the story in general is strong and feels as though the writers had done their research, or were at least aided by Damaris Hayman, playing Miss Hawthorne. The story deals with her character surprisingly sympathetically, as Miss Hawthorne is a white witch and it would be all too easy to characterise her as a bit crazy. Instead, she is shown as resourceful and a great help to the Doctor and his allies, especially Benton. The story also gives what seems like a perfectly feasible endgame for the Master after his repeated appearances in Pertwee’s second season, with his aim being world domination, if not, global destruction. The presence of a BBC News crew (from BBC 3, no less) gives this story a feeling of urgency and some degree of scale, which is needed before the Doctor turns up. With producer Barry Letts writing the backbone of this story, it is unsurprising that the regulars all get their moments to shine, even if the Brigadier has to wait a bit longer for his. The story benefits from the direction of Christopher Barry, who uses simple and effective tools to cover up the perennial problem of not having the budget to effectively tell the whole story, along with some strong demonic imagery which make this effective. Of all the effects, the one of Bok reforming after enduring heavy fire from the UNIT troops is fantastic. Barry also makes the action sequences synonymous with the Pertwee era look great, especially the sequence with Girton in the helicopter attempting to get the Doctor to drive into the heat barrier around Devil’s End. Barry also deserves a lot of credit for not making the sequence with the Morris Dancers surrounding the Doctor look laughable, which it so easily could have done in other hands. It would be remiss of me to not mention the location filming in Aldbourne, which is another of the stars and was a great choice for the sleepy village.

The regulars here are all on fine form. Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning are fantastic as the Doctor and Jo, and for moments where the Doctor is condescending to her, we get scenes like the one before they go into the Barrow where he shows real concern for her well-being by giving her the option to stay outside, which of course, she refuses! Jo is of course responsible for the ultimate defeat of Azal by putting her life on the line for the Doctor, a move that he cannot comprehend. It is lovely to see Benton and Yates in their civvies, and the Brigadier all dressed up. All three actors put in great performances, but Courtney is the real stand out, especially in the scene where he learns that Benton and Yates have gone to Devil’s End. I haven’t really suffered with ‘Master fatigue’ due to the way that I’m watching stories in order to post these reviews, and Delgado is good here again.

The Dæmons are used quite effectively here. As mentioned above, Barry only shows us Azal sparingly so that we can avoid the use of too much Colour Separation Overlay (CSO), and although Bok is clearly a man in a costume, he is quite effectively creepy and I didn’t have any trouble buying him as a gargoyle who had started moving about. Stephen Thorne is great as Azal, and it is easy to see why the production team would call him back to play similarly intimidating characters later on in the future.

Verdict: A good fun episode, which could only potentially be improved by reducing the run time, The Dæmons is deserves its place in the best stories of Jon Pertwee’s era. 8/10

Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart), Roger Delgado (The Master), Richard Franklin (Captain Mike Yates), John Levene (Sergeant Benton), Damaris Hayman (Miss Hawthorne), Don McKillop (Bert the Landlord), Rollo Gamble (Winstanley), Robin Wentworth (Prof. Horner), David Simeon (Alastair Fergus), James Snell (Harry), John Joyce (Garvin), Eric Hillyard (Dr. Reeves), Jon Croft (Tom Girton), Christopher Wray (PC Groom), Gerald Taylor (Baker’s Man), Stanley Mason (Bok), Alec Linstead (Sergeant Osgood), John Owens (Thorpe), Stephen Thorne (Azal), The Headington Quarry Men (Morris Dancers) & Matthew Corbett (Jones).

Writer: Guy Leopold (Robert Sloman & Barry Letts)

Director: Christopher Barry

Parts: 5

Behind the Scenes

  • One of the eleven televised stories not to feature the Doctor’s TARDIS.
  • The story was filmed in Aldbourne in Wiltshire.
  • The shot of the exploded helicopter was an used shot from the James Bond film From Russia With Love. The shot was so convincing that some members of the audience were convinced that a real helicopter had been destroyed.
  • This story concludes a season-long run of stories featuring the Master. Roger Delgado would appear in the following two seasons, appearing in two stories in Season 9 and one in Season 10.
  • The last five part Doctor Who story.
  • The incantation used by the Master is ‘Mary had a Little Lamb’ backwards. It was originally The Lord’s Prayer spoken backwards but BBC bosses objected.
  • Many viewers believed that the model of the church destroyed in the final episode was the actual church and the BBC received complaints.
  • It was originally intended to be a six-part story but was cut down due to production difficulties.

Cast Notes

  • David Simeon had previously appeared in Inferno.
  • Damaris Hayman acted as an unofficial adviser whilst on the show as she had an interest in the supernatural.
  • Stephen Thorne would go on to appear as further costumed villains in The Three Doctors, Frontier in Space and The Hand of Fear.

Best Moment

Best Quote

I see. So all we’ve got to deal with is something which is either too small to see or thirty feet tall, can incinerate you or freeze you to death, turn stone images into homicidal monsters and looks like the devil.

Exactly.

Mike Yates and the Third Doctor

Previous Third Doctor Review: Colony in Space

The Impossible Planet

We are the Legion of the Beast.

The Ood

Synopsis

Separated from the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose find themselves stuck on a planet orbiting a black hole with the crew of a space base. However, an evil entity is awakening, causing trouble for the crew.

Review

The Impossible Planet is possibly one of the first glimpses of revived Doctor Who I ever had. I have a distinct memory of seeing the crew seeing Scooti’s body floating towards the black hole when my brother was re-watching this episode – or possibly channel hopping. It is certainly a stronger two-parter than the rather limp Cyberman double-hander in the same series, giving us some great moments of fear and unease and (takes a deep breath) some actual decent moments between the Tenth Doctor and Rose. I think the majority of the guest cast do well and they feel like lived-in characters.

No signal. That’s the first time I’ve gone out of range. Mind you, even if I could…what would I tell her? Can you build another TARDIS?

They were grown, not built. And with my home planet gone, we’re kind of stuck.

Well, could be worse. This lot said that they’d give us a lift.

And then what?

I don’t know. Find a planet. Get a job. You live a life the same as the rest of the Universe.

I’d have to settle down. Get a house or something, a proper house. With…doors and carpets. Me, living in a house. That, that is terrifying.

You’d have to get a mortgage.

Rose Tyler and the Tenth Doctor

I’ll start by talking about the Doctor and Rose. If you’ve read any of my other reviews of David Tennant’s first series, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of this pairing, however, the writing seems a lot better. The scene with the Doctor and Rose discussing the implications of losing the TARDIS, especially for the Doctor, is one of the most mature and well-dealt with conversations that I think that these two ever have. It’s interesting for the Doctor to have this discussion, considering that Russell T Davies seems to like forceably separating the Doctor and the TARDIS. I might be wrong but can think of several occasions this happens in his era, and this might be mind playing tricks on me) but I can only think of two occasions since 2010 that this has happened (Cold War and The Tsuranga Conundrum). This story moves to ground their relationship and actually makes me see that David Tennant and Billie Piper do have decent chemistry together. There are little moments like Rose kissing the Doctor’s visor before he goes down in the drill capsule with Ida that sell the idea of this relationship being something more than the standard Doctor-companion relationship. Perhaps because the Doctor feels quite out of his depth, with the language that the TARDIS can’t translate means that they can’t be as smug and cavalier as usual. We do get some of the inconsistent Rose that has been around since Tennant’s debut in New Earth rather than the strong individual we saw when she was with Eccleston, especially in the moment she tells Ida and the Doctor to keep breathing when they are in the diving bell.

The story certainly fits into the category of base under siege, with the interesting added threat of the black hole. I’m reliably informed by my research done in the course of writing this blog that a planet in orbit around a black hole is not as impossible as the Doctor states, just highly improbable, but otherwise this story is well written. Matt Jones goes down as another writer who has written one solitary adventure for the revived series, although Russell T Davies had to do a lot of work on this two-parter, which might explain why he never came back. The story does create a terrifying atmosphere, with the scenes with Toby Zed on his own, with Gabriel Woolf’s voice is really scary. I love the idea of the planet being ‘the bitter pill’, which is a lovely piece of dialogue. The story also presents some uncomfortable truths about humanity with the inclusion of the Ood, revealing that even in the future, humans will still feel the need to subjugate species. The story also benefits from the direction of James Strong who helps the story feel claustrophobic and threatening when it needs to. The shot of Scooti floating in space is beautiful, and even knowing how it was filmed thanks to Doctor Who Confidential, it still blows me away every single time.

In the scriptures of the Valtino, this planet is called Krop-Tor, the bitter pill. And the black hole is supposed to be a mighty demon, who was tricked into devouring the planet only to spit it out because it was poison.

Ida Scott

The guest cast here for the most part feel quite lived in and three dimensional, with the exception of Scooti, who is dispatched quite early on by Toby. Zach is thrust into a reluctant leadership position by the death of the previous captain of the mission and it is encouraging to see how he is supported by his fellow crew members, making the best of a bad situation. The only character who seems to be lacking characterisation who survives the run-time of this first part is Toby, who seems to be classed as a bit weird and a loner, also known as perfect possession material. I’d like to reserve special praise for the work of Silas Carson and Gabriel Woolf, voicing the Ood and the Beast respectively, as both are key here. Carson makes the Ood’s calm responses chilling when they start reciting the messages of the Beast and Woolf is suitably sinister – when Radio Free Skaro did a commentary episode for it a few years ago, they slipped a clip of his dialogue in unannounced, and save to say it felt as though my heart stopped for a second!

Verdict: The Impossible Planet does a good job of creating a terrifying atmosphere thanks to a strong script and direction, as well as a good guest cast. 9/10

Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Danny Webb (Mr Jefferson), Shaun Parkes (Zachary Cross Flane), Claire Rushbrook (Ida Scott), Will Thorp (Toby Zed), Ronny Jhutti (Danny Bartock), MyAnna Buring (Scooti Manista), Paul Kasey (The Ood), Gabriel Woolf (Voice of the Beast) & Silas Carson (Voice of the Ood).

Writer: Matt Jones

Director: James Strong

Behind the Scenes

  • Matt Jones wrote the Seventh Doctor Virgin New Adventures novel Bad Therapy.
  • The story originally featured the Slitheen Family until the production team realised that the cost of repairing the costumes was equivalent to creating new ones.
  • First appearance of the Sanctuary Base space suit, which would be worn on multiple occasions and by multiple incarnations of The Doctor.

Cast Notes

  • Gabriel Woolf previous played Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars.
  • Danny Webb was in the audio plays The Girl Who Never Was and The Dark Husband.
  • Claire Rushbrook went on to appear as Tula Chenka, sister of Eighth Doctor companion Liv Chenka, in Escape from Kaldor and the spin-off series The Robots.
  • Will Thorp has appeared in the Big Finish audio plays 100 BC and Bedtime Story.

Best Moment

The scene where Scooti discovers the possessed Toby out on the planet’s surface, especially with the creepy computer voice.

Best Quote

Well, we’ve come this far. There’s no turning back.

Oh, come on! Did you have to? No turning back, that’s almost as bad as “Nothing could possibly go wrong” or “This is gonna be the best Christmas Walford’s ever had!”

Ida Scott and the Tenth Doctor

Previous Tenth Doctor Review: The Idiot’s Lantern

Link:

Radio Free Skaro’s Commentary for The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit

The Tsuranga Conundrum

The Abominable Snowmen

Victoria, I think that this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valour: Jamie has a plan.

The Second Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria arrive in Tibet in the 1930s, where the usually gentle Yeti have besieged a Buddhist monastery, and the the TARDIS team become ensnared in the plans of the Great Intelligence.

The Story

It feels as though we constantly hit a story in the Troughton era with parts missing. The Abominable Snowmen is no exception, with only the second episode still existing. I have watched some fan-made reconstructions to get a feel for the story, but I don’t think it’s fair to give it a rating based on these. If in the future, an animated version is released, then I’ll review it then – like I did with The Faceless Ones earlier this year.

This story is notable for introducing the Great Intelligence, who would reappear in The Web of Fear, later in Season 5. The Great Intelligence currently holds the record for the longest period between onscreen appearances at 44 years, reappearing in The Snowmen in 2012, voiced firstly by Sir Ian McKellen and then portrayed by Richard E. Grant. Created by the writers of this story, curiously, Haisman and Lincoln did not receive a credit for the creation when it returned in 2012. The Intelligence went on to feature in the expanded universe, appearing in Big Finish audio stories such as The Web of Time opposite River Song, set prior to the Second Doctor’s arrival in this story and in books, most frequently the Candy Jar published books about the Brigadier’s childhood and life prior to meeting the Doctor.

The story also has another recurring character who would go on to appear in The Web of Fear, in the shape of Edward Travers, played by Jack Watling, Deborah Watling’s father. It is his endeavour to find a real life Yeti that links the two stories, with the story starting with a Yeti killing his travelling companion, John in the story’s opening moments. The Doctor comes to visit the scene of a previous and unseen adventure, only to find that the situation has changed as the Great Intelligence seeks freedom from the astral plane, possessing the body of Padmasmbhava in his quest to do so.

The Abominable Snowmen has a pretty solid reputation to live up to, and I would love to see it either found again or brought back via the means of animation, with memorable creatures and villain. Having not known much about this story before researching it and now knowing how it ties into The Web of Fear, I’m now looking forward to seeing the returning elements!

Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers), Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava), Charles Morgan (Songsten), Norman Jones (Khrisong), David Grey (Rinchen), David Spenser (Thonmi), Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan), David Baron (Ralpachan) & Reg Whitehead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley and John Hogan (Yeti).

Writer: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln

Director: Gerald Blake

Parts: 6

Cast Notes

  • Norman Jones would later appear in The Silurians and The Masque of Mandragora.
  • David Baron is often erroneously claimed to be Harold Pinter, as this was his Equity name, however Pinter had abandoned the name before production on this story had commenced.

The Empty Child

Are you my Mummy?

The Child

Synopsis

The Doctor and Rose encounter a mysterious object in the Time Vortex which they pursue to 1941 London in the midst of the Blitz. While Rose meets Captain Jack Harkness, The Doctor encounters a group of children who are being terrorised by a child wearing a gas mask.

Preamble

I’m going to go off on a slight tangent before starting my review. I’m writing this on the day that Big Finish announced that Christopher Eccleston would be reprising the role of the Ninth Doctor in four boxsets starting in May 2021! Eccleston returning to the role is something that I never thought would happen, and it’s safe to say that I’m very excited about this happening. As I am approaching the end of his first and only televised series, I was making plans for what I would be doing for this slot next year, which now will be pushed back a little bit, but that’s no problem when we’re getting more of Eccleston!

Review

The Empty Child kicks off a rather strong end to the first series of the revival with a story that doesn’t become less creepy the more it is watched. Those who have read reviews on here of Steven Moffat’s other work will know that I greatly enjoy his writing and his stint as show runner, but I did try and watch this as it would have been seen in 2005. This first part of the story presents us with a Doctor and companion at the peak of their powers, a character who would go on to be a fan-favourite and one of the best one-off villains of all time, coupled with one of the most haunting deliveries of a relatively simple line. Moffat delights in taking the mundane and everyday and making it frightening – here, it is the traditional image of the World War Two gas mask.

This story separates the Doctor and Rose early on and gives the Ninth Doctor some great characterisation. Throughout the first series, we have seen glimpses of just how battle scarred this incarnation is, but here we get clear confirmation of the impact of the Time War on him. We get the exchange between him and Doctor Constantine, a lovely appearance by Richard Wilson, where we appreciate the sheer scale of what the Doctor has lost, making Wilson’s brief cameo particularly effective and memorable. We also get a mention of the Doctor’s childhood on Gallifrey.

What’s this, then? It’s never easy being the only child left out in the cold, you know.

I suppose you’d know.

I do actually, yes.

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

We also get to see the Doctor interacting with children, something I feel that we haven’t seen this incarnation do a lot of – going forward, the Eleventh Doctor in particular spends a lot of time interacting with children. We also get a good moment that feels as though any Doctor could say it – the scene with the cat, which feels as though any Doctor could have said it. In my case, I can especially picture that scene with Peter Davison!

Rose? (A cat meows, the Doctor picks it up) You know, one day, just one day, I’m going to meet someone who gets the whole don’t wander off thing. Nine hundred years of phone box travel, it’s the only thing left to surprise me.

The Ninth Doctor

Billie Piper is great here, too, and separating her from the Doctor gives her an opportunity to explore the setting of wartime London and stumble across a renegade Time Agent Jack Harkness, before being reunited with the Doctor shortly before the cliffhanger to tie the plot together. Having begged the Doctor for some more ‘Spock’ as she calls it, she falls quite literally into the hands of John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, someone who is all about gadgets and showing off and she falls under his spell. She’s particularly good in her moments of outrage, like when Jack tells her to switch her mobile off, pointing out the absurdity of the situation. She also show initiative, trying to imitate a Time Agent whom Captain Jack is trying to con, and obviously does this effectively enough to get Jack and The Doctor to meet.

The story really doesn’t let up, starting with a bombastic and frenetically paced cold open which establishes the basis for the story effectively and economically as the audience is in no doubt as to what is happening and what the problem is. After the opening credits, Steven Moffat uses some horror tropes to create an atmosphere of fear and dread, such as the Child, the sudden appearance and equally sudden disappearance of Nancy and the phone call to a disconnected phone. The script really crackles with some great dialogue, some humour and is recognisable as a Moffat story. In more recent times, I have developed problems with the idea of romanticising World War II, and for the most part this story depicts something close to the grim reality of the Blitz. The Doctor does have a speech that, in the wrong hands could have rubbed me up the wrong way, but it’s a testament to the writing, directing and performance by Eccleston that it doesn’t rankle.

Amazing.

What is?

1941. Right now, not very far from here, the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it. Nothing. Until one, tiny, damp little island says no. No. Not here. A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing, the lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me.

The Ninth Doctor and Nancy

James Hawes’ direction also adds to this story and the feeling of unease and fear, with scenes like the ones in the hospital towards the end of this episode really well done. The scene with the reveal of Doctor Constantine’s scar on his hand, his subsequent transformation into one of the gas mask creatures is nicely done and all of the other affected patients sitting up in their bed are all creepy.

The Child is one of the creepiest antagonists to the Doctor and this is in no small part down to the performances of Albert Valentine and Noah Johnson who make this character so eerie and iconic. The voice sends shivers down my spine, and the direction and appearance of the Child make simple gestures like pointing effective. Nancy, his sister, is also good and she proves herself to be capable of providing for the gang of children without the Doctor’s help. Unlike Rose, she is utterly blunt with him, rather than hanging off every word. Otherwise, John Barrowman is good as Jack Harkness, coming across as a lovable rogue, even if he is ultimately responsible for the problem that the Doctor and Rose find themselves trying to solve.

Verdict: The Empty Child is one of the best examples of what Doctor Who can do. A creepy child and a sense of dread and fear make this one into an absolute classic. 10/10

Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child), Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd), Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr. Constantine), Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child) & Dian Perry (Computer Voice)

Writer: Steven Moffat

Director: James Hawes

Behind the Scenes

  • Working titles included World War II and An Empty Child, a reference to An Unearthly Child.
  • The first contribution to the show by future showrunner Steven Moffat.
  • This story introduces the character of Captain Jack Harkness, who would go on to have his own spin-off in the shape of Torchwood and would return on numerous occasions, most recently in Fugitive of the Judoon. Although Barrowman would stay with the show until the end of the first series, his name would not appear in the opening credits until he came back in Utopia in series 3. It was intended in Russell T Davies’ original pitch that the character’s real name would be Captain Jax.
  • The first revived story to feature a child as being responsible for the bizarre goings on in the story.
  • The name Chula for the warship is a reference to a restaurant in London, where Moffat, Robert Shearman, Mark Gatiss and Paul Cornell went to celebrate being commissioned to write for the first episode since the revival.
  • This two-parter won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006.

Best Moment

There are too many to mention, but I think my favorite might be the conversation between the child and the Doctor in the hallway of the Lloyd’s house.

Mummy? Please let me in, mummy. Please let me in.

Your mummy isn’t here.

Are you my mummy?

No mummies here. Nobody here but us chickens. Well, this chicken anyway.

The Child and the Ninth Doctor

Best Quote

Before this war began, I was a father and a grandfather. Now I’m neither, but I’m still a doctor.

Yeah. I know the feeling.

Doctor Constantine and the Ninth Doctor

Previous Ninth Doctor Review: Father’s Day