Through out the wait for our beloved Time Lord and his blue box of wonders to return to us, we Whovians usually fill the time by returning to the universe of delights by way of DVD or spinning up the hard drives. The episodes we watch span the entire 50 year history of the show, some choosing Jon Pertwee as their Doctor of choice, while other reach for the David Tennant sections in their DVD collection. We choose the episodes that bring us the most fond memories, or the ones that we can quote as it plays, or the ones that still make us shudder. The Empty Child is defiantly in the latest catagory.
Aired on May 21st 2005, we Whovians began our abusive relationship with Steven Moffat. Giving us a wonderful story, a fantastic use of characters and dialogue, and bringing out the full range of emotions without bludgeoning us, Moffat sunk his hook into us. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Steven Moffat’s writing. I think he is one of the best things to happen to the show. At the same time I hate Steven Moffat’s writing because I do become so emotionally attached to the characters and worlds he gives us…and then promptly jerks away.
Christopher Eccleston actually does a decent job with this episode. Though it still feels like a performance, it a very good performance. He does portray the proper balance of emotions in this, with the over riding burning curiosity being the driving force. Laced with bits of humor, witty banter and a genuine feel for what the situation calls for, which really adds to the ambiance of this episode.
Billie Piper does a great job rebounding Rose with this episode. After chasing an unknown object through the time vortex, the Tardis lands in 1941 London. Upon arrival Rose sees a child in a gas mask on top of a building. Ignoring the Doctor’s orders to not wander off, she climbs up the building to try to help this child. Her heart is in the right place, but her actions once again lead to trouble. Getting carried off by a barrage balloon, Rose is promptly put into the middle of a German air raid while wearing a Union Jack t-shirt. Granted at this point she is almost becoming a scream queen, but her reactions and emotional portrayals are accurate to the situation. She continue on her merry voyage until she is rescued by a handsome stranger, with a space ship. Captain Jack Harkness.
Now we have reached the obvious show stealer, John Barrowman. You can see why. His joyful and sensual Captain Jack Harkness is the reason the ship is here. As an ex time agent turned conman, Jack grabbed a warship ambulance and chucked it into the time stream. When the people who follow after it come in, he tells them that they have two hours to get the money to give to him otherwise the bombs fall on the ship and it is lost forever. His then plans on letting the bombs hit the ship anyways and leaving with the money. His plans go awry when the ship he crashes in 1941 London and kills a little boy. John Barrowman is absolutely Ev the star of this episode, and most the episodes that follow if I must be honest. Every scene he is in, you follow him almost to the exclusion of the others in the scene. His charisma and complete joy in being Jack Harkness make him completely compelling. He is Captain Jack Harness and you know it from the first moment he walk on screen.
Florence Hoath plays Nancy, a street kid that finds homes during the air raids with meals on the table and call in the other children to eat, making sure that they are well taken care of even though they are in the middle of a war. Nancy is also the first to meet the Doctor while he is looking for the ship, and warns him not to answer the phone that is ringing. A phone that is not connected to anything. Intrigued by Nancy and her knowledge the Doctor follows her around, discovering that she is the sister of the child that was killed by Captain Jack’s “junk” spaceship. The child who doesn’t stay dead. The child who if he touches you transmit a very impossible plague. A child who can turn perfectly healthy humans into creatures with gas masks that are welded into faces. An Empty child. Florence does a wonderful job expressing the terror that this child brings to everyone. The constant stress she is under by being haunted by this child come through clearly and you really and truly fear for her, the little nuances of a caring sister that is grief stricken and trying to make atonement are heart wrenching make you want to do everything in your power to help her.
The episode ends with Rose finally reuniting with The Doctor, bringing Captain Jack with her. As they compare notes about what has happened, they are suddenly surrounded by all the victims of the plague, all asking in that creep voice that draws chills up your spine, “Are you my mommy?” While this is happening, Nancy is being cornered by the Empty Child , begging in a singsong, dance on your grave creepy voice, “Moommmy, mommy, mommy,are you my mommy??”
The Monster of the Week is simply a child in a gas mask. On paper it shouldn’t be that big of a thing. But Noah Johnson voicing the Empty Child along with the cinematography and special effects made this one of the creepiest Doctor Who I’ve ever watched. Even watching it again, I had goosebumps and shivers whenever the Empty Child starts its singsong “Mommy”. Just the way it is presented and the way the characters are effected by this little boy in a gas mask makes every hair on the back of your neck stand up.
The special effects on this episode were top notch. The CGI does show its age in some places, but not enough to distract from the superb story that is being presented. The practical effects and makeup of the gas masks really sell the story. Nothing overly extravagant, but nothing that would be considered cheap either. A perfect blend that really does it job. Unless you really look for them, they don’t call attention to themselves.
The score. Dear gods was the score used right. It really brought the creepy factor up. The way it was used, most horror/suspense movies can’t get that good of a use out of their soundtracks.
Final Thoughts. Was it good TV?? It is some of the best TV of the decade. Was it good Doctor Who?? Bar none, this episode and its conclusion were the best episodes of the first season. The writing was fantastic. The acting was damn near perfect. The story was enthralling and the characters were beyond stellar. It was and is well worth the watch. Just be prepared to feel creeped out and make whatever sound you make when the chills run down your spine.