Waiting for The Doctor.

Tardis-in-Space-tardis-6289810-1280-768The Unquiet Dead

As our seemly never ending wait for April to bless us with new Doctor Who episodes, we Whovians usually plop in the DVDs or turn to our online outlets to watch our favorite Time Lord take us through time, or letting us travel with him to the far reaches of the universe. For fifty years the T.V. show has amazed and amused us. Sometimes baffling, sometimes almost too simple, The Doctor Who universe has reached fans in a way most shows never have. I was introduced to The Doctor during the Baker era and have watched faithfully as I could till our current break. This being the case I could go on and on about the classic series, but since most of the current audience found Doctor Who with the 9th Doctor; I will simply continue our journey of vintage New Who with The Unquiet Dead.

Airing April 9, 2005; The Unquiet Dead brings us hurtling to the past, keeping the feeling of awe and excitement that the first two episodes started. Writer Mark Gatiss tells us a wonderful story of Dickens, ghosts, and a bit of intrigue.  The writing on this episode was well done. While not Russel T Davies’ name on the script, his story telling style was evident. The dialogue and action were a continuation of the flow that the show was starting to follow. Thoroughly implausible but totally believable in the context it was given. All the while being totally engaging.

Christopher Eccleston portrayed the Doctor. This is one of the episodes that I really felt that he played the role.  He had brilliant moments but on whole his constant jumping from emotion to emotion really didn’t help me as a viewer believe he was the Doctor. In fact it did the opposite.  In all honesty I felt that he couldn’t really understand how the character felt and was trying to fake it.  The only time I felt there was the slightest potential for true understanding of the Doctor by Eccleston was during the seance when the Gelth ….getting ahead of myself. We will get there.

Billie Piper did a great job as Rose. Being brought  from the extreme emotional low of watching her entire planet being blown up by her sun exploding, with a brief stop over for chips, Rose once again becomes caught up in the whirlwind existence that is the Doctor’s life. What I really like about Piper’s performance is her full commitment to the character. Even when faced with the impossible, you never once question that this is how Rose would react. (Yes I am quite aware of those of us that hate Rose and yes I know there is a valid reason for that, but we will address that elephant at a later episode.) During The Unquiet Dead, Rose is confronted not only with the Monster of the Week, but with concepts from a previous time that she hates and has been fighting against in her own time. Concepts like what a woman’s place in the work environment and at home are. Concepts like not everyone has what we in our time line consider a basic education, yet still are able to do the things that are needed. The things that shape us as members of our respective societies. And though she does have the unconscious attitude that her ways are superior, she still tries to listen and understand the situation of those around her.

Speaking of those around her, lets get to the true star of this episode. No it’s not the monster of the week, it’s not the main cast, it is actually Eve Myles. Playing Gwyneth, the simple maid that works for an undertaker, whose clientele don’t seem to be able to stay in the caskets that they are placed in. Gwyneth does the best she can and you really feel that she of all the characters just truly wants to do right. This desire to do right and help is taken advantage of by her employer, those around her, and The Gelth. Possessing the ability to read minds and see beyond what most people see, she becomes a necessary point of contact for the lost race of aliens. It fully through Eve’s work that you really feel for Gwyneth. Eve Myles did such a wonderful job on this role that when the spin off Torchwood came into production, she was Russel T Davies’ first choice for the role of Gwen Cooper.

This leads us to the Monster of the Week. The Gelth. An advance alien race destroyed in the Time War, they are able to hold their consciousness in a gaseous state.  Able to use this gaseous state to enter the dead for a brief time, the Gelth beg those that can hear them for help and mercy. When they finally get what they want, the Rift opening, they turn and try to kill those that have helped them. Again totally implausible but believable in the setting that presented.  The work done by the voice actress Zoe Thorne was solid and the emotions express truly felt genuine. The Gelth were just a bit predictable by viewer standers. Nothing bad, but it did hold them back from being a fan favorite.

The other factor that stopped this episode from being forgettable was Simon Callow’s Charles Dickens. He brought a lot to the role. Skeptic that wants to believe, disinterested curmudgeon that is susceptible to flattery,  and a man who thinks that he has no emotion left to feel, only to find out that he feeling the most. Wonderful performance and really a highlight of the episode.

There were a couple plot point set ups in this episode that do come into effect later in the series, things like the Rift, The Time War, and the city of Cardiff. Now, remember how I said that there was one point that you really felt that Eccleston was the Doctor in this episode. Well it was when the Time War was mentioned during the seance. You could see the guilt and anger and shame written across his face and you knew that was the Doctor’s pain. But it was so quickly replaced by other emotions that the feeling of watching an actor play the Doctor was quickly reinstated.

The special effects were good this episode, but I think the best part was the makeup. The bodies that were taken on by the Gelth really looked as though an alien presence was infecting them. They looked human, but at the same time they didn’t.  It was a wonderful addition to the story, bringing a unique touch that really enhanced the story being told.

The Unquiet Dead was well scored, yet nothing really stood out about it. Again enhanced without really overtaking.

So final thoughts. Was it good t.v? Yes and no. It is watchable, but a bit predictable. Was it good Doctor Who? Again yes and no. There were a lot of good points, but nothing fantastic. It did a good job of making you feel the story and the time, the characters were a tad bland, and the story was a bit weak.  It by no means a bad episode of Doctor Who, but it not one of the ones that set a shining example.

Till next Time my fellow Whovians.

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