Doctor Who : The Unquiet Dead
After Rose had witnessed the future she wanted to visit the past so, rather than taking her back in the far distant past they decided on the Victorian era, and the random year of 1860. When they finally did land, it was in the equally random year of 1869, and was in Cardiff, only the second Doctor Who story to be set in Wales as far as I am aware.
It started off quite solemnly with a man grieving over his grandmother who had been laid to rest but a strange cloud coalesced around the head of the deceased whilst her grandson wasn’t looking and she got up out of the coffin, smashed it open and throttled her grandson. She then went out into the streets of Cardiff but didn’t run amok, but went to the theatre instead (as you do) where a certain Mr Charles Dickens was given a performance of A Christmas Carol.
It was apparently what she was supposed to be doing at that moment. The odd thing was that she walked into the theatre and nobody seemed to blink an eyelid when she did have a bit of a funny look about her and more than likely had a bit of a whiff about her as well. Still, I suppose they are all far too excited to notice something like that, much like the Doctor was when he realised who the man on the stage was. I liked this little scene with the Doctor himself being a bit of a fanboy on the quiet!
Apart from Eccleston and Piper who were as good as they have always been in this series so far we got a star turn from Simon Callow as Charles Dickens who was as good as he usually is on the screen and has some of the best lines in the episode such as his exclamation of what the Shakespeare when he saw something odd which is probably the sort of things that would have been said in those days and his description of the Doctor looking like a navvy which was a good joke at the expense of the fans who had been moaning about the costume that Eccleston was wearing as the Doctor.
We also got Eve Myles as the undertakers maid Gywnneth who also happened to have second sight and who could tell from just looking at Rose that she came from a place totally unlike the place that she was used to, and that the Doctor has something dark in his past, which is being hinted at in each and every episode of this new series, bit by bit as we go along.
Alan David gave a good account of himself as the undertaker Sneed who had to get used to the ‘dearly departed’ getting up and having a walk about as an occupational hazard where he was concerned.
Mark Gattis’ script was full of some brilliant lines of dialogue and some very good humourous bits as well making the episode a pleasure to watch from start to finish.
I thought that having the baddies being gaseous creatures and having them living in the gas pipes was a good idea on a number of levels. Obviously gas was a bit of new thing in the year that the story was set and there were no doubt a lot of people who didn’t really trust it, which makes their use of gas in this story quite apt in context, at least they didn’t resort to fart gags with the copious amounts of gas in the story!
This was a very traditional episode of Doctor Who with its historical setting with its science-fiction elements woven into the story itself and allowing the BBC to do what it does best i.e period drama. The only odd thing about the story was its Christmas setting, which was a bit odd in a show that was shown in the middle of April and was not a repeat of a Christmas episode from a previous series. However it did allow Simon Callow to end the episode with a line paraphrasing the final line of A Christmas Carol, which is probably the main reason why they set the story at that particular time of the year when there were plenty of other examples of Dickens taking his works on tour like this.