Reviewed By: adamelijah
Review Date: 3/20/15 6:11 pm
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This story finds the Doctor and Rose in London on Christmas Eve 1869. They find the dead appear to be returning to life and haunting the streets of London. When one of these reanimated corpses attends one of Charles Dickens lectures. Dickens is roped into the adventure by the Doctor as they confront a mortuary owner and his mysterious servant who are at the center of it all.
The episode would mark many firsts for the new series. It would be the first of the New Who series to make an interaction with a historical creator the centerpiece of the story. This also began the new Series long string of Victorian Era stories.
Christopher Eccleston turns in a solid performance as the Doctor and runs through a gamut of emotions from the giddy excitement of leaving the TARDIS to meeting Charles Dickens who he claims to be Dickens' number one fan in a conversation that showcases the Ninth Doctor at his most chatty to a defiant commanding Doctor that threatens to send Rose him if she doesn't adjust to a new morality. The story showcases this Doctor's weakness and how raw the events of the Time War are for him. He's easily manipulated and his real reason for doing something that's a bit creepy and indecent is no doubt motivated by his role in the Time War.
Rose is at one of her high points of the first series. The character was born in 1986 and as such representative a generation of young adults who couldn't remember when Doctor Who was actually on the air airing new episodes. After being somewhat blindsided by a trip to see her planet burn, Rose is filled with wonder that's practically contagious. She's in awe at returning to this time and being on the streets of Victorian London. However, she's also very firm on some things and challenges the Doctor's support of what turns out to be a disastrous plan because she sees it as wrong and she refuses to be cowed by the Doctor's threats to send her home. The argument between them is a great moment because it tells you a lot about both characters, it's not overwrought. It feels like real people having a real argument where both sides have a point.
Simon Callow as Charles Dickens is also a highlight. Callow had played Dickens many times and brought a great presence to the role, as of all the new Who takes on classic characters, we got perhaps the most realistic reaction of someone entering the Doctor's world. And his reflections on what that meant were fascinating and I liked how he was the key to the resolution of the story.
This episode isn't without problems. The character of Gwyneth was hard to grasp or relate to throughout most of the story. The whole plot also is resolved in one big convenience. And the idea of finishing the Mystery of Edwin Drood as Dickens suggests would have been insane.
Still, it's a very enjoyable that sets up a lot of what's to come.