Doctor Who, S1 Ep3 – The Unquiet Dead

With the name like “The Unquiet Dead,” you wouldn’t think that you’d be getting a light-hearted episode, but that is what the beginning of this episode is. It’s hilarious: from the mortician’s reaction to the dead woman coming alive–“We’ve got another one!”–to The Doctor’s directions to Rose in the TARDIS–“Go out there, dressed like that, you’ll start a riot, Barbarella. There’s a wardrobe through there. First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left.” There are also some unquiet dead people that turn blue and wake up and leave the mortuary to zombie-walk around town. Oh, and Charles Dickens, randomly, is there as well.  Of course, the lightness doesn’t last for long as the plot moves forward, but those first few scenes are fun.

Charles Dicken's

Dickens gets a bit of a surprise

It makes sense that this episode deals with the supernatural. The first episode was our pilot. The second gave us aliens. The third is ghosts, kind of, because they turn out to be aliens in the end. Anyway, the plot sounds like an opening to a bad joke: Rose, a serving girl, The Doctor, Charles Dickens, and a mortician walk into a bar…well not really. They all meet in a theater where Mr. Dickens is giving a rendition of A Christmas Carol. From there, Rose gets drugged, kidnapped (apparently groped), and locked in a room with more of the undead. The Doctor teams up with Charles Dickens, naturally, to find her.

They do and manage to save her from the terrible moaning of the zombies. The Doctor does his thing and determines that there is something living in the gas lines of the walls. The house is on a rift, a weak point in space/time and something is getting through and inhabiting the dead. The serving girl, Gwyneth, (played by Eve Myles, also Lady Helen on Merlin), plays a significant part in learning about the Gelth, the aliens stuck in the wall.

The Doctor is adamant that the Gelth be helped because they say they are dying and nearing extinction. They mention the Time War, and The Doctor makes it his mission to help them and convinces Gwyneth to act as their portal out of the rift.

This is the first episode in which The Doctor makes a grievous mistake.

The Gelth are not few. They are not well intentioned and they plan to kill everyone.

It looks like the end for Rose and The Doctor (“Now I’m going to die in a dungeon. In Cardiff“) until they receive help from Charles Dickens and the already dead Gwyneth. Gwyneth closes the rift by blowing up the house and traps the Gelth there. It is the third consecutive episode in which something explodes. I sense a pattern.

There are several things about this episode that are remarkable. The sets are beautiful. The costuming is very well done. The dialogue is quick and funny. The plot is different. The characterizations are great.

The Doctor is blindly determined to help the Gelth even though he knows nothing about them except that they are linked to the Time War. His guilt pushes him. He snaps at Rose about different moralities when coming up with a plan for the Gelth to use bodies of the dead. He is so set that he is doing the right thing that it is a shock to him, and to the viewer, when he is betrayed; the anguish in Eccleston’s voice when he yells, “I trusted you! I pitied you!” is wrenching.

I really enjoyed the parallels drawn between Dickens and The Doctor. Rose remarks to The Doctor how it must be brilliant for him to experience time the way he does, how he can relive moments that have already passed. Dickens says he is a ghost doomed to repeat himself for all of eternity. Dickens spends much of the episode disbelieving that there are things beyond his realm of understanding, but in the end, it is Dickens who reminds The Doctor that there are some things beyond his reach as well.

“There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Even for you, Doctor.”

Things I Loved:

  • The randomness of running into Charles Dickens.
  • “I love a happy medium.” — Oh Doctor, your bad puns make me happy.
  • The Doctor giving Rose directions in the TARDIS. It really is much bigger on the inside!
  • The subtle parallel of Rose’s statement about The Doctor saying he gets to see days that have already happened and Dickens saying that he is a ghost doomed to “repeat myself” for all eternity.
  • “You’ll start a riot, Barbarella.”
  • “Who is your friend?” “Charles Dickens.” “Okay.”
  • The TARDIS was supposed to take them to Naples in 1860. It took them to Cardiff in 1869. Oops.

Things That Were Unintentionally Hilarious:

  • Charles Dickens’s beard. My hands itched so badly to shave that thing off.
  • Gwyneth’s forever long ‘O’ face when she steps under the arch. My jaw hurt just looking at it and imagining the retakes.
  • The moans of the undead actors. You’re supposed to be aliens not zombies!
  • I originally heard Gelth as Gelf and immediately though of Gelflings and then was imagining a Dark Crystal/ Doctor Who fusion episode. That doesn’t happen, does it??
  • “The stiffs are getting lively.” And after the old lady comes back to life, Mr. Sneed screaming, “We’ve got another one.” My reaction: hahahaha, what??