Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Unquiet Dead - "Go out there like that and you'll start a riot, Barbarella!"

The Unquiet Dead (TV story) - Tardis Data Core, the Doctor Who Wiki

Season 1, Story 3 (Complete Series Story #159)

From the distant future last time out, to the not-so-distant past for this story, the thrill of time travel is certainly back. Rose's sense of wonder at the ability to step into the past is brilliantly played, as is the Doctor's at meeting Dickens. Eccleston's giant smiles are delightfully infectious. How often, outside of Doctor Who, do you see characters look like they're having so much fun?  This episode moves deftly from moments of joy (stepping out of the TARDIS into a snow that fell over 130 years ago) to terror (Rose trapped in the mortuary with two walking dead, beating on the door for help) and back (as the Doctor barges in, announces that Rose is his dance partner, and introduces Charles Dickens) that we can't help but enjoy the ride.

Rose, Dickens, and 9 confront the walking dead.
You can't build a show on facial expressions, but everyone here is so naturally expressive that we smile with them, and when the show is clicking, as it is here, that smiling along and laughing with the characters builds empathy, so we're engaged in their struggle. Tennant and Piper have this chemistry as well, but I still say it's a shame we didn't get to see more of Eccleston travelling with Piper's Rose. They're so good together and Nine's a bit more alien than Ten, not quite so pretty, so the building of that empathy feels like more skillful job. 

Nine, laughing in the background, while Rose reacts with disgust at the mortician's callousness is priceless. The Doctor, this lonely, last-of-his-kind traveler, finding a companion that help him move on and enjoy adventure again brings us no small bit of pleasure. He's been through more than we have and look how he can get his mojo back, eh?

In "Rose," we saw the Doctor offer the Nestene a chance, and here again he wants to look past the unfortunate events of the alien and human interaction before his arrival and help, but again offering the hand of kindness nearly gets it bitten off. That's one of the things I like about these first few stories, he shows he's a compassionate being, even when it exposes him to danger, and he doesn't change after being disappointed. He's not a sucker, and he's going to be merciless when crossed, but he always approaches the conflict with an open mind and an open heart ... well, almost always, we'll see later for whom he's got no compassion left.

And, yes, the "happy medium" line still cracks me up.

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