A Doctor a Day – “The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances”
Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.
It’s mauve, and dangerous, and thirty seconds from the center of London. The London of the Blitz, where one more metal canister falling from the sky barely got noticed. But this one is a bit special, as it creates..
THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES
by Steven Moffat
Directed by James Hawes
“Gimme some Spock, for once! Would it kill ya?”
Chasing a mysterious drone ship through time and space, the TARDIS lands in London during a German attack in the Blitz. A band of homeless children are sneaking into homes during raids and eating people’s dinners, Rose meets up with a staggeringly handsome time agent from the 51st century (I know, what are the odds?) and a young boy in a gas mask is looking for his “Mummy”.
The drone ship is a mobile alien ambulance, the young boy is transforming people into empty zombielike creatures like himself, and the head of the homeless children has quite a secret to hide. Captain Jack Harkness has grabbed the remains of what he claims is a Chula warship, and dropped it into the timestream to attract the attention of a passing Time Agent. His plan is to sell it to them, but before they can inspect it, he’s placed in a spot where it’ll be blown up by a German bomb. It’s basically a con job, to get back at the Time Agency for deleting two years of his memories. Problem is, the ship wasn’t empty; it was filled with nanogenes, programmed to repair living beings. the first one they found on earth, a small boy killed in the crash of the ship, was badly damaged, and once they fixed him, thought he was the proper template for the rest of humanity. Only by showing the nanogenes how humans actually work can they fix things, and there’s only one person who can do it, if she makes a very brave choice. And for once, nobody dies.
An absolutely chilling pair of episodes. Using the darkness of a blacked-out London in an air raid, the mood of the story is dark and tense. The transformation of the victims of the child is one of the scariest bits of work the series has had. They actually edited out some additional sound effects of cracking and groaning flesh, because they thought it went too far.
Steven Moffat first offered his services to the BBC as a writer for Doctor Who at the age of eight. His entire career has been aiming toward the chance to finally do so, and this was his official shot, and he brought his A-game. I say “official”, because as most fans know, he got to write the Comic Relief sketch “The Curse of Fatal Death”, starring Rowan Atkinson (et al) as The Doctor. Moffat was able to keep to a promise The Doctor made in all of the episodes he wrote before taking over the series – “Everybody lives”. For a show with a surprisingly high casualty rate for children’s entertainment, Moffat kept his death toll to zero for his entire series of episodes. Not something he was able to do once he took over; indeed, some say he made up for lost time.
This two-parter also features the first appearances of what may be the most popular new character of the new series, the inimitable Captain Jack Harkness. Jack Harkness plays a perfect foil to The Doctor, with plenty of tension and pissing contests for all. Russell took him and ran, bringing him on as a Companion, making him immortal, and then over to Torchwood, where he had quite a run indeed. John Barrowman fit the role like a glove, and he gained the popularity an actor of his ability deserves. In addition to being a host and presenter for many British TV shows, he’s made it to these shores on Desperate Housewives, and currently on Arrow as Malcolm Merlyn. He is also firmly on my “‘I’m not gay, but” list.