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October 4, 2015

Doctor Who series one: The Empty Child

by Richard Keller, posted May 6th 2006 11:29PM

Christopher Eccleston and Bille Piper of Doctor Who(S01E09)

Captain Jack: Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Spock!

The Doctor: Mr Spock?

Rose: What else was I gonna say? You don't have a name! Don't you ever get tired of The Doctor? Doctor Who?

The Doctor: Nine centuries, I'm coping.


If there is one word that describes this episode of Doctor Who it would be the word you see above. Oh, I could also use adjectives such as romantic, funny, mysterious and, um, blitzy. Yet, they would be secondary to creepy. Credit this to writer Steven Moffat and director James Hawes who used every trick in the Stephen King book of suspense to get that chill up your spine while The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) investigated the mystery of a homeless child who really wasn't.

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. So, jump at the sound of the gong to find out what the episode was all about.


This episode actually contains two stories in one. It begins with The Doctor and Rose (Billie Piper) landing in 1941 London during the height of the German Blitz of World War II while pursuing a runaway warship displaying the universal emergency color, mauve (Hmm, better let Starfleet know that red is now passe). The two are only together for a few minutes before their stories split. 

For Rose, it begins when she hears a little boy crying for his mommy (or, in the UK, mummy). She finds him on one of the rooftops, grabs onto a rope to catch him, and ends up hanging on to a navigation balloon while the German Luftwaffe comes speeding past. It's here that she meets Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman, who begins his first of four episodes), an American who flies with the RAF and happens to have a spaceship that can journey through time. Rose is smitten with Jack, who knows where the warship landed and is willing to negotiate payment with her and her partner.

Meanwhile, The Doctor is drawn from his investigation by some strange events, like the fact that his box's phone is actually ringing. This is when he encounters Nancy (Florence Hoath), a homeless waif who gives The Doctor an ominous warning about ringing phones. Curiosity piqued, our determined Doctor goes in search of Nancy and finds her feeding the other homeless children of London (Which causes The Doctor to state "It's brilliant, I'm not sure if it's Marxism in action or a West End musical." )

It's at this point in the story where Moffat and Hawes put their mark on this episode. As The Doctor questions the children' about the missing ship the little gas-mased boy that Rose was trying to rescue at the beginning of the episode knocks on the door. The darkness of blacked-out London, the drab colors, the camera angles, the little boy asking 'Where's my mummy?', his little scarred hand reaching through the mail slot, all come together to make a very eerie scene. The creepiness continues as The Doctor finds out where the missing warship is located; Albion Hospital, the same place where the pig alien was taken on the episode 'Aliens of London'. But, instead of finding the spaceship he finds ward upon ward of gas-masked individuals who all have the same injuries.

The stories come together as Rose and Captain Jack meet up with The Doctor at the hospital and the gas-masked boy that has been terrorizing everyone all episode finally confronts Nancy. Turns out there are secrets everywhere; Captain Jack tells his new friends that he is a con-man who wanted to receive payment for the warship, which turned out to be an ambulance, and Nancy lets us all know that the gas-masked boy is actually her brother. As the episode ends The Doctor, Rose and their new found others are about to be permanently gas-masked.

This was one of the best episodes of the season, right up there with Dalek and last week's Father's Day. The budding romance between Rose and Captain Jack was a nice light touch to the darkness that The Doctor encounter in his investigation. There were also humorous touches as well. For instance,  the exchange between The Doctor and Rose that I mentioned at the beginning of the review. There was also an exchange between Nancy and The Doctor where the young lady alludes to his rather large ears and nose. The Doctor gdid get a bit of verbal abuse this episode.

If there is one qualm I have with this episode was the scene where Rose is hanging from the navigation balloon during an air raid. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure her chances of survival would be pretty low in real life; she would either perish from anti-aircraft fire or from a RAF or Luftwaffe plane crashing into her.  But, that was minor in the entire scope of the episode. Doctor Who is getting better with each episode and I'm looking forward to next week's show.

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Mayzee & The J:

Thanks for the insight! I started watching at the beginning of the season because there wasn't anything else on that interested me. I remember the original Dr. Who when it aired on PBS in the 1970's! Yes, I guess I am old. Anyway, I was instantly hooked on this "new" version. It is frustrating that in the U.S., we get British TV shows so "after the fact." I am also hooked on "Hustle" on AMC. I wish we had access to more European & Canadian fare.

I will definitely be keeping my eyes open for "The (new) Prisoner." I was a big fan of the old show as well.

After reading your comments, I can't wait to see the rest of the episodes of Dr. Who, season one. Thanks to you both for the tip off.

May 10 2006 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Jeremy


Just you wait. Next week's episode is even better than this. In fact, all the remaining episodes of this season/series are don't miss moments.

I'd say that Moffat is probably the best writer on the show. I just saw his official episode contribution to season/series 2 yesterday...that being "The Girl in the Fireplace". Probably the strongest episode yet. The man gets how the Doctor ticks, no pun intended.

I seriously hope SciFi begins airing the season/series 2 episodes shortly after they finish up with the "current" episodes. That is, if people continue watching! Burn up those Nielsen ratings, people!

May 08 2006 at 12:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm Canadian and it's fun to get responses from my American friends who are seeing the new Doctor Who for the first time. The series just gets better and better and stronger and stronger from here on in. Hang onto your hats. You don't get time to breathe from now on and, although I have wept sore at losing the brilliant, intense and gritty acting job that Christopher Eccleston has done, I am happy to report that, upon seeing the first 2 episodes of Season 2, David Tennant is a truly wonderful doctor as well... it looks like Russell T Davies has scored again. WAtch for it... you won't be disappointed.

And keep your eyes peeled. News says that Christopher Eccleston is very likely going to be chosen to play the lead role in the remake of the sci fi classic, The Prisoner, set to air possibly by next spring. There is also a spin-off of Doctor Who in the works called Torchwood, which will feature John Barrowman (Captain Jack) in the lead role.

Thought you'd like to know... enjoy the rest of series one. Isn't it a blast???

May 07 2006 at 11:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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