Doctor Who series one: The Empty Child
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.