Monday, June 29, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 1x09: "The Empty Child"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by James Hawes

The Empty Child/Jamie: “Are you my Mummy?”

How about that, four very simple words but instantly made into an iconic sentence. The Doctor and Rose travel through time looking for a mauve coloured bomb but luckily for viewers, instead we get something much more special on offer as the TARDIS make it’s way into 1941’s London Blitz with a history lesson that no-one should forget anytime soon.

Curious to locate the bomb, The Doctor walks into a lounge bar and asks the punters about seeing anything falling from the sky recently. A simple enough question to ask except even I didn’t expect the audience of such to mistake The Doctor for a stand up act.

Meanwhile Rose is drawn to a child wearing a gas mask and calling for his mother. It’s from here on in that The Doctor and Rose are on a separate course but not to worry as both of their little adventures are interconnected and fun to watch in the process.

Rose’s attempts of locating the boy, only for her to be dangling from a rope in mid air during a German air raid for a good fifteen minutes was amusing until she lets go and gets rescued by Captain Jack. An impeccable piece of casting, John Barrowman is an absolute delight as Rose’s rescuer uses a special beam to pull her into his ship and uses Nanogenes to repair her hands. Already I find myself liking this guy.

Okay fawning aside, the mysterious and downright sexy Captain Jack isn’t shy of relaying information to Rose. Within the episode, he’s revealed to be a Time Agent and assumes that Rose is one too. In fact it also turns out that he’s directly involved in the thing that The Doctor and Rose were looking for and plans to destroy it within two hours if he isn’t given a substantial price for it.

Aside from that, watching the two of them flirting with each other is a surprising delight. Jack is definitely something of a smooth operator and wasted no time in trying to charm Rose, not that he had to try very hard. I was charmed by him too. Sorry, I am doing my best to stay focused but even I have to swoon a little bit.

As a seducer, Jack definitely hits all the right buttons. He laid out the champagne, treated us with classic music, all while him and Rose were on top of his invisible spaceship beside Big Ben, 65 years prior to the Slitheen destroying it. Rose could barely contain her attraction towards Jack, even if she wasn’t as full on about it as he was.

She was also happy to call his bluff in regards to the bomb but at the same time, she definitely enjoyed being sweet talked by him and seemingly enjoyed the modern Jack’s methods than the new fangled Doctor’s (there’s a funny ongoing joke about Spock from Star Trek here as well).

Even if everything else in this episode had failed to hit the mark, then the presence of Captain Jack certainly would’ve made up for it. However, to be fair, Captain Jack was only the tip of a very impressive iceberg here.

Having The Doctor and Rose split for much of this episode had the former receiving a phone call from the TARDIS. This should be impossible as the TARDIS is not actually connected to a phone but it still happens and when a mysterious girl named Nancy advices him not to answer, more questions pop up as a lone gas mask child terrorises The Doctor, Nancy and several children looking for it’s mother.

Every time Nancy legs it, The Doctor pursues her and she isn’t exactly forthcoming with answers. Anyways, a small child even one wearing a gas mask shouldn’t be viewed as a threat but it is as Nancy’s warning of touching the boy and turning into one of the infected gas mask people is very true.

There’s a fantastically creepy as hell atmosphere every time we encounter the lonely child but it’s virtually impossible to not sympathise with the child who is seemingly unaware of the damage he’s causing left, right and centre.

After much badgering from The Doctor, Nancy finally admits that the child is her brother who was killed in an air raid and before The Doctor should try and get the mauve bomb, he should talk to Dr Constantine. Florence Hoath who plays Nancy is wonderful in the role and you can easily see that the girl has major guilt issues of her own.

The Doctor then met with the slightly prickly Dr Constantine who informs him that Jamie has turned the entire hospital staff and patients into gas mask creatures before morphing into one himself. The Doctor almost went overboard noting the impossibility of their transformation and we got another standout guest performance, this time from Victor Meldrew’s alter ego Richard Wilson.

Our final scene in the hospital exposed Captain Jack as a con man seconds after him and The Doctor and Rose exchanged pleasantries but that was nothing compared to the fact that gas mask people are actually still alive rather than living dead. We got a clear picture of that as they began to surround The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack while in another side of town, Nancy breaks back into the house when she fed those children earlier on in this episode and is trapped by Jamie.

If I didn’t think before that Nancy knew more than she was letting on, I certainly do now. Her scenes with both The Doctor and Jamie in the final fifteen minutes more or less confirmed this for me.

Also in “The Empty Child”

According to Jack, the mauve bomb that The Doctor and Rose were searching for wasn’t a real bomb. Then what is it?

Captain Jack (to Algy): “Sorry man, I gotta go and meet a girl but you’ve got a nice bottom to.”

This might be a dumb question to ask but from that brief interaction, does this mean that Captain Jack is possibly bisexual? I did get that impression.

The Doctor (to a cat): “I’m gonna meet somebody who gets the whole ‘don’t wander off thing’. 900 years of phone box travelling, it’s the only thing left to surprise me.”

Rose (to Captain Jack): “I’m hanging in the sky in the middle of a German air raid with a Union Jack across my chest but hey, my mobile phone is off.”

Rose was unaffected by Jack’s psychic paper. Nice to see that extends beyond The Doctor’s use of it. Also Jack said he was single and worked out while Rose, although she considers Mickey as her boyfriend is footloose and fancy free.

The Doctor (to Ernie): “What’s a copper going to do with the lot of you? Arrest you for starving?”

We got a lot of signs here. In the lounge bar there was “Hitler Will Send No Warning”, a boarded house had “We Are Still Living In This Blast” and there was “Always Carry Your Gas Masks”.

The Empty Child/Jamie: “Are you my Mummy?”
The Doctor: “No Mummies here. Just us chickens, well this chicken.”

Fashion wise – Is Jack’s World War Two gear meant to be the real deal or just for infiltration purposes? Also the last time I saw any woman wearing a Union Jack top was Sarah Michelle Gellar is an episode of Buffy back in 1999. It did quite suit Rose, if I’m being honest.

Nancy: “Do you have special powers too?”
The Doctor: “What are you trying to say?”
Nancy: “Goodnight Mister.”

The scene where Jack kept calling The Doctor “Spock” and Rose “flag girl” was very funny. Rose really threw in the Star Trek references in this episode.

Rose: “This isn’t business, this is champagne.”
Captain Jack: “I never try to discuss business with a clear head.”

Constantine made a reference about being a father and a grandfather. Is it an allusion to the First Doctor and his granddaughter/assistant Susan?

Captain Jack (to The Doctor/Rose): “I’m a con man. That’s what I do, I con people.”

The Hospital in the final scene is Albion Hospital. It’s exactly the same hospital from “Aliens Of London” and “World War Three”.

Constantine: “I suppose the plan is to blow up the hospital and blame it on a German bomb.”
The Doctor: “Probably too late.”

Standout music: “Moonlight Serenade” by Glenn Miller. It’s quite an appropriate song too for this era in time.

“The Empty Child” is an absolutely breathtaking piece of television in every way possible. The beautiful imagery of a war torn London, with superb and luscious special effects to heighten the Blitz stricken London along with some intense direction from James Hawes. Throw in Steven Moffat’s wonderful script, a thoroughly engaging plot, a nice level of terror, fantastic music, humour, guest stars and all round performances and you have one of the best moments in TV history. Roll on part two.

Rating: 10 out of 10.

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