To be completely honest, I am simply unable to be unbiased in writing up a review of any sort for a Steven Moffat episode. Anything positive about the episode, I find myself wanting to give the credit to someone else; anything negative, I happily heap upon Moffat. I'll try and navigate around that bias, but I can't promise that I'll succeed. With that said, "The Doctor Dances."
It's better than the first part, "The Empty Child," without a doubt. The Doctor is fairly in character overall, and while Rose has moments where she's not absolutely Rose, overall, she is. The one major issue that remains is the Doctor/Rose relationship; it's just not them in this one. It just simply is not. There is no connection, no *oneness* between the two. The Doctor treats Rose exactly as he does Jack; there's no discernable difference between the interactions between the Doctor and Rose and the Doctor and Jack. As for how Rose is with the Doctor? As in "The Empty Child," she treats him almost as if he's an afterthought, rather dismissively. She makes digs, one-liners at the expense of his character, of their history. She treats him as if she feels a little sorry for him; as if she and Jack are the cool kids, and the Doctor very, very much wants to join their club. I can't articulate it better than that and I spent much of my viewing of both of these two-parters trying to come up with the perfect explanation as to explain why the Doctor/Rose relationship was so very off. That's the best that I can come up with.
I know that we have the "dancing" conversation and the actual dance, but watching this again with my Moffat-bias firmly in place, I finally allowed myself to admit that I actually don't enjoy either scene. In the first, Rose is baiting the Doctor; it's like a game. What the Doctor and Rose have, their relationship at this point is so much more than that. There is a depth, a bond between the two of them. They share thoughts, inside jokes; they stand too close, grab onto one another's hand. They nudge each other, brush up against each other, catch each other's eye, share secret grins and smirks. They understand when they other is lost, heartbroken, sad and without words they fix what is ailing the other with a touch, with a smile, with the right word, the right phrase, with a look, or the holding of a hand. They don't bait one another; they don't play silly games. Rose doesn't insinuate that he is ever less than.
That's it. That is it. Throughout "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances," Rose treats the Doctor as if he is less than ... less than Jack, less than other men. And for Rose Tyler, the Doctor is never less than, he is greater than anyone and everything in her life in the most basic of ways. It's not about him being a mighty Time Lord, having the all of time and space at his fingertips; it's about how he makes her feel as a person, and how together they've become better people, happier people ... better with two. And that first scene with the dancing conversation, she speaks to him, acts with him as if she is waiting -- but doesn't expect him to -- measure up to Jack. Jack?! A guy she just met a few hours before.
Yes, there were moments where it played as if Rose was flustered, affected by the very thought of "dancing" with the Doctor but I can not do anything but give credit to Billie Piper for that because the dialogue doesn't play that aspect of feeling out. No, it's done so by how Piper delivers the lines, her body language and looks at the Doctor. And, of course, it only lasts a few seconds because most of the dialogue doesn't allow for that type of a reaction from Rose. Despite the fact that that type of reaction from Rose is exactly what one who'd watched the previous eight episodes would expect.
Also, yes, there is a sizzling beauty to this scene, but that I hold accountable to the chemistry between Christopher Eccleston and Piper. They are so dynamic and electric together that in that situation, the slow music, the closeness, the subject being discussed -- even amidst Rose's flirtatious banter about Jack that was more about flirting with Jack rather than with the Doctor and came across, again, as if Rose couldn't fathom the Doctor measuring up to Jack -- that it was impossible to not be drawn in by what their chemistry creates onscreen.
So even with what doesn't work, Eccleston and Piper make it work. See ...
(Watch it streaming via imeem or download it via mediafire here.)
Which is actually quite lessened in the final scene with the actual dancing because Rose seems almost annoyed with the Doctor through most of it. Also, again, we have Jack's inclusion in it which is what Rose seems more focused on. She's dancing with the Doctor when Jack comes in, but is berating him for dancing badly. Once Jack enters, she rushes to him, takes *his* hand and when the Doctor suddenly decides he can dance (more on that later), Rose immediately wants to dance with Jack and only dances with the Doctor because he insinuates that Jack would prefer to dance with him. And then they dance, and it's rather goofy, but not in a fun Doctor/Rose way because it comes across awkward and supremely unsexy and unromantic ... aided, no doubt, by Rose's dismissive attitude towards the Doctor throughout both episodes.
The Doctor and Rose are dancing; I want to love it, I want to adore it, but I'm finally admitting that, no, I don't, I never have. I've always been disappointed with how this scene played out. Back when I watched it the first two times, I thought I was crazy because with the "dancing"/dancing in this episode, it contains the most overt display of a romantic relationship between the Doctor and Rose, so how I could not be happy with it? So I ignored those feelings of disquiet about them and just rah-rah-rahed the discussion and the actual dancing. Watching each episode consecutively and seeing the building love story between the Doctor and Rose grow and develop to have it suddenly ignored in favor of some razzle-dazzle overt discussion on implied sexuality? No, just no. I see and get my earlier disquiet now. That is not my Doctor and Rose. It simply is not.
Still, they are dancing and there are definitely moments of aww! so here are those two clips ...
(Watch it streaming via imeem or download it via mediafire here and here.)
However, that does not take away from the fact that how the Doctor himself, separate from the Doctor and Rose entity, is actually quite, quite in character. In both scenes, he acts exactly as I would expect the Doctor to act. Initially dismissive of Jack, growing tentatively wary to the idea that he might be worth something, before expecting him to do the right thing, and yet all the while, he's jealous of his interaction with Rose. Another pretty boy -- like Mickey, like Adam -- that Rose has following her around. Yes, the Doctor would make cracks about him, yes, the Doctor would be jealous of him, and yes, the Doctor would mark his territory -- as offensive as that sounds, it's true -- with that look he threw Jack's way after he dipped Rose in the dance.
And not just with Jack in relation to the Rose factor, but almost completely all-around, the Doctor is in character. By example and carefully placed words from him, both Jack and Nancy do the right thing, become the better person that the Doctor so often inspires and in their own separate ways save the world. When the Doctor is trying to puzzle it out, reason things through, when he's frustrated, desperate to make sense of it all, that's the Doctor. This is likely aided by how Eccleston so deeply inhabits the Doctor's skin that it all feels natural ... even the stuff that doesn't feel like the Doctor.
Namely, his defensiveness about his sonic screwdriver with Jack. The Doctor is not defensiveness with people he just met, and certainly not with someone that he sees as a rival. And, damnit, he loves that sonic screwdriver! He'd never be ashamed of it, and that's how it came across. And why should he be? If New Who has done anything, it's elevated the sonic screwdriver to superior form, allowing it advances that it never was capable of in Classic Who. A fact that Moffat appeared to remember halfway through this second part of the two-parter. Once the sonic blaster stopped working, suddenly the sonic screwdriver could do so much again, not that it stopped Moffat from putting less-than-flattering quips about it in Jack's dialogue. Still, a small quibble with regards to Moffat's normally immense characterization flaws. The Doctor was pretty much in character this go-round and I appreciated that, and thus the episode more.
As for Rose, in the last episode, I really feel that Moffat just about committed character assassination. The character that Billie Piper was playing in "The Empty Child" was simply not Rose Tyler. And for the first half of this episode, she was less Rose Tyler-ish than usual as well. However, at about the half-way point, she began to become more recognizable. I had issue with the above "dancing" discussion scene with how Rose treated the Doctor, but there were moments, and the overall tenor of Rose wanting something more from the Doctor were in character -- it was just how she went about trying to get that something more that was un-Rose-like.
There were other moments, and in one case a full scene that was brilliant, where we clearly and completely were seeing Rose Tyler. Rose being the one to just blast through the floor to get away was quick-thinking Rose, as was her swift rejoinder about Jack's lack of gratitude when he grumbled. Rose figuring out the nanogene mystery just by the Doctor holding out his hands when he told her she did know what was happening. That was Rose. Beaming at the Doctor's beaming in the TARDIS once everyone lived. Very Rose. Her concern for what happened to Jack came across as how Rose's empathy would normally play out about someone else, as opposed to mourning the guy she uncharacteristically was swooning over. But the best Rose was her scene with Nancy at the barbed wire.
(Watch it streaming via imeem or download it via mediafire here.)
I LOVED this scene; it was easily my absolute favorite scene of the entire two-parter. Rose was empathetic, she was in character, trying to comfort and reassure Nancy, and then, yes, spilling a bit more than she should. But that spilling came out because of her empathy, and she was aware of it and quickly rushed to explain that Nancy couldn't tell anyone that. The happiness on Rose's face, her pride in her nation, in her people was lovely to behold. When she said "I'm a Londoner ... from your future" it was just fabulous, she was so proud. And then Nancy's response about Rose not being German, and Rose's quiet exultation of "you win" ... oh, it was beautiful; a beautiful moment between two lovely actresses. I adored, adored that scene. Honestly, I'm getting teary-eyed just writing this paragraph about it.
Which brings us to a theory that will likely never be confirmed if true, but here goes. I believe that Russell T Davies is responsible for much of the feel of that scene as well as other moments that work so beautifully and somewhat out of synch with other stuff in this one and, frankly, A LOT out of synch with the feel of "The Empty Child." I mentioned this thought in a couple of responses to comments made to my last rewatch-review, and I'm expanding on that here.
I think it's quite possible that Russell T Davies did script tinkering. After all, there would be no reason to have an edict that Davis *couldn't* tinker with Moffat's scripts -- as there was -- unless he'd done so once already. Based on "The Girl in the Fireplace," it's obvious he didn't tinker with that and based on the characterization in "The Empty Child," it's clear he didn't tinker with that one, so I believe that the tinkering was in this one. True, the edict could have been handed down simply because as executive producer, Davis had the power and had tinkered with other scripts by different writers in order to preserve the story he was telling and keep it on track. Still, I can't help but think that it came about because Davis did tinker with this one a bit. Perhaps little moments in the Doctor/Rose stuff, but I really don't think so there. Moffat embedded his views on their relationship so very much in every moment of their interaction that it would have been pretty close to impossible to tinker with their stuff all that much without changing the entire dynamic that Moffat set up ... which served his plot.
It's with Rose alone that I think it's truly possible that it happened because there are moments (and that wonderful scene above) that are so very, very Rose ... a character that Moffat has absolutely no decent grasp upon ... as shown in both "The Empty Child" and "The Girl in the Fireplace." So, yeah, I do think that Davis did some script-tinkering, nothing major, just little tweaks to get Rose more recognizable. I could be wrong, I easily, readily admit that, but the difference in Rose between "The Empty Child" and this as well as the difference between this and Rose in "The Girl in the Fireplace" is so immense in moments, in scenes -- that again, don't quite fit in synch with the rest of this episode, or at all with the previous one -- make me wonder that it was with Rose's characterization that Rusty tinkered. Of course, we'll never know.
ETA: According to salienne, it was in Moffat's contract that none of his scripts could be rewritten at all, so it wasn't Davies' tinkering with the scripts that made the change. However, Davis COULD make suggestions for rewrites and such, so now I wonder (and think it quite likely) that he talked to Moffat -- possibly in length -- about who Rose Tyler truly is because the difference is so there in her character between the two episodes.
Anyhoo, moving along ...
There were still a few gotcha moments in this one (namely Jaime showing up in his room and yet the voice from the recording and the real child didn't change at all and he opened the door and walked in so quietly they didn't notice him), but overall, this one held up together much better. And unlike the first episode where all of the oohs and aahs had been dissipated by the rewatch, I was still genuinely affected by the final scene with Nancy and Jaime, and the Doctor's "everybody lives." Even if it didn't quite all make sense, the emotion was there. I cared about Nancy and her story. Florence Hoath did a wonderful job and made Nancy real to me. And, of course, the Doctor's joy at everyone living for once was infectious, so much so that Rose even acted like someone who wanted to be in the same room with him and shared his joy at the end there.
So overall, as expected, I liked this second of the two-parter much more than the first. The conclusion was strong because the emotion flowed organically out of characters I cared about (both Nancy and the Doctor). As well, the Doctor was mostly in character throughout the entire episode and Rose had moments of such immense Rose-ness that I couldn't NOT be happy about that after the random character bearing her name that I was subjected to in "The Empty Child."
A few random thoughts and then I'm done ...
- I really didn't like (nor get) the Doctor's sudden "Rose, I remembered how to dance!" moment. Was it because Jack showed up? I don't know. It was awkward and a 'huh?' moment for me. I've never ever liked that line/moment, even when I liked Moffat and loved this two-parter.
- I don't like the 80's, raggly-hair grooming that Rose wore in this two-parter. I really don't.
- Too many one-liner/quips in the first half. Way, way too many. In the course of about less than a minute, I counted four. Moffat? Doctor Who, while having comical moments, is NOT a comedy (nor is it Law & Order). Every other sentence doesn't need to end with a punchline.
- I quite liked Jack's final scene in his ship. I really think my dislike of Jack was based on the ridiculous Jack/Rose interaction in (mostly) "The Empty Child" and the fact that Jack is there in the way of my final Nine/Rose episodes.
- Still, pfft! "Our song." Seriously?!?! Seriously, Moffat?!
- What was with the throwaway "red bicycle when you were 12" line?
Finally, handporn! time. Prepare to be amazed yet again. There is no handporn! Again. In a Moffat episode!??! Again. Shocking!
And that's it. No pics, no clips, nothing inspired me in this episode to do so (although, I was leaning towards doing the Rose/Nancy scene, but yeah, too much effort, so no). Whoo!! Thank goodness, I am DONE with Steven Moffat. YAY!!!!