Arabian (arabian) wrote,

Doctor Who 1x03 "The Unquiet Dead" rewatch-review

As I've stated elsewhere, once I finished season two of New Who, I was going to rewatch and review what I call my "Her Name was Rose" collection (click here for the full list of episodes).

A few weeks ago I finished up the second episode, and am now finally doing the third. I know I promised that they would come more swiftly once series four was over, but I started reading a series of books (Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Legacy Series) and have found myself consumed with reading those. I'm not done, but I swore I would get "The Unquiet Dead" done last week, and seeing as how this is Sunday, I already didn't follow-through, so dangit, I'm doing it now. I have three and half more books to go in the Kushiel Series, so I can't promise it won't be another few weeks before I do an episode four write-up, but once I'm done with the books, I expect these to come faster. I swear. Anyhoo, on with the write-up ...

When I finally sat down and wrote my long, loooooooong Doctor Who post, at the end, I listed my favorite episodes based on memory and having seen every episode at that point only once. The first episode listed for series one was this one: "The Unquiet Dead." A small part of why I may have waited as long as I did to rewatch it is because I didn't want to be disappointed. I remembered not thinking all that much of "Rose" and "The End of the World" when I first watched them so instead of being disappointed, I was actually thrilled to find that while the plot mechanics did have issues, they were more than made up for by the great character stuff and Doctor/Rose yumminess. This one, I recalled, as being wonderful all-around; I did not want to find that I had recalled wrong.

I didn't. I honestly don't think there is one single thing that could have been done to improve this episode, it's that perfect. Every character, every line, every bit of motivation, every story and character arc played out, every performance are brilliantly done. I want to note down the other Mark Gattis episodes to keep an eye out for them on rewatch, but then I don't because of expectations being so high after this one. I've read some reviews that don't score this one as highly as I do, but I frankly didn't see anything less than perfection. The three aspects that came into play with this script so beautifully are the dialogue, the plot and the character studies/arcs (FOUR! of them). Gattis succeeds fantastically on all three.

The dialogue, oh so many wonderful lines that I loved. Here are a few:
Rose: Think about it, though. Christmas 1860. It happened once. Just once, and it's… gone, it's finished. It'll never happen again. Except for you. You can go back and see days that are dead and gone, a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still.
Just a few lines, but this little gem was one of those moments where we see the positive force of Rose at work on the Doctor. There's such a negativity (that's touched upon often) about the Doctor never standing still, mainly that he doesn't stick around so that he doesn't have to deal with the consequences. However, Rose, in her youth and enthusiasm of this strange new universe she's discovering, sees a positive reason for his swanning off: There's just so much out there to see, why would you stick around when there's still so much out there?
Dickens: On, on I go. Same old show. I'm like a ghost, condemned to repeat myself for all eternity.
Stage Manager: It's never too late, sir. You could think up some new turns.
Dickens: No, I can't. Even my imagination has grown stale. I'm an old man. Perhaps I've thought everything I'll ever think.
Just a lovely turn of phrasing and it sets in motion Dickens' arc throughout the episode.
Mr. Sneed: Mr. Redpath's grandmother, she's up and on her feet out there somewhere on the streets. We've got to find her ... hurry up. She was eighty-six; she can'’t have got far.
Honestly, it just makes me laugh every time. I know he has his nasty moments, but really, I love Sneed.
The Doctor: The Charles Dickens? You're brilliant, you are, completely 100% brilliant. I'’m such a big fan.
Dickens: How exactly are you a "fan?" In what way do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?
Hah, I love the whole fan/fanatic discussion. I remember as I was watching it the first time -- because of how Simon Callow (Dickens) plays it -- I was imagining what a "fan" would be in that time period and how Dickens is just sitting there utterly befuddled that this strange man is sitting there calling himself this:

Gwyneth: I'm sorry, sir. We're closed.
Dickens: Nonsense. Since when does an undertaker keep office hours? The dead don't die on schedule.
Just another of those lines that I like the phrasing of and find a laugh with as well.
Dickens: I've always railed against the fantasist. Oh, I loved an illusion as much as the next man, reveled in them. But that's exactly what they were. Illusions. The real world is something else. I dedicated myself to that, injustices, the great social causes. I hoped that I was a force for good. Now, you tell me that the real world is a realm of spectres and jack-o-lanterns. In which case, have I wasted my brief span here, Doctor? Has it all been for nothing?
And here we come to him questioning everything when only hours before he had believed there was nothing left to question. Again, just a beautiful turn of phrase and another turning point in his character arc.
The Doctor: Now, don't antagonize her ... I love a happy medium!
Rose: I can't believe you just said that!
Okay, first I just crack up at the terrible pun, but what gives this bit of dialogue that extra oomph is Rose's rejoinder that acknowledges the horrible-ness of the pun as the viewer does ... which makes us part of the joke. Brilliant.
The Doctor: I trusted you. I pitied you!
Gelth: We don't want your pity! We want this world and all it's flesh.
The Doctor: Not while I'm alive.
The Doctor: Then live no more.
I love the elegant phrasing of "then live no more." It could have so easily been some variation on death or die, but instead Gattis flipped it just that bit which gave it an unexpected jolt, making the Gelth poetic in their evil. And not just evil, but evil liars because they specifically told the gang at the séance that they did indeed want their pity. Liars, evil liars. Ahem.

And that is just a small taste of how lovely I found the dialogue in this episode. Truly Gattis and the Victorian age together are a match made in heaven. Now looking back at the first two episodes, there were definitely lines that I adored so I don't want to imply that Gattis is that much better than Russell T Davies with dialogue, but plot ... Well, plot is a different story.

As I said in my last two write-ups, I do think that Davies got much better at the plotting, but he wasn't there yet, in my opinion. Gattis, in this episode at least, was there already. There were no plot holes, no points where I scratched my head and thought 'huh?' Everything flowed organically, the characters and their arcs throughout the episode, the Gelth from angels to demons, the argument between the Doctor and Rose. Just beautiful. And even the one head-scratcher was treated as such -- Gwyneth being dead once she stepped under the arch, yet still communicating with them -- by the characters ... and rightly so. As much as the Doctor knows, the theme of this episode was what we don't know, that there is so much out there that we don't know and there is danger in that, but there is also joy. So there was still a touch of the unknown out there, even for the Doctor.

One more fabulous thing about this episode is the performances. It goes without saying that Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper were wonderful ... they always are. I'm not trying to take the easy way out and not write about their performances, it's just true that the two of them never miss a beat. I never watch, hear a moment with them where it isn't just right. Which leaves the guest stars, namely Simon Callow as Charles Dickens, Eve Myles as Gwyneth and Alan David as Mr. Sneed. Yes, I included the latter in this list because while he didn't have as much to do as did Callow and Myles, nor did Sneed have an arc of any kind, he did a wonderful job giving layers to Sneed.

Gabriel Sneed could have been just a callous, greedy, buffoon who treats people -- living and dead alike -- badly. However, I truly got the sense that, despite her position, he did care about Gwyneth. He threatened to dismiss her, but I didn't believe he actually would have ... especially when we had small signs that he truly cared: Number one in that he didn't dismiss her out of hand when finding out about her psychic abilities, the fact that he paid her two quid more a year than Gwyneth would have been happy with, and finally, his final pleas to get away from the arch and the Gelth. Yes, the latter were in the script, but had David not delivered that subtext, he wouldn't have played true to those clues that Sneed wasn't all bad.

And not bad at all was Callow and Myles as Dickens and Gwyneth respectively. I mentioned in my review of "Journey's End" that ...
I did NOT realize that Gwen was played by the same actress who played Gwyneth in "The Unquiet Dead." Now, I might have had I gotten to that one in my rewatching, but as of now, I didn't.
Watching this today, I still don't think I would have known based on the little bit of Gwen I saw in the Who episodes because Myles did such an excellent job of creating a fully-fleshed, fully-realized character, one that was so different from the Gwen I saw in "The Stolen Earth" and JE. Of course, the different accent, hair, make-up and clothing helped, but I do give most of the credit to the actress. She was truly wonderful, creating this believable, warm wonderful person who I fell in love with by the end of the episode. I didn't want her to die, but I loved her sacrifice, willing to risk so much because she believed it was the right thing to do. She was just beautiful and delivered the nearly epic arc of Gwyneth's journey -- this servant girl saving the whole of the world and no one would ever know -- with such grace and gravity.

The same could be said for Simon Callow's turn as Charles Dickens. Of course I know who he is and I've seen him in other things, so I know how good an actor he is, but it's still always lovely to see someone bringing the full breadth of their talent to a performance. Starting with his opening scene wherein he was just weighted down with a weariness, experiencing not a failure of imagination, but believing that there was nothing left to imagine that had even the chance of failure. Throughout the episode we see him begin to question that belief that there is nothing left to imagine, nothing left to wonder about. At first, he fights it so very much because once one reaches a point where they have given up, either emotionally, physically or mentally -- the latter being Dickens' case -- it's that much harder to come back from that place.

Yet the constant wonder, as horrible as some of it is, that Dickens witnesses at last pulls him back from that brink of mental weary. And from that rediscovery of wonder, he reached the tentative joy of discovery itself as he figured out a solution, paired with his hesitancy and lack of surety when reaching the Doctor. Finally, at the end when he (and the servant girl) saved the day that journey is complete. He once more believes in ... anything. His imagination has been set free and Callow shows the full measure of his exultation, and Gattis uses Dickens,' arguably, most famous line to show that full measure: "God bless us, everyone" which Callow shouts with pure joy, making me smile every time.

So fabulous script -- dialogue and plot, performances, those alone are enough to make this episode such a keeper, and one that I love so. Which leaves the one aspect of new Who that warms my heart like nothing else. That's right, it's Doctor/Rose time! Oh yeah.

First of all, we have the first (and only time that I can recall) where the Doctor expressly, openly comments on Rose's appearance in a way that wholly and completely reads as coming from a man in love. The gobsmacked look on his face, followed by the exclaimed "Blimey!" (and a moment of hee! at that) were just awesome. The Doctor has got it so bad for her; it's as simple as that. She's not there yet -- based on her lack of womanly joy at the reaction, but he is. He totally, totally is. And even after he clarifies it "considering ... you're a human," as he ducks his head back down, you can see just the quirk of a smile on his face. I tried to capture it, but alas, it's too dark to quite capture in still form, but it's so there (check it out ... Download the scene for better quality, or watch it here via youtube).

(I included the "I changed my jumper" part in the clip just because it was the Doctor being utterly adorable. How she didn't jump down and squish him right there is beyond me.)

There are two other big scenes between them, one only tangentially about their relationship, the other one very much so. The first is their conversations -- and that's putting it nicely -- about (a) Gwyneth being a vessel for the Gelth and (b) the morality of "recycling" the dead for the Gelth's usage.

I mentioned in the review for The End of the World:
... that was a great fight scene between the Doctor and Rose. It also made me think ... I don't think we ever saw Rose and Ten fight like that. (Or really fight much at all. I guess they got it all out early on.)
... and I thought that again during these scenes. The back and forth between them, words almost falling on top of each other, each determined to have their way was so well-done.
Rose: You can't let them run around inside dead people!
The Doctor: Why not? It's just like recycling.
Rose: Seriously though, you can't.
The Doctor: Seriously though, I can.
They are just so electric together, but aside from the sparking chemistry that Piper and Eccleston share, there was also how Gattis summed up a big part of their differing philosophies (you can't/I can) that are at the core of who they are as individuals. Rose seeing how limits are put into place to ease pain by way of her humanity, and the Doctor seeing no limits if it means a solution is at hand by way of his Time Lord alien-ness. The issues of how he, the Alien, views humanity and their foibles versus how Rose, the human, accepts the common acceptance of human life clearly play out over the course of their getting to know one another so that when Ten comes along they've dealt with those issues. In other words, Nine had to deal with the two steps forward, four steps back forging of a relationship, while Ten got the pay-off once those issues were resolved and just got to be filled mostly with happy, happy, joy, joy where Rose was concerned. (Well, until he lost Rose for what he thought was all time in an alternate universe. Ahem, moving on.)

Their final scene that revolved -- and this one more directly -- around their relationship was towards the end, when stuck behind the bars away from the Gelth's questing hands. I said above that the Doctor has it bad for Rose, and that Rose wasn't there yet. The events between then and now pushed her just that much closer. She's facing death, at nineteen years old, two hundred years before she was born, but she takes it mostly in stride and instead of venting or blaming him, she holds his hand, she smiles into his smile and locks eyes with him, swearing that despite what they were facing, she wouldn't have given up meeting him.

That's some true love building right there if you ask me. And look! Pictures don't lie!

Aww, he loves her!

Aww, she loves him!

Look at those smiles! A bunch of freaky, scary alienized zombies are trying to break through and kill them, taking over their bodies and they're smiling with besotted joy at one another. Awww!!!

In addition, there were three other specific, Rose-related things I wanted to point out in this scene. First off, as the Doctor begins his verbal and emotional self-flagellation Rose simply responds before it can build to a no-doubt familiar crescendo telling him that it's not his fault. She wanted to be there, it was her choice. Another one of those small moments, simple ways in which Rose made him better by at least allowing him to grasp that now and then.

And onward, facing the zombies and prepared to go down fighting, she is the one who says "together." I loved that. So soon in their relationship, she is the one connecting them, keeping them as a pair. Better with two, indeed. Finally, I hadn't noticed this the first two times I watched the episode, nor even in the countless shots I've seen in fanvids, but Rose is the one who initiates the handhold this time. Again, such a small thing ... but it's Rose reaching out to him, wanting to have a tangible, real connection with him, despite the danger he's put her in that helps ease his guilt and allows him to express a bit of what she's come to mean to him.


(Download the scene -- well, from "together" to their smiles" -- for better quality, or watch it here via youtube.)

There were other little Doctor/Rose moments, both verbal and physical, scattered throughout the episode that just made it a smorgasbord of Doctor/Rose love! (Thank you, Mark Gattis!) I'll just carry on with those in the "Random Thoughts" section of the review ...

- Ah, the famous "better with two." I, of course, was aware of the quote and that it was from Rose to Nine, but I didn't know what episode it was from off-hand. Now, I do. Yayers!

- I absolutely adored the moment when Rose steps out and pushes her shoe imprint into the snow and then takes the moment to study it. This is one of my absolute favorite Rose moments in the entire show. I mean, it's snow. She's aware of it, obviously, and yet, you so get her awe and realization that although it's the same, it's different. It may be snow, but it's 1860 (er, actually 1869, but same difference) snow. It's like the flip side of her realization to the plumbing problem in 1.02 - The End of the World that I wrote about in that review.
She was billions of years from anything she knew with a man that she'd known for about twenty-four hours. Practically a stranger. She had completely placed her life in his hands with barely a second thought. I loved how that realization hit her and how, while it carried through to the next scene with the Doctor, she was grounded somewhat by the appearance of a plumber. I loved that; it was such a small, but brilliant way of showing that Rose is good with this kind of life because she can grasp so quickly, so easily, so rightly that while everything changes, so much stays the same. The fundamentals stay the same. Five billion years in the future? We still have sanitary waste issues. Thus, plumbers. Same shit, different millennium. Literally.
Again, here's the other side of the coin. It's the same thing that she'd find in her time period, but ... it's different, because it's more than two hundred years old. I just love how Rose can be grounded and also lifted by the different sides of the same scenario.

- I love the Doctor's cheesiness, which Eccleston's plays with such open abandon and that was on display when the Doctor rescued Rose from the zombies. "This dance is mine," he says as he pulls her to him. But in addition to that cheesiness, and what offers more proof of just how awesome Eccleston is at the little things, is that even while delivering the cheese, there's a note of menace in the delivery too that just sends a slight chill. I love the Eccleston.

- And then, and then, and then ... we get this great bit with the Doctor and Rose. Through the whole of the rest of the scene, the Doctor has his arm wrapped around Rose's waist, while her fingers are resting, slightly playing with his jacket lapel. SQUEE!! See?

- One of my favorite Rose/Ten moments is in "New Earth" when Cassandra finally leaves Rose's body for good and Rose straightens from her slump, the Doctor smiles at her and says "Hello," in this soft, yet bright way, and Rose responds back in kind. So I was delighted when we got a Nine-variation of that moment. After the Doctor rescued her from the zombies, in the midst of explaining the situation to Dickens, he stops and looks to Rose with a grin, saying "Hi." And she responds in kind. Hee!

- Another thing that I've always associated with Ten/Rose (as it's in so many fanvids) was in this episode between Nine/Rose as well. I always love when I see/hear things with Nine/Rose repeated with Ten/Rose because I like seeing that connection that Nine or Ten, he is the Doctor and either way, he loves Rose and she loves him. I'm specifically referring to the shot of the Doctor and Rose falling down on the floor of the Tardis and cracking up after a bad landing in "Tooth and Claw." Rose and Nine do the same thing in this one:

- I always love the moments where the Doctor is just delighting in Rose being Rose. We have such a moment here when Rose is angrily confronting Sneed. He's just standing there in the corner grinning away whenever Rose gets a good one in, and just, you know, taking delight in her very Rose-ness.

- Showing how in tune they are, we also get their matching disdain for poor Cardiff. Early on, when the Doctor reveals that he slightly screwed up their destination, the conversation goes like this:
The Doctor: I got the flight a bit wrong.
Rose: I don't care.
The Doctor: It's not 1860, it's 1869.
Rose: I don't care.
The Doctor: It's not Naples.
Rose: I don't care.
The Doctor: It's Cardiff!
Rose: Right ....
So getting it wrong is fine; getting the year wrong is fine, not being Naples is fine, but the fact that it's Cardiff? Oh, that's just too much.

And then later in the episode, when facing death, we get this:
The Doctor: I saw the fall of Troy. World War Five. I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party. Now I’m going to die in a dungeon. In Cardiff!
Honestly, poor Cardiff!! What has it ever done to Rose and the Doctor (at this point) that they are so disdainful of it? Poor, poor Cardiff.

- Christopher Eccleston looks really quite yummy in this episode. I took a smattering of caps to showcase this fact:

And those are just still-shots, in moving pictures, it's much more delicious, and throughout the whole episode!

- And on that note, when he kicks the door in without barely slowing down on his way to rescue Rose? Hot. Very, very hot.

- I didn't include the dialogue above, but I truly enjoyed the séance scene, not just the telling of the Gelth's tale and how the Time War and its effect organically made its way into the story, but how the Doctor was affected. And for that moment, even with Gwyneth, Sneed, Dickens and the Gelth there, it was just Rose and the Doctor as she looked to him and he to her. A silent moment of connection.

- And then it was just the Doctor, momentarily weighed down with his guilt. He hadn't just committed genocide on two races -- including his own -- but he had also caused death and suffering to so many other "lesser" species. He's so quick to take on the blame, as if he was the only one in the war, for the fall-out. Oh, Doctor. And he's just as quick to take on the blame for Rose's potential death later in the episode; Rose quickly absolves him of it, making it clear that it was her choice. Not that such a thing quite sinks in, as he continues to take on the guilt of every loss that follows as if no one else has a say in what happens to them. The one thing that Rose was unable to completely heal was that ever-encompassing guilt that demands he take the blame for every thing that goes wrong around him. Oh, Doctor.

- Speaking of the Doctor's guilt: I missed this line in my rewatch, but butterfly's take on the episode in her own rewatching session brought up this line and I can't believe I didn't catch it.
Rose: She's exhausted and she's not fighting your battles.
So much in that one line about Rose, the Doctor and their relationship. (I do love Gattis' script, I truly do.) In Rose picking up on it, we once again see her quick thinking, and more than that, her intuitive nature -- especially when it comes to the Doctor. She gets not only his guilt, but also that that guilt not only informs his decisions at times, but it also drives them. Futhermore, we see yet again that Rose doesn't see the Doctor as this great, impressive figure, but as a man and she has no problem whatsoever in calling him on it. Also, of course, we see, yet again, that the Doctor's survivor guilt does indeed inform his decisions. Once more for the road, oh Doctor.

- Going back to the Gwyneth/Gwen bit from "Journey's End," I had wondered about Gwen being related to Gwyneth since I recalled Gwyneth had died without offspring, so I was specifically listening for an explanation. And it's there. Davies' didn't screw up the continuity just for the in-joke of the same actress playing the characters. No, Gwyneth didn't have any children, and her parents died when she was young, but nowhere was it said that she didn't have brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc., so the explanation still holds of the passing down family resemblance.

- I absolutely adored, in a heart-breaking way, the moment where both Gwyneth and the Doctor realized, almost simultaneously, that she was already dead. The looks on their faces ...

And then the Doctor gently kisses her forehead. Heartbreakingly beautiful; it made me tear up.

- I mentioned this a bit above when talking about Alan David's performance, but I wanted to talk more specifically about the Gwyneth/Sneed relationship. I really liked it; I just thought they had this wonderful vibe, the two actors, and they played off of each other beautifully. (And I get angry with Sneed anew each time I'm reminded of how much of a jerk he can be when he threatens to dismiss Gwyneth ... which he so wouldn't have done. He just would not have. Still, he shouldn't have even said it. Bad Sneed. And, oh, alright, the feeling up Rose when she was unconscious was not a shining moment, either. Very bad Sneed.)

- I love the little signs we get in this early episodes how right Rose is for this crazy life, like how she asks the Doctor who his friend is and when he responds "Charles Dickens" with a grin, she merely says "Okay" and moving along.

- The Doctor and his jumper. To Rose: "I changed my jumper," and "What's wrong with the jumper?" to Dickens. Just a cute little running joke, that didn't run too long at all, just added a dash of humor. Have I mentioned how I much I loved Gattis' script?

- Ah, so if Ten stands with his hands in his pockets, Nine leans against doorways, walls, whatever is handy. I love discovering little quirks that differentiate the two Doctors because I DO think of them as the same character with no issue.

- And here's the opposite side of the coin: A similarity between Nine and Ten ... Nine's gleeful smile when he hears the screams. Ooh, adventure!!! Danger!! Possibly a mystery to solve!! Let's go check it out!! You can see all of that in his smile, just as you can in Ten whenever in the same situation.

- Finally, I admit it ... I totally got goosebumps when Gwyneth mentioned "the big bad wolf." Awesome.

- Finally, handporn! time: Like the previous episode, "The Unquiet Dead" has only one hand-hold, but this one is a doozy, an absolute beauty ::AND:: it's the first one that Rose initiates. Squee!

Okay, done at last. Five hours to write this bad boy. Dang!

  • Click the image for previous episode rewatch-reviews:

  • Tags: billie piper, christopher eccleston, doctor who, doctor/rose, rewatch-review, tv

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