"The Empty Child." Sigh. If you've been following these rewatch-reviews, you know that I *try* to do them every weekend barring a real-life happenstance taking precedence. You also will know that it's been about a month (shy of two days) since I wrote the last one for "Father's Day." My lack of write-up for TEC prior to this has had nothing to do with real life and more about my dislike of Steven Moffat. I had hoped that I might find that my earlier regard for this episode would still be in place with the passage of time and that fact that there hasn't been any new Moffat-headache-inducing information coming forth. Alas, that is not the case. In fact, I actually found much less to like about this episode than I had expected.
Ironically enough though, one of my issues had nothing to with one I see bandied about quite a bit from others when discussing "The Empty Child." That would be the Doctor explaining the psychic paper to Rose. It's placement was necessary because of the use in the Rose and Jack scene for non-regular and/or die-hard viewers, and the way it was introduced I didn't find insulting to either the Doctor (mostly) or Rose as has been cited. Yes, the Doctor had explained what the psychic paper was to Rose, but that was about two months ago if you were to go just by the weekly episodes. Of course, if you were to take into account that there is likely more time than a week between episodes with adventures we just aren't witness to, it's been longer since we (or Rose on-screen) have seen it. Therefore, it did make sense that the Doctor would automatically begin to explain it, and we DID get Rose cutting him off to finish the explanation showing that she did remember. So that I didn't have an issue with terribly.
What I did have a HUGE issue with is that what I saw throughout this episode was *NOT* Rose Tyler or the Rose/Doctor relationship as has been presented from moment one of the new Who. Let's talk about Rose first: She is NOT some twittering, fluttering, airhead so swept away by a handsome man that she doesn't even hear a word he's saying because he's so dreamy! Give me a break! Nor would she be so forward and in your face with her flirting ... especially with what happened last week between her and the Doctor. (Oh, but I'm sure that Moffat didn't bother reading the episode before this. After all, in "Father's Day," Rose distinctly, specifically said she did NOT have a boyfriend. Period. Therefore, she wouldn't consider Mickey her sort-of-boyfriend a week later. But, of course, Moffat obviously (per usual) didn't care about character continuity. What's the point of that? *roll eyes*) That just was NOT Rose. Rose is more together; Rose is smart and flirty, yes, but in a casual, sweetly innocent way. The flirtiness here was too calculated, too ooh la la. That's not Rose.
Especially a Rose who is building the relationship that she has with the Doctor. A relationship that was written so very badly and so very much off in this episode I was cringing. She was so dismissive, and practically contemptuous of the Doctor. Rose complaining because the Doctor isn't "Spock" enough?! Rose TYLER!?!? What the hell? Seriously. What. the. hell?!?! And even putting aside the fact that Rose would never treat traveling with the Doctor and all that he's shown her with any thing less than joy and wonder, and she would never treat the Doctor with anything less than respect (even if it's tempered with jokes and taking the piss out of him at times), let's look at the inherent stupidity in ignoring all that has come in previous episodes. Namely, Rose being all "Finally!" when Jack used his gadget to find information, something the Doctor does, oh, I don't know, EVERY FLIPPING EPISODE more than once. And back to Rose not being Rose at all. Rose saying "Finally!" in a petulant, dismissive fashion ... about the Doctor. WHAT!?!? Not Rose. Not the way Rose sees, treats the Doctor. EVER.
So, I now have a new reason to dislike Moffat and his take on Who. He made Billie Piper practically unwatchable for me because he wrote Rose so terribly, terribly out of character. (Of course, it must be said that Piper was still wonderful at playing this non-Rose-character because, you know, she's Billie Piper.) And honestly? He didn't do much better by the Doctor. I think that the Doctor escaped almost unscathed for a few reasons. The primary one being because Christopher Eccleston was playing the role. He's not only an amazingly gifted actor who has admitted that he plays the Doctor more instinctively than any role he's ever done, but he's also an actor who stands his ground on what he believes is best for the character. Therefore, he kept the Doctor as much the Doctor as he could even with some dialogue and actions somewhat out of character as written by Moffat. (Assuming Rose wouldn't remember the psychic paper, not making finding Rose his number one priority, not showing an ounce of joy, relief, etc. at seeing Rose alive and well, and then not showing an ounce of annoyance, jealousy, etc. that she was with another pretty boy.)
Also, I think the fact that Moffat's "gotcha" story relied on Nancy looking so young, therefore he wasn't able to sex up the relationship between the Doctor and Nancy. Had she not been required (via the plot) to look like a young teenager, but instead a young woman, I'm sure that we would have seen the Doctor flirting openly, crushing on her, etc. and completely forgetting Rose's existence. Thank goodness for small favors. Or not. Instead, Moffat saved that aspect of his stellar writing for Rose ... and gifted her with the number one out of character prize.
As for the other characters, Jack wasn't as annoying as I remembered actually. I think I'd built it up in my head how much I disliked the character, his flirting with Rose, his smarminess, my general lack of John Barrowman-affection to that degree that I expected to positively despise him upon seeing his introduction. Instead, he came off rather well in retrospect. Playing Rose, playing the situation, he was a conman, but Barrowman did a good job in playing the moments that laid the foundation of a Jack who doesn't really want to be a conman and can be a hero. (Namely in the scene where he breaks almost immediately and explains his con upon seeing the victims in the hospital.)
Finally, Nancy as played by Florence Hoath, was a great character. I will give Moffat that. He does create great characters generally; unfortunately, he just also generally rewrites existing characters to suit his own vision. Also, I'm sure the character was aided by not only Hoath's performance, but by that same script necessity which saved us from enduring the Doctor fancying her: Nancy had to come across as a teenager, and not a young woman, therefore, Moffat was hampered by his own script in sexing her (and thus her relationship with the Doctor) up. Poor Moffat; how that must have pained him so.
Speaking of plot ... I still like the conclusion, but there were many "Gotcha!" moments here that were designed to merely jolt the viewer, as opposed to making any actual sense. The big one I'm specifically recalling is the Doctor showing up at the dinner table when the meat is being passed around. Logically, there is no way at all that the Doctor could have entered the room, sat down and no one would have noticed. Just stupid. It was merely done for the "ooh! Look!" effect. Also, the close-up of the scar on Jaime's hand and then the patients was frustrating in retrospect because it clearly was meant for the viewers to note the similarity and wonder, but not the Doctor. The Doctor?!?! There's no way the Doctor wouldn't have taken note of that, seen the patients and then automatically zero in on that. Again, stupid. (Or rather, he's not, but Moffat wrote him as such for not making the connection automatically.) I don't know, maybe I've forgotten and it's casually referred to in the second-parter which would show that he had noted it, but just in this and along with all of Moffat's other little tricks, I'm not inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Random observations and then I'm done (yes, no clips, no caps ... why bother?)
- What was the point of the Union Jack shirt? No, seriously, what was the point? For some cheap shots?
According to aflaminghalo: the why of the Union Jack shirt. Apparently, they were quite the popular clothing motif for a while there in Great Britain, thus they chose to combine that pop culture bit with the 1940's motif. Uhm, okay.
- Regardless of Rose's OOC behavior, Billie was still so pretty!
- The oohs! and aah! and chills and mystery that were there upon an initial viewing just aren't there in subsequent viewings, thus the attention to the characters. And we saw how well that turned out. Hmmpphf!
- ETA: (Thanks, shinyopals!) Erm, why were Nancy and Jaime both able to so quickly, quietly and effortlessly disappear? Was that part of the "mystery?" That we were supposed to wonder if they were aliens? Great for the mystery, but lousy as hell for actually making sense once the explanation comes. Pfft.
- A couple more ... I forgot my favorite part of the episode: The Doctor picking up and petting the cat. I'm a cat person and it's nice that I got a positive Doctor/cat moment to counterbalance the disparaging (understandable given his reason) kitty commentary that he later makes in "Fear Her."
- Another stupid Rose point that made me go "huh?" Why would Rose have just grabbed that rope and climbed up it? Yes, she wanted to get to the child, but a rope appears out of the air and she just climbs it? I mean, that was just stupid and Rose is not stupid. She would have found another way.
Finally, handporn! time. Prepare to be amazed. There is no handporn! Shocking! In a Moffat episode!??! Double hmpphf!
And that's all she wrote. (Damn, shortest rewatch-review ever. Thanks, Steve!)