Arabian (arabian) wrote,

Doctor Who 1x11 "Boom Town" 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). Nearing the home stretch of series one, here we go with number eleven, "Boom Town."

I think that "Boom Town" is a very under-rated episode; it has fantastic -- and I do mean fantastic! -- acting, wonderful writing by Russell T Davies with some marvelous gems contained within the script, a fairly believably plot (well, for sci-fi crack courtesy of Rusty) with some nice bits of foreshadowing, and some fabulous characterization all-around. There are only two negatives that come to mind about this one and the first was out of Davies' control, while the second rested solely within my shipper-colored glasses, but wasn't actually a mark against the episode's quality.

That first negative comes from the fact that the characterization of Jack and his relationship with Rose are quite different than they were in the previous two-parter. However, that change can be easily be put down to the final moments in "The Doctor Dances." The Doctor danced with Rose, keeping her with him and shot Jack that one look at the end there that essentially proclaimed: "Hands off." So, clearly some time has passed and Jack took the message that Rose is off-limits to heart. She then responded to his lack of regard by returning the favor. It's still a tad jarring considering how blatant it was in "The Empty Child" and TDD but it can be fanwanked and that's always a good thing in my book. If it makes sense in some way, I can live with it.

The other simply comes from the fact that while there are a couple of gleefully joyful shippy moments in this episode (one of them being my personal favorite Rose/Nine bit ever), if any episode were to be called the Mickey/Rose episode ... this would be it. Now, it's the end of the Mickey/Rose relationship really, but still it's the Mickey/Rose episode. And just from the silly shipper point of view, I'm all 'wah, I want my Doctor/Rose stuffies!' but for dramatic storytelling, good characterization, it's tops. I'm honestly baffled by the critical drubbing I've seen this episode get; truly I am. I've heard some give it a middling review of "filler," to flat-out calling it awful, the worst episode, etc. And I just do not get it.

It is NOT filler, by any stretch of the imagination. We have some wonderful foreshadowing for the two-parter to come in moments with the Doctor and Blon, and then there's the closure with Rose and Mickey. Yes, I said above that as a shipper I wanted focus on the Doctor and Rose, but the relationship between Rose and Mickey needed to have an end and this was it. Rose has been keeping Mickey on standby, while Mickey ... well, Mickey's been standing by. I mentioned this in the "Father's Day" review-rewatch, but I truly think it helps explain Mickey's attachment to Rose long past when most would have walked away.

I wrote:
It was a throwaway comment said mostly to hide Rose's nervousness and upset over what she had caused, and I could be totally wrong, but I'm taking Rose's comment about Mickey -- "I think I just imprinted myself on Mickey like a mother chicken" -- being a subtle call-out as to why Mickey has and continues to hold onto Rose long after he really should have given up. It's because she imprinted herself on him as a child in a long-buried subconscious memory. Uh huh.
Seriously consider it. The events in "Father's Day" were absolutely devastating, correct? Yes, in the end the events were erased, but it's definitely sell-able that the emotional upheaval involved did leave some marks behind. If we accept that, then with a young Mickey finding comfort in Rose in truly horrific circumstances, it makes a crazy sort of sense that the adult Mickey would just not be able to let go of her now because somewhere inside of him there is a subconscious memory of this woman being a source of comfort in a world gone mad. Hey, it's better than to say that Mickey is a spineless, pathetic loser and I don't want to think of Mickey as such, so I'm going with the subconscious imprinting from events that never were but still left an emotional mark. It's Who, it works.

Now, back to Rose. A part of my frustration with people calling this a "filler episode," or the "sappy Mickey-Rose soap opera" is because it was important that we had this closure. I love Rose; I think she's a strong, brilliant, well-rounded character, but she *can* be selfish, she *has* continued to consider Mickey nothing but an afterthought, he *is* somebody that she just throws to the wayside when the Doctor appears. She *will* always choose the Doctor over him. Always. She's shown that time and time and time again. And yet he keeps hanging on. She calls him for her passport, but doesn't really need it. She's essentially using him as a booty call, because think of it: The girl has needs, and the guy she really wants -- with whom she's been pretty much 24/7 for seven months -- is a 900-year old alien who looks like a bloke twenty years older than her, so let alone forget that her nineteen-year-old self thinks shallowly that she *shouldn't* be interested in him, there's also the fact that said 900-year old alien couldn't possibly be interested in her so what's a girl to do?

She tried to exercise some of that libido with Adam -- fail! -- then Jack -- fail!again! especially when Davies made it quite, quite clear in this outing that her attraction to Jack really is based on his resemblance to the Doctor. (No, really. Throughout the episode she shows absolutely no attraction, sexual awareness of him at all! ... except for one bit of a scene. In Margaret's office when they find the "pandimensional surfboard," Jack is getting all science-techy describing it, sounding extremely Doctor-like, and Rose is just fascinated. It's literally the ONLY point in the entire episode where she shows any kind of attraction towards him and he's acting EXACTLY like the Doctor. Uh huh.) So Rose has been striking out in the 'get rid of this excess sexual tension that's floating around the TARDIS' area, so she calls good ole' Mickey; she knows he'll come running. And sure enough, that's exactly what he does. And it's awful of Rose to do this; especially when she spends the majority of her time with Mickey ... talking about her adventures with the Doctor. It's all about the Doctor.

Simply put, this NEEDED to be addressed because while the Doctor is the hero of the show, Rose -- as the current companion -- fills the heroine role and foibles, human flaws well-written and characterized are all well and good, but something this selfish and childish DID need to be acknowledged, especially before the role that Davies had planned for Mickey two episodes hence. Before Mickey could do all he could to help Rose get back to the Doctor, he had to know and Rose had to know undeniably to each other that they both knew that Rose would always choose the Doctor. Filler, indeed! Character arcs that help build and strengthen, explain and enrich said characters are never filler. It is those very measures and beats in episodic television that create the emotional connection between the character and viewer.

It was a long time coming, but in the final moments we finally got a Rose truly realizing that she'd been pretty awful to Mickey; she'd simply been using him as her go-to boy. Now, true, the somewhat melodramatic response to the Doctor's comment about Margaret -- which Rose made all about herself:
The Doctor: We'll just stop by and pop her in the hatchery. Margaret the Slitheen can live her life again. A second chance.
Rose: That'd be nice.
-- played very much as that: A melodramatic response, but it was fitting and in character that Rose should end her youthful relationship with Mickey as the nineteen-year old girl she is, full of emo, over-the-top melancholy.

Billie Piper did a wonderful job selling Rose's actions in this episode without making her look like a selfish brat. There was so much joy and an air of going with the flow that slowly, gradually gave way to the realization that she'd been treating Mickey so badly, and that realization was grounded in the reality that *she* had made the thoughtless choices that led to Mickey's pain. Per usual, Piper effortlessly portrayed every moment of Rose's arc with Mickey throughout this episode, from the girlish joy to having him at her beck and call again to the quiet guilt at how she had used and emotionally abused him.

Moving onto the Doctor/Rose relationship, as I said above there were some fabulously shippy moments -- both light and darker -- in this episode, but this was not a Doctor/Rose episode; it was a Doctor episode, and a Mickey/Rose one. So those moments, while wonderful, weren't the basis or foundation for any of the events that took place in this one; they weren't a driving force for any of the action as has happened so often. In fact, Rose being in danger didn't even come into play as a part of the Doctor's emotional struggle, and in fact, once she was safe, he didn't even acknowledge her.

However, there were moments. I loved the little bit where the Doctor expressed an affection for the blue police box look, followed immediately by Rose expressing an even fonder affection as she literally stroked the TARDIS while practically laying upon it. There was the way Rose and the Doctor were situated so closely together and separated from Mickey and Jack to the right of them while the foursome were walking away from the TARDIS while it was refueling (see handporn!).

We also got this little look from Rose towards the Doctor:

This came on the heels of the hilarious scene when they entered the Mayor's office and Jack was handing out instructions military-style. Rose and Mickey pretended to comprehend it, while the Doctor was just looking at him like WTF? which he then verbalized (less profanely) by asking: "Who's in charge?" Jack apologized and then the Doctor being the silly Doctor that he is when he's not the Oncoming Storm, etc. gave a "what he said!" response. But, but, but ... look at that look from Rose. It's flirty and proud and amused and adoring and all the things someone in love feels when the one they love does something silly and sweet, yet still showing how awesomely in charge they are. She so loves him, but is supremely in denial about it. Oh, Rose.

You know who's also in love? The Doctor. With Rose. For reals. Squee!

My absolute favorite Nine/Rose moment comes in this episode; I love it for the adorable, dorky, silly, crazy, they're so in love and happy and perfect and I want to squish them forever and ever and ever quality of it. So, we've got the Doctor, Rose, Mickey, Jack and Margaret/Blon in the Mayor's office and the topic of discussion is the destruction of Cardiff and the planet, as well as the solution which is carting Margaret/Blon off to her planet to await judgement. Pretty deep stuff, huh? Yeah, totally. Well, in the midst of this Rose manages to finally correctly pronounce Raxicoricofallapatorious and the reaction of the Doctor and Rose is absolutely, gleefully priceless.

Watch (via Imeem), or download it here.

The utter joy on their faces, the bliss and happiness as he swoops her up into his arms, lifting her off of her feet, Rose's beaming smile and the Doctor's delighted expression of pride ... see?

... all because she managed to pronounce a word correctly.

Oh, ship, I love you so! ::Squishes with happiness::

On the less sunny side of the Doctor/Rose relationship, we witnessed just the slightest bit of stalker-like behavior from the Doctor in this episode. When Rose was outside with Mickey after they caught the bad guy, erm, Raxicoricofallapatorion, we got a quick glimpse of the two of them on the TARDIS monitor and the Doctor (tsk, tsk!) was watching them. Of course, Jack asked what was up (it wasn't clear whether Jack saw what the Doctor saw) on the screen and the Doctor quickly switched it off, but it certainly was a small moment that shows that the Doctor is aware of the undercurrents that were there with Mickey and Rose, and possibly had a sense of why Rose contacted Mickey. And he wasn't entirely thrilled with that. Still, good for the Doctor because at the end when Rose came in alone without Mickey and he saw that she was upset, he pushed his own jealousy aside and offered to wait around while she found Mickey. Of course once she declined he was quite happy to move on. Of course.

But that's what the Doctor does best, isn't it? Moving on.

I mentioned in "The Unquiet Dead" rewatch-review that ...
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.
In that episode, we had Rose providing a beautiful counterpoint to that point of view. In "Boom Town," we have Margaret/Blon flat-out call him on that negative take.
Margaret/Blon: I bet you're always the first to leave, Doctor. Never mind the consequences, off you go. You butchered my family then ran for the stars, am I right? But not this time. At last, you have consequences.
And it's true. He swans off after he's saved the day and so he doesn't deal with the consequences. (Is it any wonder that we see so many episodes pick up on threads of events that happened because of the Doctor's actions in the past?) I mentioned above that is not only a Mickey/Rose episode, but also a Doctor episode and it is. We get to explore his penchant for, yes, moving on, but also the death of millions and millions that he carries in his soul. This was some of that beautiful foreshadowing that I spoke of at the top of this review. In "The Parting of the Ways," the Doctor can NOT go through destroying another batch of millions and millions of lives. And I would be hard-pressed to believe that we weren't supposed to get some of the why of that from his conversations with Margaret.

He did spend most of those conversations, ignoring/not responding to her comments, but they had to hit home.
The Doctor: You let one of them go, but that's nothing new. Every now and then, a little victim's spared. Because she smiled, because he's got freckles, because they begged. And that's how you live with yourself. That's how you slaughter millions, because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind's in the right direction, you happen to be kind.
Margaret/Blon: Only a killer would know that. Is that right? From what I've seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on because you dare not look back. Playing with so many people's lives, you might as well be a god.
And these are themes that are explored continually throughout Russell T Davies' run, culminating in Davros repeating similar sentiments to the Doctor aboard the Crucible in "Journey's End." The Doctor carries so much guilt about all of the devastation he's left in his wake, and this episode does a wonderfully subtle way of pulling all of that up so that when he is hit with it in "The Parting of the Ways" it makes perfect sense as to why the Doctor acts (or rather doesn't) as he does.

Another bit of foreshadowing that essentially tells us what Rose is thinking when she contains the heart of the TARDIS, is the Doctor's explanation of how the TARDIS is telepathic, likely reading the wishful thoughts of Margaret and thus giving her the chance to start again. Therefore, what Rose in "Parting of the Ways" does is what *she* wants. When she speaks of "her Doctor," it's not the TARDIS speaking, it's Rose. Rose is the one who wants to protect her Doctor and make everything right. The heart of the TARDIS was merely fulfilling her wishes.

Pfft, filler, indeed!

But that's two episodes from now. Sticking with "Boom Town," again, what Davies gave us with the many discussions between Margaret/Blon and the Doctor was a reminder of all of the devastation that the Doctor has left in his wake, something that, of course, he never forgets. But it's also been something that's he's submerged somewhat while basking in the light and joy of Rose. That heavy weight was brought back to the forefront of his mind. And as always, Christopher Eccleston was wonderfully on-target every moment. Whether playing the light-hearted moments with Rose, Jack and Mickey, or the darker, yet pretending to be light, scenes with Margaret/Blon, you feel everything that the Doctor is feeling. Eccleston has said that the Doctor is his most instinctive role ever and it shows in how he so completely inhabits the character.

Matching him note for note is Annette Badland as Margaret/Blon. I thought she was wonderful in "Aliens of London/World War 3," but her role wasn't noticeably large enough to justify a full write-up on her talent, especially when I knew that the "Boom Town" review was around the corner (or, erm, three and a half months later). Badland is just quite incredible; I'd put her high up there in the ranks of the best guest actors the show has had. Two particular scenes stand out. The first is the scene with the reporter, Cathy, when Margaret is in the bathroom. Even with just her voice coming from the alien form, you could feel the confusion and struggle, alongside the tenderness as Blon responded to Cathy's personal revelations. It was beautifully done.

The second scene -- the dinner between the Doctor and Margaret -- was a masterful tour-de-force of acting between Badland and Eccleston, a perfect mix of timing and expert direction. And because it was cut with scenes of Mickey and Rose, we were able to enjoy in the talent of the two in both the somewhat comical dueling nature of the first part of the scene where Margaret kept getting thwarted by the Doctor, followed by the much more serious in tone section where she plead for her life. Magnificent.

And not just in those two scenes, but with every scene, every bit, every line, Badland was fabulous. Take for example the crisp delivery here in the last line, just selling the scene, the character perfectly:
Cathy: And then just recently Mr. Cleaver, the government's nuclear advisor.
Margaret/Blon: Slipped on an icy patch.
Cathy: He was decapitated.
Margaret/Blon: It was a very icy patch.
Of course, the dialogue helped. Of all of series one episodes thus far, this is by far my favorite Davies script. All of the dialogue quoted above I found particularly memorable, but there were some other lovely bits as well.

The Doctor: You've been in that skin suit too long. You've forgotten. There used to be a real Margaret Blaine. You killed her and stripped her and used the skin. You're pleading for mercy out of a dead woman's lips.
The final line here has a quiet power to it. It gives me pause every time I hear it.
Margaret/Blon: Since you're taking me to my death, that makes you my executioners. Each and every one of you.
Mickey: You deserve it.
Margaret/Blon: You're very quick to say so. You're very quick to soak your hands in my blood. Which makes you better than me how exactly?
Of course, Mickey and the lot of them are all still much better than her because they aren't greedy, murderers who seek to steal and murder without compunction, but the power of the statement is such that no one could summon up that response when faced with someone they *were* sending to their death.
Margaret/Blon: I wonder if you could do it. Sit with a creature you’re about to kill and take supper. How strong is your stomach?
The Doctor: Strong enough.
Margaret/Blon: I wonder. I’ve seen you fight your enemies. Now dine with them.
Just some lovely phrasing by Davies there. And on a lighter note, I always get a kick out of this one:
Secretary: The Lord Mayor says, thank you for, for popping by. She'd love to have a chat but, um, she's up to her eyes in paperwork ... perhaps if you could make an appointment, for, for next week...?
The Doctor: She's climbing out the window, isn't she?
Secretary: {Pausing, before ...} Yes she is.

So, some fabulous dialogue, marvelous performances, some lovely character arcs and well-executed points of foreshadowing, I simply DO NOT understand the low standing "Boom Town" holds in the fandom. I am truly baffled. I quite, quite enjoy this episode. A lot.

Time for random observations ...

- I liked the callbacks in this episode: To, of course, AoL/WW3, but also Gwyneth and the Gelth in "The Unquiet Dead," as well as teleporting Cassandra back in "The End of the World."

- Poor, Doctor! Now he's hitting up Mickey with prompts about his looks. Oh, Doctor, you are handsome!

- This is, by far, my absolute favorite look of Rose in the whole series: The cute, loose pigtails, the multi-colored scarf, mini-skirt, jean jacket, dark stockings and boots. The whole look is just adorable!

See, just adorable!

- Speaking of looking good, this is another episode that had a lot of "Christopher Eccleston is yummy" shots! (Phew! Especially the second one.)

- I've mentioned time and again that I do not get the whole Doctor/Rose/Jack best friends forever and ever -- and I still think it's wildly over-exaggerated -- but I do admit that their scene in the TARDIS when Mickey first arrives ending with the high-fives all-around and the three confirming their cleverness was adorable.

- But, but ... this episode also gave me the scene I think that set up my grumpiness about Jack being there in the way of the Doctor/Rose yumminess. After Margaret/Blon released Rose, instead of going to the Doctor, being in his arms, being comforted by him ... she goes to Jack's side. Jack is the one who reassures her and comforts her briefly. Dangit! That's the Doctor's job. Yeah, I'm just never getting over my Jack issues. Clearly.

- I mentioned the two key foreshadowing elements above with regards to the Doctor's guilt issues and the power of the heart of the TARDIS, but there were other, smaller moments contained within the episode. When the rift was mentioned to Margaret/Blon, she casually -- too casually -- denied knowing anything about it, but it was subtle enough that when she revealed that she damn well knew all about the rift, it was a nice, little 'aha!' moment. Also, we had the Doctor early on commenting on the nature of the police boxes of the 60's actually being a place to hold a prisoner until a police escort came that played off when Rose later made the observation that TARDIS would actually *be* doing that very thing that a real police box was designed for when they captured Margaret/Blon.

- Heh, and after Rose made that observation, Margaret/Blon punctured her little Rose-bubble of joy by pointing out that they'd all be executioners as well. This was the second time she had done so. Earlier, just on the heels of Rose's joy over correctly pronouncing Raxicoricofallapatorious, Margaret/Blon punctured that happy moment by letting them all know that a death sentence was awaiting her return to Raxicoricofallapatorious. Killjoy!

- I likely wouldn't have picked up on this were it not for a discussion about the Doctor using the phrase "just the Doctor" being arrogant or not in butterfly's journal, but seeing as it did just happen, I couldn't help but note how the Doctor introduced himself in this episode. And, yup, totally arrogant. The whole attitude is very 'I'm just THE Doctor. No other title necessary because no one else could possibly be me.' It actually came across as one of Nine's much more arrogant moments, and it stuck a chord of memory because he does always introduce himself as such. It's always with that 'I am just that awesome!' tone of voice, and accompanied by a cheeky smile that confirms that belief. So I must side with those who take his simple pronouncement as inherently a sign of his arrogance.

- Heh, I totally forgot that Jack's gestured 'whatever' bit came from this episode. Heh.

- Bad Wolf. Ooh.

- Finally, a little nitpick. I rarely spot these so when I do, I'm unreasonably proud of myself. So, they landed in the daytime, the next scene, Margaret/Blon is having her press meeting where her picture is taken. A scene or so later, the foursome are having lunch and the Doctor sees the newspaper with said picture on the front. An article/picture happens in under a few hours in Cardiff? Okaaay. And we know it's the same day because of the whole 24-hours on the rift dialogue. Still, a very small quibble with an otherwise excellent episode.

Filler, hah!

Finally, handporn! time. I'm a tad disappointed in my beloved Rusty: No visible, 100% handporn. Still, you can fanwank a hand-hold here right after Rose slips her arm into the crook of the Doctor's arm as they head off into Cardiff.

Watch the quick clip (via Imeem), or download it here.

I love, love, love how at the end of the clip, Rose has turned to him and is literally, *literally* bouncing in front of the Doctor in her glee. I love Rose! ♥

And here are some caps of it:

So, see you can argue that they *were* holding hands for a bit. It's certainly plausible. And look, look how Rose has her head against his shoulder. Aww! It's the like the back shot of the Doctor and Rose from "The End of the World." See?

And that's all she wrote. Finally.

  • Click the image for previous episode rewatch-reviews:

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

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