Cardiff, 1869; and Charles Dickens is about to learn that ghosts are very much real- a discovery that will change the rest of his life.
Many 'first's with this episode for New-Who. First episode set in the past, first featuring a famous person, first written by Mark Gatiss, first to explicitly mention Bad Wolf, and first mention of the Cardiff Rift. Also the first episode I properly enjoy of Christopher Ecclestone's run, and the first one I can tolerate Rose in, though there are moments...
I shall get the Doctor and Rose out of the way quickly. The Doctor was more like a 'classic' doctor in this episode, only offering advice when needed and letting others save the day, as well as offering a logical point of view that counters the humans' self-imposed ethical ideas. Rose, for the majority, was tolerable as she wasn't sure how to deal with the completely different society of the past and raised some interesting philosophical points. However, she still has a complete lack of sympathy as shown by her pressing Gwyneth into revealing details she's clearly not comfortable about, and more importantly at the end when she is told Dickens will only live one more year, to which her response is a shrug and an 'aww'. Compare to the van Gogh episode, in which Amy is visibly heatbroken by a similar revelation.
|What the Dickens?|
The supporting cast do well, even though their accents probably sound fake to a foreign audience- that's just the nature of the Welsh accent. Eve Myles plays Gwyneth, a servant who possesses the 'sight'; a suitably ambiguous ability that can be used to look into a person's timeline and generally connect them to paranormal activity. For the record I am opposed to any assumed existence of 'magic' or actual supernatural activity in Doctor Who, where everything should be scientific and related to aliens- much like the common opinion on Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull- but letting that slide, she does a good job and has a well developed character. She's not bright, but she won't accept Rose thinking her stupid. She serves for Mr. Sneed (Alan David), who is being swept along the current of supernatural events. He acts like a deranged psychopath a lot of the time, but how else would you act if you worked in a morgue and the bodies started coming back to life?
|This is a scene from Doctor Who?|
On first impressions, this is a good episode that has interesting dilemmas despite a not-so-interesting enemy. Dickens being involved is neat but doesn't add anything to the story.
In hindsight, Vincent and the Doctor dealt with similar issues and was much better at it. But that doesn't stop this from being a good episode.
Next review: Aliens of London/ World War Three