Father’s Day by Paul Cornell
Fortunately this episode is a major improvement from the previous one in terms of character and plot. Rose asks the Doctor to take her back to see some of her father’s life – as he died when she was just a baby. After doing this Rose remembers how her mum Jackie (Camille Coduri) told her about her father’s death in a hit and run, and how she’d wished someone had been there with him at the end. Rose wants to be that person, but is overcome by emotion and on a spur of the moment impulse, saves her dad from being killed. The Doctor is beyond angry at this and threatens to abandon Rose, only to find her meddling with the timeline has unleashed a load of alien scavengers known as the reapers, and displaced his Tardis (a great scene where the Doctor opens the doors only to find an empty police box). The group are then forced to seek shelter in a church with a wedding party, a younger Jackie and baby Rose as the Reapers begin to eradicate humanity to ‘cleanse the wound’ in time.
This episode belong to Rose (Billie Piper) and her father Pete (Shaun Dingwall) who both put in great performances. Pete’s reactions to the revelations that Rose is his daughter from the future, that time travel is possible, and that he died before Rose ever knew him are perfectly played. Billie Piper said this was her favourite episode of series 1, and you can see why as her acting talents are called upon more here than anywhere else as she displays Rose’s emotional trauma as she grapples with finding out her father and Jackie weren’t as happy together as she was told, witnesses the Doctor being killed by a reaper and deals with the fact that she has ultimately doomed the Earth. It’s left up to Pete to comfort her and save the day (by heroically sacrficing himself to reverse the paradox and get rid of the reapers – bringing back the Doctor and the Tardis in the process) and Rose makes sure he doesn’t die alone this time. It’s an emotional powerhouse.
Now the major problem with the episode; the reapers. Considering how many times the Doctor’s changed history or created a paradox (without the reapers showing up) they seem a bit out of place in Doctor Who canon. That’s a minor quibble. My major annoyance is how unconvincing they are – the shows CGI was okay throughout series 1, but here it really isn’t up to much – the reapers look terrible – they might scare a few kids, but i’m glad they’ve never reappeared.
Overall the human elements of this episode were great, but the reapers let things down. Billie Piper’s best episode too.
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Next Time: Steven Moffat makes his scripting debut as the Doctor and Rose encounter a creepy child in a gas mask and an enigmatic time-traveller named Captain Jack…