After a lengthy delay, we’re back, continuing our New Doctor Who rewatch! It’s been a while, so if you would like to catch up, here are the entries for Series One, part one, and Series One, part two. As a reminder, each season in the new show tends to have considerably more stories than the classic seasons; therefore we’re splitting each season into parts for the sake of length. Today—and due to an upcoming two-parter that we won’t want to split up—we’re cutting down to only two episodes, episodes seven and eight of Series One. Let’s get started!
Spoilers ahead for anyone who has never seen these episodes!
Picking up right where we left off in Dalek, we find ourselves in the far future again in The Long Game. It’s approximately the year 200,000, and humanity is squarely in the middle of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire—or at least, it should be. It doesn’t take the Doctor long to figure out that something has gone wrong with the empire. The TARDIS lands aboard Satellite 5, a large space station orbiting the Earth. The station is responsible for television (or at least, the 2000th century equivalent) broadcasting, and especially newscasting from the far-flung reaches of the empire.
The latest companion, Adam Mitchell, is overwhelmed at first by this new experience. The Doctor treats him pretty roughly, which is no surprise, given that he didn’t want Adam along in the first place. After obtaining some credits—money—for use in exploring the station, the trio finds themselves observing a newsgathering session—and get a surprise: The central computer in the session is actually the living brain of one of the news staff, “borrowed” for the purpose via an electronic port in her head. During the session, one of the staff is promoted unexpectedly, and called up to Floor 500, the near-mythical control deck of the station. Behind the scenes, we see that it is not what she expects, but then, she also has her secrets; she’s an agent working to expose corruption on the station. She finds that something else is in control—and dies for her trouble.
Separating himself from the Doctor, Adam sneaks off and attempts to acquire information that he can send home to exploit in his own time, thus vindicating the Doctor’s distrust of him. To that end, he uses the credit supply to have one of the electronic ports installed in his own head; it only appears when triggered by a finger snap.
Upon investigating further, the Doctor and Rose find themselves admitted to Floor 500, where they meet the Editor, a slick and oily human in charge of the station. He himself only works for the true master, though: a massive, dangerous creature with a high metabolism—and therefore requiring constant cold temperatures—called the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe. The Editor reveals that the Empire is neither human nor particularly great, because, for 91 years, the Jagrafess has been manipulating its development for profit. And now, thanks to Adam’s access of the systems, it knows all about the Doctor, and wants the TARDIS. The Doctor and Rose and Adam are all rescued, however, by one of the surviving news staff, when she interrupts the Editor’s access, and pumps heat into the Jagrafess’s room. This causes it to explode—and in a final bit of revenge from the agent’s barely-animate corpse, the Editor is trapped and killed with it. The Empire is now free to resume its development.
Full of anger, the Doctor returns Adam to his parents’ home. He destroys the tape Adam had made of exploitable data, but warns him that he will have to live a quiet life, because all it takes is a snap of the fingers to expose his secret. Adam expects to be able to do just that…until his mother comes in and snaps her fingers just seconds later.
There’s a Bad Wolf reference early in this episode; one of the television broadcasts in the background refers to the “Bad Wolf channel”, which is carrying an exclusive on the Face of Boe’s pregnancy. (That creature—whether the rumor about it being an ancient Jack Harkness is true or not—is incredibly long-lived; its previous appearance is billions of years later than this.) As well—though it hasn’t been revealed at this point—this episode sets up for the series one finale, which will return the Doctor to Satellite 5.
I feel compelled to say something about human history here. I’ve made a project throughout these rewatches of trying to figure out the basic course of future history. There are five major periods to which Doctor Who makes repeated reference, though not always in detail. There is the colonization period, from about 2100 to 2500 AD; and the Earth Empire, which grows out of the colonization period and lasts until about 3000 AD. These two periods were portrayed often in the classic series, although occasional trips into the further future also occurred (but without delving much into the greater scene of humanity). The Earth Empire, if named according to NuWho conventions, would have been synonymous with the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. The Second Great and Bountiful Human Empire was in existence by the 42nd century, and was the first truly intergalactic empire, encompassing three galaxies. It is the galaxy in which the Ood served as slaves, as seen in Planet of the Ood, and was concurrent with the Earth Alliance, a smaller political body seen in the audio Invasion of the Daleks. The Third Great and Bountiful Human Empire has not been seen onscreen, but appeared in the comics with the Eleventh Doctor, who described it as “neither great, nor bountiful, nor overwhelmingly human”; it occurs in the 78th and 79th centuries, and though we haven’t seen it addressed, it is possible that some classic stories may occur here. Then, it is a long period—more than a hundred thousand years—before we come to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire, seen here; we don’t get an accurate accounting of its size, as the Doctor describes it a bit poetically, so we can’t really compare it to the previous Empires. It remains to be seen if any of these empires will be further fleshed out, but we know this is not the end; another intergalactic civilization exists at the time of The End of the World, and I have said in various places that I think that that civilization is the Empire seen fighting the Cybermen in Nightmare in Silver. I mention all of this here because it is a topic I expect to recur often during this rewatch.
Father’s Day takes us to another new frontier: Rose’s personal past. We’ve met her mother, Jackie; now we learn that her father, Pete Tyler, died at a young age, killed by a hit-and-run driver. Knowing he died alone and in pain, Rose wants to be there for him, even if he doesn’t know her; and against his better judgment, the Doctor allows it. In fact, he allows it twice, as she balks the first time—and on the second attempt, she saves his life instead. This creates a paradox, and trouble for everyone.
We actually have an exact date for this episode—in fact, we have both birth and death dates for Pete Tyler: September 15, 1954 to November 7, 1987, the date of this story. En route to a friend’s wedding at the time of his original death, he was struck and killed, until Rose changed it all. So, what are these massive, demonic creatures that suddenly appeared, and started killing people without a trace? And why is the interior of the TARDIS suddenly gone?
The Doctor rushes Rose, Jackie, Pete, their friends, and—shockingly to Rose—the infant version of Rose, into the church, and barricades the doors. The ancient stone of the building is enough to keep the creatures—called Reapers—out for now, but not for long. The Doctor is very angry with Rose, and tells her that her stupid actions have caused this problem. The creatures are like white blood cells responding to a wound to cleanse it; however, this wound is in time itself. The Doctor explains that a person’s actions are fixed in time once carried out, and that one cannot change her own personal history without causing a paradox. These creatures, therefore, will kill everyone to repair the damage—and they are trapped there without the TARDIS. He laments that the Time Lords would once have prevented this, but they are gone, thanks to him. He also tells Rose not to make contact with her infant self—this will cause a further paradox, and will let the Reapers in.
Anachronisms begin to happen. Music and phone calls from other times begin to appear on present-day devices. Rose finds herself in contact with the child version of her ex-boyfriend, Mickey, and suspects she has imprinted herself on him, possibly leading to his later love for her. The Doctor sets in motion a plan to recover the TARDIS using its key, but it is eventually interrupted. As the truth comes out about Rose’s identity, Pete and Jackie argue, and Pete—not knowing the danger—presses the infant Rose into the adult Rose’s hands. The creatures materialize inside the church, and the Doctor—being the oldest thing there—sacrifices himself to let the others escape.
Throughout this time, Pete has been seeing something strange out the windows: The car that should have struck him keeps reappearing as if on a loop. He realizes that the only way to fix time is to let his death occur. Jackie objects, showing her true love for him for once, but he insists; he tells her that his sacrifice will allow her to raise Rose properly. The three share a final embrace…and he throws himself in front of the car.
Time is instantly repaired, and the Doctor and the TARDIS are restored. Lesson learned, Rose departs again with him…and we close with Jackie telling the young Rose about her father, and the mysterious girl who stayed with him while he died, then vanished.
For me, this story competes with Dalek as the high point of series one. Besides being a good and entertaining—and, I admit, an emotional—story, it gives us some foundational concepts which we will see repeatedly throughout the upcoming seasons. It re-establishes the First Law of Time, which will be further explored in later episodes—the law that states that you cannot change your own timeline, due to the risk of paradox. It also establishes—though not in so many words—the concept of fixed points, events which must occur and cannot be altered, as later explored in The Waters of Mars. As well, it establishes that some things can be changed; the hit-and-run driver stops and takes responsibility for his actions after Rose’s intervention. As well, we get some setup for the four-part series two finale, from Rise of the Cybermen to Doomsday. There is also another Bad Wolf reference; the phrase is written across a poster for an upcoming concert.
What I find most interesting about both these episodes is their similarity in basic structure. Both episodes hinge on a companion making a terrible mistake, and both times the Doctor has to intervene and set it right. However, in both episodes, the Doctor fails to save the day (in Father’s Day, he actually dies trying). In both cases, it is up to incidental characters to save the Doctor and Rose and the entire situation—Cathica in The Long Game, Pete in Father’s Day. In both episodes, exploitation of time travel is a critical issue; Adam attempts to exploit future knowledge for financial gain in the present, and the Doctor accuses Rose of exploiting him and the TARDIS for an opportunity to save her father. The parallel is interesting, and though Adam is ejected from the TARDIS, there’s really nothing to distinguish Rose’s actions from his, though the Doctor allows her to stay. (Adam will get another appearance, as a villain, in the comics.)
Overall, comparing the two episodes, I preferred the latter. However, The Long Game was decent, and also is necessary to establish the season finale, so I can’t complain. I like the ongoing Bad Wolf arc; I remember being very intrigued on my first viewing. Not so pleasant: The Doctor is at his angriest in these episodes, and takes it out on those closest to him (for example, we get another “stupid ape” exclamation, aimed at Rose). This is not his fanatical hatred of the Daleks; it’s simple bitterness, and it reduces him. Still, he will recover soon.
Next time: popular two-parter The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and the return of an old enemy in Boom Town. Also, Captain Jack Harkness! See you there.
All episodes may be viewed on Dailymotion; links are below.