Review: Father's Day

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005

Episode Eight: Father's Day, by Paul Cornell

We're back to being soapy this week but with an interesting twist. The Doctor, rather bizarrely, decides that it will be OK for Rose to see her father die in a hit and run car accident back in the barmy days of 1987. The justification for this is that he thinks he's travelling with the best and that she wouldn't do anything silly, unlike Adam. Of course she does.

She saves her father which causes monsters to come and clean the paradox up. They seem to attack everyone near the centre of the paradox including The Doctor and the issue isn't resolved until Rose's father realises that he is the problem and he leaves the sanctuary of the nearby church and runs in front of a car, being killed fairly instantly. Problem solved.

This is an ambitious storyline unlike any so far this season. It deals with the possible consequences of Rose meeting her mother and father at a time when she is still a baby, as well as the emotional problems of seeing her parents as they really are together, rather than the image she has conjured up over the years. It very nearly works and shows once again that Dr Who can do things that no other programme dare.

Unfortunately though, in true Who style it muddles its way through cause and effect leaving all logic in its wake. This isn't Back to the Future by any stretch of the imagination. The strength of this episode though is in the fact that, although clearly makes no sense whatsoever, it still succeeds in producing some very strong emotional moments and some scares along the way. For example, the scene in which the very young Mickey was spooked in the park is very unnerving.

The monsters are very effective to begin with but less so when they emerge from the shadows and I have to say that the CGI wasn't too bad here. The motivation for the monsters seems to be to eradicate time paradoxes but this seems slightly lame considering previous episodes have led us to believe that the whole of time has been messed up. Why didn't they turn up in Rose or The Unquiet Dead?

The top moments in this episode are the emotional ones: Jackie finds her husband talking to Rose (neither at this stage know who she is) and assumes that she's just another of his blondes; Jackie realising eventually that Rose is her grown up baby; The Doctor giving Jackie a dressing down; and most importantly, Pete realising that he's Rose's father and then realising that to be the Dad she needs he has to sacrifice himself.

If the sight of a man on primetime TV deliberately running in front of a car doesn't cause Mary Whitehouse to turn in her grave then expect MediaWatch to congregate in the cemetery with their spades at the ready - this is quite hard hitting (ha!) and along with the scary park scene and the moment where The Doctor opens up the TARDIS to find the inside of a police box, this is memorable stuff.

This will stand up to repeated viewings but they will not make it any more logical. Once Pete has done the right thing all those people come back to life as if nothing has happened and Jackie will not remember that she met her daughter and The Doctor in 1987.

Time travel is a concept (paradoxically) best not explained in Dr Who but this episode is worth it just to see the development of the characters. It is played beautifully, well written and directed and for once the music seems appropriate. I got to the end of the 45 minutes and despite it being silly, making no sense and having the most convincing mini Mickey possible it was utterly brilliant. People will remember it for being very different in tone and pace in comparison to other episodes and this is no bad thing.

Jonathan Bigger

  • Read Jon's review of episode seven, The Long Game, and episode nine, The Empty Child.