Review: Father's Day

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005


Sometimes a duffle coat's just a duffle coat

So then, 'Fathers Day'...

ZERO SPOILERS

As you’d expect from Paul Cornell, an episode that’s keen to wring as much emotion as possible from WHO’s format. If that sounds scathing, then happily it should still give kids ammonia-scented nightmares. The old time-travel chestnut at the kernel of the plot is handled with some gusto and there’s plenty of frequently odd (for WHO anyway) pacing.

NO SPOILERS BUT SOME DETAIL

Okay, so we’re all big fans of the show and know that the Doctor would never previously condone anything so reckless as going back to see your dad getting himself knocked-over-to-death. Quite apart from his usual grumbles about damaging the fabric of time, emotionally it would be just asking for trouble to expose anyone to that. However, the all-important general audience is probably by now curious about all this time-travel stuff and quite how it operates, so RTD and Cornell can be excused for diving right in with a story addressing why it’s never a good idea to go mucking about with the established past.

This idea of a changed history screwing up the future is of course nothing new and it would be pointless to begin listing other films, tv shows and books where the same themes have been handled before. What’s important here is that this story concentrates on the emotional impact of Rose meeting her father, neatly showing him to be essentially decent if not exactly perfect.

I’ve just realised that I’ve now mentioned ‘emotion’ three times (okay, four just then) already. That should give you some hint of what the tone is like. However, this isn’t just about the relationship between Rose and her previously absent father- it also dramatically underscores the bond between Rose & the Doctor.

The idea of time being bashed-about is presented neatly enough and is quite reminiscent of ‘Sapphire & Steel’, though in contrast with that series, the entire thing is mercifully resolved within forty-five minutes.

As is usual with WHO, the ‘terms and conditions’ of time are established either vaguely or not at all. It won’t be too surprising if they’re contradicted some way further down the line.

The Reapers are certainly a vicious old bunch but unfortunately look pretty generic in their design. They’re not really too convincing since they’re mostly seen in broad daylight which further underlines the ‘okay, so it’s CGI again’-ness of their realisation. However they look fabulously spooky when glimpsed as shadows brushing against stained glass windows. It really would have been much more effective to restrict their appearances to such silhouettes and the traditional, but still creepy, red POV shots.

As I said earlier, the narrative at times lapses into some odd pacing, occasionally feeling like a trailer/summary of a later/previous instalment. This perhaps reflects the theme of the story. Personally I liked it - it gives the episode a unique feel of history being in flux.

In the end then, one story full of blubbing and tinkling piano music is just fine, and again shows that the series isn’t just monsters and weirdness, but I don’t think it should try this sort of tear-jerking drama again for a while.

The trailer for ‘The Empty Child’ looks like a lot of fun.

Oh, and having Scaroth the Jagaroth & The Master at the wheel of the hit and run car was a neat touch.

...and if you believe that…..

Jim Hall

  • Read Jim's review of the previous episode, The Long Game, and the next episode, The Empty Child.
  •