Review: The Empty Child

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005

Episode Nine: The Empty Child, by Stephen Moffat

Brilliant! No this was better than Brilliant, it put the 'tast' into fantastic. Scary, dark and mysterious, this was Doctor Who at its best.

After seeing last week's 'next time' trailer, I was ready for a long rant about CGI effects but The Mill have been spared for at least one week. This episode is so good that dodgy balloon trips across a blitzing CGI London skyline can be forgiven (in the same way that dodgy mine cart trips across a CSO, maggot invested mine shaft have been forgiven in The Green Death)

The Empty Child must be the scariest episode of Doctor Who ever broadcast (discuss) and it has been achieved in the most part by a young boy asking for his Mummy. It is so simple and yet so utterly effective. A child scared of the bombs raining down should not strike fear into anyone but with him 'wearing' a gasmask, able to turn radios on at will and make telephones ring by thought alone this empty child was unnerving from beginning to end.

This episode had some great performances. Christopher Eccleston has never been better as The Doctor, set free over two episodes and on his own for most of the first part. It's ironic that his Doctor excels at a time when Rose is hanging out with the James Bond version of our hero (or just a professional as Rose puts it). I feared that Captain Jack Harkness may have just turned out to be more of a Lord Flashheart but thankfully John Barrowman was just pure suave. The time Rose and Jack spent together added some nice humour amongst the more intense moments that The Doctor had with empty children, Nancy and Dr Constantine.

The scene in which The Doctor had dinner with the homeless kids was pure class and showed that Steven Moffat's mix of comedy and horror works a treat. This episode was the one I feared the most in the build up to the new series. I have fond memories of Press Gang and clearly The Curse of Fatal Death was brilliant Doctor Who but from what I've seen of Coupling, I thought I could do without television written by him. I was so wrong to be pessimistic as Moffat has crafted a superb script and afforded the luxury of two episodes has used the pace of modern Doctor Who to his advantage. I just hope that the next episode delivers on the promise shown so well in this one.

Just one point though. Did we really need another zombie episode this series? I think not but I feel loath to criticise as this episode brought us some exceptional scenes: The TARDIS 'phone' ringing, The Doctor's speech about humans, Hitler and fear, The Doctor mixing it with the homeless, Rose and Jack flirting and of course, Dr Constantine's face morphing into a gasmask. Iconic moments which will no doubt recruit the next generation of fans.

It's going to be great to see how all this is resolved. The end of this series is fast approaching and The Empty child has just upped the ante. Brilliant.

Jonathan Bigger

  • Read Jon's review of episode eight, Father's Day, and the second part of this story, The Doctor Dances.