Review: The Unquiet Dead

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005

Episode Three: The Unquiet Dead, by Mark Gatiss

In general terms this was the best episode yet of the new series. It benefited from a different tone and pace, allowing for more effective incidental music and after the effects laden year 5 billion last week, it showed that the BBC can do period Dr Who just as convincingly. The effects themselves were very good making the Gelth the most frightening aspect of any Who story since Bonnie Langford wore leggings.

This was a story about Dickens, first and foremost and in that it succeeded but at the expense of giving the Dr and Rose little to do.

OK, here's the faults. Despite the slower pace this story really was rather rushed again (three episodes in and I'm not getting used to this format). There were two very good long scenes of crucial dialogue in this episode which contained some of the best performances so far. I am referring to the scene in which Dickens is found by the Doctor checking corpses for signs of life and the scene in which Gwyneth explains a few things to Rose over the washing up. However the point was slightly lost as these scenes followed each other and were surrounded by frantic scenes of the knees bent running about variety. I would have preferred the scenes to have been separated so that the pace didn't drop completely for 5 minutes only to then suddenly pick up because we're running out of time folks.

Then we have this Bad Wolf business. Intriguing though it is, it is also slightly distracting, especially when you want these stories to involve more plot. Wasting vital moments of a brief 45 minute episode on a load of old humbug really seems quite strange, especially when you consider that we are supposedly watching self contained episodes. I worry that in jettisoning 26 years of continuity, RTD has created a massive back story all of his own that will simply serve to confuse and alienate everybody (fans and non alike). Despite all this, I'm still looking forward to finding out what it's all about so maybe he's on to something.

The Doctor was again unpredictable (could he have saved Gwyneth? He certainly got off lightly in his explanation of what happened). He is dangerous, anarchic and at times thoroughly wrong. I still maintain that he's the closest to Hartnell's characterisation yet. Is he a hero though? Yes, if you want your hero to act on impulse and interfere in the way he chooses at the time, regardless of the implications. I simply, don't trust him.

The tone of this episode was spot on: it still had funny moments but they weren't quite so Coronation Street as the previous two episodes. Despite the great action seen in the Next Time... section at the end of this week's instalment, I fear that Dr Who may lose a lot of credibility over the next two flatulence packed episodes. RTDs approach to the tone of the show has been clownishly camp rather than the serious camp we saw on Saturday night.

All in all, I thought this was great stuff (honest) but still have my reservations on the format of the new show.

Jonathan Bigger

  • Read Jon's review of episode two, The End of the World and episode four, Aliens of London.