Review: The Unquiet Dead

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005


Oi! You! Follow That Hearse!

Right, for those of you who don't wish to know anything at all about 'The Unquiet Dead', I'll just say that the spooky bits are spooky, the pace is less frantic than the first two episodes and the final scene is quite poignant. Okay?

Now the 'NO SPOILERS BUT SOME DETAIL' bit.

No matter what else I say later on, I must stress that the pre-credits piece is fabulous, slipping from Hammer horror to Spike Milligan in a few seconds. I'm just hoping that the current generation of kids, aren't so jaded by CGI and computer games that they'll still find that animated corpses with blue glowing faces scare the hell out of them. The actual realisation of the nasties is splendid, matching your childhood memories of 'Sapphire & Steel'.

Simon Callow puts in a good turn as a world-weary Charles Dickens who actually gets involved rather than just hanging about being famous.

Billie and Chris are still fun to watch with their relationship being defined further here. This week the Doctor's new range of human emotions briefly includes self-pity.

I must say that while it's nice to have a companion NOT taking the idea of TARDIS-life too nonchalantly, I'm starting to tire of her 'The aliens, they're really...alien...you look at them and they're all like...alien' response to anything new. She here gets a similar spiel about going into the past that sounds to have been dropped in just to keep her character consistent.

...and if you're still missing those cliffhangers, then make your own at about the seventeen and thirty-four minute mark.

I'll stress that it is in fact perfectly good- a fine, serviceable example of spooky WHO. The problem is that, for me, it's not up to the standards of eps#1&2.

I think this is because earlier on, RTD - and the rest of the creative team - really seemed to be putting a new spin on familiar WHO ideas. Here though, Mark Gatiss seems hell-bent on recreating the atmosphere of the WHO he grew up on - obviously the Hinchclife 'Gothic' stuff. It's not just that this is lazy and backward looking, it also creates a problem in that, if you're determined to serve up a new 'Pyramids', 'Talons' or 'Fang Rock', then the goods are expected to measure up to them, not just ape their surface details.

I'm going to blame Gatiss for this, chiefly as his previous work for Big Finish and the book series have largely been re-heatings of nostalgic moments (as I.m sure he.d be the first to admit) rather than satisfying, original stories in their own right.

I suspect I'm going to be in a minority here since emails I received since .The End of the World. aired, suggest that some of you want more of a return to the traditional WHO - whatever that is. Well here it is - I hope you enjoy it, but personally I'd prefer to watch one of the old videos rather than take up valuable episodes of the new series with slick re-stagings.

A further reason for this feeling unsatisfactory, may come down to its being squeezed it into one forty-five minute lump. As you know, I like this format and ideally it should force writers to cut out all the dead wood (no offence, Jabe). This is why, after initial suspicion, I've now warmed to the sonic screwdriver's new universal wonderfulness - it reduces any amount of 'we're locked up, we've escaped, oh, we've been re-captured' that might normally have filled a whole episode or three.

With this story though, Gatiss only has time to create an atmosphere and is then rushed into revealing something that you'll have already guessed is going to happen if the story's to have any dramatic content.

To have done any of the previously mentioned Hinchliffe adventures in so short a time would have instantly underlined just how ludicrous it is to base a drama around time-travelling Australian war criminals or alien tyrants with cyber-Mummies. One needs time to absorb, go along with and finally relish how wonderfully odd those ideas are.

But, like I say, it's generally good - please enjoy it. It's just that I was relieved to see the trailer for 'Aliens of London' at the end.

SPOILERS further down below..

You know what this is going to be about, don't you? If you've read this far then you want to know if there's any more about the Doctor being the last of the Time Lords? Well, not really though The Gelth make further reference to a time-war and this causes the Doctor to pull a pensive face. So then, it would appear that further details concerning this new back-story will leak out in future episodes. As almost everyone suspects, it'll probably be down to those beastly Daleks.

Jim Hall

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