Review: The Unquiet Dead

Last Alteration: Monday 19 September 2005

Episode Three: The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss

The series takes on a darker tone as the Doctor brings Rose to Cardiff on Christmas Eve 1869. However, as Rose points out, in the 19th century the dead shouldn't be walking around inhabited by gaseous creatures. It seems the source of the disturbance is the house of the local undertakers firm who attempt to hide their problems by kidnapping Rose. However the Doctor soon finds his companion before she joins the ranks of the dead, but not before meeting up with his literary hero Charles Dickens.

Securing the services of renowned Dickens impersonator Simon Callow was a tremendous coup for this episode. His performance as a man at the forefront of educated classes of his time forced to challenge everything he has hitherto believed in is totally convincing. The script has clearly been based on thorough research into Dickens' background and this combined with Callow's superb performance makes this one of the most convincing representations of a historical character ever seen in Doctor Who.

The developing relationship between the Doctor and Rose is also well served by the script. This especially comes in moments such as Rose's challenge to the Doctor over Gwyneth acting as a bridge-head for the Gelth and her genuine shock at the real- isation that she may be about to die over a century before she was born. Likewise Gwyneth's reference to the Big Bad Wolf (the Bad Wolf scenario having been mentioned in passing last week) and the Gelth's mention of the Time War are welcome additions to the ongoing story arc. From the look that passes between Rose and the Doctor it seems likely that this the same war mentioned in the preceding two episodes. There is a definite sense that these ongoing hints are leading up to some major revelations to come later in the series which will undoubtedly have serious consequences for the Doctor.

Overall, this episode is slower paced than the first two episodes however it contains a more solid and serious story which should please those viewers who were uncomfortable with light-hearted nature of what has gone before. However despite the difference in tone the Doctor and Rose are still clearly the exremely enthusiastic travellers we were introduced to two weeks ago who still share plenty of humour together. Whilst this story is probably the furthest the new series has gone in imitating the classic series it is still very much a refreshing and original treatment of the traditional formula. Once again we were treated to a visual feast. The recreation of Victorian Cardiff was fantastic and the effects used to create the Gelth are vastly superior to anything in the classic series. A Great story, tightly scripted, and beautifully photographed.

Has Doctor Who ever looked this good before?

Richard Brinck-Johnsen

  • Read Richard's review of episode two, The End of the World.