At this point, I’ve seen the Doctor, played by all different kinds of actors, do many different things for different people.
I might be seeing a distinctive first with this episode.
I mean, I have seen the Doctor become arrogant, distant, act superior to others, and yes, the Ninth does many of those things from time-to-time. But this episode may be the first time that I can recall the Doctor apologizing for those sorts of things.
Essentially, this is a Rose-based episode. Sure, the Doctor is there, but his role is rather minimal. Rose, who doesn’t remember her father, asks the Doctor if she can see him. The Doctor obliges and takes Rose to her parents’ wedding day. Pete screwed up Jackie’s name, and her patented general annoyance at everybody is on full display. Rose asks the Doctor if she can be by her father’s side when he’s killed by a hit-and-run driver and no one was there to comfort him as he died. The Doctor obliges again, a little more reluctantly. Rose chickens out because it was a hard thing to do, so she asks to try again. The Doctor obliges very reluctantly, explaining that she can but she can’t let the earlier version of her see her this time.
And then Rose decides instead to save her father’s life.
Oh, the Doctor did not like that one bit, calling Rose a stupid ape like he often does for people he doesn’t like, insisting she’s selfish and she’s just causing problems. Rose insists, rightfully, that this wasn’t some grand plan but a spur-of-the-moment decision and the Doctor opts to leave her there in the early 80s as her dad gets ready to attend a friend’s wedding. Jackie is already there with baby Rose.
So, what can go wrong? It’s not like Pete Tyler ever amounted to anything world changing?
Apparently, that doesn’t matter. The Reapers come by to cleanse the wound, and that means they just start grabbing people and making them disappear. They aren’t picky either. They’ll grab anybody. The Doctor, seeing the TARDIS is now just an empty police box, returns to hustle everyone at the wedding inside just as the Reapers grab the groom’s father and the vicar. The church is old, and old things can hold the Reapers at bay longer.
Now, normally, this would be where the Doctor saves the day. And he has a really nice scene where he chats with the pregnant bride and the groom and is genuinely charmed by the story of how they met. He promises to save them because, even though they suggest otherwise, they are important. If he can reset time somehow, and it does look like he can summon the TARDIS after all, then he can fix everything, no one will remember what went wrong, and Rose can keep her dad alive. That’s about when he apologizes because, well, the Time Lords used to make sure this sort of thing never happened and they aren’t around anymore.
All Rose has to do is not touch her infant self and increase the paradox. She can bond with her dad, who figures out who she is rather quickly, endure hatred from Jackie who thinks Rose is some hussy Pete is screwing around with until even she gets clued in on who Rose really is, and young Mickey will give Rose’s knees a very long hug. But then Pete hands baby Rose off to adult Rose, and a Reaper gets inside…and grabs the Doctor. The TARDIS disappears. No Doctor. No saving the day.
Unless Pete jumps in front of that car that was supposed to hit him and keeps appearing at random outside. And Pete may be many things, but he isn’t dumb, and he is a good dad. Everyone comes back, no one really remembers what happened later except the Doctor and Rose, and Rose can be there for her dying father like she wanted to.
That’s rather sad. Granted, the episode laid it on a bit thick at times. We saw the Reapers hitting a playground, taking all the kids except for young Mickey who made a run for it. And then we get some shots of a baby carriage on its side, a kid’s shoe on the ground, and so forth. Like, yeah, I get it. The Reapers are taking children too. One was enough. Still, this is more than we usually learn about any companion’s life away from the Doctor. That makes this show a bit different from its predecessor.
Up next, the Doctor meets a creepy kid in the middle of the Battle of Britain.