July 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “The Unquiet Dead”

The Doctor, Rose, and Charles Dickens investigate what looks like ghosts around Christmas.

In the early days of Doctor Who, it wasn’t uncommon for the Doctor and his companions to visit the past and interact with historic figures of one kind or another.  They’re often referred to as “historicals”.  The show gradually moved away from those after a while.

But hey, we have another one of those right now.

After a brief time spent in what looks like a Victorian funeral home where the dead don’t often stay dead, a little old lady gets up to murder her adult grandson before wandering off to see a show.

Meanwhile, the Doctor decided to show Rose the past this time, going with what he initially says is Christmas, 1860, in Italy.  He’s a bit off as it’s really Christmas in 1869 in Cardiff.  Rose is pretty excited to see an Italian Christmas, but first, the Doctor tells her to change into era-appropriate garb.  Granted, he more or less wears his regular clothes, but he is the Doctor, and there’s some screaming going on at a nearby theater where a little old lady had what looks like a ghost or six fly out of her mouth.  And since the old lady was already dead, she’s just a corpse.  And by then, the funeral director and his psychic maid have hustled the corpse away.  They also drugged Rose because she saw too much.

The Doctor, on his own, meets the man everyone was there to see:  Charles Dickens.  The Doctor slips effortlessly into fanboy mode, even explaining what a “fan” was for Chuckie D.  With Dickens, he gets to the funeral home and even saves Rose from the ghosts which the Doctor realizes are not ghosts but gas-based alien lifeforms.

Now, here’s where things get a little weird.  See, the aliens, called the Gelth, say their world is dying because of the Time War, so can someone go down to the basement, specifically psychic maid Gwyneth, takes care of the portal, closing it to preserve the Geith.  Rose finds that problematic since the Geith use dead bodies, and she finds that a wee bit distasteful, and she thinks this is taking advantage of poor Gwyneth, a working class girl like Rose herself that Rose more or less befriended during the course of the episode.  The Doctor gets a little bit cranky, says Rose should be helping the aliens find a more permanent home, and…whose side am I supposed to be on here?

I don’t really know.

Is it all coming out because of what the Doctor did during the Time War and he feels guilty?

Is Rose right that they are taking advantage of Gwyneth even if she agrees to help?

Um, yes?

See, the Geith are, um, invading.  And there sure are a lot of corpses in the basement of the funeral home, including the recently deceased funeral director.  Recent as in “killed on the spot by a gas zombie thing”.  Rose and the Doctor are trapped, Dickens ran away, and there are lot of alien gas ghost things looking to kill a lot of people to take over the planet.  Can anyone save them?

Yup!  Dickens can by turning on the gas in such a way that Gwyneth, probably dead already, can shut the portal down by lighting a match, blowing the house and the portal up (and her with it).  Dickens, enthralled by the idea that there’s more out there than he knew, plans to finish off The Mystery of Edward Drood with some glowing gas aliens, something the Doctor doesn’t object to.  Sure, Rose asks about changing history, but it turns out Dickens will be dead in another year anyway, so…

Wow, this was a really dark episode.  Morally confusing, and really, really dark.