April 19, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Doctor Who “The Empty Child”

The Doctor, Rose, and new friend Jack Harkness are having problems in Blitz-era London involving a little boy in a gasmask looking for his mommy.

The Ninth Doctor’s run may have been a short one, but it did introduce, in the same two-parter no less, a fan-favorite character played by John Barrowman as a new companion and give us a great one-off monster-of-the-week that may be one of the creepiest in the entire franchise’s history.

And it looks like a little boy in a gasmask looking for his mommy.

Things start off more or less normally.  The Doctor gets a distress call in the TARDIS, and he and Rose follow a space craft down through time and space to offer assistance.  Time is involved as well as space, so they arrive a few days or weeks later in what looks like London.

It’s London during the Blitz, a fact the Doctor doesn’t realize until he goes into a nightclub and asks the patrons if they’d seen anything falling from the sky.  He wasn’t expecting laughter.

Rose, meanwhile, went to help some kid evade the bombs.  Said kid is a little boy in a gas mask.  He keeps asking for his mommy.  Before Rose can get to him, the rope she’s climbing turns out to be attached to barrage balloon, and it gets loose and floats off with her away from the kid.

That turns out to be a good thing for Rose.  She just doesn’t know it yet.

As for the Doctor, he has his own run-ins with the kid and a girl named Nancy who looks to be about Rose’s age.  The mystery begins when the phone attached to the TARDIS starts to ring.  It’s not hooked up to anything.  Nancy says not to answer it.  The Doctor does anyway, and all he gets is a little boy asking for his mommy.

The kid’s gone and so is Nancy when the Doctor hangs up.  Following Nancy shows she and a group of poor orphans are breaking into homes during bombings, getting quick meals, and then moving on.  The Doctor joins them, not objecting in the slightest, but he is wondering why they don’t let the boy in the gas mask on.  He does learn it’s Nancy’s younger brother, but Nancy insists he’s…empty.

He can call you through any phone.  Or talk through the radio.  And he really wants to go to Nancy.

As for Rose, she’s eventually rescued by the aforementioned Jack Harkness, another time traveler, and given her time with the Doctor, Rose sees through a lot of his tricks and he sees she doesn’t belong in the 1940s.  He wants to sell the crashed alien war ship (later revealed to be an ambulance), and Rose does eventually get him to the Doctor.  Harkness is a dashing sort of fellow, quick to toss off a compliment to anyone’s posterior, so having him hanging around is a step up from, well, all the other men that keep following Rose back to the Doctor.

Now, the Doctor did learn a few things about the boy when Nancy takes him to see the “bomb” that killed her brother and another Doctor…

This one is an old man who looks tired and sad.  He should.  He’s been doing this since the time of King Arthur when that Merlin kid kept screwing things up.

OK, it’s not Gaius.  But we get some more clues to the mystery.  He has a ward full of what looks like corpses with gas masks on.  He says not to touch them.  The Doctor looks, sees all the bodies have identical injuries internally and externally and the gas masks seem to be fused to their faces.  Many are nurses and other medical staff that treated Nancy’s brother.

And they aren’t dead.  They mostly just lie there.

And then the old doctor turns into one himself, all while asking for his mommy.

OK, well, they aren’t dangerous as long as you don’t touch them.

But then Rose and Harkness find the Doctor.

And the boy finds Nancy.

And all those gas masked bodies sit up, ask for their mommy, and start to crowd towards the Doctor, Rose, and Harkness.

A kid in a gas mask should not be this scary, but this is how Doctor Who would do a zombie story.