The Unquiet Dead
The Doctor: There’s a wardrobe through there. First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left. Hurry up!
Production Code: 1.3.
Doctor Who Season: S27 (Ep3).
Story Number: 159.
Victorian Gothic for the 21st Century…
A particularly interesting one for the revived show as it’s the programme trying a particular “type” of Doctor Who again, one popularised by the early Tom Baker era, but popular long after that: and it’s a success.
Although it’s “old” style Doctor Who in one way, the “new” focus on the companion continues – the show is again trying to convey what it really would be like to travel in time with an alien, with the scene where Rose marvels at the crunch of snow-of-days-past underfoot.
It’s straight after the trip-to-the-future, though for this trip the Doctor suggests the use of the TARDIS wardrobe, via “third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins”: it’s a scene which simultaneously emphasises the gargantuan interior of the TARDIS and allows some ambiguous sexual tension as they discuss Rose’s choice. With wardrobe choice Rose fits in more now, in more ways than one, as each character in this story is dressed in some variant of “black”. It’s a contrast to the colourful excesses of the year 5 billion, and it’s a “dark” story in more ways than one.
It’s the first of 21st Century Doctor Who‘s “celebrity historicals” and Simon Callow is excellent as Dickens, a role which he had played on the stage before. The character is a cantankerous-at-first foil to the more exuberant Doctor, and Dickens and the Christmas setting with “ghosts” means there are certain allusions to a certain Dickens story (A Christmas Carol) with the character having the wonders of life shown to him, and ending the story a more jovial character.
It’s audacious of RTD to not just be content with returning Doctor Who to television but, with the third ep, to be laying the groundwork for a spin-off already: the aliens of the story have emerged through the Rift, what will be Torchwood‘s Rift, but though Gwyneth is played by the same actress as Torchwood‘s Gwen, RTD perhaps hadn’t already cast her in that role quite yet.
The contrast between the buttoned-up Gwyneth and the more liberated Rose is shown by their costuming in the story, as well as their discussion comparing their lives, a discussion which also seems to hint at an ongoing plotline – “Bad Wolf?” – and it’s a scene which continues to dispel any doubts about the casting of former-pop-star Billie Piper, as she manages to radiate glamour while still being entirely convincing as the character Rose, a character not just marvelling at alien beings from beyond but at the entirely different Victorian world.