Another decent episode, and surprisingly dark to boot. Now if I could just arrange for whoever does the incidental music to be brutally murdered, all would be right with the world.
It’s another Rose-centric story, and yet one which takes the more mundane elements of Rose’s backstory and makes a virtue of them. Despite the incidental music’s best efforts to schmaltz things up, the majority of this episode steers clear of sentiment in favour of honest emotion and a surprisingly clear-eyed view of what it would be like to travel back in time.
I’m particularly pleased with the gap between the pleasant fiction of marital bliss told by Rose’s Mum and the much less perfect reality. It’s more believable, and it adds much more of a frisson to Rose getting to know her father; he’s a loser, and he knows it, and only becomes a hero because of the events of this episode. That’s also something which overcomes the essential futility of a time paradox story; instead of the big red reset button we feel that Rose has actually done some good and made her father’s death happier (albeit at risk to the entire world!)
It’s interesting to note (as Doctor Who Confidential has just done) how few time paradox stories Doctor Who has actually done compared to shows like Star Trek. As a result this story is a fairly unusual and interesting departure for Doctor Who, but there’s perhaps nothing in the episode that we haven’t seen before in other places. But then hasn’t every time travel tale been done to death? It’s the execution which counts, and this story has a surprisingly affecting take on the premise. And at least it doesn’t take the *really* obvious route of Rose being the one to kill her father.
In particular the concept of the Reapers sealing the wound in time seems strangely familiar. I can’t quite pin it down, but as with the Victorian episode I’m put in mind of Sapphire and Steel; generally a good thing in my experience. Here it’s the concept of forces from outside time who are let into our universe. I’m in two minds about the visuals for the Reapers, which were effective but perhaps a little cartoony in design. In concept, however, I have no complaints.
Overall this is a really solid little episode. I find the idea of a period drama set in 1987 to be somewhat scary, since I remember 1987 fairly well, but the period is effectively realised without being obvious. Rose and the Doctor are firmly in character, and I’m still very much enjoying their relationship: consistent, believable, and not without its frictions. Eccleston is once again in grimmer mode, and his cheery grin when it finally does materialise is actually a welcome relief. He’s established a firm grip on the character, and indeed in his few episodes to date he’s produced a more iconic version of the character than we’ve seen for a very long while.