I hadn’t seen this episode in years and nor had Ben. Ben didn’t remember it at all. I had fond memories. I knew it was *the* Pete Tyler episode but not a lot else. So what goes down? Rose begs The Doctor to take her back in time to the scene of her father’s death by car collision, but when she tries to change history time (and aliens) intervene. It’s up to Rose and The Doctor to make things right.
Pre title sequence
Ben: The pre title sequence this week started sweet. Rose is a bit sad, thinking about how she never really got time with her dad before he died, and asks the Doctor if they could see him before he dies. And then it veers off into the realm of creepy, with the Doctor trying to be flirty and responding with “your wish is my command”.
Maureen: I found the ‘… but be careful what you wish for,’ part stranger frankly. Why did The Doctor allow Rose to go back in time if he knew something bad could reasonably come of it? Or does he mean that seeing her own father’s death in real time will upset Rose? In which case, why not talk her out of it, Mr Flippant. Why do this at all? (Don’t say because plot needed an excuse to unfold. Worst excuse in the book).
Ben: It was a pretty flat opening, really, and is such a dramatic change in gear from the ending of the last episode where the Doctor and Rose cheerily left Adam to his fate (why RTD why?).
Maureen: My opinions on the opening are a lot less thoughtful than Ben’s. I wrote in my notebook of the opening credits, ‘dad dead exposition. Thanks Rose.’ The perils of being a writer (albeit not a screenwriter) is suddenly you notice devices like someone narrating a story at you because plot.
Ben: Rose goes through the wringer this week in this companion focused episode. She gets to see her parents get married, and immediately realises reality is very different to how she imagined it, remarking she thought her dad would be taller. Moments like that happen a lot this episode, where Rose realises reality is starkly different to her imagination, to the image of her dad she had worshiped at for all these years. The drama of it all is a bit soapy for me.
Maureen: I think Ben you need to remember how new this episode felt at the time. Yes, now we’ve seen many sci fi and fantasy stories mess around with time and perception in this way, but back then not so much in the mainstream. I found myself noticing the many similarities between what happens to Rose and her image of her father in Father’s Day and what happens in the season one arc of Life on Mars (UK) to Sam Tyler with his father. Given that Sam Tyler was named after Rose and Life on Mars was partially seen as an adult Doctor Who, I wouldn’t be surprised if this Who episode had a massive influence.
Ben: Your mileage may vary. I found the soap too much in general. The soap rears its ugly head when, after Rose saves Pete’s life and breaks the rules of causality, Pete starts to hit on her. It happens again when Pete admits he’s not really a “businessman” and is just making it up as he goes. It happens again when Jackie comes along and they all have a massive row. I think it’s also really telling that after her parents make up and Rose sees the Doctor running towards her in a panic, she immediately puts on her “come hither” face. She’s still living half in her imagination, where her parents are the perfect couple. It isn’t until they’re all trapped in the church and people are dead that Rose snaps back to reality.
Maureen: I admit, Ben, that I’ve never been sold on Jackie Tyler actress’ acting. I thought the guy playing Pete was great, as was Billie. What didn’t work for me with the family dynamics was that aside from Pete, I didn’t care about anyone enough to invest in the story as I did with Life on Mars and Sam Tyler. This is not Billie’s fault at all, but I simply don’t find Rose all that relateable. When I was her age I read everything I could get my hands on, spent a lot of time online and writing and didn’t care much for boys. As for Jackie, she’s my worst nightmare. If I met someone like her in real life, they’d get flayed by my tongue pretty fast and I wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out with them.
Ben: Can we agree that the Mickey thing was weird?
Maureen: Yep. It didn’t bother me as much as it did you though.
Ben: Moving on then: Rose really starts to get closure with Pete when he realises he’s her dad, and he realises he should have died. Ultimately, Rose gets to do what she set out to do at episode beginning. Pete sacrifices himself and Rose is by his side as he dies. It’s something of a positive outcome, in that it changes the story Jackie tells baby Rose; her dad didn’t die alone in a senseless hit and run. Instead, the poor kid driver got to watch helplessly as Pete ran in front of the car. Real fairy tale stuff.
Maureen: I’ve always found it odd no other writer has explored this trope again. I mean, this kind of thing must happen around The Doctor A LOT.
Ben: I didn’t particularly like the Doctor this week. Right off the bat he’s acting happy and flirty, not noticing (or maybe just not caring) that Rose is acting out of character. Wanting to be there when your dad dies so he’s not alone is a noble gesture, but the Doctor should have approached the situation with a bit more… humanity. And then when Rose freezes (I guess seeing your dad get hit by a car is a pretty emotional moment) and doesn’t get to comfort him as he dies, he agrees that they can go back and try again! Even though he knows this is a really, really dumb idea!
Maureen: I think the implication though is that The Doctor knows it’s a dumb idea but does it anyway. Why? Because he loves Rose in his alien, angry way. Still, he immediately demands Rose say sorry afterwards and calls her a stupid ape which I agree is a bit much. He didn’t exactly warn Rose about the possible consequences of what could happen in revisiting such a traumatic event. It’d be like McGonagall giving Hermione the Time Turner without telling her the rules of how to play with it safe, and then giving her detention when she stuffs up. It just seemed unreasonable and emotionally manipulative (again) to me.
Ben: The Doctor really is out of his emotional depths this episode. It’s only after Rose saves Pete and refuses to admit she’s done anything wrong that things really heat up. When the aliens start killing he gets to do his dramatic Doctoring for a bit, sees the car stuck in a loop and immediately decides to try and keep Rose’s dad alive instead of doing the right thing. Which is a noble gesture and all, but if he wasn’t in love with Rose this whole thing could have been solved much earlier. He does get a nice scene with the couple to be where he doesn’t call them stupid apes and listens to their troubles; it’s a shame Rose didn’t get this Doctor at the start of the episode or this whole mess could have been avoided.
Maureen: I liked the way The Doctor treated the soon to be wed couple, even if it contrasted to how he treats Rose (maybe he’d fooled himself into holding Rose to a higher standard?).
DOCTOR: How did all this get started?
STUART: Outside the Beatbox Club, two in the morning.
SARAH: Street corner. I’d lost my purse, didn’t have money for a taxi.
STUART: I took her home.
DOCTOR: Then what? Asked her for a date?
SARAH: Wrote his number on the back of my hand.
STUART: Never got rid of her since. My dad said.
SARAH: I don’t know what this is all about, and I know we’re not important.
DOCTOR: Who said you’re not important? I’ve travelled to all sorts of places, done things you couldn’t even imagine, but you two. Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that. Yes. I’ll try and save you.
Alien of the Week
Ben: The big bad this week was very confusing. For starters, it all begins on some pretty shaky grounds. Why does having the first set of Rose and Doctor see the second Rose cause a huge wound in time? And if it was such a risky maneuver in the first place, why did the Doctor even allow it? (answer, he wasn’t thinking with his head) I mean, the car wasn’t even going that fast in the first place, so it wasn’t a convincing death either. The whole red hunting vision of the mysterious baddies was some pretty dodgy special effects work, and on top of that, why is the TARDIS now a regular phone box? Why is a song on the radio playing that isn’t out yet? And what was with the Watson phone call?
Maureen: I can help you there, Ben. I thought The Doctor said that time had been more or less broken because of Rose saving Pete and so anachronistic events were happening (such as songs playing from a later era on Pete’s car radio and people hearing Alexander Graham Bell).
Ben: Whatever. It’s just all very poorly done. The focus was on the drama centred on Rose, rather than a good sci fi plot. Then, the second time we get the red hunting the aliens manage to vanish a whole playground of children in about 15 seconds without any of the screams we got from the first round of attacks. And THEN, when they finally reveal these horrible CGI constructions of aliens, their attacks are loud and messy and not stealthy at all! There was just such inconsistency around these aliens. The church is old therefore it’s strong and they can’t get in? What about the massive stained glass windows? If, as the Doctor says, these monsters are here to sterilise the wound in time, surely they’d only need to go after either Rose, the Doctor, or Rose’s dad? Or perhaps the car that’s stuck in a loop? That’s never fully explained either. And why does the whole Earth have to be sterilised? And how are the aliens going to sterilise plants, bacteria, animals under the water? The TARDIS still being active doesn’t make sense. If it’s inside got pushed out by the wound in time, won’t it just get pushed back out when the Doctor tries to summon it? And what happened to the outside of the TARDIS? When it starts to appear in the church it’s whole again. At least after Rose’s dad sacrifices himself the aliens vanish, everything goes back to normal and it’s like the whole episode never happened. Which is how I’m going to live my life after finishing writing this review.
Maureen: To be honest, most of what you point out didn’t occur to me, though you make valid points. The TARDIS thing did feel silly and I have no idea how The Doctor survived the alien attack. I guess I didn’t care so much though because I was concentrating more on the relationship between Pete and Rose, which I thought was lovely. I’m glad Pete gets to come back.
On a non-alien or anything else related note, I remember having butterfly clips like Rose was wearing in the late 90s and early 2000s. The weird scene where Billie was backlit against the dark church was super odd as an art direction choice. It threw me right out of the story. Finally, how Muriel’s Wedding was that almost-to-be-wedding?! Oh Thatcher England.
Ben: I had a lot of problems with this episode, in particular with the plot holes around the paradox. There were some good lessons about how the past is looked at through rose tinted glasses. Rose bore the brunt of those lessons, but the groom this episode also had a few good moments, reminiscing about his recently deceased dad. Overall though, I really struggled to look past how poorly the time wound/paradox was done, and the drama with Rose and her parents was overdone. This episode might have been breaking new ground when it first aired, but watching it now in 2018 it’s safe to say this has not aged well. This concept has been explored much better by other people, e.g. Terry Pratchett’s book Mort. I’m going to give it a 4/10.
Maureen: Gees, that’s a bit harsh. I didn’t think it was any worse than the series pilot, Rose, so I’m giving this 6/10. I rated this a lot higher as a teen but times change I guess.
Next week: Please Santa Moff don’t let us down. I can’t take much more underwhelming Who.