Sunday, 4 September 2016

Story 163 - Father's Day

In which Rose tells the Doctor the stories she had been told as a child about her dead father - Pete Tyler. Jackie would present him as the greatest husband and father. He had died on 7th November, 1987, victim of a hit and run driver. Rose asks the Doctor to take her back so that she can see him, and he takes her to her parents' wedding. This isn't enough for Rose, however. her father had died alone in the middle of the road, and she wants to be with him at the end - to comfort him as he dies. The Doctor reluctantly agrees, and they go to the street where the accident happened. It is the day of the wedding of Jackie and Pete's friends Stuart Hoskins and Sarah Clark. Pete has been to buy a gift - a rather ugly vase. When the time comes, Rose finds herself frozen to the spot and cannot run to him. She asks if they can go again. The Doctor and Rose must hide from their earlier selves and wait until they leave before she can go to Pete. However, Rose suddenly decides to save her dad, and runs out into the road in time to push him out of the way of the car - witnessed by the earlier Doctor and Rose, who vanish.

A grateful Pete invites them to his flat, where Rose tells him she also knows the couple about to be married and will be coming to the wedding. The Doctor is furious. Who knows what damage Rose has done to time. He suspects that she only joined him in the TARDIS so that she could prevent her father's death. He storms off back to the ship, and is horrified to find that it is merely an empty Police Box shell. Nearby, invisible creatures are hovering about the area, snatching people out of time. Young Mickey Smith's mother is one of their victims. The Doctor rushes to the church and arrives just in time to save Rose when one of the creatures materialises above her - a huge reptilian creature. The Doctor urges everyone into the church, explaining that as an old building it will offer some protection from the creatures. They are Reapers, which repair damage to time. Time has become muddled up. Earlier Rose had heard music from her time on Pete's radio, and a mobile phone picks up Alexander Graham Bells' first telephone message. The Doctor discovers that he still has a connection to the TARDIS through its key. He can use this to bring his ship back.

Rose learns that her parent's marriage was not the idealised version Jackie used to tell her about. They argue constantly, and it appears that Pete is a serial womaniser. Jackie despairs of his continual get-rich-quick schemes. Pete learns that Rose is really his daughter, whilst Jackie thinks she is his latest lover. Baby Rose is in the church, and when Pete hands her to her future self the Reapers are able to break in. The link to the TARDIS is broken, and the Doctor gets swallowed up by a Reaper. Pete has seen the car which was supposed to have killed him repeatedly appearing and disappearing on the street outside the church. he works out that this is his fault - he was supposed to have died. he runs out as it next appears and throws himself in front of it. The Reapers vanish. The Doctor reappears and urges Rose to go to her dying father. The story Jackie tells Rose of her father now changes. He died outside the church instead of near their flat, and there was a young blonde haired woman who stayed with him until he died.

Father's Day was written by Paul Cornell, and was first broadcast on 14th May, 2005.
Cornell had been writing fan fiction for years, eventually editing his own fanzine. He went on to pen the very first of the New Adventures series of books. Later novels would introduce the character Professor Bernice Summerfield - a sort of proto-River Song who is still going strong in the BF audio range.
It has often been said that, for a programme about a time traveler, the classic series of Doctor Who rarely ever looked at the consequences of time travel. This is the starting point for Father's Day. Instead of some grand alien scheme, however, the story focuses on Rose and her own family. First she wants to meet her dead dad, then she wants to save him. In doing so, she unleashes the Reapers on the world. The entire planet is at risk - only really hinted at off screen, with mentions of smoke rising from the city. All Rose has done is save one, fairly insignificant man. As the Doctor says, however, there is a man walking around today that shouldn't be. Even the tiniest tampering with time can have the most dire consequences.

Which brings us to the Doctor's actions in this. Yes, Rose has done what anyone would do if they had access to a time machine. All very selfish but well-meaning. The Doctor, however, has been snacking on the stupid pills which he used to feed to the Brigadier. What on Earth is he playing at? It is one thing to take Rose to stand in the background of her parents' wedding, but he then agrees to take her to see her dad being killed. Twice. Even though the second time he and Rose are still present in their earlier versions - so scope for all manner of damage to time. And then he is surprised when Rose decides she would rather not see her father die in front of her eyes but will save him instead. He deserves to get eaten by a Reaper much earlier in the episode.

The story is very much a character piece, and a bit of a tear-jerker at that. The Reapers, entirely CGI creatures, have obviously been included just for the kids, as a monster-of-the-week. Camille Coduri gets to play a younger, brassier version of Jackie. Pete Tyler is Shaun Dingwall - a superb performance. He's just an ordinary bloke, who wants the best for his family, but has failings. Lots of them. For a dead man, he'll play quite a significant role in the next series.
Story Arcs:

  • "Bad Wolf" is scrawled on some posters on the wall where the Doctor and Rose are waiting for the accident to take place.
  • As mentioned above, Pete Tyler will have a significant role to play later on.
  • The absence of the Time Lords due to the Time War is referenced, as the Doctor states that they could have sorted all this.

Overall, a very emotional tale, with some lovely performances. Nice to see a story that looks at the consequences of time tampering.
Things you might like to know:
  • The time tampering in this episode does not always make a lot of sense.
  • First up - why does the TARDIS appear to be just an empty box? It's by far the oldest thing in the area, yet we are told that the Reapers target the newest things first. Why take just the insides, and leave the box?
  • And, same as above, why take Mickey's mum and leave him, when he is younger than she is?
  • The church is clearly Victorian, so a lot of the houses in the area would be a lot older, and so would offer much better protection. In fact, as Southwark was heavily bombed during WWII, this church might even be a 1950's rebuild.
  • And why does the car start to appear at the church, instead of back where it is supposed to be?
  • This is the first Doctor Who story since Marco Polo to have narration by someone other than the Doctor.
  • The young version of Rose is played by Julie Joyce. She will later appear as one of Frobisher's daughters in Torchwood: Children of Earth.
  • The music from her time which Rose hears on Pete's radio is a song by The Streets. Mike Skinner of that band will have a cameo in Series 5 - the victim of River Song's hallucinogenic lip-stick at the beginning of Time of the Angels.
  • Whilst Doctors have encountered their earlier selves several times, only once before has a Doctor encountered an earlier version of his current incarnation - the Third Doctor in Day of the Daleks.
  • Rose coming into physical contact with herself creates a temporal paradox - just as when the two Brigadiers met in Mawdryn Undead. This is due to the Blinovitch Limitation Effect. Strangely, this term does not get mentioned here.
  • The initial story idea for this episode was to have been Pete dying over and over again, but seen from different characters' perspectives. The story would have been told to the Doctor by Jackie in the present day, so that Eccleston could have done minimal filming and had a break. His father was seriously ill at this time.
  • Another version would have seen slightly different Pete's, due to there being a new timeline created each time he died. Everyone would have taken refuge in a pub instead of a church, and its decor would have been pushed back in time after each onslaught from the Reapers.
  • The Reapers were originally envisaged as cowled figures, like vampiric monks.
  • Pete's get-rich-quick schemes were inspired by Paul Cornell's own father.
  • During production, the cast and crew who smoked used to use the hideous vase prop as an ashtray.
  • The actor who plays Stuart's dad Sonny - Frank Rozelaar-Green - provides some of the fancy footwork in The Doctor Dances, providing close-up shots of the Doctor's dancing feet. 

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