Doctor Who: Tin Dog Podcast
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TDP 36: Voyage of the Damned

"Voyage of the Damned" is an episode of the British science fiction television series Doctor Who. It is 71 minutes long and was broadcast on BBC One at 6:50pm on 25 December 2007. It is the third Christmas special of the revived Doctor Who series by Russell T. Davies, and the first episode to be made available for free on the internet by the BBC iPlayer service immediately after its first showing (the internet version is available in the UK only). The episode introduces a new variation on the opening and closing Doctor Who theme tune and companion Astrid Peth and is dedicated to the memory of the founding producer of Doctor Who, Verity Lambert.

On its original airdate, 25 December 2007, "Voyage of the Damned" attracted 13.8 million viewers at its peak, with an overnight rating of 12.2 million viewers earning the episode 50% of the total television audience. It was the second most-watched program of the day, being beaten by the 8 p.m. episode of EastEnders. These were the highest viewing figures for Doctor Who since 1979's City of Death.

Contents

 Synopsis

This story continues from the final scene of "Last of the Time Lords" and "Time Crash", in which a luxury space cruiser called the Titanic breaches the walls of the TARDIS console room. The Doctor teams up with Titanic waitress Astrid Peth in order to fend off a new enemy called the Host.

 Plot

As the Doctor leaves Earth, the bow of the Titanic crashes through the TARDIS' wall. Though momentarily stunned, he quickly pushes some buttons to repair the TARDIS walls and push the ship out. The TARDIS then materialises aboard the ship. The Doctor soon learns the Titanic is a large luxury spaceship from the planet Sto, orbiting present-day Earth. He decides to stow away to enjoy the party, only confessing his unauthorized status to lively waitress Astrid Peth, who reveals her own desire to travel the stars.

Astrid has found her new job disappointing, as she is not allowed off the ship to visit destination planets. The Doctor cheers her up by sneaking her onto an excursion to London via teleport, along with couple Morvin and Foon Van Hoff, and a small alien with a red head, called Bannakaffalatta. This is not a problem since London is all but deserted, an atmosphere of fear having been cultivated from the alien attacks on the previous two Christmases. Queen Elizabeth, Nicholas Witchell, and newspaper seller Wilfred Mott are among the few that remain. Ship's historian and guide Mr Copper gives the excursion party a bizarrely inaccurate explanation of human society, especially Christmas, despite the fact that he claims to be an expert on the planet. Meanwhile, on the Titanic's bridge, Captain Hardaker dismisses all the officers so they can take a break. Only one, Midshipman Frame, refuses to go, citing the rule that at least two officers must be present on the bridge.

The party returns to the ship just as Hardaker reveals his true motives and commits an act of sabotage, causing meteors to collide with the ship. Midshipman Frame is shot and wounded when he attempts to prevent the disaster. Hardaker is killed in the resulting collision, as are the bulk of the crew and passengers. The meteors cause three major hull breaches, one of which sucks the TARDIS into space. The Doctor notes that it will just land on Earth automatically. With the teleport system offline and the engines losing power, the Titanic is heading for an extinction-level collision with the Earth. The Doctor makes contact with the injured Midshipman Frame, and leads a small group of survivors in a climb through the shattered vessel to reach him.

Complicating matters are the Host, information androids resembling angels that have been reprogrammed to kill everyone onboard. The Doctor's party is harassed by Host all the way, and the Doctor's sonic screwdriver proves to be useless against them. Bannakaffalatta reveals to Astrid that he is actually a cyborg, something considered shameful in the society on Sto. Bravely, he saves the party from a Host attack by transmitting an electromagnetic pulse from his cybernetic implants, killing himself in the process. The Van Hoffs also die: Morvin falls from the ledge into the nuclear engines, and Foon subsequently commits suicide while pulling a surviving Host down with her. The Doctor makes a grim promise that "no more" will die. The survivors take Bannakaffalatta's EMP unit with them as their only effective weapon against the Host.

The Doctor sends the remaining survivors on ahead with the EMP unit and the sonic screwdriver, while he attempts to reach the place from which the Host are controlled. Using a security protocol, he convinces the Host to take them to their leader. This turns out to be the cruise line's owner, Max Capricorn, who is hiding in an indestructible impact chamber on Deck 31. Capricorn is also revealed to be a cyborg, a human head set in a small wheeled vehicle. Having been forced out by the company's board of directors, he is seeking revenge. The collision of the Titanic into a heavily-populated world will not only break the company, but see the board charged with murder. Outnumbered by Host and faced with death, the Doctor is saved by Astrid, who has made a short-range teleport to his position. She rams Capricorn with a fork-lift truck until both are forced off a precipice and fall into the fiery engine of the ship.

Assuming control of the Host upon Capricorn's death, the Doctor grimly makes his way to the bridge just as the ship plunges into Earth's atmosphere. Working with Frame, he uses the heat from the re-entry to try to re-start the ship's engines, but discovers that they are headed straight for one of the few places in London currently inhabited: Buckingham Palace. Calling through with a security code, he manages to get the Queen out of the building, which the Titanic narrowly misses as the ship pulls up, now back under control. The Queen, in her dressing gown, is heard thanking the Doctor as he pilots the ship back into space.

With the danger over, the Doctor suddenly realises that there might be hope for Astrid after all. A safety feature of the ship's teleport system is that in case of accident, it automatically holds in stasis the molecules of the affected passenger. As she was wearing a teleport bracelet at the time of her death, her pattern might still be stored in its buffers. However, despite desperate efforts, only a shadow of Astrid can be generated due to extensive damage to the teleport system. The Doctor watches her dissipate into motes of light that float free into space. This way, she can at least fulfill her dream of exploring the universe, forever.

The Doctor teleports back to earth with Mr Copper, who is no expert on Earth, but a former salesman who lied his way onto the ship to explore the stars. The Doctor leaves him on the planet to build a new life, funded by the ship's expenses card, which contains £1,000,000. The Doctor then heads off in the TARDIS, alone.

[edit] Cast

[edit] Cast notes

[edit] Continuity

  • Although the special takes place aboard an otherworldly namesake of the famed ocean liner, the RMS Titanic and its sinking was mentioned previously within the series in Robot (1974), The Robots of Death (1977), The Invasion of Time (1978), "Rose" (2005) and "The End of the World" (2005). The Titanic also appeared in the Virgin New Adventures book The Left-Handed Hummingbird, written by Kate Orman, and the 1989 Doctor Who Magazine comic strip Follow That TARDIS!.
  • This episode introduces a new variation of the Doctor Who theme tune arranged by Murray Gold. It features a musical nod to Peter Howell's 1980s version.[4]
  • London has been evacuated due to alien attacks the previous two Christmases - referring to "The Christmas Invasion" and "The Runaway Bride". Clips from each of these episodes appear as part of news footage.
  • The BBC broadcast near the end makes matter-of-fact statements about alien invasions and the London public (due to the evacuation and the dialogue from the street vendor), a difference to previous episodes where the public is either in denial or it's covered up; most recently in "The Sound of Drums", where the Master stated the government "told you nothing".
  • Earth was previously referred to by its Gallifreyan name "Sol 3" in The Deadly Assassin and Last of the Time Lords. Earth was also previously refered to as a "Level 5" civilization in City of Death. This episode also marks the first time in the revived series of Doctor Who that the Doctor has referred to Gallifrey as being in the constellation of Kasterborous.
  • Excluding Jack Harkness's repeated deaths, Astrid is the first companion to die in the revived series (and the first since Kamelion in 1984's Planet of Fire), although she is partially resurrected. She is also the first alien companion since Kamelion, and the first in the revived series to never set foot in the TARDIS.
  • The Doctor previously had a close encounter with Queen Elizabeth II in the Seventh Doctor story Silver Nemesis.
  • Once again, the Doctor uses the phrase "allons-y" ("let's go" in French). He previously said it in "Army of Ghosts", "Evolution of the Daleks" and "42". He was surprised when told by Midshipman Frame that Frame's first name is Alonzo, and was quoted saying "You're kidding me!?". He indicated that there is "something else I've always wanted to say", and as he starts to steer the ship, he yells "Allons-y Alonzo". In "Army of Ghosts", when he thought of using "allons-y", he thought the name Alonzo would go nicely with it, and later asked Yvonne Hartman whether Torchwood has anyone named Alonzo.
  • The Doctor notes that "this suit is bad luck", he previously wore it in "Rise of the Cybermen"/"The Age of Steel" and "The Lazarus Experiment". Both times he had been attending a seemingly normal party which goes wrong.
  • Just like in the 2005 & 2006 Christmas specials, it is revealed at the end that the 'snow' falling is actually something else (debris from the Titanic). The Doctor wonders if it will ever snow for real. In "The Christmas Invasion", the 'snow' was ash from the Sycorax spaceship, and in "The Runaway Bride", the Doctor uses 'basic atmospheric excitation' supplied by the TARDIS to make it snow.
  • The Doctor refers to himself as being 903 years old, contradicting the serial Time and the Rani where he states his age as 953.
  • The waitress Astrid's name is an anagram of TARDIS. This caused wild speculation among fans, with some believing that Astrid herself would be revealed as the TARDIS.

 Outside references

Pre-broadcast publicity

  • Kylie Minogue was initially reported by tabloid newspapers to be appearing in this episode.Russell T Davies dismissed this story, but a statement by Minogue indicated that she would be in the episode. The BBC officially confirmed her role in early July.
  • On 19 July 2007, The Sun published a photograph of an actor on set in Wales, in make-up, supposedly playing a red, spiky creature called "Porg".
  • On 20 July 2007, the Paisley Daily Express reported that David Tennant's mother, Helen McDonald, had died from cancer,and SyFy Portal noted that filming had been delayed by one week so Tennant could attend his mother's funeral.
  • The Series 3 Doctor Who soundtrack includes a track named "The Stowaway", which Amazon.co.uk have confirmed is a song appearing in this episode, in the same vein as "Song for Ten" and "Love Don't Roam" in previous Christmas specials (both of which were on the original soundtrack).The full song was released online at SilvaScreen Records' MySpace page.
  • On the 4 December 2007, Radio Times mentioned that the gold creatures are new monsters and are referred as 'the Hosts'
  • On December 8, the BBC released a series of three short clips, showing the Doctor, Astrid and the Titanic floating in space, above the Earth. This was accompanied by a 90-second long trailer for the episode in British cinemas, which was released on the BBC website on December 14th.

Reception

A scene where the Doctor is lifted through the ship by the angelic Host caused offence to the group Christian Voice.
A scene where the Doctor is lifted through the ship by the angelic Host caused offence to the group Christian Voice.

Before its broadcast, the episode drew criticism from Millvina Dean, the last living survivor of the 1912 Titanic sinking, who stated that it was "disrespectful to make entertainment of such a tragedy".[16] The organisation Christian Voice expressed offence at the religious imagery of a scene in which the Doctor is lifted through the ship by robot angels. The episode's Christmas Day UK broadcast received 13.8 million viewers, an audience narrowly exceeded by the 13.9 million who watched the BBC soap EastEnders.[18] The average across all 70 minutes was 12.2 million viewers. This was the highest total of viewers for the new series, exceeding the previous record set by "Rose", and the highest for Doctor Who overall since 1979 (specifically, the final episode of "City of Death" which aired while rival network ITV suffered programming disruptions due to a strike).

Gareth McLean, reviewing a preview screening for The Guardian's TV and radio weblog, appreciated the episode's use of "the disaster movie template" and came to a favourable overall conclusion: "For the most part, The Voyage of the Damned is absolutely smashing." Its main flaw, in his view, was the "blank and insipid" acting of Kylie Minogue.[20] James Walton of The Daily Telegraph called the episode "a winning mixture of wild imagination and careful writerly calculation".

Direct download: Damned1.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 2:34pm UTC

TDP 35: Pre Christmas Show Tribute to Verity Lambert

Verity Ann Lambert, OBE (27 November 193522 November 2007) was an English television and film producer. She is best known as the founding producer of the science-fiction series Doctor Who, a programme which has become a part of British popular culture.

Lambert was a pioneer woman in British television; when she was appointed to Doctor Who in 1963 she was the youngest producer, and only female drama producer, working at the BBC.[1]

Lambert began working in television in the 1950s, and continued to work as a producer up until the year she died. After leaving the BBC in 1969, she worked for other television companies, notably Thames Television and Euston Films in the 1970s and 80s. She also worked in the film industry, for Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment, and from 1985 ran her own production company, Cinema Verity. In addition to Doctor Who, she produced Adam Adamant Lives!, The Naked Civil Servant, Rock Follies, Minder, Widows, G.B.H., Jonathan Creek and Love Soup.

The British Film Institute's Screenonline website describes Lambert as "one of those producers who can often create a fascinating small screen universe from a slim script and half-a-dozen congenial players."[2] The website of the Museum of Broadcast Communications hails her as "not only one of Britain's leading businesswomen, but possibly the most powerful member of the nation's entertainment industry ... Lambert has served as a symbol of the advances won by women in the media"[3]. News of her death came on the 44th anniversary of the first showing of Doctor Who.

Contents

[hide]

[edit] Early career in independent television

Lambert was born in London, the daughter of a Jewish accountant, and educated at Roedean School.[4] She left Roedean at sixteen and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris for a year, and at a secretarial college in London for eighteen months.[5] She later credited her interest in the structural and characterisational aspects of scriptwriting to an inspirational English teacher.[6] Lambert's first job was typing menus at the Kensington De Vere Hotel, which employed her because she had been to France and could speak French.[5] In 1956, she entered the television industry as a secretary at Granada Television's press office. She was sacked from this job after six months.[5]

ABC Television's studios at Didsbury in Manchester, where Lambert worked in the late 1950s.
ABC Television's studios at Didsbury in Manchester, where Lambert worked in the late 1950s.

Following her dismissal from Granada, Lambert took a job as a shorthand typist at ABC Television.[5] She soon became the secretary to the company's Head of Drama, and then a production secretary working on a programme called State Your Case.[5] She then moved from administration to production, working on drama programming on ABC's popular anthology series Armchair Theatre. Armchair Theatre was overseen at the time by the company's new Head of Drama, Canadian producer Sydney Newman.

On 28 November 1958, while Lambert was working as a production assistant on Armchair Theatre, actor Gareth Jones died off-screen just prior to a scene in which he was to appear during a live television broadcast of the hour-long play "Underground". Lambert had to take control of directing the cameras from the studio gallery as director William Kotcheff hastily worked with the actors during a commercial break to accommodate the loss.[7]

In 1961 Lambert left ABC, spending a year working as the personal assistant to American television producer David Susskind at the independent production company Talent Associates in New York.[5] Returning to England, she rejoined ABC with an ambition to direct, but got stuck as a production assistant, and decided that if she could not find advancement within a year she would abandon television as a career.[5]

[edit] BBC career

In December 1962 Sydney Newman left ABC to take up the position of Head of Drama at BBC Television, and the following year Lambert joined him at the Corporation. Newman had recruited her to produce Doctor Who, a programme he had personally initiated. Conceived by Newman as an educational science-fiction series for children, the programme concerned the adventures of a crotchety old man travelling through space and time with his sometimes unwilling companions in a machine larger on the inside than the out. The show was a risk, and in some quarters not expected to last longer than thirteen weeks.[8]

Although Lambert was not Newman's first choice to produce the series — Don Taylor[9] and Shaun Sutton[10] had both declined the position — the Canadian was very keen to ensure that Lambert took the job after his experience of working with her at ABC. "I think the best thing I ever did on that was to find Verity Lambert," he told Doctor Who Magazine in 1993. "I remembered Verity as being bright and, to use the phrase, full of piss and vinegar! She was gutsy and she used to fight and argue with me, even though she was not at a very high level as a production assistant."[9]

When Lambert arrived at the BBC in June 1963, she was initially given a more experienced associate producer, Mervyn Pinfield, to assist her. Doctor Who debuted on 23 November 1963 and quickly became a success for the BBC, chiefly on the popularity of the alien creatures known as Daleks. Lambert's superior, Head of Serials Donald Wilson, had strongly advised against using the script in which the Daleks first appeared, but after the serial's successful airing, he said that Lambert clearly knew the series far better than he did, and he would no longer interfere in her decisions. The success of Doctor Who and the Daleks also garnered press attention for Lambert herself; in 1964, the Daily Mail published a feature on the series focusing on the perceived attractiveness of its young producer: "The operation of the Daleks ... is conducted by a remarkably attractive young woman called Verity Lambert who, at 28, is not only the youngest but the only female drama producer at B.B.C. TV... [T]all, dark and shapely, she became positively forbidding when I suggested that the Daleks might one day take over Dr. Who."[11]

Lambert oversaw the first two seasons of the programme, eventually leaving in 1965. "There comes a time when a series need new input," she told Doctor Who Magazine thirty years later. "It's not that I wasn't fond of Doctor Who, I simply felt that the time had come. It had been eighteen very concentrated months, something like seventy shows. I know people do soaps forever now, but I felt Doctor Who needed someone to come in with a different view."[12]

In the 2007 Doctor Who episode "Human Nature", the Doctor (as John Smith) refers to his parents as Sydney and Verity, a tribute to both Newman and Lambert.[13]

She moved on to produce another BBC show created by Newman, the swashbuckling action-adventure series Adam Adamant Lives! (1966–67). The long development period of Adam Adamant delayed its production, and during this delay Newman gave her the initial episodes of a new soap opera, The Newcomers, to produce.[14] Further productions for the BBC included a season of the crime drama Detective (1968–69) and a twenty-six-part series of adaptations of the stories of William Somerset Maugham (1969). During this period, Lambert was obscurely referenced in Monty Python’s 1969 sketch "Buying a Bed," which featured two shop assistants called Mr. Verity and Mr. Lambert, named after her.[15]

In 1969 she left the staff of the BBC to join London Weekend Television, where she produced Budgie (1970–72) and Between the Wars (1973). In 1974, she returned to the BBC on a freelance basis to produce Shoulder to Shoulder, a series of six 75-minute plays about the suffragette movement of the early 20th century.

[edit] Thames Television and Euston Films

Teddington Studios in London, where several Thames Television dramas overseen by Lambert, such as Rock Follies, were produced in the 1970s.
Teddington Studios in London, where several Thames Television dramas overseen by Lambert, such as Rock Follies, were produced in the 1970s.

Later in 1974 Lambert became Head of Drama at Thames Television, a successor company of her former employers ABC. During her time in this position she oversaw several high-profile and successful contributions to the ITV network, including The Naked Civil Servant (1975), Rock Follies (1976–77), Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–92) and Edward and Mrs Simpson (1978). In 1976 she was also made responsible for overseeing the work of Euston Films, Thames' subsidiary film production company, at the time best known as the producers of The Sweeney. In 1979 she transferred to Euston full-time as the company's Chief Executive, overseeing productions such as Quatermass (1979), Minder (1979–94) and Widows (1983).

At Thames and Euston, Lambert enjoyed the most sustained period of critical and popular success of her career. The Naked Civil Servant won a British Academy Television Award (BAFTA) for its star John Hurt as well as a Broadcasting Press Guild Award and a prize at the Prix Italia;[16] Rock Follies won a BAFTA and a Royal Television Society Award,[17] while Widows also gained BAFTA nominations and ratings of over 12 million — unusually for a drama serial, it picked up viewers over the course of its six-week run.[7] Minder went on to become the longest-running series produced by Euston Films, surviving for over a decade following Lambert's departure from the company.[18]

Television historian Lez Cooke described Lambert's time in control of the drama department at Thames as "an adventurous period for the company, demonstrating that it was not only the BBC that was capable of producing progressive television drama during the 1970s. Lambert wanted Thames to produce drama series 'which were attempting in one way or another to tackle modern problems and life,' an ambition which echoed the philosophy of her mentor Sydney Newman."[7] Howard Schuman, the writer of Rock Follies, also later praised the bravery of Lambert's commissioning. "Verity Lambert had just arrived as head of drama at Thames TV and she went for broke," he told The Observer newspaper in 2002. "She commissioned a serial, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, for safety, but also Bill Brand, one of the edgiest political dramas ever, and us... Before we had even finished making the first series, Verity commissioned the second."[19]

Lambert's association with Thames and Euston Films continued into the 1980s. In 1982, she rejoined the staff of parent company Thames Television as Director of Drama, and was given a seat on the company's board. In November 1982 she left Thames, but remained as Chief Executive at Euston until November of the following year, to take up her first post in the film industry, as Director of Production for Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment. Her job here was somewhat frustrating as the British film industry was in one of its periodic states of flux, but she did manage to produce some noteworthy features, including the 1986 John Cleese film Clockwise.

Lambert later expressed some regret on her time in the film industry in a feature for The Independent newspaper. "Unfortunately, the person who hired me left, and the person who came in didn't want to produce films and didn't want me. While I managed to make some films I was proud of — Dennis Potter's Dreamchild, and Clockwise with John Cleese — it was terribly tough and not a very happy experience."[5]

[edit] Cinema Verity

In late 1985 Lambert left Thorn EMI, frustrated at the lack of success and at restructuring measures being undertaken by the company. She established her own independent production company, Cinema Verity. The company's first production was the 1988 feature film A Cry in the Dark, starring Sam Neill and Meryl Streep and based on the "dingo baby" case in Australia. Cinema Verity's first television series, the BBC1 sitcom May to December, debuted in 1989 and ran until 1994. The company also produced another successful BBC1 sitcom, So Haunt Me, which ran from 1992 to 1994.

Lambert executive produced Alan Bleasdale's hard-hitting drama serial G.B.H. for Channel 4 in 1991, winning critical acclaim and several awards.[20] Lambert's relationship with Bleasdale was not entirely smooth, however — the writer has admitted in subsequent interviews that he "wanted to kill Verity Lambert"[21] after she insisted on the cutting of large portions of his first draft script before production began. However, Bleasdale subsequently admitted that she was right about the majority of the cut material, and when the production was finished he only missed one small scene from those she had demanded be excised.[21]

A less successful Cinema Verity production, and the most noted mis-step of Lambert's career, was the soap opera Eldorado, a co-production with the BBC set in a British expatriate community in Spain. At the time it was the most expensive commission the BBC had given out to an independent production company.[22] Launched with a major publicity campaign and running in a high-profile slot three nights a week on BBC1, the series was critically mauled and lasted only a year, from 1992 to 1993. Lambert's biography at Screenonline suggests some reasons for this failure: "With on-location production facilities and an evident striving for a genuinely contemporary flavour, Lambert's costly Euro soap Eldorado suggested a degree of ambition ... which it seemed in the event ill-equipped to realise, and a potentially interesting subject tailed off into implausible melodrama. Eldorado's plotting ... was disappointingly ponderous. As a result, the expatriate community in southern Spain theme and milieu was exploited rather than explored."[2] Other reviewers, even the best part of a decade after the programme's cancellation, were much harsher, with Rupert Smith's comments in The Guardian in 2002 being a typical example. "A £10 million farce that left the BBC with egg all over its entire body and put an awful lot Equity members back on the dole... it will always be remembered as the most expensive flop of all time."[23]

In the early 1990s, Lambert attempted to win the rights to produce Doctor Who independently for the BBC; however, this effort was unsuccessful because the Corporation was already in negotiations with producer Philip Segal in the United States. Cinema Verity projects that did reach production included Sleepers (BBC1, 1991) and The Cazalets (BBC One, 2001), the latter co-produced by actress Joanna Lumley, whose idea it was to adapt the novels by Elizabeth Jane Howard.

Lambert continued to work as a freelance producer outside of her own company. She produced the popular BBC One comedy-drama series Jonathan Creek, by writer David Renwick, ever since taking over the role for its second series in 1998. From then until 2004 she produced eighteen episodes of the programme across four short seasons, plus two Christmas Specials. She and Renwick also collaborated on another comedy-drama, Love Soup, starring Tamsin Greig and transmitted on BBC One in the autumn of 2005.

In 1973, Lambert married television director Colin Bucksey (a man ten years her junior), but the marriage collapsed in 1984, and they divorced in 1987.[24][4][25] She had no children, once telling an interviewer, "I can't stand babies — no, I love babies as long as their parents take them away."[3] In 2000 two of her productions, Doctor Who and The Naked Civil Servant, finished third and fourth respectively in a British Film Institute poll of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes of the 20th century.[26]

In the 2002 New Year's Honours list Lambert was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to film and television production,[27] and the same year she received BAFTA's Alan Clarke Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television.[28] She died of cancer five days before her 72nd birthday.[29] She was due to have been presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Women in Film and Television Awards the following month.[30]

Direct download: Pre_Xmas_2007.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 12:48pm UTC

TDP 34: The Unquiet Dead

Synopsis

The Ninth Doctor and Rose arrive in Cardiff on Christmas Eve, 1869 and discover that something is making the dead come back to life. The time travellers team up with a world-weary Charles Dickens to investigate Gabriel Sneed, the local undertaker and his servant girl Gwyneth — and come face to face with the ghostly Gelth.

Plot

In a funeral parlour during the Victorian era, a young man named Redpath grieves over the open casket containing his dead grandmother. Closing his eyes in sorrow, he does not see a blue, glowing vapour wash over the corpse and enter it. The old woman's eyes snap open and she grabs Redpath by the throat, killing him. Gabriel Sneed, the undertaker, rushes in and tries to close the lid on the reanimated corpse but she knocks him unconscious to the floor before getting up and wandering out onto the street, wailing. Sneed regains consciousness and calls for his servant girl, Gwyneth. This is not the first corpse in the funeral home to come alive, and Gwyneth tells Sneed that they need to get help. Sneed protests that it is not his fault, and they have to get the dead woman back. Riding in the hearse, Sneed orders Gwyneth to use her clairvoyant abilities to seek the dead woman out, and Gwyneth focuses on the old woman's last desire: to see Charles Dickens, who is giving a reading in a music hall in town. Dickens himself is in a melancholic mood as he waits for his stage call. He feels old, is estranged from his family and his imagination is growing thin. He feels that he has seen all there is to see.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose are having a rough ride. As the ship shakes and they hold onto the console, the Doctor aims the TARDIS for Naples in 1860. When they land, Rose is about to rush out when the Doctor tells her that she would start a riot in her 21st century clothing. Rose returns more suitably dressed in an off-the-shoulder gown, and the Doctor compliments her, saying she is beautiful... for a human. They step out into the snow-covered streets of history, the Doctor realising when he buys a newspaper that his aim was a bit off — it is Christmas Eve, 1869, and they are in Cardiff, not Naples.

In the music hall, Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol, but stops short as the dead woman in the audience starts to glow blue. The vapour pours out of her mouth, an ethereal gas with a vaguely human shape that sweeps around the hall and sends the audience running in a panic. The screams attract Rose and the Doctor as well as Sneed and Gwyneth. Dickens accuses the Doctor of being responsible for the illusion, as the vapour completely leaves the dead woman's body to be sucked into a gas lamp, and the body collapses. Sneed and Gwyneth carry the limp body out. Rose goes in pursuit, and Sneed chloroforms her, bundling her into the hearse with the dead woman. The Doctor commandeers Dickens's coach, but the great writer's protests vanish when the Doctor discovers who he is and gushes over his literary genius. When the Doctor tells him about Rose, Dickens chivalrously joins the chase.

Rose awakens in the locked viewing gallery of the funeral parlour, not seeing another gaseous entity take over young Redpath's body. As the Doctor and Dickens arrive at the parlour and force their way in, Redpath and his grandmother come to life again, approaching Rose menacingly. The gas lamps in the house flicker, and the Doctor realises there is something living in the pipes. He hears Rose's cries and breaks the door down, pulling her away from the corpses. He asks them who they are, and the corpses cry that they are dying because the Rift is failing and these forms cannot be sustained. Then the blue vapours stream out of the dead, and the bodies collapse once more.

Sneed explains that the house has had a reputation for being haunted, which is why he managed to buy it so cheaply. The Doctor explains that the house is built on the rift the aliens were referring to — a break in spacetime that is growing. These entities are from across the universe. Dickens is still sceptical, refusing to believe that there are ghosts in the gas pipes. The Doctor tells him that as dead bodies release gas when they decompose, they are ideal vehicles for these gaseous aliens. Dickens tells the Doctor, shakily, that if what he has seen is true, then perhaps his entire life, spent fighting against injustice and for social causes in what he thought was the real world, has been for nothing.

Rose, in the meantime, talks to Gwyneth, finding out that she was taken in by Sneed when she was twelve, after her parents died. Although they initially get along well, Gwyneth sees the future in Rose's mind but is shocked when she sees the things Rose has experienced with the Doctor, mentioning the big bad wolf. She apologises, admitting her clairvoyance and saying that her abilities have been growing stronger recently. The Doctor has been listening, and surmises that Gwyneth's abilities are due to her growing up in this house over the rift, and she is the key. He suggests they hold a séance.

Gwyneth manages to summon the aliens, who speak through her. They are the Gelth, a species whose bodies were destroyed by the Time War and left them facing extinction in a gaseous state. The few Gelth remaining need to come through the rift and take over dead bodies to survive. Rose is repulsed by the idea, but the Doctor insists that they have to help. Gwyneth will stand at the spot of the rift down in the morgue and allow the Gelth to use her as a bridge. Rose continues to protest: she knows the Gelth do not succeed, because the future does not have walking dead, but the Doctor tells her that time is constantly in flux, and the future can be rewritten; nothing is safe. In any case, Gwyneth wants to help her "angels". The Doctor warns the Gelth that this is only a temporary solution—once they possess the bodies, he will transport them to another place where they can build permanent ones.

However, when Gwyneth stands at the rift, and the Gelth begin to come through her, the numbers are much more than they originally implied. The Gelth show their true colours — they do not just want bodies that are already dead, they are willing to kill to supply themselves with more hosts and occupy the planet. Gwyneth stands motionless at the position of the rift as the Gelth continue to stream in. Sneed has his neck snapped by a reanimated corpse and is taken over. Dickens, overwhelmed, runs in fear as the Doctor and Rose are backed up into a corner. The Doctor apologises to Rose that she is going to die over a century before she was born, but she tells him that she wanted to come. The Doctor holds her hand as they prepare to go out fighting together, and he tells Rose he is glad he met her.

Outside, Dickens sees a pursuing Gelth get sucked into a gas lamp on the street, and has a brainstorm. He rushes back into the house, turning off the flames and turning up the gas. He goes down into the morgue, doing the same, telling the Doctor what he is doing. The Doctor realises that by filling the house with gas, the Gelth will be sucked out of the dead bodies like poison from a wound. This is exactly what happens, the Gelth pouring out of the collapsing corpses and swirling around in the confines of the morgue. The Doctor tells Gwyneth to send them back, but she says she is only strong enough to hold them here, and takes out a box of matches from her apron.

The Doctor tells Dickens to get Rose out of there before the two succumb to the gas fumes, and tries to convince Gwyneth to leave the Gelth to him. As he touches her neck, however, he discovers the truth of the matter, and reluctantly leaves. Gwyneth lights a match, and the house and the Gelth are consumed in fire. The Doctor tells Rose that when he checked Gwyneth's pulse, he realised that she was dead. He thinks Gwyneth died the moment she stood in the rift. Rose does not understand — Gwyneth spoke to them and saved them. In response, Dickens quotes Shakespeare, that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Hamlet: Act 1, scene V). Rose looks sadly at the ruins of the funeral home—a servant girl saved the world, and nobody will ever know.

Dickens thanks the Doctor as they stand in front of the TARDIS. The things he has seen tonight have given him hope that there is more to learn. He plans to patch things up with his family and finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood, identifying the murderer as a blue elemental. He asks the Doctor if his books will last, and the Doctor assures a smiling Dickens that his work will last forever. Inside the TARDIS, Rose asks if Dickens writing about what they just experienced will change history. The Doctor tells her that Dickens will never get to write his story, as he dies the following year. Right now, however, they have made him more alive than he has been in a long time.

Dickens watches in wonderment as the TARDIS fades away before his eyes. He laughs out loud, and walks through the streets of Cardiff, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and declaring, "God bless us, everyone!"

Cast

Cast notes

  • Simon Callow, who plays Dickens, has also written extensively about the writer and is well known for playing Dickens on television as well as in a one-man show. See celebrity appearances in Doctor Who.
  • Eve Myles, who plays Gwyneth, subsequently stars in the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood as Gwen Cooper. There is supposedly no connection between the two characters other than both characters living in Cardiff.[1].
Direct download: Unquiet_wip_new.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 10:27am UTC