Rose takes her first trip back in time and she and the Doctor travel to 1869 Cardiff. They take in a reading from none other than Charles Dickens but in the middle of the performance, a zombie-like creature interrupts the performance and there is a ghostly apparition. Rose is kidnapped and taken to the home of an undertaker where alien creatures are living in the gas lighting system and taken possession of the dead. Rose manages to get information from Gwyneth, the parlor maid, that points to her as the central point of contact for the alien beings. Written by
Mark Gatiss' original script was bleaker and more frightening, including details about the previous death of Gwyneth's younger brother. He was advised by Russell T. Davies to "make it more of a romp." See more »
The doctor claims to have landed on December 24th, 1869. He runs into a lecturing Charles Dickens. A stroke earlier in the year prevented Dickens from lecturing until January, 1870. See more »
Sneed and Company offer their sincerest condolences, sir, in this most trying hour.
Grandmama had a good innings, Mr. Sneed. She was so full of life. I can't believe she's gone.
Not gone, Mr. Redpath. Merely sleeping.
May I have a moment?
Yes, of course. I shall be in the next room should you require anything.
[after Sneed leaves, the body rises up and strangles Redpath. Sneed rushes back in]
Oh, no. Gwyneth! Get down here now! We've got another one!
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The Unquiet Dead doesn't quite live up to to the first two episodes of the new Doctor Who series (especially the superb The End of the World), but it does feature ghosts, wit and the first example of a recurring gimmick throughout the series: the Doctor's interaction with historical figures.
The interaction is actually caused by accident: the Doctor wanted to take Rose to Naples for Christmas, but somehow the TARDIS has something to say about it and the two find themselves, much to the Doctor's dismay, in 1860 Cardiff. Trouble isn't very far away, either, since corpses have been mysteriously revived in the past few weeks, and the only people who can do something about it are the Doctor, a girl with psychic powers and a certain Charles Dickens (Simon Callow), who now makes a living performing magic tricks and hosting public readings of his body of work.
The main fascination of The Unquiet Dead is its postmodern approach to Dickens, something that was entirely to be expected from writer Mark Gatiss, given his experiences on The League of Gentlemen (the TV show, not the Sean Connery-starring nonsense): the great writer is depicted as a mixture of A Christmas Carol's Scrooge and Hard Times' Gradgrind, i.e. a man who has lost all faith in the magic he used to write about and now believes firmly in scientific facts. And all that goes without mentioning his wonderfully clever comment on the supernatural incidents in the story: "What the Shakespeare is going on here?". That line might also be a reference to the fact that Callow, always reliable for these parts, appeared in Shakespeare in Love and reportedly made a provocative statement about Hamlet in the original version of Four Weddings and a Funeral (Richard Curtis subsequently removed that scene, along with the back-stories of all the other characters as well).
On the flip-side, the episode has a darkness to it (given the zombie-style premise) that doesn't really sit well with the general tone of the show (Steven Moffat's two-part story later on in the season shows how to use that darkness in a good way), the (inevitable) gallows humor being more suitable for a Monty Python sketch or, given Gatiss' involvement, a League of Gentlemen story than Doctor Who. However, Eccleston's charisma manages to lighten up the mood when necessary, and Piper's natural warmth contributes hugely, too.
So no, it's not really good as the episodes written by Davies or Moffat, but what the heck, it's got Charles Dickens - that ought to be enough.
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