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Boom Town

First UK Transmission Date (BBC1)Scheduled TXViewers
4th June 200519:007.68m

Cast: John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Aled Pedick (Idris), Will Thomas (Mr. Cleaver), Mali Harries (Cathy Salt)

Writer: Russell T Davies, Director: Joe Ahearne

Synopsis: The Tardis crew take a holiday, but the Doctor encounters an enemy he thought long since dead. A plan to build a nuclear power station in Cardiff City disguises an alien plot to rip the world apart. And when the Doctor dines with monsters, he discovers traps within traps.

'Boom Town' Background and Summary: - Excitement had built around this episode due to the publication of the synopsis which included the information that the Doctor would meet someone he thought was long dead. In anticipation of the supposedly-extinct Daleks, it was a logical possibility that this pre-cursor to the season finale might feature a supposedly-extinct Time Lord. Many theories flew around with the most popular being The Master and of course a few mentions of the Rani.

And so Boom Town began the trilogy of episodes by Russell T Davies which completed the new series. Having reached the heights of The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, it was sadly back down to earth (contemporary Cardiff as it happened) with another badly-received episode penned by the man in charge, and with no trace of an old Time Lord either. Instead, viewers were "treated" to the reappearance one of the Slitheens from Aliens of London, played by Annette Badland. Her performance in Boom Town was a major improvement on her debut story, with giggling and bodily function noises reduced to a minimum, however the rest of the episode was something of a non-event.

The central premise could potentially be an interesting sub-plot of a more sophisticated episode, however standing on its own, its was sadly inept at filling a precious 45-minute slot of new Doctor Who. Supporters of this story have cited the excellent characterisation, the fascinating moral dilemma and the brilliant dialogue. Doubters feel this story was a vacuous, slow and irrelevant wasted opportunity.

Having been spoilt with the well-paced, intelligent and downright brilliant The Doctor Dances, Boom Town was a let-down and it seemed much emptier by comparison, and at times directionless. Its merit lay in examining the Doctor's right to kill, and his lifestyle. Unfortunately, this kind of examination is fairly dry stuff and should really be left (as with the examination of the consequences of time-travel) to fan-fiction. Some viewers enjoyed the exploration of the main characters and motivation of the Slitheen. The conversations were certainly well written and directed, however the dilemma around which the story revolved was somewhat irrelevant as viewers have seen the Doctor grapple with the morality of killing before and its been done far more succintly, for instance in the famous "Do I have the right?" speech from Genesis of the Daleks. Character development is refreshing to see in Doctor Who, but should it be carried out at the expense of everything else, including a plot? Many viewers simply found the episode hard to go along with once the scene had been set with a large alien monster sitting on the toilet crying.

It seems odd, given how much stress Russell T Davies has placed on capturing the imaginations of the very young children, and making the series fast and fun, that a whole episode should be devoted to a slow, plodding conversational piece about whether the Doctor has the right to deliver justice to evil aliens.

As to the thin plot, the threat of the time-rift in this episode is basically caused by the Doctor's arrival and, as with all bar one story of the new series, its not resolved by the Doctor either, continuing to build up the image of this Time Lord as a fairly impotent hero. The resolution to this story is the laziest and incoherent of any story so far, relying upon the "soul" of the TARDIS opening up and, somehow, regressing the villain back to her egg form. It seems bizarre in watching the companion documentary Doctor Who Confidential that Russell T Davies comments on this resolution with no apparently awareness of the unacceptability of this contrivance and he himself uses the dreaded phrase "Deus ex Machina" which surely no respectable writer would admit to. This is a general reflection of the lack of importance of a story in Boom Town with so much emphasis being placed on character. This emphasis results in a story without a palpable threat, without a true tone, without any trademark Doctor Who claustrophobia, without action and without and real substance. Given the shallow nature of the plot, it was quite an accomplishment that this episode then managed to lose any clear explanations and it roamed into the irritating world of technobabble which Russell T Davies had sworn to avoid.

Given the joyful relish that previous fan-writers on the new series had had in creating their own personal slice of Doctor Who history by generating memorable scenes, superb alien menaces and new characters, it is hard to understand how Russell T Davies, the beloved re-inventor of the new series, could turn out such uninspiring and derivative episodes. It was disappointing when so many old ideas were rehashed in The Long Game, but the lack of imagination shown in Boom Town almost defies belief. How can a man who fought so hard to bring back Doctor Who throw away this opportunity to tell a brand new adventure story in time and space by setting a dismal morality play in Cardiff? Why also write a story which requires the audience to have watched and remembered plot details from ten weeks ago, recycle a relatively unpopular monster from a few episodes back, and populate it solely with characters already seen in this series? The answer to these questions is that Russell T Davies wanted to write an episode about the consequences of the Doctor's lifestyle and about making important decisions for him and Rose. Unfortunately, the combination of the lack of story, and the lack of fresh characters left the viewer feeling significantly short-changed, but quite how much enjoyment was derived from the episode was down to how receptive the individual viewer was to
aim of the episode.

Whilst some took issue with the general structure of the episode, there were many minor points which caused some dismay. The incidental music was again at times over-bearing, particularly during Mickey's big relvelation that he was seeing someone else. There were some cringing moments between the self-congratulating team, such as the high-fiving following the explanation of time-rift, and the Doctor hugging Rose seemed unnatural after she managed to pronounce the Slitheen's home planet.

One other critism was the setting. Much has been said on the subject of every episode being set on or in orbit around the Earth and it was one of Russell T Davies main ambitions that every story should be tied to this planet. Rose and the Doctor commented on this fact at the start of the previous story but it was only through Rose's dialogue in Boom Town that the audience learnt what they were missing. Its now clear that Rose really has seen the kind of extraordinary alien landscapes that could be realistically achieved with the new big budget series but the audience is not allowed to see them.

"Boring" is a word often used to describe this episode but more kind commentators described it as a "breather" and saw it simply as a well-written character piece. There's no denying that Russell T Davies writes character-based scenes with great skill but this kind of drama is not what Doctor Who was remembered for. That's not to say that this re-invented series shouldn't stretch the boundaries and challenge a few ideas but this style of plotless interlude seemed all the more alien coming off the back of the acclaimed World War 2 story, neverthless it did have its plaudits.


Although Boom Town was not the least-liked Doctor Who story so far, it was the most disliked! This sounds strange but to explain: it had a 5% more positive rating than The Long Game with 53.8%, but it also had a 5% more negative rating, with a large 16.8% saying "no thanks". This statistic is achieved because more people were prepared to express an opinion on Boom Town than they were with The Long Game with which many seemed generally uncertain and just gave it an "average" rating.

Boom Town
was a watershed late on the series, as many people had been looking forward to the season finale with great anticipation, but some of the popular culture based scenes from the trailer for Bad Wolf, combined with the disillusionment following Boom Town meant that a little less was expected of the return of the Daleks...

Classic Series Influences and References:

  • The TARDIS is said to be alive, as explored in many earlier stories and it has telepathic circuits
  • The Leisure Hive also resulted in the villain being regressed back to its young form.
  • The nature of the TARDIS exterior is explained with reference to the landing in An Unearthly Child and the chamelion circuit is mentioned which was first named in Logopolis.

Untelevised Adventures

  • Justice Year (9th Doctor / Rose)
  • Glass Pyramid of Sanclune (9th Doctor / Rose)
  • Planet "Women Wept" (9th Doctor / Rose)
    A planet with a huge continent shaped like a mourning woman.
  • Planet of Frozen Waves
    Rose and the Doctor visit a beach 1000 miles across where a sea can spontaneously freeze creating frozen ice waves 100 ft high

Buy the Complete First Series

This is an absolutely must for anyone who remotely enjoyed the new series of Doctor Who. Unlikely the previous individual releases of episodes, the box set has extras coming out of its ears. And whereas some box sets just have extras on the final disc, this brilliant package has a selection of extras on each disk, plus the entire set of Doctor Who confidential (cut down) on another disk.

Nothing much needs saying about the episodes themselves but commentaries on certain episodes are almost worth the price alone. The commentaries of Rose, The Unquiet Dead and Dalek are of particular note and the video diaries of certain members of the team are very interesting and fun. The TARDIS container is a nice package and overall, believe me this set of DVDs is well worth the asking price, or probably more!



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