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|First UK Transmission Date (BBC1)||Scheduled TX||Viewers|
|21st May 2005||18:30||7.11m|
John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Richard Wilson (Dr. Constantine), Florence
Hoath (Nancy), Vilma Hollingberry (Mrs. Harcourt), Albert Valentine (Empty Child),
Cheryl Fergison, Damian Samuels, Robert Hands, Martin Hodgson, Joseph Tremain,
Jordan Murphy, Brandon Miller
Writer: Steven Moffat,
Director: James Hawes
Synopsis: - London,
1941, at the height of the Blitz. A mysterious cylinder is being guarded by the
army, while homeless children, living on the bombsites, are being terrorised by
an unearthly child.
'The Empty Child' Background
and Summary: - Having conceeded defeat in the ratings war against Doctor
Who, ITV tried to fight back with science fiction of its own by showing Star
Wars: The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately for both broadcasters, not all went
according to plan. The live FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United
went to extra time and then penalties. ITV had intended The Phantom Menace
to catch viewers channel-hopping after the end of the cup final which should have
been 5.15pm, however the over-running football coverage didn't conclude until
6.15pm. Junior Mastermind was cancelled, the news ran an hour late and
Doctor Who started on time. Sadly the start-time of Doctor Who had
been shifted forward half an hour to accommodate the Eurovision Song Contest
but the BBC's publicising of this fact had been lamentable. The result was the
lowest overnight viewing figures for the series so far and worse still, it happened
for an epsiode which was merely the first half of a story which would conclude
the following week. Overall, a disaster. Naturally it still beat Star Wars.
these negative points in mind, the low viewing figures are an even greater injustice
due to the fact that The Empty Child was hailed by many as the best Doctor
Who episode so far. Considering that this has been said of The
Unquiet Dead, and Dalek
before-hand, it seems a strong indication that the guest-writers are each time
rising to the challenge of creating an episode which is both inventive and familiar.
It's worth noting at this point that whilst Russell T Davies' own stories are
not without merit, they have generally been less well received. This observation
can be overlooked due the general level of fun which each of RTD's stories carried
and his lively and intelligent new interpretation of the series is what has made
Doctor Who the success it has been.
What Stephen Moffat produced
was a story that was extremely well structured. The build up of the mystery behind
the child was superb, the pace was brilliant and the tone was at times terrifying.
The Empty Child was certainly the most frightening Doctor Who story
so far and hopefully the popular reaction to this story and reaction to other
darker stories will influence the direction of season two. It was an adventure
which would have fitted perfectly in to the dark Hilchcliffe hayday of the series
and has all the elements expected by lovers of the old series.
between Rose and Captain Jack is delightful, the comedy in the episode is appropriate,
the supporting cast are excellent and the threads of the story are laid out in
an exciting and intriguing way. There is little if anything negative to say about
this episode although the character of Captain Jack seemed to create a division
amongst viewers. Some felt the inclusion of a cheesy American was wrong for Doctor
Who, whereas others took a great deal of enjoyment from this antithesis to a weaponless
Doctor. Quite how his character would develop and how the story would be judged
rested with its concluding episode.
Reaction to The Empty
Child was very positive amongst both fans and the general public alike. In
a fan poll, 94.6% rated it positively but this didn't qualify it as the most popular
episode so far because only 61% described it as "excellent" (compared
to the 76% of Dalek). On the other hand it could be measured as more successful
from the other end of the scale because only 1.5% said they failed to enjoy it,
compared to 2.3% who disliked Dalek.
Series Influences and References:
- The TARDIS persues another
time-craft and jumps Time-Tracks, just as the TARDIS jumped a Time-Track in The
Space Museum before being persued by the Daleks' time-craft.
Jack is a 'Time Agent' - such individuals were previously mentioned in The
Talons of Weng Chiang
- The Doctor's psychic paper refers to his name
as Dr John Smith, first used in The Wheel in Space
- Captain Jack's
spaceship uses the Tom Baker era TARDIS console room hum
- Curiously, the
Doctor mentions that he is not a grandfather but still a Doctor - A kind of non-reference
to grand-daughter Susan
- The Doctor misquotes the song lyric "Nobody
here but us chickens" as he has previously done in Stones of Blood
- Shada also features an invisible spaceship
deduces Rose is from the future in part because of her clothes' fabric, very similar
to The Time Warrior in which Lynx makes the same deduction about Sarah
Jane from her clothes.
the Complete First Series
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.
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!