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Thursday, June 02, 2005
Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances
A couple of months ago, a friend buzzed me on-line, asking me if I wanted to see the plot breakdown for one of the two-parters of the new Doctor Who. Being weak and also overcome with curiosity about the new show, I quickly succumbed to temptation and got the plot breakdown for "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances."

I read it immediately, nodding my head at each plot twist and revelation and having a feeling the production staff was going to do it—they were going to get it "right" when it came to returning Doctor Who to the television screens.

But words on paper don't always translate into a good television story. There is so much more to it than that. And I have to admit that after being stunned by how great "Dalek" was, I was becoming more and more wary of the upcoming two-parter. I knew how good it could be—but would it live up to my expectations?

Last week, "The Empty Child" hit all the right notes and left me feeling very, very good about the new series. Then, this week "The Doctor Dances" not only delivered on the promise of last week, but it exceeded it. It did what the second half of a story should do—expanded on what we saw in part one and resolved the main conflict—in this case, undoing the damage done by Captain Jack when he opened the alien ambulance and released the nano-probes upon an unsuspecting London.

Indeed, it's interesting to sit back and compare "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" with the earlier two-part story of "Aliens of London" and "World War III." Whereas I liked what they tried to do character wise with Rose's mother and Mickey's reactions to Rose's traveling in time and space with the Doctor, those character moments felt like they brought the action plotlines to a screeching halt. Add in that a lot of the story felt like it was full of padding with Slitheen changing in and out of human skin at will, and it felt like some of the old six-part stories of the original series—a good plot but not enough to fill it all out in a satisfying way.

Then, we get "The Doctor Dances" and "The Empty Child" where the opposite feeling occurs. The story is narrative driven as the Doctor must try to find a way to stop the zombies in gas masks but it does have some slower moments of character and character reflection. But at no point does it feel as if the momentum of the story is coming to a screeching halt in order to have some character development stuff. Instead, the growth and character moments come out of the situation. For example, we spend a good amount of time in "The Doctor Dances" with the Doctor and Rose locked in a room, trying to escape. The two trade banter back and forth, about not only the situation but how each of them is reacting to it. Rose's assertion that the Doctor needs to learn to dance more was nicely done.

One interesting element of the story was the contrast between Jack and the Doctor. Jack is the suave, man about time and space, who thinks only in the moment. He sees things for how they can help or affect Jack and not the long-term consequences. Contrast that against the Doctor who is called in to clean up the mess and hhas a dark streak to him. He wants to enjoy life, but only after the work has been done. Indeed, we see this with Jack dancing with Rose during the crisis in part one but the Doctor not cutting loose and dancing until the crisis is resolved in part two. Also, it's interesting to see the Doctor be jealous that someone else is stealing Rose's attention. It only reinforces my assertion that he chose her to travel with him for some reason. (Lines about being Father Christmas to her aside).

Also with the Doctor and Jack, we saw a contrast in attitude. Jack is a bit more selfish-beaming himself away from the bomb when things look bad. The Doctor, on the other hand, stays to see things to through to the end—even if it means his own demise. And it's because of that the Doctor is so able to celebrate in the end. The sheer delight he feels in that no one has to die today was a nice touch. The intensity in his voice as he urges the nanoprobes to figure out where they went wrong and put it right was a delight, as was the delight at figuring out that he'd won with no deaths involved.

Emotionally, we see the Doctor dancing, as he will later do literally with Rose in the TARDIS.

All of that was delightful and infused the episode with a good sense of fun and
movement.

That's not to see it was all fun and games. There was still the pervading sense of atmosphere from last week. The sense of doom was throughout the episode—from
Nancy begging the soldier to set her free so she wouldn't become a gas mask zombie was good.

I liked Nancy and finding out that she was the child's mother gave us a good explanation of her motives in taking care of everyone. In a lot of ways, she reminded me a bit of Kathleen Dudman from "The Curse of Fernric."

I also like that the series is poking fun at itself. The Doctor points out how Rose has managed to pick up yet another suitor in her travels. I liked the give and take between the Doctor and Rose. It was similar to the give and take of some of the best Doctor and companion teams in the course of the original series.

So, all in all, "The Doctor Dances" was a fine conclusion and one of the better episodes of the new series to date. The series is starting to pick up some good momentum—it really has been hitting on all cylinders since "Dalek" (well, that is if you exclude "The Long Game") and I can't wait to see how the final three episodes of the season unfold. If it's as good as this two-part story was, we're in for a treat…

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/02/2005 02:50:00 PM | |
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