Tuesday, July 5, 2005


'Doctor Who' is back on Earth!

Fifteen years after the last regular episode, six years after the one TV movie for the Eighth Doctor, we've had a full series of thirteen episodes featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Incarnation.

The final episode for this year has aired, signaling the end of Eccleston's tenure and marking the debut of David Tennant in the role.

And so to celebrate, most of my essays and all of the Crossovers will be dedicated to the Doctor for the rest of the summer.

Be forewarned: In my essays during this summer salute to 'Doctor Who', there will be spoilers for each of the episodes, especially in regard to summaries.....

First off, here's a recap of the episode:

Location: Cardiff, Wales
Date: 24th December, 1869
Enemy: The Gelth.

The Doctor plans to take Rose back through time to Naples, 1860. Instead they arrive in Cardiff, 1869. In Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local undertaker.
[Thanks to TV.com]


I think 'The Unquiet Dead' will stand as my favorite episode from this season. As a 'Doctor Who' story, it hearkens back to William Hartnell's tenure as the First Doctor. He had more adventures wading through actual historical events than did his successors, who spent more of Time battling aliens.

Some of those battles may have been during historical time periods - like the Fifth Doctor versus the "The Visitation" of the Terileptils during the time of Cromwell, - but it was the First Doctor who encountered more famous figures of History. Marco Polo, Wyatt Earp, Nero....

This time out, the Doctor met Charles Dickens in Cardiff on Christmas Eve, 1869, (about six months before he died), and the Time Lord still had time to squeese in a series staple: an alien invasion!

It's a heady mixture of Victoriana and Fantasy, my two favorite genres.

The involvement of Charles Dickens is the peg upon which we hang our crossover. It wasn't just that the Doctor teamed up with Dickens, but that Dickens was portrayed by Simon Callow. In much the same way that Hal Holbrook is celebrated for his ever-evolving portrayal of Mark Twain here in the United States, Callow is known for his one man show as the author of "The Pickwick Papers" and 'A Christmas Carol."

In fact, this marks the actor's third appearance as Dickens in Toobworld. So when the author is inducted into the Crossover Hall of Fame, he will bear the visage of Simon Callow.

As a one-man show, 'The Mystery Of Charles Dickens' is presented in the form of the touring lectures Dickens gave in which he read from his works. And that is what we see him do in Cardiff on Christmas Eve, 1869, when the theatre is disrupted by the appearance of the gaseous beings known as the Gelth.

So it could be said that we actually saw an excerpt of 'The Mystery Of Charles Dickens' during this episode of 'Doctor Who' before the alien interruption. Can't ask for a better crossover than that!

As I mentioned earlier in the heading, Callow also played Dickens in a TV movie celebrating the life and works of Hans Christian Andersen. Through this connection, 'Doctor Who' goes on to be linked with any production based on the life of P.T. Barnum which you'd prefer, since the link there is provided by the Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind.

(At least that's in theory. I've never seen this TV movie, but I did find a site that had a few pictures. And in one, Andersen is fawning over a poster of Ms. Lind.)

Like I said, 'The Unquiet Dead' is my favorite of all thirteen episodes, for which a good portion of that can be credited to Mr. Callow as Dickens. Thanks to his warm and touching portrayal of "the Great Man", we have our Crossover of the Week.

God bless us, everyone!


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