Saturday, 14 March 2009

Doctor Who: Father's Day

Pete: 'Who am I, love?'
Rose: 'My daddy.'

This episode shouldn't have worked! It had too many things wrong with it. It was more soap opera than sci-fi, the special effects were naff, and some of the science was truly appalling. (Where the hell did that glowing TARDIS key bollocks come from?) Yet it was my favourite episode of the season so far! How the did that happen? I'll tell you how—because despite its many shortcomings, on an emotional level it did everything right.

The scenes between Rose and Pete were perfect. I really can't praise Paul Cornell's script enough. In the character of Pete Tyler he created a loving, fallible father for Rose. Pete wasn't a saint (particularly if the duffle coat incident is to be believed), he was a failed Del Boy—his flat a mess of worthless business stock and shattered dreams. His anecdote about someone inventing a window sill with a milk and yoghurt holder illustrated perfectly why he was such a failure—he had no head for business. Which for an entrepreneur, is the kiss of death.

Rose tried her best to hide the truth from Pete—she even lied about what a good Father he was—but Pete knew himself well enough to realise that her story didn't ring true. He knew that he'd never been reliable. He knew that he'd never been there for Rose. Her insistence that he would have been given the chance, was both beautiful and sad in equal measure—but even Rose's blind love for her father wasn't enough to save him. Pete saw a way to make amends and took it, and in the end, saved them all.

Every time Rose called Pete 'Daddy' my eyes filled up. This was such a well handled story and explained beautifully why the Doctor hasn't tried to change the fate of his own people. Altering events in time can have fatal consequences. The Doctor has always known this. Poor Rose had to learn it the hard way, and almost at a terrible cost.

The Doctor and Rose's relationship shifted too this week. The way he touched her face (a mirror image of how Pete touched her earlier in the episode), added an extra element to their relationship. Is this why the Doctor doesn't like Mickey, and why he didn't want to take Adam along? Has the Doctor been filling in for Rose's father all along? Is Rose the daughter he never had?

In the end, Pete didn't die alone. Rose was there to hold his hand. She did what she came to do, and thus history was changed—but just a little. The story surrounding Pete's death was altered slightly, but at least everyone lived. Apart from Pete.

Other Thoughts:

—I thought at first that the line, 'the past is another country' was a quote from L.P. Hartley's 'The Go-Between'. On further investigation, it turns out that the Hartley line is 'the past is a foreign country'. So I did a bit of digging and came up with a quote by Greil Marcus, 'The past is another country. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there' (from the book, 'Lipstick Traces: a Secret History of the 20th Century').

—The monsters this week were Reapers. They're not specifically named on-screen, but were originally scripted as being Grim Reaper type creatures, with scythes. Obviously this was later changed.


Doctor: 'Your wish is my command. But be careful what you wish for.'

Doctor: 'The past is another country. 1987 is just the Isle of Wight.'

Doctor: (to baby Rose) 'Rose, you're not going to bring about the end of the world. Are you? Are you?'

Pete: 'I never read you those bedtime stories. I never took you on those picnics. I was never there for you.'
Rose: 'You would have been.'
Pete: 'But I can do this for you. I can be a proper Dad to you now.'
Rose: 'But it's not fair.'
Pete: 'I've had all these extra hours. No one else in the world has ever had that. And on top of that I get to see you. And you're beautiful. How lucky am I, eh?'

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