The Empty Child (2005)

Nowadays a Steven Moffat script is obviously quite a regular thing (6 of the 13 2010 episodes were his). This was his first contribution to the show and its one of his best. This two part story is set during the Blitz in the Second World War. This two part story also introduces us to Captain Jack Harkness. A Time Agent who seems to fancy anything human (or human looking) that has a pulse. The Doctor and Rose are tracking a capsule that is jumping time tracks.

Within minutes of arriving Rose is separated from the Doctor after seeing a child in a gasmask on top of a building. Essentially it’s the child that is the main threat. Walking around saying “Are you my mommy?”. Rose spends a large chunk of the story with Jack. When we first meet Jack he is seen flirting with some army guy before returning to his ship to saying Rose who at this point is plunging to the ground after holding onto a barrage balloon. Jack is presented as a cheeky yet charming character and it’s not long before his true colours are revealed and announces that he is a time agent. The Doctor in this opening episode is teamed up with Nancy who is the mother figure to a group of kids. She ransacks homes that are empty when the air raid sirens sound. In fact I was more impressed with the Doctor/Nancy relationship than the Rose/Jack. The Nancy/Doctor relationship was less flirting that Rose and Jack and the Doctor kept pushing Nancy with Nancy making jibes about the Doctor’s ears.

The shows big name for this was Richard Wilson (Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave). His involvement is quite short but important none the less. He explains what the threat is before becoming the threat himself. The relationship between Rose and The Doctor is not as rosy (if you pardon the pun). Rose wants a bit of wizardry and “some spock” instead of the apparently low-techness that the Doctor has. The moment that Jack appears and shows all his technology it seems to knock Rose for six and that’s when the flirting begins which towards the ending of the episode was starting to get annoying. I thought it was bad with Rose and Mickey, Jack takes it to a whole new level. John Barrowman is good as Jack though. As a character he is clearly someone who isn’t what he seems and Barrowman plays that superbly but as a combo, the Rose and Jack character isn’t great.

The special effects are absolutely stunning. I can’t quite figure out which I like the best. The sight of planes flying over London in the Blitz towards Rose or the sight of Rose and Jack standing on Jack’s ship in front of Big Ben. It’s moments like these that you fully appreciate how far the show has come in terms of special effects. Another moment worthy of applause is the sequence where Doctor Constantine’s face transforms into the Gasmask. It has to be one of the most gruesome images that I can recall in Doctor Who.

The cliffhanger is very well staged and was much better than Aliens of London. All the patients in the hospital are out of bed walking towards the Doctor, Rose and Jack. There’s no clear way out of the situation so it’s a case of spending a week working out how they are going to get out of it. As the first part it’s a good opener. All the characters are likeable and the actors playing them are very good and strong. There is some witty dialogue and the way that the story is lit helps create the belief that the show is set in 1941 London. Hopefully the second part will live up to the first.

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