Doctor Who – S1, Eps 8/9 – The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances Written by Steven Moffat
I pretty much like this two-episode story arc, though my appreciation only grew upon subsequent viewings. At first, there was just too much back and forth between too many people, and I wasn’t invested enough in the story to focus. So it was a ‘no’ from me, dawg.
Shots of the TARDIS “running through time,” (bouncing about a blue tunnel, really) chasing a large cylinder. The Doctor explains to Rose “Bloody Hand” Tyler that the TARDIS latched onto it because it’s sending out a danger signal. He doesn’t know what it is, but it’s close to the center of London.
Credits. Double dutch in blue jump ropes.
They land in an alley and Something is watching them from Afar. The Doctor expositions that the capsule could be anywhere, and it landed over a month ago. Time travel, I tell ya. So to find it, he’s just gonna ask, and he walks up to enter a door. Rose doesn’t follow because she is distracted by a child calling, “Mommy!”
The Doctor finds a nightclub behind the door, and he gleefully listens to a woman singing “It Had To Be You.” He claps politely as she steps down, and then charges up to the stage.
“Can I have everyone’s attention, just for a mo? Might sound like a stupid question, but has anything fallen from the sky recently?” He asks, which draws a laugh. “About a month ago?” More laughter. Why? We hear an air raid siren, see posters and it dawns on the Doctor that this is WWII.
Rose, who has been seeking out the child this whole time, sees him on. rooftop and begins to climb a convenient nearby rope to get to him. Then she is being raised by something other than her own power and the little boy points up. “Balloon!” She raises higher and higher, seeing bombing in the distance and another round of planes coming in.
The Doctor comes out of the club looking for Rose, and laments to a cat that she wandered off, despite his warning not to. Then the phone of his TARDIS phone box rings. He opens the little door confusedly and asks it: “How can it be ringing?” (And pronounces the first “g” as a hard g, like in “grump” or “go.” Dude, it’s silent. I think that’s a British thing.)
A young woman is appears behind him and tells him not to answer it, then disappears. He answers anyway, (what was that you were saying about following directions?) The child’s voice asks if he it’s mummy. The Doctor gets stern and confused here. “This isn’t really a real phone. It’s not wired up to anything. How did…” It hangs up and he looks thoughtful.
He takes off again, calling for Rose, but then notices a family running into their bomb shelter. It’s amusing: the dad is grumbling about the Germans always bombing during dinner time. “Don’t you eat?!” He yells up a the sky. Heh.
Once they go into their shelter, the young woman from before goes into the house, and we see her looking around the house and getting food from the pantry.
Meanwhile, Rose is still hangin’ tough above London amidst planes and bombs, (and looking mighty comfortable, for someone just hanging above the Thames) and from a distance, we see an RAF soldier “Jack” standing on a balcony and watching her through binoculars. He’s admiring her ass while still flirting with the man who cautioned him to get away from the window. Guy clearly gets around.
Cut back to the young woman is rummaging through the pantry. When she finds dinner set out in the dining room she looks happy. She gives three whistles outside, and like a pack of puppies, children come in from all the four corners for dinner. She demands manners and considerate talk, and they call her “Miss.”
Rose, still dangling from the rope, loses her grip and is falling when a foreign blue beam catches her. (What’s next, synthesizer music?) A voice calls to her and says he’s going to bring her in. “Just hold tight.” “To what?” she asks. “Fair point.” The beam pulls her into his ship and he catches her. She twinkles at him and then passes out.
Back at the house, the young girl is at the head of a dinner table where other scruffy kids are gathered ’round. She passes around a plate ham, I think, admonishes them all to only take one slice of meat each and she wants to see them chewing.
The plate goes to the Doctor who is sitting there with the children, and they are all surprised to hear an adult’s voice copy the children in saying. “Thanks, miss.”
The girl is calm and tells the kids to all stay seated. The Doctor learns that they’re all “sleeping rough,” (the British expression for sleeping on the streets. Not just being homeless, but on the streets) and they help themselves to meals and food when people leave during air raids.
He wonders why they aren’t all out in the country, and one replies they have been. But “there was a man there.” Several others echoed the sentiment. Oh, poor babies. Then another says it’s better on the street in London, anyway, and that “Nancy,” the girl presiding over the table, always gets the best food of them.
The Doctor is watching Nancy fondly and commends her hustle, eating warm food while people hide. He thinks it’s “brilliant.” “I’m not sure if it’s Marxism in action or a West End musical.”
She’s looking at him coldly and asks why he’s there. He brings up the phone and asked her how she knew it would work. She said she just knows. Then he asks the other kids if they’ve seen a blond with a Union Jack t-shirt. “I mean a specific one. I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.” (The title of this blog. Now you know where it comes from.)
The kids’ laugh at him, but the laughter is interrupted when she gets up and takes his plate from him because he “took two slices.” The other kids laugh knowingly. “No blonds. No flags.” She says. “Anything else before you leave?”
As a matter of fact… He begins to explain the cylinder the TARDIS was chasing, Nancy clearly recognizes it, but before anyone can answer, a child knocks on the door and asks for its mummy, the same child that was on the roof. “Mommy? Moooo-mmy!”
Nancy knows this child and orders all the kids to get out. The Doctor doesn’t follow and she goes back to him, tells him again to leave. Right then, the phone begins to ring. “He can make phones ring. He can. Just like that police box.” She says. The the radio clicks on, and his voice starts coming across. “Mommy. Please let me in.”
Nancy can’t take anymore and runs out of the house. The Doctor goes back to the door and sees a hand reaching through the mail slot with a scar on its hand. “Are you my mummy?” He asks. “No mummies here, just us chickens.” The Doctor answers. Aw. I saw that to my daughter, now, calling us chickens. Then he opens the door, but no one is there.
Rose wakes up and she and Jack introduce each other, sort of. She calls his bluff over psychic paper and they flirt at each other. He said, “You can stop acting now. I can spot a time agent.” She clearly hurt her hands and he projects some nanogenes (glowing lights that heal people based on their DNA) to heal her hands. He said, “You can stop acting now. I can spot a time agent.” And says he’s been expecting one of them. He invites her to the “balcony,” by which he means the roof of his invisible ship, parked in front of Big Ben.
The Doctor is still following Nancy and when she confronts him about how he found her and his interest in the child, says he’s “got the nose for it.” She asks, “Is that why it’s so…” And doesn’t finish. “What?” He asks, and they both smiling, enjoying this little joke. “Do you ears have special powers, too?” She asks. HA!
She’s still trying to shoo him away, but he stops her by accurately describing her being followed by a child starting about a month previous, when something landed. “A bomb that’s not a bomb.” She affirms. He insists that he wants to see it, and she says there’s someone he needs to talk to first. “The Doctor.”
Back to Rose and Jack in front of Big Ben and they’re still flirting. She says she has to get back to her friend, but Jack says they’re not finished with business. She’s like, this isn’t business, this is champagne. Fine; he’ll get to it. “Are you authorized to negotiate” for the Time Agency (for which he assumes she works?) They flirt and dance a bit and then he offers a special ship for the first price. She has to decide in two hours, however, before a German bomb will fall on and destroy it. He decides he wants to talk to her friend and does a scan for alien tech.
Back to the Doctor and Nancy, who are looking at the bomb that isn’t a bomb. The hospital is just beyond, and she encourages him to go talk to the doctor. She’s about to leave and the Doctor stops her short with a question. “Who did you lose? The way you look after all those kids. It’s ’cause you lost someone, isn’t it?”
“Jamie.” She answered. Her little brother. She told him not to leave the shelter, but he just didn’t like being alone, so he followed her when she left. The Doctor listened, and then reflected on the strength of a “tiny damp island” that stood up to the “German war machine.” “You’re amazing, the lot of you.” He finished. “I don’t know what you do to Hitler; ya frighten the hell out of me.” And with that, he sends her off, smiling, to “do what (she) has to do.” Aw.
The Doctor creeps over to the hospital and breaks in. It’s dark and empty, save hundreds of corpses in gas masks in the hospital. He finds the doctor, who says that the bomb caused the people to be as they are. The hospital doctor invites our Doctor to examine them, though, “don’t touch the flesh,” and our Doctor realizes they are all injured in the same way. The doctor explains that the patients aren’t alive, but at the same time, they’re not dead. They’re empty. They’re zombies, basically. And they infect people by touching them. Like in a game of tag.
Amidst this explanation, the doctor muses, “Before the war, I was a father and a grandfather. Now I’m neither.” The Doctor replies, “I know the feeling.” So he was a father and a grandfather, too, eh?
Finally, the hospital doctor directs our Doctor to the room of the first victim. But he’s starting to have trouble talking, coughing a lot. Then he grabs his neck and becomes unable to formulate his own sentences, instead choking out the words “Are you my mummy?” We see the gas mask come out of his mouth and take over his face, and this is seriously creepy, folk
Jack and Rose find him in the hospital and Jack introduces himself. Rose says to the Doctor. “He knows. About us being… time agents.” They bicker a bit, and as they do, she asks him, “What’s a Chula warship?” The Doctor narrows his eyes.
Nancy is getting food at the house and the little boy has entered and is calling for mommy. She hides.
Jack is examining the patients and is confused about how it happened, and Rose explains that Jack said he was responsible for the capsule, that had parked on Earth. So the Doctor accuses him of making all these people sick, but then Jack changes his tune. He confesses the cylinder is really just a Chula ambulance that he was trying to play off as valuable.
The confrontation is interrupted when the zombies wake up and start closing in on them in the hospital. At the same time, Nancy is in the house where the child is also closing in on her, identical to those in the hospital. At the very last moment, desperate, the Doctor commands the zombies in a stern, parental voice to go to their room. The zombies simultaneously pause, as does the child. The Doctor repeats his order, “I am very cross with you!” and all the zombies turn away and walk off. Go to your room!” All of the zombies, in unison, turn and walk away. Whoa.
The Doctor is relieved that worked. “Those would have been terrible last words.”
After the boy leaves Nancy, she watches him walk down the street and starts to cry. Back at the hospital, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack are just chilling, and Jack resumes his explanation. He finds space junk, throw it through time, and sell it to a Time Agent before a bomb destroys it. “I was conning you.”
Sidebar: Barrowman pronounces “con” like “kahn.” (I know he’s both Scottish and American, and can speak with both accents, but I wonder if he was trained in an American accent. His accent is like Jamie Bamber’s of Battlestar Galactica (Apollo), who is British and, I imagine, had vocal coaching. (Quick Wikipedia search: This accent is Mid-Atlantic English, which is an “acquired” version of English once found among posh people and taught for American theatre. It blends both British and American without being either. How interesting.))
Jack is trying to joke about how easy the Blitz and Pompeii are for running this con on time agents, but the Doctor isn’t having it. He reiterated Jack is responsible for the empty child and everyone else becoming a zombie, despite Jack’s repeated protestations that it was merely a piece of harmless space junk..
The all clear alarm sounds, and the owners of the house find Nancy looting.
The Doctor takes Rose and Jack to another room upstairs. Because someone DID get hurt when the “space junk” landed, and that was the room to which they were taken. t’s not a hospital room, though, it’s like an office. And its a mess, including with child’s drawings. The Doctor turns on a recording of the doctor from earlier interviewing a patient. Rose and the Doctor both recognize the voice as that of the child. “Are you my mummy?”
Back at the house, the man is haranguing Nancy about breaking in. “I earn this with the sweat off my brow” and all that. She’s like, yeeeaaaaah, about that. I’ve been watching you. You’ve got a lot more stuff than anyone else right now. All your neighbors think your wife is messing around with the butcher. But its actually you. Give me what I want and keep quiet. He’s just staring at her, silent, and she says, “Oh look. There’s the sweat on your brow.” Ha! I like this character.
Back in the hospital, The Doctor, Rose and Jack are all still listening to the recording and the voice calling for “Mummy.” They are distracted until they hear the voice for real, in the hallway outside. Because the Doctor had sent the child to his room, and this is his room.
The child is closed into one part of the office, and they escape through another part. Then the child starts to come through the walls. Damn. They all take off running, but are stopped by the army of other zombies coming to the room. The have nowhere to go, and in a quick moment of thinking, Rose point’s a sonic gun of Jack’s to the ground and they fall to the lower level. Then she sonics the roof back in and they’re golden.
Sort of. Rose turns the lights on and a new set of zombies rise out of bed. They escape into another room, a storeroom. Suddenly, Jack is gone. Just gone.
We’re back to Nancy, who finds where the other homeless kids are waiting for her. She tells them they need to take better care of themselves in case something happens to her, and then confesses, after they question her, that she’s going back to the bomb site to address the Empty Child.
In the storage room, the Doctor and Rose are bad-mouthing Jack, who then talks to them through the wireless. said he’s going to get them out.
We hear the child talking through the radio to both groups, and Jack starts playing a song to block him out.
Back to Nancy who is sneaking back to the crash site.
While the song is playing, the Doctor asks Rose why she trusts Jack, ’cause he doesn’t. But he saved her life, Rose says, and he reminds her of the Doctor, except with “dating and dancing.” I’ve always thought that “dancing” in this context was just a euphemism for sex. The Doctor says he can dance, and Rose asks him to prove it. She’s making the most ridiculous face in this scene, and all limp-handedly trying to coax him to her. Ugh.
They begin dancing, (and I do mean dancing), and they are suddenly teleported onto Jack’s ship. Once there, the nanogenes go to work repairing the Doctor’s miscellaneous wounds and we hear more of Jack’s story: that he left the Time Agents when he discovered that they had stolen two years of his memory.
Nancy is discovered by soldiers who arrest her. She’s locked up with an officer who has the gash on his hand, and she has nothing to do but watch him become a zombie. (Just as gross as the first time.)
The Doctor, Jack and Rose get to the crash site and Rose offers to use her feminine wiles to charm the commander, but Jack volunteers – because Rose isn’t his type. As Rose stands there, shocked, the Doctor smugs that in the 51st century, people are more flexible about who they “dance” with, as in “so many species, so little time.” (So “dance” really is a euphemism.)
The Doctor finds Nancy, who is keeping her zombie guard asleep with a lullaby. So he never touched her,
Jack goes to work opening the transport, which wakes the zombies and brings them running to the crash site. Jack goes to secure the gate and Rose and Nancy go to reconnect the barbed wire she cut earlier.
Nancy asks Rose who they are, and Rose tells her that they are from the future. Nancy is skeptical that there will even be a future, given all the carnage of war around them. Rose tells her that she is from London in the future. Nancy is a little hesitant to believe that since Rose isn’t German. Rose confidentially tells her that the British will win the war. This was kind of nice. Having never lived in a war zone, I never thought about how it would be with the world at war, how uncertain everything would feel, especially given England’s condition at the point of the Blitz.
Jack opens the transport and proves that it is empty except with one thing: nanogenes. When the ship crashed, billions of them escaped to heal the first thing it found. But the first thing was the dead child the transport landed on. He was wearing a gas mask, and having never seen a “normal” living human before, they used him as their pattern for all other humans.
The zombies are all still approaching, time is running out, and Nancy begins to cry that it is all her fault. The Doctor starts to comfort her, but then realizes that the child — Jamie — is not her brother, but her son, whose maternity she kept a secret even from him.
The German bomb is still coming, Jack reminds them, but is able to use the teleporter on his ship to keep it from landing, and he takes off into space with it.
The Doctor asks Nancy to tell Jamie the answer to the question the child has been asking all along, “Are you my mummy?” Nancy answers yes, she is, and she will always be.
She hugs him, and the nanogenes swell around them in a cloud of glowing particles, matching their DNA. Because she is Jamie’s mother, Nancy’s genetic code provides them the correct information. Using this as their new baseline, they restore Jamie and the other zombies back to full health.
This includes a woman who came to the hospital missing one leg. The doctor was like, “Well, there’s a war on. It is possible you miscounted?” Heh.
With a laugh of joy, the Doctor unmasks the restored Jamie and lifts him in his arms. “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once — everybody lives!” He cries gleefully. Aw.
Back in space, in Jack’s ship, we see him realize that the bomb is still ticking and he’s minutes away from death. He pours himself a final martini, and reclines to sip is where the open doors of the TARDIS appear at the back of his ship. Jack ooh and aahs, and suddenly, the Doctor cries that he “remembers.” About what? The Doctor changes the music to In the Mood, saying, “I can dance.”