Friday, August 22, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Unquiet Dead"

The great thing about blogging is that you can ask a question, make a request, or otherwise mention something lacking in your life and within hours, someone comes through for you. Further proof that natures abhors a vacuum and voids must be filled. “The unquiet Dead” was the only episode of Christopher Eccleston’s run as the Ninth Doctor I missed and the sci Fi Channel has no apparent plans to rebroadcast it. Low behold, mention the fact and it shows up on my doorstep. After watching, I’m sorry I missed it the first (well, American first) time around. I’m becoming a fan of the doctor’s journeys into European history. “Tooth and Claw,” “The Girl in the Fireplace,” and now “The Unquiet Dead” are some of the best of the sries.

The episode begins in a mortuary where a poor fellow is mourning over his grandmother’s casket. The undertaker leaves him to have a moment alone with his deceased loved one when a blue gas emanates from the cadaver’s head and she subsequently rises from the casket to attack her grandson.. The undertaker returns to the room, but is too late to save the man. He and his assistant try to beat down the zombie woman and seal her back in the coffin. This isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened.

The TARDIS arrives in what the Doctor intended to be Naples, 1860. Instead, they wind up in Cardiff, 1869. The doctor is irritated, but Rose is having a good time wandering through Victorian Cardiff in period dress. Nearby, a lonely Charles Dickens, alienated from his family, is about to give a one man show of his A Christmas Carol. While in the middle of the show, he notices an old woman--the dead grandmother--in the audience glowing with the blue gas. The audience scream and panics. Outside, the Doctor and Rose hear the screams. This is more the Doctor’s speed. They race to the theatre in time to see the blue gas floting about and escaping. Rose sees the undertaker and his assistant snatching the old lady and follows them out to the hearse. The old woman is dead, but the undertaker chloroforms Rose and kidnaps her. She has seen too much. The Doctor catches the tail end of the kidnapping an commandeers a carriage to give chase. It turns out to be Charles Dickens’ coach and he insists upon going as well. The doctor gushes about what a fan he is. It strokes Dickens’ ego enough to make him cooperate with the stranger.

Rose awakens in the mortuary. She is locked in as the zombies rise again and attempt to kill her. The Doctor and Dickens force their way into the mortuary and hear Rose’s screams for help. He rescues Rose and discovers the corpses are inhabitated by gaseous beings from another world who are dying because the rift between this world and theirs is closing. Human bodies release gas after they die and are ideal vessels for these beings. Meanwhile, Rose bonds with Gwyneth, the undertaker’s assistant. Gwyneth has latent psychic abilities. She inadvertently peers into Rose’s mind and sees some of her experiences with the Doctor. He hears everything and surmises that she is the key to the whole affair. He suggests they hold a séance.

Gweneth agrees and even skeptical Dickens participates. With a strained effort, Gweneth brings representatives to Earth. They explain they lived far across the universe until their planet was destroyed by the Time War. The revelation causes the Doctor to twinge. He feels a greater sense of responsibility to set things right. He suggests helping the aliens inhabit human corpses. Rose objects, but he says it is no different than donating an organ after death. Rose isn’t happy with the idea 9I think he is wrong myself. He is forgetting consent is necessary to avoid charges of mutilating a dead body. Perhaps the UK has a different jurisprudence, but I doubt it. Our laws are derived from the same English common law source.) but he suggests finding the “weakest” point on the house and letting Gwyneth open the rift.

When she does so, dozens of powerful aliens come though and inhabit the surrounding corpses in the mortuary. They deceived the Doctor. There are many of them and they are powerful. Thy kill the undertaker and possess his body. They intend to do so to the rest of the world. Dickens escapes out the back door, but the Doctor and Rose are trapped behind a locked iron gate that won’t hold the zombies back for long. Dickens stops running and catches his breath outside. He doesn’t want to be a coward, but doesn’t know what to do, either. Suddenly it dawns on him. The gas beings have been hiding in the gas lamps. Dickens turns up the gas in every lamp, drawing the beings out of the bodies. He runs back to the mortuary to insist the Doctor do the same. It works, but Gwyneth is till trapped by the rift She realizes the onlt way to close it is to sacrifice herself. She pulls out a box of matches and urges everyone to escape. After a few words of thanks and goodbye, they do. The struck match catches the gas and the mortuary explodes, forever closing the rift. Well, until “Boom Town”’ that is. Apparently rifts leave scars in time.

The whole affair has reinvigorated dickens. He plans to go home and reconcile with his family. He also has an idea that the murderers of his unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, will be aliens. Unfortunately, Dickens dies the next year before he can ever finish his work, but the Doctor tells Rose he is now more alive than he has been in years.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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