I can hear you…

Gas masks are fragile

Time to find you…

Spoilers ahead.

I enjoyed this episode. Perhaps it’s because I watched the midnight repeat on BBC Three, or it was particularly scary, but I was close to jumping behind the sofa a few times. The writing for The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances was just brilliant. Firstly, the WWII setting ups the ante by providing a known deadline for the Doctor to get to the bottom of the mystery. Secondly, Steve Moffat incorporates current fears about nanotechnology (“grey goo”) , and uses some pseudo-genetics that plays again on public perception(/fear) of genetic modification to give the episode realism. (The nanogenes are improbable creations on many levels. Fused gas masks, somatic change? That’s science fiction, mate. Oh, wait…) There’ll be a thirdly along in a few hours when I’ve had my kip. (“Go to your room!”)

Last week’s episode left quite a few unanswered questions, among which was Jack Harkness’s provenance. It certainly sounds like he’s 1. human, 2. from the 51st century, 3. an expelled/renegade Time Agent (still no clue what the Time Agency’s function is), and 4. got the hots for Rose. As the Doctor explains, humans have travelled far and wide by then, and achieved a pretty wild reputation as profligate swingers. That suggests that Time Agents are not specific to our Earth’s history/future. (I’m getting confused with tenses… Should that be “will not be”, “are not” or “were not”?)

Obligatory Bad Wolf reference for the episode: Schlechter wolf, as seen on the German bomb about to fall on the Chulac battleship ambulance. A photo of the bomb is also currently up on the Who is Doctor Who? site. I still have no idea where this is heading. There seem to be plenty of hypotheses going around that the Doctor or the TARDIS could be the Grandmother-eater, or it could be one of the baddies from previous incarnations of the series. My pet hypothesis is that it’s subliminal viral advertising from the future (see Bad Wolf TV from The Long Game).

All in all, a great story by Steve Moffat, and realised into atmospheric TV by James Hawes and his crew. However, I have one big bone to pick with Moffat. On tonight’s Doctor Who Confidential, he claimed that girls wouldn’t watch Doctor Who if there was too much technobabble or science-speak. That assumption is plain wrong in the case of this girl, and she isn’t too pleased about such generalisation with a faint whiff of sexism. There are many girls/women who have a keen interest in technology, and (proper) writers of science fiction don’t “dumb-down” for the sake of the supposedly less-interested female population. (The same complaint goes for all the makers of gadgets. There is no need to colour it pink or have gender-specific marketing. It’s insulting.) That said, I am glad there is less scientific exposition in this series of Doctor Who, only because the writers get it so laughably wrong!

07 Jun ’05 update: BBC’s Doctor Who site has been modified for episode 12 Bad Wolf, and it looks like I was partly right. The Bad Wolf references are very likely viral or subliminal advertising for Badwolf TV.

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