THE DOCTOR WHO RATINGS GUIDE: BY FANS, FOR FANS

BBC
Father's Day

Story No. 168 Reapers, creepers
Production Code Series One Episode Eight
Dates May 14, 2005

With Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper,
Camille Coduri
Written by Paul Cornell Directed by Joe Ahearne
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young.

Synopsis: Rose wants to visit 1987 - the day her father died.


Reviews

'Domestic' Done Right by Adrian Loder 25/5/05

Wow... Father's Day was incredible. I thought Dalek was good, but was not as impressed with it as much of the rest of fandom. Father's Day is, in my opinion, the Ninth Doctor's first classic story.

I shed tears during this one. I've largely been against the 'domestic' stuff, and this episode is full of it, but it works this time. The element of time paradoxes and time travel makes it otherworldly and unusual from the outset, allowing it to be more interesting and intriguing than workaday bickering would normally be. On top of that we have the Doctor, faced with no hope, no plan, bravely coming through to begin saving the day, full of compassion, trying to make things right without making Rose lose her father again, giving of himself in defence of humans even though they can be "stupid apes".

And mirroring this, we have Rose's father. He recognises that the Doctor tried to protect him, and Rose, and that his and Rose's mistakes have undone any hope for that and possibly ruined all the Doctor's plans. I really cried - it wasn't trite, or cliche, or overly done, or maudlin or anything - it was perfectly acted and scripted, and evoked genuine feeling.

And so many good moments - the Doctor playing with baby Rose and his total authoritarian attitude in dealing with Jackie and the rest being particularly noteworthy.

I think I like Rose now. Oh, I've not said as much that I disliked her before, but I was starting to. I guess part of me objected to a nineteen-year-old Londoner just hopping aboard the TARDIS and being so dominant from the outset. Now that the past two stories have highlighted the truth - "I know what I'm doing. You don't!" - Rose can now safely be a heroine in her own right without making the titular character of the series look ineffectual by comparison. This story also connects her more with the audience, I think, establishes her as, at heart, an ordinary person, which makes her more sympathetic, and also reestablishes the contrast with the Doctor that had been lacking. He is alien - not one of us - which makes him more interesting to watch, and to appreciate his ability to do things we can't, and Rose can now be what she ought to have been from the start - an intelligent, strong, smart person capable of dealing with strange and dangerous circumstances better than most but still just a human being. However, she does still wear entirely too much mascara. And, you know, Billie Piper really does have some honking big front teeth, doesn't she?

This episode was special, and was practically perfect. Repeated viewing will tell the full story but this goes down with The Caves of Androzani and Earthshock in the annals of Doctor Who's most tragically-inspired stories. I've enjoyed the new series, in general, up until now, but this is the great moment I'd been waiting for - that moment when the new series' remarkable feeling of continuity with the original, and the way it has sought to make new by evolving from the old rather than redoing or replacing it, has finally coalesced and come together, getting everything just right and formed a genuine classic. I always had that inner feeling watching these shows that yes, this isn't just a new show called Doctor Who, it really IS Doctor Who, but too many little quibbles and divergences, new things that seemed to fiddle with fundamental parts of Doctor Who got in the way, kept it from realizing its full potential.

With Father's Day, that potential is reached, that astonishing and rarely accomplished feat where something old and something new exist side-by-side, and in this it has become something more than the sum of mere continuity references or reimaginings of Doctor-companion relationships shoehorned together to try and preserve the past without being enslaved to it. This IS Doctor Who, the Doctor Who I have watched all these long years, but it wasn't on a video cassette or a DVD, an audio CD or set in type on the pages of a book. Sonic screwdrivers and Autons and Daleks aren't the truly innate, magical thing that makes Doctor Who what it is, though their presence has been appreciated. Father's Day got to the heart of the old and kept it there, alive, while swirling about it whole new attitudes and ideas. It is new, and it is old: it is both.

Bravo Russell Davies, Paul Cornell, Joe Ahearne, Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and Shaun Dingwall. You've achieved your aim, and I thank you for it.


Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! by Joe Ford 27/5/05

The most touching, poignant and emotional episode of Doctor Who ever, screened with performances so on the nail it should shut up those naysayers who constantly criticise its acting. Unfortunately all the good work done by the director and the actors is undone by one of the most ridiculously stupid scripts ever written.

Stupid mistake number one: The Doctor takes Rose back to the point of her father's death. I can see now what the point of Adam was in the grand season one plan, he was there to show us how much the Doctor trusts and respects Rose in comparison so he can be totally let down this week when she makes some silly mistakes. Why on Earth doesn't he just say no to her request? Taking somebody back to their father's death and not expecting them to do something to stop it is like shoving a steak in front of a starving man (or a missing episode of Doctor Who in front of an anal fan)... something that is bound to give in to no matter how much you trust them not to. The Doctor makes a horrific mistake in flaunting his abilities to her here and the consequences are all his fault, not hers.

Stupid mistake number two: He takes her back to see her father again! What a bastard! Not content with risking one visit back he pops her back to a point when they are already there the first time they went back. Isn't this incredibly dangerous? And utterly irresponsible? When she ran out and rescued him I was laughing my head off, the Doctor's horrified reaction makes him look like such a prat. When he turned on her and blamed her for being a stupid ape I thought he was being hypocritical to the point of insanity, if anybody was being stupid in this episode it's him. Remember the BBC past Doctor adventure The Witch Hunters? That book had a similar plot where the time travellers re-visited a time they had just left because Susan wanted to change something and it was Susan who set the controls and took them back. The Doctor was wise enough and smart enough to realise that staying during the witch trials would be dangerous and Susan would not be able to resist changing things. And he has every right to be angry when she pre-programmes the controls and does attempt to change things. The book still deals with these gripping time travel ideas but doesn't spoil the Doctor's integrity. Father's Day is the work of a good writer so it baffles me that he could get the Doctor so totally wrong.

Stupid mistake number three: Don't touch that baby, Rose the Doctor tells her knowing full well it will cause a temporal paradox and give the Reapers extra strength so what does he do? Leaves her within arm's reach of the child throughout the rest of the episode. Why the hell didn't he get that kid as far away from her as possible? Get Rose into the belfry or shove her down in the vestry? Nope he leaves them nice and close and suddenly gasps with horror when somebody hands her the kid. What a dickhead. (Was this really Eccleston's favourite script?)

Inexplicable rubbish: The first phone call blaring through everybody's phones. What the hell was all that about? The glowing TARDIS key and it suddenly materialising in the church and the empty TARDIS. How on Earth do the Reapers have the ability to affect the TARDIS so? Where the hell did they come from anyway? For what purpose do they cauterise time? Why did the car kept re-appearing waiting to claim Rose's dad? How does his death in a different place rewind everything that has happened? How comes the Reapers are satisfied that no changes are made at the end when it is made blatantly clear by the two scenes with Jackie and child Rose that in the original timeline nobody was there for her dad when he died and because of their interference Rose was in fact there and holding his hand whilst he died? Why didn't the Reapers see that as an adjustment to the timeline and disinfect Rose from the scene? Did anybody think this script through at all?

Blatant plagiarising from the book series: Russell T Davies made a very eloquent speech in the last Doctor Who Magazine that the books have to follow the series' lead and that they just aren't quite as important as the series. Fair enough, but why then does this episode borrow wholesale ideas that have thrived in the series for the past four years? Gallifrey has been destroyed in a Great War, the Doctor the lone survivor. Dealt with in the books. Time travel mistakes made possible thanks to the Time Lords no longer existing. Dealt with in the books. Evil creatures appearing to police time travel in their absence, turning up and killing people horribly when diversions are made. It's Sabbath and the babewyns innit? This episode flaunts these ideas as though they are original and refreshing but I have been intimately associated with them in far superior works than this. Go and read Adventuress of Henrietta Street instead. I am such a huge fan of the books and to see them being treated so shabbily (their arc plot ignored in favour of an identical one for the TV series!) and yet being ripped off all the same is pretty annoying.

It is the character work where the story triumphs, namely Rose's relationship with her father and unexpected closeness of Rose and the Doctor during the second half. Going back in time to a period you have been told about but not experienced is always a terrible mistake, you are bound to find out something terrible you did not know about. Rose's realisation that her father was not the genius her mother made him out to be is inevitable but still extremely moving and then to discover even though he was a bit of a Del Boy, her father would still step in front of a car if it would make an important difference. Rose gets all the best scenes in Father's Day from her mumbling awkwardness with the Doctor after she has changed history, not wanting to face his wrath, to her hilarious reaction to her father's flirting and her moving reaction when she realises he will have to sacrifice himself anyway, despite her actions.

The Tyler family achieves a whole new layer of depth in this episode and as usual it is a joy to see Jackie back. She is as chavvy as ever, deeply humorous and dramatic in equal measures and with a tongue as sharp as ice. It was Jackie's vehement anger towards her husband that gave Rose her biggest culture shock and her sudden turnabout at the climax, crying and begging for her husband not to sacrifice himself that proved how much she loved him anyway. Camille Coduri is as marvellous as ever, looking stunning in her wedding attire and once again finding new layers for the increasingly complex Jackie Tyler.

Despite the horrible choices he is given, Eccleston gives a meaty performance that will go down as one of his best, a far cry from the dopey grins in earlier episodes. I know he wanted to show the world he could play a nice guy but the truth of the matter is Eccleston is better at playing nasties and when his Doctor is allowed to get angry and emotional he provides some sit up and pay attention fireworks that few of his predecessors could have managed. This is the episode that cements his relationship with Rose, having been to the brink of splitting up and still walking away hand in hand. When he admits that he wouldn't have left her and she says she knew that already you feel a genuine bond that cannot be broken, no matter how bad thin get. And the Doctor accusing her of having an agenda for travelling with him was pretty low but her quiet reaction to this proves it has been in the back of her mind for a while. Perhaps as far back as The Unquiet Dead. I take back what I said about Billie Piper in Dalek, I could not fault her performance in Father's Day and if she doesn't have you blubbing before the credits come up you have no soul.

The direction was absolutely smashing. Pretty much every episode has been extremely pretty on the eyes and so when this episode started with its incredibly drab looking location work (a horrid, grey windy day) it was already uncomfortable BEFORE time was messed up. The POV views of the Reapers attacking were stunning and proved once again that you only have to imply violence for it to be more effective than actually showing it. The music was a huge step up from last week, creepy and poignant in equal measures. And considering it was a slower, character based episode it was certainly not dull for a second, filmed by a director who knows how to inject drama and pathos into the programme.

I want to write this off as a spectacular triumph because of the sheer amount of talent that has gone into it. There are scenes in this episode that rank higher than anything else I have seen on television in ages. But the script is so irritatingly flawed I had a constant sense of anger surging through me throughout the episode.

Who would have thought there would ever be a time where the production and performances of Doctor Who would be its selling points and the script would be its biggest failure. My my, how things have changed.


A Review by Rob Matthews 31/5/05

My, my. After the end credits of Father's Day rolled, I was all ready to sit and bask in the warm glow of having seen another superb episode of one of Doctor Who's very best seasons (what season is this, by the way? 2:1 or something?). I casually wondered what particular nits fans would pick at this time round, but had no particular urge to put my own review-writing hat on. I just dashed off a quick mail to Joe Ford saying how much I'd enjoyed it, and indeed how much I was enoying the season in general.

Well, it turns out Joe didn't like it so much! And he got back to me about it quite quickly. Even sent me his own brand new review of the episode not long later. So, this is largely a response to that.

It's perhaps best to outline, just for clarity, how I view this particular season of the show, based on what we've seen so far:

Most obviously, this is a show that's as much about Rose as it is about the Doctor. Their relationship has been established almost from the word go as the central dynamic of the series. And I'd go so far as to say that while it's a shame Christopher Eccleston is leaving after just one season, it would likely have been catastrophic for the show if Billie Piper had been the one who elected not to stay on (oh, the twists and turns of fate - who'd have ever thought anyone would ever end up expresing such a sentiment?). The Doctor can change his appearance and still be the Doctor, but Rose can't be replaced so readily. Given that Rose's 'companion' role is a lot more fundamental to the show than the Doctor's assistants, even the good ones, have traditionally been, Piper's eventual departure - and there are rumours already, at the time of writing - will likely trigger New Who's first big test in terms of adaptability to change, kind of like the Hartnell-Troughton transition all over again. Who know, it may even turn out that this new TV incarnation of Who is as finite as the Doctor and Rose's relationship. All of which is my long-winded way of saying Rose matters.

Second point: Rose, um, matters. To the Doctor I mean. He's in love with her, I think. Not in an overt way (yet?), but, come on, this is the kind of subtext a senile budgerigar could pick up on without difficulty. And just like with the frock coat and the 'I say, old chap' idiom, the Doctor's apparent lack of such feelings in the past was something that for some reason always seemed to us an immutable part of the format - but was really just a vestigial remnant of an earlier period of the show, which once discarded was revealed by hindsight as being not that important after all.

Third point: Doctor who? I hadn't intended to start my argument with Joe quite so early in this review... but he makes the point that Paul Cornell's script 'gets the Doctor totally wrong'. I really don't believe this is a fair comment within the context of this series. I think when he says 'the Doctor' Joe's referring to the character who's been accumulated over forty years of stories from An Unearthly Child to The Gallifrey Chronicles - a character, in effect, who was extrapolated and consolidated from TV by books, and whose inconsistencies have been more or less ironed out. But there is, at this point, no reason for us to assume that the character onscreen is a direct continuation of the character us fans have been reading about. Russell T Davies is starting as much as is possible with a blank page - taking the idea of the time and space-travelling Doctor and going where he wants with it, the hell with the baggage. This is a show aiming for a whole new audience, not just us geeks who've been aboard the Who rattletrap all along, and - to paraphrase something Andrew Wixon said in talking about Spearhead from Space - any similiarity between this Doctor and the Doctor we fans know is purely coincidental. The Doctor said in Aliens of London that he'd changed a lot since the old days, and I don't think he was just talking physically. Fans are of course going to reconcile all this one day, when the TV series (if I might blaspheme for a moment) is over and the property's come back into out hands, but for the foreseeable future the gulf between the end of The Gallifrey Chonicles and the beginning of Rose can become as vast or as as small as Rusty decides, and the Doctor can be characterised however he wants.

Indeed, were it not for the odd token Cyber-head and mention of UNIT, there wouldn't be any reason to see this as a continuation of the old Who series, but rather as a reboot.

The Doctor's past, as remembered by us, is essentially irrelevant. The only past that matters to this version of the character is that war we keep hearing about, and we fans are as much in the dark on what happened to him there as every other viewer. His 'alienness', which they tried rather half-heartedly to reintroduce with Colin Baker, has been restored, and with it, his unpredictability. This Doctor is dangerous, the way Hartnell was in the beginning, and has in fact already done several things that Colin Baker would have been tarred and feathered for by fandom. So to say the character is being portrayed 'wrongly' suggests that we know who this Doctor is, what he thinks, or what he'll do next. But we don't know those things. The 'right' portrayal of the character is the one Rusty and pals come up with.

And on that basis, Joe's criticisms of the Doctor's stupidity just don't chime with me. EccleDoc doesn't properly understand humans, that was pretty solidly established in episode one. He thinks Rose is an exceptional human being and trusts her more than the other 'stupid apes', that was established in The Long Game. He's keen to hang on to Rose and is trying hard to impress her - 'I am so impressive' he boasts in The End of the World -, something he seems to feels he can only do by showing her all the things he can do for her that mere humans can't.

So (no spoilers here; this just covers the premise of the episode) when Rose asks the Doctor if they can go visit the day her dad died, he agrees, because it's something he can do for her that no-one else can. He says he's worried about how she'll react to it, but trusts her not to do anything silly. His trust is in fact misplaced, because he's overestimated the extent to which she understands the perils of time travel. I don't think of this as being down to idiocy on his part, it would be idiocy if Jon Pertwee or Peter Davison or Paul McGann did it because they're wholly different Doctors who have an undertanding of human emotions and it would be out of character for them; but EccleDoc is an alien who thinks human beings are stupid apes unless they prove otherwise, he's also from a race defined by their understanding of time, and because this knowledge is so innate to him, he can't properly judge the extent to which Rose has assimilated it, and thinks she has a fuller understanding than she actually does. He makes an error of judgement, but he makes it through blindness - a benign form of ignorance - and a wish to do something nice for Rose, so I don't find it at all obectionable. Frankly the thing that bugged Joe so much about this episode didn't occur to me at all as I watched it, and I still can't see it as any kind of problem now that he's raised the point and I've watched it again. I'll accept that the Doctor makes a far bigger mistake than poor Rose does, and that it seems a little unfair that she's the one who winds up apologising. But the thing is, these stories aren't wholly self-contained anymore, and I have a strong feeling the Doctor's superior behaviour is going to come back to haunt him later on (indeed, The Empty Child sees Rose being tempted by another, rather more smooth-talking time traveller).

Joe suggests that the Doctor should have simply said no to Rose's request - well, maybe so, but it would have made for a pretty short episode! But I think part of his reaction derives from being a fan, and being used to the Doctor banging on about the web of time and Blinovitch and all that. See, the original series started with the wonderful idea of being able to travel anywhere in time and space, the potential of it. Then the historical stories began and we learned that 'you cannot rewrite history, not one line', and later the Time Lords came along with all their rules about non-interference, and soon time-and-space travel in the show became more about what you can't do than what you can. Then with postmodernism came Faction Paradox, in part representing a rebellion against these rules and a challenge to them. There then followed the temporally messy post-Timelord universe of the EDAs.

But Rusty's Doctor Who is new, and its intended audience is people who've never even got as far as The Aztecs, never got as far as hearing you can't rewrite one line. The show is exploring the potential of time travel from scratch and has to learn all these lessons afresh. I think this is why, to some extent, already being fans is actually impeding our enjoyment of this new incarnation of Who - and why I never got quite so ecstatic about the prospect of this new series as some. Joe complains about the series, and this episode in particular, 'flaunting' certain ideas that we've already seen done in the books 'as if they were new and original' - the conceptual resemblance of those batty beasties to the babewyns, for example. I can certainly understand what he's getting upset about, because I got het up about this myself a while back, in a Cassandra-like fashion, guessing that the RTD series would build more on the legacy of the books and audios than that of the 'classic' series, but that that legacy would go completely uncredited in the mainstream media.

Thanks to getting a head start on my outrage, however, I'm more reconciled to it now - after all us fans, the ones who care about these things, know what's what; and frankly your average audience member wouldn't give a cack about the Babewyn similiarity or the xxxxxxxxxxx of xxxxxxxxx already having happened in the EDAs. Of course these ideas have been treated in more depth in the books; the books are for fans, who have a deeper interest in these things than your casual viewer. That's why a mere TV series, excellent as it is, couldn't replace the books for me at this point. But you can't really blame the series for 'flaunting ideas as if they were new and original' - the only alternative to that would be treating them as old and tired! Which, you know, they won't be to the normal people.

Like Robert Shearman's Dalek, of course, Father's Day really is one of those episodes that's going to be viewed in a very different way by fans than by everyone else. In the case of Dalek, it's because of the similiarities to the writer's own magnificent - and in my view superior - audio play Jubilee. In this case, it's because it marks the return of a writer who's contributed enormously to the Who mythos in its offscreen years, and who appeared to have somewhat shot his bolt creatively; from Timewyrm: Revelation to Scream of the Shalka is an, erm, odd trajectory (says Rob, who hasn't even read Scream of the Shalka). For me Father's Day was a mix of triumphant return and nostalgic wander down memory lane to the New Adventure years, the kind of Doctor Who story fans would have been enjoying a decade or more back. The imagery of the church and the gothic beasties seemed pretty Cornell-New Adventures-like too. But I was on the phone to my mam not long ago, and she referred to it, tellingly I reckon, as 'very different.' Which wasn't a euphemism, by the way; she did actually enjoy the episode!

I suggested in my review of Shadows of Avalon that Cornell's best Who work was behind him - interestingly, Paul himself now claims to dislike that book too, not that you can put a great deal of stock in what authors say about their own work -, but I think the Ninth Doctor and Rose have reignited something in him. Probably down to the fact that their respective characterisations seem tailor-made for his own particular writing style. I mentioned in my Unquiet Dead review how writers like Gatiss, Shearman and Cornell are coming in and doing slimmed down variations on their own 'greatest hits', stuff fandom has seen them do already, but whereas IMO Gatiss' approach felt a little shoehorned into Rusty's version of the series, Shearman and Cornell have proved much more in sync with the overall tone RTD has established. Shearman's wit meshes with Rusty's - the 'Democrat or Republican' exchange in Dalek, for example, could as easily have come from the pen of either scribe -, and Cornell's, um ... what's a good word for sentimentality that doesn't suggest it's cheap or trite? Well, whatever it is, Cornell's pervasive sense of individualistic humanism (hey, that'll do) knits perfectly with Russell's unspoken but rather wonderful credo that a nineteen year-old girl who works in Top Shop is exactly as important as the nine hundred year-old Last of the Time Lords:

'I've never lived a life like that.' Just brilliant.

And freeing Who up from its past restrictions - while at the same time building on what was done right in the novels - has really paid off. The show, the books and the audios have been so careful in the past to treat a time paradox as something that simply cannot ever be allowed to happen that it actually felt like a disturbing transgression when Rose was seemingly actually able to change the past and get away with it. Perhaps that's why I never got as bothered as Joey by the weirdness of the symptoms of time going funny; it just seemed to me like stepping through the looking glass, and that once temporal continuity was breached, any amount of weird things could start to happen; I accepted without any difficulty the idea that the first sign of the universe unravelling could be Mike Skinner turning up on the radio in 1987. Hey, I don't know how time or the universe works anyway; if the show tells me this is how the fabric of reality starts to tear, I'll buy it. The science fiction of Doctor Who is a good deal more often than not a bodged together background for a morality play anyway.

And this one's no different. It's about Rose and her dad, about redemption. And like with this movie I was watching recently - some big six-chapter mammoth space fantasy movie called Star something-or-other, also about redemption and a child saving a father - it left me fighting back the tears by the time the credits rolled. I couldn't get all that moved by a maudlin Dalek, frankly, but this was genuinely affecting drama.

Not that there aren't flaws - Rewatching it a few days after broadcast, I went out of the room to get some coffee or something, walked back in, and suddenly noticed all this plinky-plink music going on in the background. Which I thought was more than a little cliched. And there is indeed a rather hefty problem within the script, but I don't think it's the one Joe identifies; rather it's the issue of Rose's father's infidelity. Unless I missed something, it's fudged. We don't really know whether he did or he didn't. Which I find a bit of a cop-out - if you're going to redeem someone you have to make more clear just what it is they've done wrong. At least with Darth Vader you know where you stand!

So, it ain't perfect. Nevertheless, it's a nice distillation of what Cornell does so well, and one of my favourite episodes of the season so far.


Mr Nice Guy by Mike Morris 3/6/05

Oh, bloody Cornell. Soppy-git-big-hippy-let’s-set-everything-in-a-bloody-church, he’s back again. This time, Rose goes back in time to watch her dad die, then saves him (shock horror there). Some big black bat things come, though, because of the paradox. Now, how do you think this is all going to end up?

Thing with Paul Cornell is... well, his books have a repeated dedication to mum and dad for bread and butter and honey. One might view his stories through this metaphor; the question of how good each book is depends on how much bread and butter he’s included. This one just isn’t going to work, on that basis - it’s obvious from the start where this is going, and it’s interspersed with far too many talky emotion scenes and not enough actual action.

So if the bread and butter is plot, then... Rose saves dad. Everyone hides in church from angel things. And that’s pretty much it. The rest is, well, honey. And that’s just not good enough, Paul. I see what you’re up to, reaching shamelessly for my heartstrings, and forget it. I’m not that easily fooled.

That might give the impression that I don’t like Paul Cornell, and nothing could be further from the truth. It’s slightly fashionable to write him off these days as a drippy, pretentious PC sod, but that’s neither fair nor accurate. If anything, the slight re-evaluation of his standing comes from the fact that Doctor Who has moved on, insofar as it’s moved back. Cornell was a new and important influence on Doctor Who fiction because he believed that Doctor Who was important. Like, really important. He once said in an interview that if you were to put Pertwee amid famine in Africa you’ve got something grotesque, but if you put the NA Doctor in there you’ve got the beginnings of something.

Thing is, this now seems equally as grotesque. The NA’s were socially-driven much of the time, and taking into account serious character development - not always well-achieved, in fact quite frequently substandard, but they still tried, and they increased the storytelling vocabulary to an enormous degree. Cornell was at the forefront of this. What’s happened since is that the Justin Richards (one might say 'classic') view that it’s soapboxes not stories has won out, and Doctor Who has returned to where it was, older and wiser for the journey. This shouldn’t be allowed to detract from the fact that Paul Cornell was a key navigator of the outward trip.

And his strengths are actually hugely apparent in Father’s Day. Fair’s fair. Mainly, what I really like about Paul Cornell is that he seems to genuinely like people. There are pretty much no complete gits in any of his books, anywhere. Not ones that don’t see the error of their ways. The Timewyrm is redeemed, Chad Boyle comes out the other end, Rocastle defies the bad guys. In fact, the Doctor’s little speech in this is a summary of Cornell’s view - “Who said you’re not important?” It’s something I find endlessly admirable. And while I’m generally not moved by this stuff, Doctor Who does have this ability to sneak under my don’t-manipulate-me radar - at its core it’s so damn wide-eyed and innocent, and it’s about leaving yourself open to the wonders of the universe and, therefore, about leaving yourself open, full stop. Maybe that’s The Magic Of Doctor Who, or something.

In a way, that’s also what’s so bloody irritating, is this notion that everyone’s-nice-really. It is, to steal a comment from some other writer bloke, A Big Lie, and it does annoy me. To put it in context, though - it annoys me in the abstract, when I’m not actually reading one of his stories and I can stand from a distance and be irritated at the falseness of the worlds he creates (and all this is just my jaded opinion, obviously). When I’m reading the damn things he wins me over, he makes me believe him, he gets me to be emotional right when he wants me to be. Then after, I think to myself, “Dammit, I can’t believe I fell for that...” – and this is my bloody problem, I guess. But - Cornell talks about nights out in a wonderfully seductive way, taxis at two in the morning and chips and good clean fun. And yeah, that happens, but then there’s also the nights out when you walk through the city centre not-quite-as-drunk-as-everyone-else and there’s the sea of fighting, puking, people semi-conscious on the street like human bloody waste; there’s the nights when you get fall-down drunk and end up in a strange bed, hating yourself and what you’ll do for your own animal instincts.

Cornell’s worldview isn’t sugar-coated as such - Rose’s dad isn’t the most wonderful man in the world, and the eighties is not a Wedding Singer-type festival of kitsch and Flock of Seagulls haircuts, it’s a bleak world of Socialist Worker anti-Thatcher posters and acid faces. On the surface, this isn’t saccharine; and yet on another level it is, because what would really be dark and bleak would be if Rose’s dad turned out to be an absolute wanker, if Jackie had moaned and moaned about what a dick he was and Rose went back because she didn’t believe her, only to have him feel her up. This is what I love and hate about Cornell’s work, this steadfast belief that all people are decent and that even crap play-around jack-the-lad dads can save the world. His work skates on a frighteningly thin line between genuinely touching and sugary crap, and it can go either way. To put it another way; the Richard Curtis Four Weddings worldview is irretrievably crass and naff, because London is lit with beautiful streetlights and every middle class person is jolly nice and jolly English. Cornell isn’t as bad as all that; if Curtis is chocolate box, Cornell is more of a Mars Bar. And while Curtis will only ever produce sentimental rubbish, Cornell can produce work that actually does jerk tears and deserves to. Father’s Day is in and around this area.

But I see what you’re doing, Paul, and I see through it. So you can piss off with this wet-blanket-ooh-everyone’s-lovely-let’s-put-touching-scenes-in pap.

Back to the bread and butter - the reason that Paul Cornell is far ahead of others who try and piss in his pool (The Algebra of Ice is a recent example) is that whatever the emotional decision, whatever the nub of the matter, it is always the nub of the plot. His big emotional decisions aren’t stuck on, they are at the core of his stories. This ties in with a discussion that I had many moons ago about the merits of Father Time and Human Nature; Father Time, to my mind, doesn’t integrate its character examination into the plot nearly as well as Human Nature does. And moreover, Father Time’s character study is fuzzy and unclear - what’s it really about? - whereas Human Nature does something that Cornell manages again and again - it boils it all down to a single question, namely, can ordinary people become the Doctor? In spite of all the other little PC touches, it’s relentlessly clear what question we’re answering, we answer it beautifully, and that is Human Nature’s genius. And Love and War’s. And The Shadows of Avalon’s. And...

Father’s Day does something similar, making itself overtly about Rose’s reaction to her father and his early death, and making her father’s death the very core of the story. This, folks, is what character-driven means. In the world of Doctor Who it’s unusual and quite possibly self-involved, because essentially we’re concerning ourselves with planets. Cornell is a big fan of Buffy, I’ve seen him write about how utterly brilliant it is that it can be a metaphor for your boyfriend being a monster. But I find monsters ten times as interesting as boyfriend trouble, thank you, and besides this isn’t Buffy set in a bloody school - this is multi-planetary drama, this is, and it has more important things to say (q.v. Aol/WW3, Dalek, The Long Game). Still, it’s just about okay, because Cornell’s a smart cookie and he manages to make this single concern be about the end of the world. And quite apart from inserting the clever “Another stupid ape... it’s not about seeing the universe, it’s about what the universe can do for you” scene, it makes time travel dangerous. This is the first episode in the new series about time travel, and rather than the usual if-you-change-something-everything’s-different idea which we see time after time, this is if-you-change-something-black-dragon-things-will-come-and-kill-everyone-in-the-world. Remember that, for many of Doctor Who’s viewers, this is new. Remember that this is surprising. The mindless nature of these creatures and the comparisons to bacteria are very, very smart, and the Doctor’s entry into the TARDIS is a jaw-dropping moment. A friend of mine was annoyed at some touches, such as the geographically shifting car and the way everything gets fixed. Personally, I liked this, largely because I could sense some sort of underlying logic (the car follows Rose’s dad, flagging that it’s going nowhere) and suggests that, once time gets distorted, shit flies everywhere in a way that’s neither predictable nor safe. This is the bread and butter, it’s well-baked and it’s good.

Problem being, as I said earlier, there isn’t anywhere near enough of it. The story doesn’t get anywhere near enough mileage out of its monsters, or out of the weird, off-kilter tone to the world (the moment when The Streets come through on the radio is brilliant). There are far too many deep heartfelt conversations between Rose and her dad, too many hugs and tears, too much bloody honey, and it’s slow and sticky. Oddly, it should be added, Joe Ahearne’s direction is slightly lacking this time. The Night of the Living Dead type tension is never really adequately put together, possibly because the cuts are too staccato. Ahearne, like Euros Lyn, is an excellent director; it just seems that he’s been given the wrong story. This should have been all crossfades and panning shots; instead it’s locked off shot after locked off shot, and fast cuts to emphasise action that isn’t there. Not that the direction is bad, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that it fails to save the areas of the script that are lacking in action.

And there’s another reason why this just won’t work on me, Paul. I’ve been given too much time to think about what’s happening. I’m not scared enough.

The Guardian said of this story that 14-year old girls will be reaching for the hankies - that 30 year old girls will be doing the same. Well, maybe, girls are like that. Ultimately though, I can only say how a story like this works on me. And it doesn’t; it’s too damn obvious. I wouldn’t call it manipulative, because Paul Cornell seems to genuinely believe in his story - his sincerity is one of his most winning characteristics - it’s just plodding and obvious. The church-based scenes remind me of the film Magnolia, a bunch of ‘big’ scenes stuck together, which simply become tedious and self-indulgent. Whereas someone like, say, Mike Leigh is less showy, he’ll write slightly edgy yet invisible comedy scenes for the vast majority of his films, and then in the last fifteen minutes he compresses all the emotion into a thudding finale. His films are honed and sharp, not heavy and hefty.

Not that this is a bad story as such, just that I see through it. No matter how good the Doctor’s self-sacrifice is, the way there’s that sudden jolting who’s-going-to-save-you-this-time moment when he’s gone. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s because I’m (almost) late-twenties and too cynical to believe in this fundamental-goodness-of-humanity schtick. Maybe it’s because too many bad films and programmes have been trying this nonsense for years, and even if this does it better than most I’m still wise to it. Maybe it’s because I’ve reached the stage where ‘personal’ problems don’t interest me in themselves, where I see them repeating themselves over and over again, maybe it’s because I’ve realised that the real response is that people just get the hell on with it and don’t bother with tears, that people usually can’t find the right emotions, that the Jackies of this world wouldn’t understand and would just be confused, that all there bloody well is, often, is confusion and awkwardness and reaching for the correct feelings to find they aren’t there. Maybe it’s because I just don’t give a shit about this sort of inward-looking self-involved stuff. Maybe that’s why it won’t work on me any more.

I don’t want to lapse into the sort of “Oh bloody hell Rose, get over it and stop blubbing and get on with it” rhetoric that’s easy to reach for here, because I feel that’s a snide, bullying response that’s easy to come up with when anyone behaves in the unguarded, emotional way the people in Father’s Day behave - even in fiction... imagine actually knowing these people and reacting like that, no matter how drippy you think their behaviour might be. This is sincere, the writing is sincere, and I don’t want to sneer. I’ll forgive the fact that it’s slow, and I’ll acknowledge that provided you’re sincere then making 14 year olds reach for the hankies is an honourable aim. I’m just saying it won’t ever work on me, no matter how good those final scenes are, how shufflingly awkwardly Shaun Dingwall plays them, no matter how well that “Jackie... look at her” works, no matter how convincingly the back-biting between the two is stripped away and we see that Rose’s na?e shout of “you love each other” was true all along. No matter how touchingly right-because-it's-wrong “you would have been” is, no matter how awesomely magnificent and brave that simple “I’ve had all these extra hours” line is, or the wonderful double meaning behind “thanks for saving me”. Yes, fine, the ending is gorgeously restrained, it’s bittersweet and mixes the sad and the happy, it allows Rose to rescue her Dad without rescuing him, it even manages to quietly redeem the driver, it cuts the music back, it ends a fraction earlier than you think with a very simple statement, it’s simple and it’s easy and it’s heartwrenchingly good. It’s... it’s...

Oh, dammit. Dammit.

Hankies. Hankies now!

Okay. It worked. Cornell, you’re a git, and you’ve done it again.

Yes. He’s done it again.


"I only take the best. I've got Rose." by Steve Cassidy 7/6/05

Aaahh... Doctor Who...

A phenomenon? A British institution? A quick twenty-five minute filler between children's and adult evening viewing?

Whoever designed it or conceptualised hit upon something magical. It had its own unique "identity" - not soap, not special effects-laden action, not sexual, not hip, not "in-your-face". Just simple adventures in time in space - stories of infinite variety, characterised by strong plots, gentle British wit, and a spoonful of manageable morality once in a while. It carved out its own niche that won a large audience. Viewers were drawn to it - kids for the fantastic stories, mums to see what was keeping the kids occupied and dads pretending they were watching it for their kids but secretly reliving their own childhood.

It, of course, had to change. In fact it changed every couple of seasons. When the earthbound UNIT invasion stories became stale the gothic horror entries slowly slid in, when the fantastical farcial Williams ones began to pall then the scientific Bidmead efforts were waiting around the corner. Change is necessary, nay essential, for the series to continue. But never before have we had what we have in Father's Day. Never before has the series so obviously chased the ratings.

What do I mean? Well, the "soap" elements - the elements so obviously designed to appeal to a specific demographic. The inclusion of Rose's family and back history. There is no doubt that Father's Day has been a massive success. Eight million viewers which for multi-channel 2005 is a miracle - but for me it has been my least favourite of the adventures in the new series so far. Father's Day, although cleverly scripted by Paul Cornell, with brilliant production design and direction, is an exercise in audience manipulation with a time paradox story which doesn't stand up to major scrutiny.

On a good note - I do like the Reapers.

I think they are a scary original monster put to good use and the CGI, despite what others have said, is incredibly well done. They seem to fit into a cloudy day in SE15 almost naturally and there is some wonderful combined CGI/direction with their view of a childrens playground. The premise of viral fantasy creatures let in by the breakdown of the laws of time is a good one. But the explanation for the presence of the Reapers begs the question of why the creatures haven't been seen pursuing the Doctor before, given the number of cases in the series of a historical person dying, or having their lives changed, due to the presence of time-travellers of whatever species. Why didn't the Reapers come along and cause havoc then when Scaroth's ship was destroyed?

The explanation given in the story is that the Time Lords used to regulate this sort of thing, but, in their absence, nature is now taking its course again. Where's the paradox in that case? No paradox is produced if the Doctor simply turns up at some point in a planet's history, sees something going on he doesn't like, changes it and clears off. The history of the planet from that point on does change, but no paradox is created by it changing. It just plays out differently from that point onwards than it would have done if he hadn't turned up. A paradox is only created if someone's only reason for travelling back in time is to change something they know happened. I use the classic "go back and kill Hitler as a child" example to illustrate the difference:

Was there anyone who didn't know, as soon as they saw the car driving around, disappearing and reappearing, what would happen at the end? Can anyone here answer the question of why the beasties wanted to kill everyone rather than just the people directly involved in causing the wound in time in the first place? Can anyone answer the question of why the Doctor played no role in this episode whatsoever other than to play Rose's time chaffeur, ferrying her around to see her dad die and then pointlessly pointing the sonic screwdriver at wooden church doors? Can anyone tell me what the point of the hot key regenerating the TARDIS crap was all about? It added nothing at all...

OK, you might get the impression I didn't like Father's Day - an allegation tantamount to treason in some fan quarters. Well, I did but I don't like being manipulated and I like things to make sense. There is stuff I like and top of the list of these has to be Shaun Dingwall as Pete Tyler.

We seemed to have been blessed by the quality of the guest stars with this series Simon Callow, Zoe Wanamaker, Penelope Wilton and Simon Pegg but Shaun Dingwall's interpretation of the role is superb, helped by some excellent characterisation from Paul Cornell. The late eighties are still fresh in my mind and there were plenty of Peter Tylers hanging around SE London to base this character on. When John Sullivan turned Del Boy into a yuppy in classic "Only Fools and Horses" it wasn't a caricature of those around him - it was the norm. Rose's father, Pete, is redeemed because of his love for his daughter and, despite their difficulties, his wife; He is a cliche (the deadbeat husband) but one which is served well by Mr Dingwall.

Less is more with Jackie Tyler. I don't share fan enthusiasm for her I'm afraid. I'm afraid she is a walking cliche only saved by Paul Cornell's writing. Jackie's present-day spitefulness and selfish behaviour thus appear to be affected by her feelings that she failed in her marriage, and of being afraid to take charge but forced by circumstances to do so. Pete's sudden death, also, does little to improve the situation. This loss would no doubt, as such events do, inspire in her simultaneous feelings of guilt at not having treated him better during his life, and also resentment at him for having left her with all the responsibility of raising their child on her own. Sometimes Camille Coduri rises to the challenge of this writing - sometimes she doesn't.

But once again I have to commend the adventure due to Christopher Eccleston in one of my favourite outings. The Doctor once again shows his truly alien side here, in that it does not seem to occur to him that someone going back in time to see their father's death wouldn't at least consider the possibility of stopping it happening, and doesn't question Rose's motives until the worst happens, whereupon he accuses her of having planned it from the first. The Doctor trusts Rose. That's why he took her back to 1987. His whole "stupid ape" speech was a reaction to that trust being compromised. Effectively, he draws a parallel with Adam in the previous story, The Long Game, in calling her a "stupid ape" and taking back her TARDIS key, effectively threatening to strand her in the 1980s for her misbehaviour (although he later says that he would not really have followed through). Here he stands accused of hypocrisy - Adam Mitchell was shot from the TARDIS at the earliest opportunity after messing up, while Rose lets the Reapers in and of course he forgives her. Let's put it down to those raging Time Lord hormones.

Father's Day got a brilliant reaction from public and fans alike when it was broadcast. Anyone who didn't like it was accused of "hating emotion" or "not being broadminded enough" when what they really wanted was a story set in another world rather than Rose's family again. The series was different, RTD cited Buffy as his template which mixed vampire menace with high school, I hate to use the word, hi-jinks. The mix of the grounded family drama and science fiction was what RTD was aiming at - and he was aiming solely at the family demographic. Auntie Doreen could relate to Jackie at the wedding much better then she could to the swampies or the terilipetils. RTD realised that to keep the ratings up he had to compete with Casaulty, and yes, dare I say it, Eastenders?

But to me Father's Day got the balance wrong. Rose was an introduction, a way for new fans to relate to the series - to give background to the companion. With EOTW and Unquiet Dead, we were Rose experiencing what she was experiencing. We return to SE London in Aliens of London/WW3 and it was good to see Rose's family. Their inclusion into an alien invasion plot was natural and for two episodes they worked very well. But by episode seven we should be up and running, we should be experiencing alien worlds and intergalactic despots along with Rose and the Doctor. The introduction was over. Father's Day would have been perfect for the second series when we had forgotten Rose's family and were pleased to see them again.

It felt like the entire purpose of them was to make the viewer feel what the production team wanted. It felt like the "why" was just a device, rather than the point. And I don't like that sort of treatment. The effort was going into the manipulative side, rather than the "giving a good reason" side, so the shutters went up. I may like to be manipulated, but I don't want to realise that this is happening, and if it is too obvious, it doesn't work nearly so well. Father's Day was self-aware, so much so that it actually fell into the age-old trap of not making any sense. The concept was good (what happens to a time traveler emotionally if you can visit your own past?) but it only seems to focus on the emotion. You have to tie up loose ends for the viewer. The emotional impact can be interesting, but you can't just leave the whole thing open at the back. So many questions unanswered.

Father's Day has already, along with Dalek, been cited to be a fan favourite. But like that other fan favourite, The Curse of Fenric, I really can't see the attraction.

But who am I to criticise? The majority of episodes of this series have been fantastic. The quality has been so good that if you don't like one - there will be one you do like along in a minute.


A Review by Michael Hickerson 16/8/05

At some point in our lives, every one has written the basic time travel story. I wrote my first one back in elementary school and it went something like this: somehow time travel is invented and I use whatever the device to journey back in time to visit my grandfather (or some such relative). I see him on the street, see some kind of imminent danger and shove him out of harm's way. Because of this, I create a set of circumstances in which I no longer exist and start to fade out of existence. I must then go back in time again and stop myself from doing whatever it is I've done and putting the universe back on track.

With Father's Day, Paul Cornell takes this basic story and applies it to the universe of Doctor Who.

We find out in the teaser that Rose's father was killed in a car wreck and that Rose never knew him. Rose asks for a chance to visit him on his last day, to ensure he doesn't die alone. The Doctor agrees, taking Rose to the scene of the crime. Rose sees her dad run down by a car but is powerless to move and go to him. She asks the Doctor to take her back one more time so she can be ready and go to him in his final moments. Despite knowing how dangerous this could be, the Doctor agrees. Rose and the Doctor arrive again and see themselves watching the accident. At the last second, Rose runs out, saves her father and unleashes a time paradox. Before you know it, big ugly CGI Time Reaper monsters are descending upon London and killing everyone in sight.

Why?

Turns out Rose's actions created a paradox - a wound in the space/time continuum. The Reapers have come to sterilize the wound. But sterilizing the wound means that all life on Earth will be destroyed.

Oops.

And somehow, the Doctor isn't quite sure how to stop them. Indeed, at one point, he laments that all the Time Lords are gone since his people could have stepped in and cleared all this time paradox up, quickly and simply.

I'll give Cornell a lot of credit. He takes a simple germ of a "what if" idea and expands on it. The story is more than just the standard "what if I changed an event in the life of a family member via time travel". And Cornell gets a lot of mileage out of the story in terms of the characterization. Cornell's script is one of the more character-driven of the new series. We have long segments that do little to advance the plot, but instead give us a bit more insight into the characters.

It starts early with the Doctor accusing Rose of using him, of having an ulterior motive for agreeing to join him on his travels. To hear the Doctor reference his initial invitation and point out that Rose only agreed to join him after he said the TARDIS could travel in time was a nice touch. It also showed that the series is taking a long-term, arc approach to the storytelling - one that is clearly influenced by such shows as Babylon Five and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All I can say is - if you're going to give us a good pay off, then I'm all for it. It also gives me a lot of hope for the "bad wolf" thread that has been running through most of this season.

The disagreement between the Doctor and Rose harkens back to the Doctor and Ace's argument in Curse of Fenric in terms of addressing things that need to be addressed in loud voices. Seeing this, I can only think that the bond between the Doctor and Rose has now somehow changed and I'm intrigued to see where they will take it from here.

It was interesting the gamut run by the Doctor here. From the initial fury at Rose to his panic when the interior of the TARDIS is gone (never really explained, though I wonder if it was some kind of defense mechanism for a time ship in case history did get that off course so as to not make it worse. Or to keep the offender in a time zone so when the Time Lords did show up, they could punish said offender) to the scenes in the church. Hearing the Doctor agree to save the married couple because they were going to have adventures he never could was a nice moment for the show. And Eccleston once again carries of a quiet moment with grace and dignity.

Also, along the way, we get some nice backstory for Rose and her family. We meet her father and see her interact with him. We also see a bit more of what Jackie was like when Rose was younger. And while I guessed that Rose's dad wouldn't quite be the saint Jackie said he was in the flashbacks of the young Rose listening to Jackie talk about her father, I honestly wished it had been a bit less clich?. Rose's dad is running around on her mother, he's not got a steady job, etc. These are all a bit too predictable for my liking. I'm not sure what I was looking for here, but I wanted a nugget more than just the standard "bad husband/father" clich?.

I will also say I saw the ending coming a mile away. Pretty much from the first time we saw the Reapers, I figured out what Rose's dad had to do to save the Earth. I did like the character arc that led to his figuring out what he needed to do and why he had to do it. But again, it was a bit too predictable in the overall arc of the story.

I also found the "Quantum Leap" moment of Rose meets a younger Mickey to be a bit off as well.

Indeed, I will say that I felt that Father's Day was the shortest on plot of all the episodes so far. Maybe part of that was that last week's previews gave away what the Reapers looked like, thus eliminating the suspense of much of the first 15 or so minutes of the story as we see things from the POV of this week's monster.

From reading all that, you might think and out and out didn't like this week's Who. I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I will give Father's Day credit - it was far more engaging that last week's The Long Game. But that is kind of a damning with faint praise really. There was a decent story here and some good ideas, but I found myself drawing comparisons to the first season of audio stories featuring Paul McGann. Those stories showed the effects of time travel and the unraveling of the web of time a bit better than what we got here. And the implications of that. Of course, that was a story told over a series of six or so audio adventures and I will bet the vast majority of casual fans tuning in had no awareness of it. But as the complete fanboy that I am, I am aware of it and found it far better done there.

And give Father's Day some credit - it had a lot of nice homages to the history of Who from the POV shots by the monster to the base-under-siege mentality of the Troughton years. It also had a sprinkling of the new Who sensibility with the emphasis on character development. But it lacked a good balance - at times the plot ground to a halt for character stuff to happen. Also, while the show did take a chance by killing off the Doctor mid-way through, we all knew he'd not stay dead long. Or without the TARDIS. You can't have Doctor Who without those.

So, all in all, I give Father's Day a lot of credit. It's certainly not the disappointment that The Long Game was but I'm not as over the moon for it as I was for Dalek. It was a decent enough story that asked some interesting questions, but I'm not sure if it really answered all those questions.


This Episode Makes No Sense by Paulo Felipe 29/8/05

Before discussing the episode we have to think about paradoxes. Each Doctor had a different view about how much he would interfere with timelines. But there were no real time paradoxes in DW (besides when the Brigadier encountered himself), and it was one of the best point in this show.

Paradox is based in the intention or non-intention.

So the Doctor always visited places accidentally and solved its problems letting changes go OK. What about here? He so did not! In the show we have two set of consequences caused by messing with time:
  1. The Doctor saves the day and gets no consequence, sometime the time re-arranges itself.
  2. The Doctor saves the day and discovers that that action in history, that he already knew about, was actually made by himself! (Trojan Horse in Myth Makers, killing dinosaurs in Earthshock.)
Exploring more:

Remembrance of the Daleks is the a good example, he was surely following his agenda to destroy Skaro. He was there intentionally. And there were no Repears attacking the Daleks in 1963. Why? Because he is a Time Lord and he can do it whenever he wants! Another example was Trial of Time Lord. The Doctor watched the Matrix and knew that he would meet Mel. Knowing his future he would change his actions when he meets the Vervoids or he would never select Mel. Even worse, a future-from-his-timeline Mel was brought to the trial, and he took her back before meeting her in the first place. Paradoxal Yeah. No reapers.

Pro-Father's-Day guys can say: "The Time Lords would taken care of the Repears (and paradoxes if they were alive)" as The Doctor said. So the Reapers are a consequence of the absence of Time Lords. The Doctor changed timelines all his life, and there were no timelord babysitting him. So he could just let the Gas-People (Gelth) from Unquiet Dead invade Earth because it would affect the timeline so badly that the reapers would act, because Rose would not be born and she would not chose to go backwards (ha!). In the same episode the Doctor said that the future could be rewritten in a slap of fingers. Didn't he?

"Somehow Time Lords are protected from being affected by paradoxes" Yes? Maybe! Example: Two Doctors: The Sixth Doctor was seeking the Second Doctor. The Second had his DNA affected. If the Second was dead or harmed the Sixth could not be there at the sime time. More: Because the events were simultaneous, so the Sixth did not remember where the Second was having dinner with the alien, even when it was a memory from his own past. Know what I mean? Thousands of more important events occurred that would lead to great impact in past companions' lives, maybe avoiding their encounter with the Doctor, creating a major paradox.

Or very small one... Say it: Ace's Ghetto Blaster pieces (Remembrance) could be collected by some major company, making the invention of the walkman happen before its correct time, changing the fate of almost every modern human. Surely. But it did not happen. In this case, saving Pete would lead to a chain of events that time would correct itself, like always, maybe changing some of Rose's remembrances, but everything would go OK, as always.

In the book Head Games, Bernice threw away a soda can, that caused a biker to fall down, the biker's mum stayed all night taking care of him, turning later the conception of her second child that was supposed to be grandmother of a hero of space war, that never has born. Every single interference is valid. No matter how small they are.

Now another point. A (normal) Doctor would never re-travel in time and be at the same moment in the same self. It is so dangerous, he is at least (or was) a responsible Time Lord. He knew that Rose could have done that for the first time, the second visit is totally a absurd. And that was the reason that he did not save Adric. And that is the reason that he did never had a double situation before.

And that repeating car was real insanity!!! The car was not in the same place it was before, so that car and driver has a doppelganger somewhere else!!! Also Pete could have being hit by the car, but not mortally injured. If the time was running countinuously, by the time Pete died in front of the church the wedding would have been finished for hours. If it was seriously written, the time should have bumped back moving them to the first spot Pete was hit. I don't like reset situations but it would be more plausible.

How was the car moving rightly on the street? If it was a glitch in space-time why he was not (at least) invading the sidewalk or hitting trees. This argument only can be fought if a highly intelligent being was controlling time. Why? Look at that to see how pathetic it is (belive me I checked). First scene: The car is turning left. In the front of the street it was turning right. When it hit Pete it was going straight on the street. "God" made a phantom car to let people have a second chance to die.

Why the hell would everybody lose their memory from the Reapers' attack? And how were the dead people returned??? How did the TARDIS park itself near the church if it was not there before? A matter of good directing would avoid all this discussion. A few less emotion scenes could have been changed to a little more explanation. Could the Doctor draw a explanation on the church board instead of playing the priest or insulting Jackie? I think so.

The reapers could have appeared all the time, we just do not know about them, our minds have been reset as well. It was just the first time it happened and we watched it. Seems So Wrong!

Doctor Who is wonderful because is the only show with unlimited possibilities within a number of rules, you can break all the rules anytime, just have to explain it (sometimes with nonsense) but always explaining.

What was the percentage of people that understood it perfectly as you did? Few. How many non-fans were turned off because it was so emotional? A lot! How many real fans got confused? More people than there should be.

Off course that is a good thing when a movie or a show gets you thinking a lot on its issues for days. But Doctor Who is a long-lasting series. When a new concept is not clearly explained and sometimes creates thousands of questions of existing continuity, it annoys more than enlightens our questioning minds.

So

The rule-breaking of the paradox was plot enough. Since we have only 45 minutes per episode, Rose's emotions took much time. The Doctor trying to rebuild the TARDIS took some time. And we had to discuss this for more than one week to get the whole point.

Then when we accept that time bumped and the death of Pete (always) occurred in the church (that is why the TARDIS was parked nearer), the bloody Mickey site show photos of the reapers, shame on the production team!

(Fan of DW just since Nov 2003, into episodes, videos and audios. And until now, never angry about any of it.)


Paul Puts the Corn in Cornell! by Ron Mallett 3/9/05

Well it was tissue overdrive time last night as a new "Whoenders" episode screened on Australian televisions. Father's Day saw Rose ask the Doctor for the chance to travel back in time and watch her father die horribly in a hit and run accident. Not only does the Doctor grant this macabre wish but forgets to mention that if she interferes with the past the whole world could end up getting sterilised by very contrived looking creatures.

There were so many faults with this effort, I almost don't know where to start! We find that while Rose's father is able to nut out a time paradox by himself, her mother struggles to program the timer on a VCR. Hands up who didn't realise about three minutes into the show that Tyler was going to have to die in order to sort things out? Apparently Rose's Mum has always looked fifty and Mickey is about five years older than Rose (after all we couldn't have a couple that were the same age could we... that would be weird). And while we're on the subject of coupling: is it necessary to have a close up of the Doctor and Rose holding hands every episode? They must have a camera unit just devoted to hand shots! What are they inferring now? That the Doctor's genitals are located in the palm of his hand? That might be where Mr. Davies' genitals are at this moment situated but really...!

In fact there were an awful lot of faults with this story. It was almost as if it had been written just so we could have a tear-jerker and not with any sound concept in mind. Would the Doctor even put himself in a position where such a thing could happen knowing that the Time Lords no longer exist to help? Why would old objects be any different to the Reapers than new ones? Why would the TARDIS just vanish? Who are these Reapers any way and where do they come from? Would a person really want to see their parent die painfully? Why not have chosen a date earlier when they could have met up in a pub and had a quiet chat? Would people accept that Tyler's death was a accident when this time he just seemed to run out in front of a car. Wouldn't people think that he had committed suicide and wouldn't that have changed history anyway for both his family and the driver? I also felt a bit uncomfortable with the story being set in a church and the Doctor spouting from the pulpit. I think that that might have been a bit close to the line and may ruffle a few feathers on either side of the fence.

Despite all this I get the feeling that there was a half-decent story hidden somewhere - though it had been swamped by an ocean of Davies-induced sentimental drivel. There was in fact a kind of atmosphere associated with the New Adventures series of the nineties, where Cornell and others we won't mention made their names writing very melodramatic Who aimed at the teenage and mentally disabled audience market. It wasn't Who either and neither was this. If only we could get those Reapers to surgically remove Russell T. Davies from time and the new series then might have a chance.


A Review by Finn Clark 3/5/06

For my money, Father's Day was the most important Doctor Who story of 2005. There were other fine episodes, but this was something we'd never seen in the classic series. It pushed the boundaries. It's a televised Cornell NA. Delete any other Eccleston episode and you'd merely lose a good story, but delete Father's Day and you'd diminish Doctor Who as a whole.

I also think it's wonderful, but that's another matter. This story made me cry at a man's death. It took Rose's childhood hero, gave him feet of clay and then in the end let him be a hero after all. That's the story's heart. For once the usual Who trappings (time travel, monsters, jeopardy) really are trappings. When they originally commissioned Paul Cornell for this slot, it wasn't going to have any SF elements at all.

I've seen "it doesn't explain its rules of time travel" criticisms of this story, but after some thought I've decided they're all bollocks. The script tells us all we need to know. The Reapers are bacteria sterilising a wound in time and nothing in this universe can hurt them. Simple. The plot isn't structured like a conventional Doctor Who story... you know from the beginning what must happen and so it's just a question of awaiting the axe's fall. It's tragedy, not adventure. Thus it doesn't matter that you know there's a reset switch coming. Pete Tyler is what's important, not the Earth being devastated and everyone being eaten.

However to get technical about it, I'd suggest that "time gets screwed" is actually a better set of rules than a 2,000-word dissertation. Why should the causality of multiple paradoxes be comprehensible? Try asking a university lecturer about the maths of General Relativity some time. Note that Cornell doesn't kill Pete Tyler with a pompous "we mustn't change history", but instead crafts a double paradox with two Doctors and two Roses at the accident site and some outright unhappenings. Even the most SF-illiterate viewers would know that that's not good, all without a word of technobabble dialogue. Our inner fanboys might have warmed to a three-page analysis of the Laws of Time, but does anyone really think that this would have made for a better Saturday evening BBC1 episode?

Sometimes it's almost Sapphire and Steel in the way that Time seems to be deliberately chasing Pete Tyler (e.g. the teleporting car), but I don't mind that. Drop a black hole on Earth and it'll look as if gravity is chasing you too. Doctor Who has often portrayed time travel as dangerous (Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Two Doctors) and with that Father's Day is bang in line.

It's recognisably Cornell being Cornell, but that was the brief. What's more, we hadn't actually seen this kind of old-school Cornell for quite a few books now. Personally I thought Scream of the Shalka was twaddle, so it's nice to see him bowing out on a high note.

This script relies even more than usual on its actors and none of them let falter. Shaun Dingwall completely nails Pete Tyler and the regulars are faultless. Billie Piper in particular is given a lot of heavy emotional lifting to do and succeeds with every moment of it. Rose never gets to relax, instead staying as freaked throughout as she was in The End of the World. It's interesting to watch Christopher Eccleston at the start, incidentally. He's dangerously blithe and carefree in the pre-credits scene, his damaged Doctor clearly not connecting with the emotions whirling inside Rose. He got angry with her later, but he took her there in the first place.

I wouldn't want an entire series like this, but I love the fact that we got one such episode. I'd deny that the story is slight or slapdash. It's just not really about Reapers and time paradoxes. The story is all about the emotional journeys of Pete and Rose Tyler, taking us in a complete circle from the first line to the last. "Peter Alan Tyler, my Dad. The most wonderful man in the world. Born 15th September 1954." "Peter Alan Tyler, my Dad. The most wonderful man in the world. Died the 7th of November 1987."

They're almost the same, but by the end we've seen a world of difference. Even on rewatching, Father's Day packs an emotional punch. It's not just good. It's special.


A Review by Terrence Keenan 6/10/06

It's a very personal story. Rose wants to meet her father, Pete, who's been a legend to her as he died when she was only a baby. And she happens to hang out with a bloke with a time machine. The Doctor takes Rose to see Pete & Jackie's wedding, and then Rose decides to be at her father's side when he is killed so he won't die alone...

If you've absorbed any amount of fantasy storytelling in any of its forms, then the wish/what-if story is nothing new. But, Doctor Who has more or less stayed away from it, especially in the original TV series. In fact, the TV series came up with one of my fave bits of technobabble, The Blinovitch Limitation effect, just to keep out of messes that Father's Day dives head first into. But, it's a new time, a new production crew, and a whole new way to look at time in the Whoniverse.

Rose rescues her dad, which causes all sorts of hell to break loose, and forces tough decisions on someone given a chance at a life he didn't know he was supposed to have. Along the way, the legend of Pete Tyler gets dismantled, just to rebuild it by making the ultimate sacrifice.

If you were to ask fan who would you trust with such a scenario, there'd only be one choice, Paul Cornell. Cornell made his name in the book lines with tales that cover similar territories to Father's Day. Cornell would be the only one to tread the fine line between drama and total schmaltz.

Credit goes to Cornell for choosing the only option that the fans would go for: Pete Tyler dies saving the world, allowing Rose to be with him when he dies, and allowing her to know the man and what he was really like, a good man, warts and all. The other option, Pete lives, would have failed the laugh test of fans.

So, why did Father's Day piss me off? Do I really think it's "The Doctor Who equivalent of Beaches"?

I gotta be honest; I don't like stories like Father's Day. Stories like this feel rote and predictable to me, and not in a good way. Which is why when the first reaper made its appearance, I started screaming at the TV: Kill him, kill him now so we can end this and go home! I saw where it was going and was impatient for it to end. So, all those high character/emotional moments really got under my skin. Lots of "fuck off"s muttered and yelled at the screen.

Subsequent viewings have let me focus on the smaller details. It's Billie Piper's show, and she gives a stellar performance. Shaun Dingwall is really good as Pete and deftly underplays all the big emotional moments. The rest of the cast are up to the task as well, with special mention to Christopher Eccelston allowing Piper to stand out. And all due credit goes to Cornell for making this story work far better than it should.

I still don't like it, although I do respect the effort. Again, it's not my kind of story. My own version of this would have been a dark, revenge story with Rose going back and hunting down the driver of the car and killing him, but that's the kind of story I like, and can see endlessly. But I will give credit and say that Father's Day might be the strongest of the New Who stories I've seen so far.

A couple of postscripts:

When the first reviews and discussions came out about Father's Day, many zealous fans claimed that anyone who didn't cry at the ending wasn't a real Who Fan. To which I respond with a loud "Fuck Off!!!" Everyone reacts differently to any kind of art they experience, and to demand a specific reaction smacks of conformity and fascism, which is precisely what Who is not. I know I'm a bit late on this point, but I had to get it off me chest.

One of my comrades in my local Who group predicted my reaction to this story quite well the first time well. He's a big fan of Cornell's work and blamed the over-sentimentality of Father's Day on Russell T. Davies. After watching the first season a couple of time, he might have a point, but that's a discussion for another time.


The Doctor Gets Derivative by Nathaniel Wayne 10/4/08

I don't think that I will every fully understand the praise and affection this episode receives from so many fans. It's by no means a complete clunker but there are a myriad of problems with this episode and honestly it's the only one I almost fell asleep during (not even The Long Game did that). There are some great performances on display to be sure, but they can't save the lazy and predictable writing that drags the entire episode down.

This is the only Doctor Who episode that I'm aware of (and I grant that my knowledge of the Doctor is not encyclopedic) that deals with the characters deliberately crossing into their own time lines. And having now seen the result, this is one cliche I wish that the new series had chosen to avoid. And it really truly is a cliche; every science fiction show (and a ton of movies) that's ever had any time travel involved has done this basic story (people go back and change something and things go bad). Hell, even Red Dwarf has done it. And anybody who has ever seen any of these other shows or movies knows immediately what will have to happen at the end to fix everything. One of the things that I've really appreciated about Doctor Who (both new and old) is that it is rarely ever derivative. But this episode reeks of a total lack of original ideas right from the conception.

Even the one superficially original idea, the Reaper creatures, doesn't really hold up. They bear more than a passing resemblance (in concept more than appearance) to the creatures from Stephen King's The Langoliers, flying mouths that ate up the past. Their use doesn't even make a great deal of sense. The concept that they take advantage of the paradox and essentially "cauterize the wound" as the Doctor puts it is fine. But if that's the idea shouldn't they just be focusing on Pete, Rose and the Doctor? You know, the ones who don't belong there? Why are they going after everything that moves? It's an idea that exists to provide an assault feeling by holing everybody up in the church but that makes it a near-decent plot device but a lousy bit of writing and a failed leap of logic.

Now, that said, there are some redeeming features of this, just none of them have to do with the plot. There are some really great emotions at play here and some great performances to back them up. The almost vicious disappointment that the Doctor feels toward Rose is well played by Eccleston, who up to this point has basically given her nothing but praise and affection. Rose is well played in her own disappointment and eventual adoration of her father. But the real star of this is Shaun Dingwall as Pete Tyler. One of the few redeeming features of this story from a writing perspective is that, in his attempt to let Rose keep the father she just saved, the Doctor tries everything else he can think of to fix the problem. This leaves Pete on his own to realize for himself what has to be done to fix everything and to decide on his own to do what is needed. It's all very internal and played wonderfully. It makes his character a very true hero, not simply that he was willing to sacrifice but that he required no coaxing. At the realization that he could save his family, he did what was needed without doubt or hesitation.

Sadly though, these bits of well-played melodrama (good melodrama but still melodrama, let's be honest) only help to liven up an otherwise preposterously predictable episode. It doesn't take much of a background in sci-fi entertainment to figure immediately where this episode is going and how it will end and it fails to shake things up in any serious way.


A Review by Brian May 16/8/12

After the disappointment of The Long Game, the quality of Doctor Who's revival season bounces right back with Father's Day. Joe Ahearne is once again in the director's chair; his work on Dalek was exquisite, and he follows up that effort here in similar style. The story commands a variety of moods: suspense, pathos, tragedy and something approaching horror. Not horror in the splatter sense; not even the psychological less-is-more brand. Something more along the lines of David Lynch's creepy surrealism, especially that played out in the most normal of environments (picket-fence America in Blue Velvet; urban LA in Mulholland Drive). The pan left across the Doctor and Rose that occurs twice, the second as viewed by their future selves, is the key Lynch-inspired visual moment, voyeuristically portending something awful on this mundane London street. The weird phone messages, plus the constant appearance and disappearance of the car add to the unease. And while you'd never throw this story in with the likes of The Exorcist or The Omen, the images of the Reapers flying behind the stained-glass windows of the church, especially their silhouetted gargoyle faces, could surely be described as sacrilegious.

The feel of the story is helped no end by the fantastic music. Like quite a few others, I've not been too enamoured of Murray Gold's bombastic, chant-filled scores, but there's virtually none of that here. It's actually reminiscent of Dudley Simpson at his best. The various tricks applied, such as slowing the music down at appropriately moody times, also contribute to the overall atmosphere. It's also appreciated that, for dramatic character moments, it is best not to play anything at all, which we thankfully get in the scenes between Rose and Pete in the church.

One of the criticisms levelled at Doctor Who since its return is the focus on relationships. The interpersonal wasn't a great priority in the old days, but that's all changed now. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not; fortunately this falls into the former category. It's not a soppy, sorry account of unrequited love for the Doctor; this explores a family relationship that never happened, but which Rose makes a grab to change when she can. And it works! The difference between the dead man remembered and how he's regarded whilst still alive de-romanticises the whole scenario. Pete is just a get-rich-quick type who's unfaithful to his wife; a brutal contrast to Jackie's description of him at the beginning ("the most wonderful man in the world"). Indeed, Pete is aware of his failings and it's Rose's gushing fictions that drive home to him the final truth. Shaun Dingwall's performance is excellent. He ensures the character is the loser he really is, but still a man who deserves the sympathy that befits anyone facing death. Billie Piper is also superb as Rose, grasping her emotional conflicts far better than any soap opera type gush that would ensue.

This focus on these two characters means the Doctor takes a relative back seat to the action, but, however prominent or not his role, Christopher Eccleston is still on fire. Once again he's alien and detached, as seen in his anger at Rose. The "another stupid ape" line and his insulting her in the church are extremely compelling moments. Looking at such scenes in the light of his successors, I can't imagine David Tennant's Doctor reacting like this at all (he'd never criticise a companion lest he offend them, even if deserved!); Matt Smith I can, albeit in a subtler way. But nevertheless Eccleston remains my favourite of the new lot, thanks to moments like these. And also his gentle, genuine apology to Rose after the second insult; it's the other side of his personality coin and both sides are magnificent.

For a story made in 2004/5, the setting of 1987 makes it a period piece. It's a year I remember well; indeed, the whole 1980s were formative for me (unfortunately, some might say). It's an era that easily invites mockery, but I think the production overdoes it: the brick mobile phone, the perms and meringue frocks, the reference to Betamax tapes; heck, even Rick Astley playing on the radio. (Unfortunate? Oh yes!) It's just a bit too self-aware in drawing attention to the decade's embarrassments. Another thing I'd have done differently is script related. The situation Rose creates is spreading across the whole Earth, not seen but confirmed by the Doctor when he states the planet is being "sterilised" by the Reapers. I would have preferred this to have been on a smaller scale: perhaps just the church, or at the very most the surrounding blocks. It would have helped justify the final outcome, the resetting of events, a little bit more. This is another of those elements that has ruined future tales, providing the most convenient of copouts, insultingly nullifying anything too big for the writer or producer to handle, such as enormous body counts or the death of a companion. Given this is the first instance, or perhaps because the reversal is a neat and obvious outcome given the underlying story (but would have been much better on my preferred lesser scale), the reset is fine here

When reviewing any story I try not to compare or contrast it with future ones too much, but Father's Day is one of the exceptions to this rule. It gets right everything the revived programme has since got wrong. It's good to see Paul Cornell given a chance to write for TV Doctor Who. His books for Virgin and BBC were a mixed lot; I loved some of them, hated some, and others fell in-between. My two favourites are Love and War and Human Nature, both of which are based on relationships destined for tragedy. It must be his forte! With everything else in its favour, this is undoubtedly one of the superior stories of the new series. 8.5/10


The most wonderful man in the world by Evan Weston 23/6/13

Paul Cornell might as well own a remote control for my tearducts. I mean, dear lord. Doctor Who has never been known as an emotional heavyweight; sure, there are some scenes in the classics that can tear you up (I'm thinking of the particularly touching regenerations of the Third and Fourth Doctors off the top of my head), but there really isn't anything like Father's Day. This is pure, emotional television, sad and sweet but not manipulative or schmaltzy. I doubt it's the second-best episode of New Who, but it's my second-favorite behind Dalek.

Before we talk about anything else here, we have to talk about Billie Piper. Over the first seven episodes, Piper is a pretty strong actress who develops Rose into a very likable character. She's helped by the fact that Rose is usually the strongest-written character in any given episode, but Piper more often than not sells the performance well. Here, she takes it to a completely new level. Putting together three or four emotions into one close-up repeatedly throughout the episode, Piper is an absolute gem and could have earned a BAFTA nomination for this tour de force, had Doctor Who possessed that type of clout back in 2005. She conveys Rose's guilt, her sadness, her anger, her surprise and her love for her father with effortless grace and is the best part of a phenomenal episode.

Not only is Piper's performance top-notch, but her character is given a thorough workout, and it's the best character development the show has done since its revival (and possibly before that). Rose wants to be with her father Pete when he dies, but she can't help herself from saving him. Her actions and the Doctor's reaction are perfectly written - when he calls Rose a "stupid ape," you agree with him and sympathize with her at the same time. As Rose progresses through the episode, she confronts the knowledge that her father isn't the man her mother described him to be but is great nonetheless - and summons the courage to let him go. It's a beautifully written part, and Cornell's exceptional script deserves loads of credit.

He's also written a great role for Shaun Dingwall, who is wonderful as Pete Tyler. Dingwall gives Pete a sort of world-weary quirkiness that makes the character simultaneously disappointing and endearing. Like Piper, he can make Pete cycle through emotions all in one shot. Pete is also given a great arc: he goes from deadbeat dad to hero quite naturally and is shown to be a fairly smart man underneath his lazy exterior. The Rose-Pete relationship is absolutely gorgeous, and, though I wish it had been left as is, I'm not surprised Davies decided to bring it back for Series 2.

Guess who's next? Christopher Eccleston takes a bit of a backseat in this episode, and rightly so. The Rose-Pete saga needs ample space to breath, and the Doctor allows it. However, there's still plenty for Chris to do here. His reaction to the TARDIS being gone is priceless; that scene is a truly great moment overall. He's compelling when he takes command in the church against the Reapers, and his "death" is really unsettling. A lower-key performance from Eccleston, to be sure, but he's in fine form as always. The Doctor gets plenty more to do in Steven Moffat's two-parter next week.

Other great things about Father's Day: The production design is usually lacking in these earthbound episodes, but this one looks great. It definitely captures the 1987 feel, with its drab British suburban landscape, the hair, the cars, the Thatcher posters. The CGI Reapers aren't totally convincing, but they are scary monsters nonetheless. They are creepiest when seen as shadows banging up against the stained-glass windows of the church. Murray Gold's score deserves plenty of praise; it's his best work for the show to date, bringing to the episode a soft, haunting undertone rather than a sweeping operatic feel.

Oddly, I don't have too much more to say about Father's Day, even though it's unquestionably one of my most beloved episodes of Doctor Who and among the most emotive 45 minutes of television I've ever seen. I suppose it's because the story has such a small, personal feel to it. Father's Day isn't about the ages-old conflict between Time Lord and Dalek, it isn't about aliens taking over Downing Street, and it certainly isn't about burping trash cans and bouncy techno music. It's just a story about a girl and her father, put into a science-fiction context. The beauty of this kind of story really can't be condensed into a 1,000-word review; I'd really have to break down and analyze every moment, and that isn't nearly as entertaining or powerful as just watching the episode. Father's Day isn't a great in the way that Dalek is; it's a great in its own incredibly special way. Doctor Who never does emotion or character better than this. Ever.

GRADE: A