Steven Moffat

Doctor Who (2005) s02e04 – The Girl in the Fireplace

The Girl in the Fireplace is an exceptionally affecting star-crossed lovers story, with the Doctor (David Tennant) happening across a portal to 18th century Versailles and—initially reluctantly—becoming involved Madame de Pompadour (Sophia Myles) as he tries to save her from time-traveling automatons. See, they want Myles to repair their spaceship, only no one can really figure out why they need her, she’s just in danger. And at various points in her life, as the automatons, which have an absolutely fantastic design (they disguise themselves in Pantalone masks and Versailles appropriate dress), intrude and attack. Even though Tennant’s using the same time portals as the villains, they’ve got teleporters and he doesn’t, so there’s a chase to it all.

Meanwhile, Noel Clarke is along on his first TARDIS mission as a regular member of the gang and, well, he’s just along. He’s a sidekick for Billie Piper when she’s not too busy pouting about Tennant’s very obvious chemistry with Myles. And since Myles is just the latest in a long line of episode-length romantic interests for the Doctor… you’d think Piper’d be used to it. Even Clarke picks up on the jealousy and needles her a little because there’s no more wholesome a relationship than the one where your disinterested sort of girlfriend leaves you to time travel with another guy and then years later you join up even though it’s only been a few months for her on the outside.

What I’m saying is Clarke’s part is broken. Even if it wasn’t Clarke in the part.

The stuff with Tennant and Myles, which involves Tennant breaking out the mind meld the show hasn’t mentioned until this point, is absolutely fantastic. Great action, great suspense; Euros Lyn’s direction is excellent and Steven Moffat’s script is strong. Tennant’s performance is wonderful, Myles is perfect, and the bad guys are terrifying. What more could you ask for.

Besides Piper and Clarke having something to do except pout.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e10 – The Doctor Dances

It’s a disappointing conclusion. It’s not a bad episode, but it’s a fairly obvious, kind of silly finish to the much stronger first episode. Partially because the show never really finds its footing with Christopher Eccleston and John Barrowman, who are now in a pissing contest for a number of things but also for Billie Piper’s attention. The show really leans on the idea Piper and Eccleston have some palatable chemistry and… they don’t.

Meanwhile there’s a little bit of Bi-shaming from Piper, which is a little less than when sweet teen samaritan Florence Hoath blackmailing a gay guy who’s in the closet. It’s… an odd scene and writer Steven Moffat doesn’t make it work.

There’s also a big reveal at the end, in the middle of the big reveal involving the gas mask people. It’s fairly cheap stuff, just letting Moffat and the show get away with some loose writing. The episode’s got a decent budget for a “Who” so it’s not like they ran out of money on the way to a better conclusion… Moffat just doesn’t have a very good conclusion to his story.

It messes up Hoath quite a bit, taking her from a potential Doctor protege to an eye roll of deus ex machina. Eccleston gets some more special powers during the deus ex so it’s an even cleaner finish.

Barrowman’s got a nice arc in the conclusion, with an excellent wrap-up, even if it again relies on Piper and Eccleston’s pseudo-chemistry.

There are some decent action sequences—Eccleston, Piper, and Barrowman on the run from the gas mask monsters—and James Hawes’s direction is fine. It just doesn’t pay off with anything.

Except introducing Barrowman, which is a nice surprise. The show hasn’t been able to sustain a two-episode guest star who didn’t fail yet. Though it’s a two-parter so Barrowman did have some help I suppose.

Doctor Who (2005) s01e09 – The Empty Child

It’s a really creepy episode. Like, really creepy. Writer Steven Moffat comes up with a fantastic “villain,” this little kid in a gas mask who calls out, “Mummy,” over and over again. And then when he touches you, you get infected with something and eventually turn into a gas mask covered person.

Now, the gas mask is part of the new creatures’ structure. It’s creepy.

The setting is WWII London. The Blitz, which takes Christopher Eccleston longer to figure out than it took me to figure out. How did he not… grok it? Especially since the TARDIS can tell its location in space and time… can’t it? It’s like the show is anti-continuity.

Eccleston and Billie Piper are in town trying to help a crashed rocket in distress or something. While Eccleston is trying to find the rocket, Piper runs off after the creepy little gas mask kid and finds herself on a balloon in the middle of a Luftwaffe raid.

The CGI raid is… not amazing.

Luckily, time traveling scoundrel and dreamboat John Barrowman saves Piper and the two start doing some kind of pre-canoodling while Eccleston is hanging out with teen Florence Hoath. She’s carrying for all the homeless kids during the Blitz, sneaking into houses and getting them food and so on. She’s also got the answers about where the rocket landed.

But then so does Barrowman—he’s going to sell its location to Eccleston and Piper because he thinks they’re “Time Agents” and have money.

Lots of terrifying kids in danger sequences—both in danger in the Blitz (Eccleston remembers real quick because he’s surprised they haven’t been rescued or something) and then in danger from the little monster gas mask kid. Hoath’a really good.

The ending is really good. It’s a really good episode.

There’s a whole bunch of self-anglophila in the episode, an almost overbearing amount, and then some forced “Star Trek” references but they’re little bumps. Barrowman and Piper are great together, Eccleston’s excellent with Hoath and that subplot.

Even if there’s no consistency with the tech.

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