Wednesday, 18 May 2005
I’m a sentimental guy, and if a TV show or movie hits the right notes, I’ll cry, no doubt about it. I never expected that would happen with Doctor Who necessarily, so suffice to say, “Father’s Day” may be the first time I’ve ever had to watch this series – old or new – through a haze of tears. And for that I have to blame writer Paul Cornell and the superb team that put this beautifully heart-rending episode together.
Now that our time traveling duo have been together for a while, Rose asks the Doctor for a favor that any one of us might be likely to ask if we had a long-lost family member and access to time travel – can she go back and meet the father she never knew? Perhaps more profoundly, she wants to be there for her dad when he died alone as a result of a hit-and-run. We all know this is going to go horribly wrong, but the Doctor is so obviously in love with his companion to the exclusion of common sense, and the universe is such a vulnerable place these days with the loss of the omnipotent Time Lords, that just about anything can happen. So when Rose impulsively decides to save her father instead of just comforting him, she rips open the space-time continuum and lets in the beasts that dwell in its shadowy fringes. The Reapers have come to feed, and not even the Doctor can stop them. No, really – he can’t. But heroism dwells within us all…
“Father’s Day” is a triumph of characterization and raw emotion that really resonates beyond almost anything we’ve seen in the series past or present. Having grown to love Rose over the course of the last seven episodes, both the Doctor and the audience are now at the right point to see her face the most devastating consequences inherent in the very idea of time travel. Fortunately, Billie Piper is up to the task and delivers a tearful performance that is never forced but all too painfully real. Camille Coduri, often unfairly lambasted for her delightfully quirky portrayal of Rose’s mum Jackie, does a great job playing the nutty woman in two different time zones. And keep an eye out for a young Mickey – not played by Noel Clarke this time – who instinctively knows who to hug!
As moved as I was by the pitch-perfect performances – the absolute stand-out being Shaun Dingwall as Rose’s father Pete Tyler – and the well-suited musical score, the rational part of my brain still tripped over some of the enormous logical gaps in this convoluted caper. Sometimes you just have to let the details pass you by when confronted with well-acted drama aimed at your heart, not your head, but a few minor points about glowing TARDIS keys and under-explained paradoxes did grate on me, to say nothing of the fact that once again the Doctor seems completely superfluous to his own series. Christopher Eccleston, long since reduced to little more than a temporal tour guide, does however serve the story well by standing aside when necessary, providing exposition and being there as Rose’s stabilizing force.
In the end, it’s all about Rose. In fact, the show has been amusingly dubbed Rose Who by a contingent of fans – not inaccurately either – but when television can make you shed a tear and care about fictional characters to this extent, perhaps the adventures of Rose and her alien sidekick are a welcome replacement for that other old show about a time-traveling Doctor who always seemed to save the day in the nick of time. And when the world – and the universe – can be saved by the selfless sacrifice of one ne’er-do-well inspired by the love of his daughter, maybe Time Lords and TARDISes should just step aside for a moment to allow us to celebrate the beauty of simple human feelings. A