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Father's Day

Episode 8 of the new Doctor Who series
Shane Anderson

Well, this one got me misty-eyed at the end, I have to admit. Despite the plot-holes and the rather "I can see it coming a mile away" ending, it still worked for me.

Let's get some of the unanswered questions out of the way first. Why is the car that killed Pete caught in a loop, constantly reappearing near Pete, as if to give him a chance to repair time? Is it a case of time trying to repair itself somehow, without the direction of the Time Lords? The behavior of time without any lords to direct it is interesting topic, and one that ought to be addressed at some point in the series. Of course, in plot terms, the car is the 'magic reset switch' that allows time to be mended, and so it's disappointing that no explanation is given to us during the course of the story that allows it to be anything other than that reset switch.

And then there are the reapers. Interesting creatures to be sure, but why do they devour everyone they see as opposed to just the people involved in the time change? I'm not sure this is a plot hole so much as simply an unanswered question. I do wonder, if they appear out of nowhere outside the church, why they can't do so inside the building until the paradox of Rose holding herself as a baby makes them stronger? As an aside, did anyone else make the mental link between the chronovores of "The Time Monster" and these reapers? I did, though it wasn't stated explicitly. Until told otherwise, it makes sense to me to consider them the same creatures. Or cousins at least.

The main plot is full of emotional moments, and is obviously meant to emotionally manipulate the audience, something I normally despise. Most movies or TV programs that try to wring sentiment from the viewers fall flat. "Father's Day" will no doubt strike some people as too maudlin, yet it worked for me because the premise is sound, along with the dilemma presented to Rose. Who among us, having lost a parent or a grandparent wouldn't, if able to travel in time, want to go back and spend just one more day with them? Or an afternoon? Or even five minutes? I think most people would jump at the chance, and Rose's desire to just be with her dad as he's dying is very human and very real, and not at all forced. The Doctor indulges her, which in the past might well have been unthinkable. At the moment, she's his closest friend in the universe, and he's under no one's authority but his own, so he chooses to allow her to return and watch her dad die. Yes, it's a mistake, especially the second time, but again, how many of us have gone along with friends on debatable actions simply because of that friendship? It happens. The Doctor's not perfect, but it does make his berating of Rose later on very unfair, since he facilitated her actions. Like true friends, they do forgive each other and move on, an action I appreciate. I'd much rather see forgiveness than bitterness and revenge.

So Rose gets to spend some time with the father she never knew, and her childhood idealistic view of her parents is stripped away, as no doubt any of ours would be had we known our parents when they were younger and less mature. It's a good thing we can't see our parents like that. Pete and Jackie are very human, and Pete in particular comes across as a good-natured man, trying to do the best for his family despite a very shrill and nagging wife. Earlier in the series I wondered where Rose got her intelligence considering Jackie's ditziness, and I finally found out, as her dad works out just exactly what's going on with time and realizes the truth. With monsters outside the church and the car looping in time, the evidence seems undeniable, and he's broad-minded enough to accept it, as well as give his life for his daughter. Self-sacrifice for love is a theme that can be horribly melodramatic if not depicted carefully. It's one of the highest and noblest virtues a man or woman can display in my opinion, and between the excellent acting,script and direction, it's well portrayed in "Father's Day". A man looking over his life, knowing himself well enough to realize that he's not what he should be as a father, and yet still willing to do the noble and right thing for his daughter was touching. Yes, we all know that's what he'll do in the end, but Pete's character rings so true that his actions don't feel cliched. He's not a hero, he's just a man muddling his way through life, who chooses to sacrifice for his child.

Lastly, there's the Doctor, at both his worst and his best. Indulgent to his friend, blaming her for saving her dad when he's equally to blame by allowing the situation to happen, insulting her and walking out, only to do his best to save as many lives as he can when the reapers appear, even though the situation is hopeless. He ultimately pays with his life as the reaper enters the church, but it's not sadness I felt when he did it so much as pride at his actions, because that rings so true to the Doctor's character. Protecting innocents to the last. And even with time having been damaged, even with his condemnation of Rose for doing it, he still fights to save Pete rather than take the quick and easy way out of sending the man to his death.

To sum it up: a somewhat predictable story and a few plot contrivances exist, but the story manages to transcend them with some very good performances and characters, and some very real explorations of loss and family. My favorite episode so far.

Adam Kintopf

Russell T. Davies has been heavily criticized by some fans for his ‘domestic’ emphasis – Davies, it is said, is more interested in the companion Rose and her family connections and melodramas than in the Doctor and old-fashioned ‘Who’ adventure. It’s a criticism that is both somewhat warranted and somewhat exaggerated, but it’s interesting that the story perhaps *most* interested in Rose’s family life, Paul Cornell’s ‘Father’s Day,’ turns out to be an utter triumph, by far the finest of the 2005 series. Not only is it a fast-paced, classically Whovian adventure with great monsters, but in tying the emotional component that Davies worked to bring to the series in to an exciting plot (as opposed to merely tacking it on, as happens in stories like ‘Aliens of London’/’World War Three’), it also brings something truly fresh and new to ‘Doctor Who,’ while at the same time making better use of time travel than perhaps any story in series history.

First things first. This story hinges on a questionable hypothesis – surely no other Doctor would have the bad judgment to grant a companion’s request to witness the death of someone so close. But the Ninth Doctor is different from the others – in fact, we’ve already seen him make mistakes several times by this point in the series (trying to help the Gelth, encouraging Adam Mitchell to experience future culture and then lambasting him when he does, etc.). But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, in terms of the series’ dramatic element – how many times in classic ‘Who’ did all sense of danger evaporate because this infallible Super Time Lord was on the scene? I’m thinking specifically of certain Pertwee and McCoy stories, but it really could be said for most of them (except maybe Davison) . . . . Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is different from them all – he is at once more alien and estranged from humanity than any Doctor since Hartnell, and yet more *human* any of the others, in his imperfection, his failings. Eccleston is truly at his best here – dark and furious when he stares down Rose and insults her, authoritative and classically Doctor-ish when taking over the situation at the church, child-like and haunted when he listens enviously to Stuart and Sarah talk about their banal lives . . . and of course shocking when he pays for his caprices with his own life (for once). It’s hard to say how fans will ultimately remember Christopher Eccleston – fondly, as the actor who brought ‘their’ character back from the dead, or as an uncommitted deserter, as well as a symbol of Russell Davies’s sins as producer? Time will tell, but is can’t be denied that he’s in fine form here.

But of course, this story is more Rose Tyler’s than the Doctor’s, and Billie Piper plays the role with all the commitment and good taste we’ve come to expect from her. Camille Coduri is as screechy and shrewish as ever, but for once it works in the context of the story. Still, the best acting here probably comes from Shaun Dingwall as Peter Allan Tyler. It’s a perfect performance: Tyler is a believable and likeable non-hero – we can see why Jacky would be annoyed and impatient with this dreamer’s schemes (a separate compartment for yogurt?) – but we can’t help liking him. He’s beautifully written, too – not ‘the most wonderful man in the world,’ but extremely kind (you can see it in the loving way he looks at Rose, and one of his first questions about his own future is “Am I a good dad?”), and smart enough to figure out who Rose is, and how exactly she caused their dilemma in the first place. *And* brave enough to face what he must do to make it all right . . . .

These characters come together in a rather brilliantly constructed and moving time-travel story. Considering how key time travel is to ‘Doctor Who’s’ basic concept, it’s amazing the series hasn’t asked these sorts of questions more often. The Chronovores – excuse me, I suppose it isn’t exactly established that the Reapers *are* Chronovores, though they seem close enough to me – are scary and believable, and yet ‘Father’s Day’ is really a story about living in the past, and the futility of wanting to change it. Cornell’s script is dotted with interesting takes on the question (Stuart’s father warning him that his future self might not be so thrilled with his match, etc.), and it all comes together in a blissful harmony of ideas and aesthetics.

All in all, a wonderful ‘Doctor Who’ story, perhaps the first real classic of the new era.

David Lim

“By the way, did I mention it also travels in time?”

Father's Day is definitely one of the most unusual Doctor Who episodes ever. The emphasis is not on weird aliens or monsters, instead this is a character-based drama with a science fiction twist. In order to enjoy Father's Day, it's important to be caught up in the unfolding drama and not be too bothered by the occasional unexplained plothole. So its understandable if the average Who fan is more annoyed than enchanted by this beautiful vignette.

As far as Rose is concerned, it does resolve one outstanding plotpoint – why did she choose to travel with the Doctor in the first place? It was to go back in time and see her father she never really new. Billie Piper produces a terrific performance here – probably her best in the entire series thus far. And Shaun Dingwall as Rose's father plays the part with just the right amount of charm, and perhaps smarm. We can see why Jackie would've fallen in love with him, and how she can forgive him the occasional wayward dalliance. In the end, Pete Tyler is given the opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of his family. So it is an uplifting yet bittersweet ending.

It seems to be a recurring theme during the current series, that the Doctor doesn't save the day, but rather he inspires the people around him to do so. That was the case in the previous episode 'The Long Game', where he persuades Cathica to stop the Jagrafess. What is so fascinating here is that for the first time in recent memory, the Doctor quite literally has no idea how to resolve this situation. It's discomforting, but shows just how serious this situation is. In order to spare Rose's feelings, he attempts to find a roundabout solution that doesn't involve sacrificing someone's life. Unfortunately, that decision is taken out of his hands at the very end.It shows, quite graphically, the depth of feeling that runs between both the Doctor and Rose.

I have to admit, I'm more emotionally and mentally comfortable with the "adventure"-themed episodes - it's what I grew up on after all. Father's Day is certainly a poignant entry in the new series, and if you're in the right mood the bittersweet ending can certainly tug at the heartstrings. This is one episode that I'd much rather watch alone - as I don't want anyone to smirk if I get a lump in my throat. 8/10.

Robert Tymec

As I read about the premise to this story in various press articles that were previewing it, the first thing I thought to myself was: "Ah no, another lame time paradox story." This particular sci-fi concept of going back in time to save someone you loved who has died has already been so overdone that I was less-than-thrilled to hear it was going to be the central theme of a story this season. I had always loved the way the old series had taken some of those overdone sci-fi plotlines and rather than make them a central idea, would use them as just subplots instead. For example "Mawdryn Undead" explores that whole "what would happen if you travelled back in time and met yourself" premise quite nicely but also has several other important plots going on at the same time. In such contexts, I had no problem with using one of those overdone ideas. But putting it to the center of a storyline could only be a bad move as far as I was concerned.

There was only one thing that had me believing this might still have a chance to be a good story. And that was the fact that Paul Cornell was writing it.

Paul wrote all the best Doctor Who novels when the show was off the air. Even his weaker material was still so amazingly good. I'll even admit, when I heard the series was coming back, one of the first things I wanted to know was if Cornell had been commissioned to write any stories for the new season. So, even though I was a bit disenchanted by the premise of the whole story - I knew that if anyone could handle it well, it would be Paul.

And I was right. He did.

"Father's Day" is, of course, deeply sentimental. And it's meant to be. It's Paul showing us that our favourite series can explore more things than just the boundaries of time and space. It can be a story about people and relationships. The new series is doing this a lot in all kinds of different ways, but it did it best in this story.

But even with all the "mushiness" going on, the plot is well-executed. Paul makes sure that beyond the sentimentality, there's a genuine story there too. And one of the neat underlying ideas that the plot explores is how troubles with time are handled now that the Time Lords are gone from the universe. It was even neat to see how different the Doctor is now regarding such situations. In the old days, he would have never brought a companion to such an event - knowing it would be a risky thing to do that could get him in trouble with his own people. But, his own people are gone now. Which means he really can do whatever he damned well pleases. Including actually allowing time to be re-set by letting Rose's Dad live. It made me really see just how different the universe was without Gallifrey in it.

Of course, replacing the Time Lords are these nasty Reaper creatures. Who I quite liked and definitely want to see more of. I think we should definitely get another story some time where the Doctor actually gets to talk to them a bit (he is still, a Time Lord, after all - that should get them to actually acknowledge him on some level besides being "something to eat when time goes wrong"!). They are a very interesting species that were scary and nasty and nicely underexplored so that we would want to see more of them again in the future. I'm almost thinking it might be a neat premise if the Doctor purposely engineered a time paradox sometime because his back was against the wall and he saw no other way to defeat the bad guys except to "sick the reapers on them". Just an idea...

Anyway, now that we've tackled the plotline - let's explore the real "meat" of "Father's Day". I think, first and foremost, it's about the idealisations we make of other people. Particularly how children see their parents. Even though she never met him, Rose has such a huge pre-conception of her father. It doesn't help, of course, that this great social more of "always speaking well of the dead" has coloured her perception even more by the stories her mother has told her. But certainly one of the central themes of this story is watching poor Rose see all these illusions get stripped away and discovering that her Dad really wasn't the best of fellows. That he might even be a bit of a loser.

How nice then, for Paul's "triumph of human spirit" theme to ring through and have Rose's Dad overcome his own defects. Not only does the "loser" end up doing the right thing in the end, but he's also clever enough to figure out what's going on all on his own and then take those necessary steps. Once more illustrating that beautiful idea that Paul loves to bring out in his characters. That there's always "more to people than meets the eye" and that we all have the potential to exceed the limitations we put ourselves under. It's the fact that these ideas are woven into the very sad storyline of Rose having to experience the genuine grief of losing her father that finally gets my eyes to water a bit at the end. If this had just been a one-dimensional "sob story" it would have fallen flat. But because it had such beautiful undertones about courage and responsibility, when Dad does finally go out and get hit and the vase breaks once and for all, I actually found myself getting misty-eyed. Something I thought Doctor Who would never be able to legitimately achieve. Even if it came close once or twice with companions dieing or neat supporting characters like "Tommy" in "Planet of Spiders".

Even my Mum - who, by no stretch of the imagination enjoys sci-fi, just happened to be watching the show that night and now watches it every week because the superior writing of the series has won her over. That, to me, is the ultimate testament of a good story. When even people who dislike the genre will start tuning in regularly!

Anyway, I know I'm going on quite a bit about just the script but it goes without saying that performance and direction were in good shape here too. And though I hear some folks complaining that this is another story where the Doctor "doesn't seem to do much of anything" you hardcore fans need to clue in to the idea that this is not a new concept to the series. Pertwee and Tom Baker were always saving the day all by themselves but if you look at any other era of the show - there are plenty of stories where the Doctor is busy just running around and trying to keep himself alive and that he serves as only a minor catalyst to the resolution of the central conflict. A good example of this would be what many folks consider the best Who story ever "The Caves of Androzani". So let's all settle down here and enjoy the fact that our new series doesn't want to be too formulaic by having the Doctor be the "be all and end all of everything". Let's allow the ole Doc to be a bit ineffectual now and again, it's neat to see him so vulnerable. And to see companions and supporting characters be so useful too!

So, in the final analysis, even though it has to fight against other really fantastic stories like "Unquiet Dead", "Dalek", "The Long Game" and "Empty Child/The Doctor Dances", "Father's Day" does just seem to beat them in terms of "best story of the season." Mind you, at the time of writing this, I have still not seen the final two episodes of said season. So that opinion may change. But, given my deep adoration of Cornell's writing skills, it's going to be quite the challenge!

Nick Mellish

I find it hard to really write just how ‘Father’s Day’ made me feel. When I saw the Trailer for it at the end of ‘The Long Game’, I was undoubtedly intrigued, but nothing could have prepared me for just how bloody emotive it would be.

From the outset, things are tugging at the heartstrings; Paul Cornell’s choice to begin ‘Father’s Day’ with a flashback to Jackie Tyler telling Rose how her Father died and what a nice man he was sets things up nicely for the next forty-five minutes. In this one Episode alone, we are given absolutely everything that Russell T. Davies promised us we would get with Series One- we get realism, touching moments, a small dash of humour and a lot of powerful moments. It is, in short, an emotional roller coaster and one that, upon first transmission, managed to leave my entire family and myself with tears in our eyes.

The script is just superb; from off-hand moments forewarning the destruction of time, such as hearing music from 2005 on the Radio in 1987, to moments of utter surprise, such as the Doctor discovering that his TARDIS has turned into a real Police Box, ‘Father’s Day’ is littered with moments that impress upon the mind at an instant. Admittedly, there are moments which seems a little too convenient perhaps- why should time be trying to repair itself by keeping the car which should have killed Pete Tyler driving around on loop; also, doesn’t the Doctor’s decision to allow Rose the chance to talk to her Father in his dying moments stink of sheer naivety if nothing else on his behalf? She decides to save his life- I’m not surprised. Still, if this is the weakest it gets and the end result is as superb as it is, I don’t really think such things should be dwelt upon.

The acting here is terrific- Shaun Dingwall as Rose’s Father is superb and really brings a sense of reality to his character; here is a role which could have been so clichéd and so wooden and so painfully dull, but Dingwall makes him sympathetic and loveable; no wonder Rose decided to save his life. When his time has come again, I admit that I was all choked up. His acting was so natural that it made the character as real as you can get.

The returning cast members remain as strong as ever, with Billie Pier and Christopher Eccleston still remaining as gripping and superb as ever eight Episodes into Series One.

The Directing by Joe Ahearne is every bit as strong as his Direction of ‘Dalek’; in particular, the Reapers attacking the various human victims is handled very well indeed, with the scene where they slowly devour everyone in a Playground bar a baby Mickey being a really good example of how to generate suspense very quickly and simply.

Murray Gold’s music once more is strong, providing some lovely music to counterpoint the on-screen action, especially when Rose watches her Father die for the first time, and then reflects upon it afterwards.

In all, ‘Father’s Day’ is a shining example of how good ‘Doctor Who’ and television in general can be when executed correctly. There is a lovely moment when the Doctor informs a soon-to-be-married couple that he wishes he had their lifestyle, but if such a life would deny viewers of Episodes are great as this one is, then I’m sorry but I’m going to have to be selfish and pray he never gets what it is he would like. ‘Doctor Who’ doesn’t get much better than this.

Richard Radcliffe

We were out all day on Saturday. For the first time the video had to be set, and I was unable to watch Doctor Who at 7:00. Upong arriving home at 11:15 at night, I had to watch it even though I was rather tired. I quickly was wide awake though, as this emotional rollercoaster wound its way to its stunning conclusion. I went to bed that Saturday night acknowledging that Doctor Who had never been this profound – and even though it was midnight I really wanted to phone my Dad. He’s no Doctor Who fan, our bond generated mostly on the Football Terraces, but this story had touched me – and my feelings towards him brought to the fore.

The sheer scope of stories that are being told by the new Doctor Who is striking. We have always known that DW has an extremely wide range of storytelling available, within its boundaries. The beauty of the new series is that so much of this diversity is being embraced – yet still keeping the show intrinsically Doctor Who.

The author of this beautiful piece is unsurprisingly Paul Cornell. The original idea was Russell Ts – but Cornells stamp is all over it. Cornell can write Human Nature better than most – and he doesn’t shirk here. It’s right up there with Unquiet Dead and Dalek as brilliant new Who.

Increasingly the connection is being made in fan circles that the best episodes of the new series are not written by Russell T – but this for me is missing the point. Russell T had the original idea for it all. Diversity of writers has always been a key strength of Who, but there always needs to be a Marshalling force (Script Editor, Producer) to bring individual visions to fruition. Russell T is the main Marshall – and therefore deserves great credit for all these stories. I note with interest though that more new writers are coming in for the 2nd Series – but I bet Russell T will be the guiding force again. The main man on new Doctor Who is Russell T Davies, not Eccleston, not Billie Piper. This is Russell T Davies show, and he is definitely staying in – that’s the most positive news I can think of. If it wasn’t for Russell T, there would be new DW TV Series – simple as that.

Back to Fathers Day though. Taking the real world as its setting (like much of this series), the perils of Time Travel are explored in very personal way. The street could be anywhere in Britain, the Church could be the one at the end of my street – that I believe is the point. Never has the fantastic mixed so well with the day-to-day so well, as it is doing time and time again in DW 2005. A Time Travel Story with Monsters – that’s totally Doctor Who.

The Reapers are a fine addition to the Monster Ranks – definitely on the more impressive end of the scale. The books got into a right mess with Time Paradoxes, time and time again complicating an already complex enough issue. Time Paradoxes are fascinating though, and the simple yet horrific results – the Reapers, bring an added threat to the Doctors travels. They are particularly impressive here too, with the background of a Church to fly around.

Rose has dominated the series (Russell T wanted to be the Companion, not the Doctor – that’s interesting), and here she takes that domination up another level. Billie Piper is amazing throughout. Thankfully too though the Doctor has plenty to do too, even though again he’s involved, but not the ultimate saviour.

That accolade belongs to Shaun Dingwall as Pete Tyler – and it this character who stands out from the Wedding Crowd. This Delboy type character is beautifully realized by writer and actor. Impressive too (again!) is Camille Coduri, as Jackie – who manages to portray her younger self brilliantly.

The 9th Doctor and Rose are brilliant together – that’s the saddest thing about Christopher Eccleston only doing 1 series. This TARDIS team deserves more stories – I’m pleased more books have been announced for later the year. The easy friendship they now have is delightful – shown up more than ever in Fathers Day. It’s a lovely partnership, witch each thriving off the personality of the other.

Fathers Day is a brilliant episode. It’s wonderfully localized Doctor Who – fulfilling the ethos that Russell T Davies loves about DW – that of imagining the TARDIS at the end of the street. The fantastic is close enough to touch, with the limits of the imagination being the only boundaries. The series, and this show particularly, is wonderfully family based, with Rose being the key player – applauding the ties we have, that are set by blood. It’s brilliant TV in every way – and I am loving it more and more. 9/10