Wednesday, March 13, 2024

New Doctor Who Review - Season 1. Episode 3: "The Unquiet Dead"

 Rating: 1.5/5

"The Unquiet Dead" is the least memorable episode of new Doctor Who's first series, and it's by far my least favorite. I stopped watching halfway through because I didn't like it, then picked it up later because I'd feel bad writing a review about something I didn't finish. The episodes are only 45 minutes, by the way. It's the first episode to be written by series regular Mark Gatiss, whose other episodes I don't like much either. 

Episode 3 introduces a type of story unique to the new series that I truly hate - I'll call it the "Historical Figure" episode. Basically, The Doctor and Co. travel back in time and run about with a famous historical figure while battling aliens/monsters. Episodes like "The Shakespeare Code," "Victory Of The Daleks," and "Vincent And The Doctor" fit nicely into this category. 

There's always an annoying moment in Historical Figure episodes where The Doctor realizes he's talking to a famous person and then fanboys about that person's contribution to history. He always accidentally mentions some random fact about the future as well. These moments are cringey and I want to cover my ears when they happen. 

The Historical Figure episode is a take on classic Doctor Who's much classier "Pure Historical" episode, wherein The Doctor and Co go back in time to a memorable moment in history and get wrapped up in shenanigans. In Pure Historicals, there weren't any science fiction elements to the stories, aside from The Doctor and the TARDIS. 

The story here is not interesting or memorable. An alien made of gas comes to Earth through a rift and wants to survive by possessing dead bodies. Most of the episode takes place in a kitchen, where Rose talks to a character named Gwenyth for what feels like two hours. 

Visually, this episode looks depressing. Everything is dark, everyone looks like they're going to a funeral, and the sets are drab. The visual style communicates a sense of despair that other Doctor Who episodes don't. I understand that "The Unquiet Dead" is horror-themed, but its visual style doesn't communicate that. Everything just feels sad and claustrophobic. "The Talons of Wang-Chiang" is a classic episode set in a similar period with a horror theme, but its visual style is bursting with atmosphere, and puts many high-budget horror movies to shame.

There's not much character development to speak of here. The only significant lore thing that happens is that the rift in Cardiff is introduced, which is a concept that permeates much of the Russell T. Davies era. Other than that, it's a story that doesn't have much value. New viewers can skip if they want to. 

I wish I had more to say, but I just find this episode to be super lame. I never rewatched it as a kid, and I don't think I'll have a reason to again except for these reviews. Fortunately, Doctor Who's next episode is one of its best and fully encapsulates the compelling nature of the Russell T. Davies era. 

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