Doctor Who
The Empty Child (1)

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: B+ | 5 USERS: A+
Jack Attack!

The child enters the dining room, his little schoolboy feet in socks and shoes visible from where Nancy is still under the table: "Mummy? Where's my mummy? Mummy?" An apple falls out of Nancy's bag; the child bends down to pick it up. Nancy tries to run, but the child spins around and points at the door, which slams shut against Nancy's attempts to open it. Still pointing, the child stares at Nancy: "Are you my mummy?" Something has happened -- something in his voice, or in the way he's standing.

Rose is bent over one of the bodies, examining it, when it suddenly sits up. It's no less frightening this time when they all do the same, and Rose jumps back. The bodies all start saying, "Mummy?" And they begin to stand.

Nancy backs away from the child, begging him to recognize her: "It's me. Nancy!" Not Mummy. Nancy.

The gas masks crowd in on the Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack, and the Doctor warns them not to touch the bodies. What will happen? "You're looking at it." They come closer and closer. "Are you my Mummy?"

And Nancy just repeats, "It's Nancy. Your sister. You're dead, Jamie. You're dead!" He's got her backed against the curtain.

At Albion, the Doctor and his friends are against the wall. The child, and the masks, begin to chant. "Mummy...Mummy...Mummy..." Faster and faster, until all you see are quick-cut faces, gas masks one after the other, screaming "Mummy." And that's it.

Here's what I think. I think the horrors of a people stay alive in its fears. I'm an American: I don't know from the Blitz, or gas masks -- not really. I know they don't live in my fears the way they do in British horror. I don't know why Clive Barker is scary because he's very, very British, and when he tries to tell American horror stories, he usually fails. I often wonder what Bret Easton Ellis feels like to people who aren't American, by the same token. Or Joyce Carol Oates. I know that Americans dream, when they dream nightmares, of strangers in the house. Wolves at the door. I know that the best zombie movies of the post-Thatcher era have come from Britain, and I couldn't tell you why. But this is a story about the invasion of a country in 1941 -- a country of the children of the war, trying to find the lioness inside the mouse, screaming for their mothers. And that is terrifying. I think the Doctor dreams of being alone, locked in a cellar or a glass house, with no way out. I think the Doctor dreams in Dalek voices. I think that this season (this Doctor) is about being an orphan -- about war taking everything away. Every single thing. And I think that the Doctor is about preserving that last spark of himself, that individuality, beyond extinction. Saving himself by saving the world, just like Peter Tyler. So I think, by any stretch, he's being a champ here, because all he wants to do is love that child, that orphan, and, by doing so, redeem himself. Which is hard to do when the person you're looking to protect, whether it's in the Blitz or 2012 Utah or the Victorian era, turns out to be the thing you're most afraid of, because you can't run from your mistakes. You'll always get your hand bitten by the dog you abused. And I think that if this week is a basic horror story, then next week is a story of wonder, of grace -- which is what the Doctor most deserves. This is a show about earning that grace, and the show always goes the distance to do that, if nothing else. And I have this feeling that, next week, he'll maybe get to dance.

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Doctor Who




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