It’s time for THE UNQUIET DEAD and boy! Do we have a lot to talk about. Sneed is the worst, Gwenyth deserves better, and Rose really needs to get off her high horse (and find a more suitable dress!)
CW: This episode discusses sexual assault
Lucia Kelly: Hello and welcome to the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey podcast. I’m Lucia Kelly, expert at applied analysis and Key to the Rift.
Talia Franks: And I’m Talia Franks, media critic, fanfic enthusiast, and the means of keeping oneself cool.
Lucia Kelly: And we’re here today to talk about “The Unquiet Dead,” Episode Three of Series One of Doctor Who.
Talia Franks: The Unquiet Dead” aired on April 9th of 2005. It was written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Euros Lyn.
Lucia Kelly: Reminder that time isn’t a straight line. It can twist into any shape and as such, this is a fully spoiled podcast. We might bring things in from later in the show, the comics, the books, or even fan theories and articles.
With that out of the way, we’re going to have a seance! So let’s get into the TARDIS.
So we open in Sneed’s funeral parlour and someone has died. We’re looking on at this quite sad funeral scene. Also, I want to point out all the names are so Dickensian and I adore it. So we’ve got Sneed, we’ve got Mr. Redpath, we’ve got Mrs. Peace, and we’ve got Gwenyth. I’m not sure if we ever get a last name for Gwenyth.
Talia Franks: So, it’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Dickens, I think the last time I read any Dickens all the way through was probably in high school, I went through a bit of a Dickensian phase. Actually, fun fact, I am obsessed with clocks and I collect pocket watches. I have probably about a dozen of them, and I really love analogue clocks. So I have analogue clocks in every room of my house. I actually have one that has the first 12 Doctors and each number is a Doctor. Anyway, the point is a lot of times clocks stop. And because I’m lazy and don’t like replacing batteries, particularly in my pocket watches, whenever the clock stops, I always make it stop at 20 minutes to nine because in high school I was obsessed with Great Expectations and I read it like – (Lucia laughs) It was my favorite book.
Lucia Kelly: Great Expectations is my favorite Dickens as well. I adore it.
Talia Franks: So I was a complete nerd, I mean, am a complete nerd. Fun fact though, the reason I really got into Dickens was because I really liked Harry Potter growing up, and Daniel Radcliffe played young David Copperfield. My mom said I couldn’t watch the movie until I read the book, so me at – whatever age I was, I think I was like nine, or ten? – was like, “Fine. I’m going to read this long as fuck novel. Just you wait!”
So then ten-year-old me decided to read David fucking Copperfield.
Lucia Kelly: Wild.
Talia Franks: And so that’s how I got into Dickens. I’ve always been kind of a literature nerd. You know, I mean, I was into Harry Potter, like a lot of other kids, but I was also really into Dickens and Jane Austen and Shakespeare and the Brontes and all of that stuff, and I’m like, “Wow, you had really weird taste for a child.” I mean –
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no. I mean, we’re the same type of nerd. I was definitely reading Great Expectations in between math class.
Anyway, back to the point, so, turns out that the Undertaker’s is haunted. Mrs. Peace gets possessed, kills her son? Or uncle? Or whatever it is –
Talia Franks: It’s her grandson. It’s her grandson.
Lucia Kelly: Son? Grandson.
Talia Franks: If we – All right, so the thing is, I want to make sure that we get through this fast. So I’m going to try to rapid fire this.
All right. Scene opens. Creepy funeral parlor. Old lady’s dead. Her grandson’s like, “Oh no. Can I have a moment?” He’s like, “Of course you can have a moment.” Anyway, she wakes up, kills him. Oh no! Like “My grandmother’s choking me out.”
And then he’s like, “Oh, they’re at it again.”
Lucia Kelly: And she walks out and is like, “WooOooOooo,” and then we cut to the title sequence.
Talia Franks: And then we’re like, “Oh my goodness. There’s ghosts!”
Lucia Kelly: And then of course we do the smash cut. So we do a complete mood shift, and we’re in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Rose – I’ve got to really keep myself accountable to not call the Doctor “Doc”, cause I was making these notes really rapid fire, so I just wrote “Doc” down, and so I’m going to be reading my notes and they’ll just – I will, at one point say “Rose and the Doc” and I’ll be like, “Oh no, I’m not that intimate with him,” but, um –
Talia Franks: When we get to Thirteen, Graham ends up calling her Doc all the time and honestly, I like calling the Doctor Doc. I think it’s fun.
Lucia Kelly: Okay. I won’t hold myself accountable then.
Talia Franks: What’s your opinion on Mark Gatiss, by the way?
Lucia Kelly: Ahhhhhhhhhh, similar to Steven Moffat, of like, “Wow, I really admired you when I was young and had no critical thinking skills, and now I’ve grown up. And (Lucia does a three note tone indicating disappointment)
Talia Franks: Yeah, no, like my first notes, when this opened were “Sneed is the Adam, I already know.” and then when I saw Mark Gatiss’ name come across the screen, I wrote “Mark Gatiss wrote this,” and then I wrote “unamused”, like in the brackets (Lucia laughs) so that the emoji would pop up.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: And then, we cut to the Doctor and Rose, and they’re in the TARDIS, aiming for December 24th, Naples, 1860. And then I’m like, “Oh sweetie.”
Lucia Kelly: “Oh baby.”
Talia Franks: It’s not 1860.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, so this is where we first introduce the idea of – both that the TARDIS is hard to pilot, like, in the first two episodes, it’s like “I’m the Doctor. I’m so cool. I have a time ship. Let’s go!” and it’s like, “Oh, he’s actually, like, competent,” and then you find out, like, “Oh no. (Lucia laughs) Ah, no.”
Talia Franks: No. Like –
Lucia Kelly: Um, so.
Talia Franks: You thought.
Lucia Kelly: You thought. And then, also, bringing in the Rose and Doctor dynamic of like, they go back and forth and it’s like, “Ooh, it’s 1860 outside. That’s so exciting,” and she’s kind of like, “This is so fun,” and they have the little “better with two” moment, which is very adorable.
Talia Franks: So then he’s like, “You can’t just go out there like that! You gotta -” and then he’s like, and he talks about the wardrobe? And then he’s like, “You look good, for a human.”
And I’m like “For a human?! Excuse you!”
Lucia Kelly: Okay. I need to talk about this fucking dress. It’s so inappropriate. It’s so inappropriate. She should not be wearing that. It makes me insane. If you look at all of the other extras – Okay so, the style of dress that she’s wearing is technically, like, young women were wearing those kinds of dresses for the time, but they were summer party dresses, like, you wore them at special occasions. You did not wear a bloody push-up bra under them, and they were for summer, because it’s cold, right? They’re – they’re not for cu – Like, Ah! It makes me so mad. And then later on, when Gwenyth is like “You look like a lady,” No, she looks like a fucking prostitute and you should – like, this is wrong. She’s wearing the wrong dress! It makes me so mad!
Hi, everyone. Lucia from the future here, I just wanted to clarify something that may have been lost in my hatred for inaccurate wardrobe choices in period drama. I did not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with sex work. My reference to Rose looking like a prostitute was a comment on how Gwyneth would have perceived Rose’s inappropriate clothing for the season.
Dressing in a summer frock in winter with heavy makeup in the 1860s would have coded Rose as a sex worker. I found it very unbelievable that Gwenyth would be showing such deference to someone dressed like this with her upbringing, both as a child of the church and her society’s moral code, which would encourage her away from anyone presenting that way.
Cool? Cool. All right. Back to the show.
Talia Franks: I mean, like, (Talia vocalises in a way to say “Does it matter?”) I mean –
Lucia Kelly: Like, the thing that happens in Season Two, where she walks out in the little overalls and it’s like, “Why is this crazy mad-child wearing underclothes?” I’m like, “Yes. That’s the appropriate response.” (Talia giggles at Lucia’s distress) Like, that should be happening here now too. She’s wearing the wrong clothes! If you’re going to call it out, if you’re going to make it a thing that the companions and the Doctor has to wear the right clothes for the period.
Talia Franks: Make them wear –
Lucia Kelly: Then they have to –
Talia Franks: the right clothes for the period.
Lucia Kelly: Make them wear the right clothes! Ugh!
Talia Franks: And then I hate it how the Doctor’s like, “Seriously, what’s wrong with this jumper,”
Lucia Kelly: Right?! It’s anachronistic, Doc.
Talia Franks: Why does the Doctor never have to change? The Doctor never changes.
Lucia Kelly: Cause he can just be like, “Oh, I’m an eccentric -” like, “Look at me. I’m just waltzing around.” Where as, “Oh, well, if it’s a girl.”
Talia Franks: No –
Lucia Kelly: “We’re gonna question that!”
Talia Franks: Okay, but this is the thing. The Thirteenth Doctor also never changes.
Lucia Kelly: Okay. Which is where the fact that I haven’t watched up to that yet is a problem.
Talia Franks: There’s a few period episodes. There’s one with Nikola Tesla. All The Fam are in period outfits, and then here’s the Thirteenth Doctor in her regular fit. And I’m just like, “For why?”
Lucia Kelly: You can’t wear pants here, darling. No. Stop it!
Talia Franks: No, and –
Lucia Kelly: You’re gonna – You’re going to start a riot, Barbarella.
Talia Franks: And the thing is, (Talia laughs) is that then there’s the episode where – “The Haunting of Villa Diodati” – where the Thirteenth Doctor is wearing the same outfit, except for she’s wearing a different shirt? And I’m just like, so confused. We’ll get there in 10 seasons.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. So, and this is also where making fun of Cardiff happens. This is the beginning of that whole thing where they’re like, “Ugh, in Cardiff” which, you know, they actually film in Cardiff, whatever they’re filming, they’re in Cardiff. So this is just a little in-joke for them.
They’re always in Cardiff anyway. So it’s like, “We’re actually going to set it in Cardiff and we’re going to make fun of how stupid Cardiff is,” Okay, whatever.
Talia Franks: And then, okay, I kinda loved how she actually goes to the show where Dickens is, and then he’s talking about how he’s so old and he’s done everything.
And I was like, “Oh, Oh honey, just you wait. You have not seen everything,” but I kind of liked how even though he is feeling really resigned, he still tries to make it good for the audience.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. And Dickens is played by Simon Callow. Simon Callow is actually a big Dickens head. He actually does Dickens impersonations and does shows like this. So the show that Dickens is doing, that is a thing he used to do. He used to travel around and do live recitations of his books and Callow, sort of does the same thing as like, special events.
So it’s really, it’s really sweet that they’ve got him to do this, cause he’s a really well-known British actor. He’s very well-known and well-renowned, and they’re like, “Hey, we know you have this special interest, come on over, play Dickens for us.” (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Great. And I do love how he ends up coming back in a later season. I thought that was –
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: One of the rare times that Steven Moffat acknowledges that the RTD era exists.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. But yeah, they also show him like at this very end of his life, where again, in real life, he was very – He had stuffed up a lot of his personal life and he wasn’t very happy and he’d done a lot of really bad things (Lucia chortles)
Talia Franks: I do like these historical episodes where Doctor Who visits these historical characters and really brings them to life and visits their lives and brings them into sharper relief and explores what they were like. I feel like the historicals really are standout episodes in a lot of ways.
I really did like the point where he was just like, “Like that!” but –
Lucia Kelly: (Lucia laughs) it’s like, “Wait, hang on, my book! It’s coming to life!”
Talia Franks: And then it’s like the timing though.
Lucia Kelly: Hm.
Talia Franks: And I also appreciated that he wanted people to come back, and the thing is, it was a free show, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t want them to come back for the money or anything.
He just wanted them to like, not be panicking, not be upset. And I think he was upset with the Doctor for ruining the show, not –
Lucia Kelly: Hmm.
Talia Franks: For, like, ruining his own experience, but for upsetting the people, and because he was genuinely concerned. That’s something I really (Lucia Hmms in agreement) appreciated about this Dickens is that it really showed him and showed his humanity, and like, when Rose is kidnapped, he’s like, “Why are we talking about me when someone (Lucia laughs) has been kidnapped,” and also can we just talk about Sneed the fu—
(Lucia growls in rage)
Lucia Kelly: He makes me so angry!
Talia Franks: Rose sees them so he drugs her and stuffs her in the hearse with a corpse?!
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Well, first! First he threatens to fire Gwenyth if she doesn’t use a skill that she is very clearly uncomfortable with using, like –
Talia Franks: Oh, his treatment of Gwenyth is awful, because there’s this girl who’s ostracized, an orphan, has no resources, and he’s just taking complete advantage of her. And she’s grateful to him for it.
Lucia Kelly: I know! It’s awful!
Talia Franks: This whole episode. I like – I mean, you saw my notes. Half of them are (Lucia laughs) me being upset on behalf of Gwenyth, because the way that people treat her in this episode, the hand that she’s been dealt in life is just, it makes me so incredibly upset and angry.
Lucia Kelly: And the fact that Sneed is treated like a joke is really troubling to me. The fact that often he’ll say something or something about him will be referred to and you’ll have a reaction shot of the Doctor smiling. The Doctor is a source of authority within the text. We trust the Doctor. So if he’s smiling, if he’s excusing this as a joke that gives permission and gives authority to the fact that Sneed is not a problem, and he is. (Talia quietly: “He’s such a problem”) Like, one of the moments that really made me stop and pause is when they’re all back at the undertakers and Rose is having a go at Sneed, like, “How dare you do all this to me.” She’s like, “and don’t think I didn’t feel your hands taking a wander” Sneed sexually assaulted Rose. That is confirmed. That is text. And it’s treated like a joke and that’s not okay.
Talia Franks: It’s really not okay. It’s absolutely disgusting. And this moment is one of the moments where I really appreciated Rose standing up for herself, and I was like, “Yes, Rose call him out on it, because that is not okay.” And I appreciated that she was able to state that and affirm that for herself, and I really hated that she then had to continue to work with him after that, because that’s what the episode forced her to do, and that we had to keep moving through that. She shouldn’t have to keep doing that. And I just –
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Sneed is not held accountable for any of his actions. He’s murdered. He’s not held accountable. And that’s really problematic. There’s no point where the Doctor is like, “Hey, that was wrong.” And that’s what was needed in this.
Talia Franks: Yeah. It was really needed in this and it’s not addressed.
Rose is not kept with the zombies, thankfully. Rose and Gwenyth have their little chit chat.
Lucia Kelly: It’s very cute, but also doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, which is very frustrating because they literally only talk about boys.
Talia Franks: And the Bad Wolf.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. And also, the first mention of what has happened to Rose’s dad – that he died. So, this is also where we get the first – No, the first indication – Sneed asks her to use the Sight, then she gets the Doctor’s tea right, and then she says Bad Wolf, and she has the vision of Rose’s world.
Talia Franks: But what I think is interesting about this, this is the first indication that Rose might have an ulterior motive in being with the Doctor.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, because Gwenyth literally – she tries to play it off as “Oh, the Doctor must have told me,” but we see from Rose’s expression that she absolutely has not told the Doctor about it, and it’s actually a mark of assumed trust on Gwenyth’s side and lack of trust within the actual relationship, which is really interesting.
Talia Franks: And I thought – Something I’ve thought about, also with this scene is, this is grappling with how Rose – cause like Gwenyth does say even later the fact that ” it’s very clear that you think I’m stupid” and I think they’re trying to subvert that trope within Gwenyth, but I don’t think that they do a very good job of it.
Lucia Kelly: Hmm. I really like what they did with – there are two themes throughout this episode about knowledge and consent. Which in a way, we can like – the whole sexual assault thing plays into that as well, but it’s kind of by accident cause it’s not done properly.
But, so the scene where after the seance the Doctor’s explaining things to these three people who live in the time period, right? So we’ve got Sneed, we’ve got Gwenyth, and we’ve got Dickens, and the Doctor and Dickens have had a conversation before this moment. It’s right before the scene between Rose and Gwenyth in the little kitchen area –
Talia Franks: Sorry, I just wanted to – That scene, like, that scene hurts me in a very personal way that I almost don’t want to talk about it, but I know we have to. But when Dicken says, “Can it be that I have had the world entirely wrong?” And the Doctor is like, “Not wrong. There’s just more to learn.” But Dickens is like, “But I’m at the end of my life, like, I’ve done (Lucia: yeah) this stuff,” and he’s like, “Have I wasted my brief span here? Has it all been for nothing?” And he’s like, “I’ve done all these things. I’ve acquired all this knowledge. I’ve done all that I thought was right, but have I wasted at all?” And it’s that idea of, you can do all that you know there is to do, but when your knowledge of the world is completely recontextualized, it leads you to believe, “Wow. I wasted so much time. Will I ever catch up and will I have time to learn the important things, do the important things, focus on the important things. There was all these experiences I could have been having, but I wasted all my time doing all these other things, when I could have been working on other stuff, and it’s honestly something that I think about a lot, cause like, I know – okay so I’m only 25.
I know that I have like more time, in theory, if the world doesn’t end or whatever, but sometimes I’m like, I focus all my energy on all this stuff that, ultimately I feel like, obviously it must’ve shaped who I am in some way, but I feel like, I’m not sure it shaped who I am in a positive way. And, (Lucia hmms in agreement) if I’d had more knowledge in the past, I would have made different decisions.
And so it’s sort of this question of “Have I wasted my time? Do I have time to make changes?” And it also sort of echoed in that moment, in the later part of the episode, where Dickens is like, “I have so many ideas about what I’m going to do now, but he doesn’t have time for that. Cause he has – it’s not necessarily a waste, but he does have a brief span and it’s ending, like, he doesn’t have time. He’s not able to share it with the world, and it hurts my heart in a way that I find hard to describe and I’m deep in my feels over this. Like, I wrote in my journal for five pages after watching the scene because I just needed to process.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. It’s, which I think is what makes the Doctor such an – like, the fact that, so –
Talia Franks: But the Doctor –
Lucia Kelly: We can –
Talia Franks: – doesn’t answer him. We just cut to Rose and Gwenyth. The Doctor never answers him! And I’m just like, “What did the Doctor -“
Lucia Kelly: No he does! Because he says – No! So, we’re not privy to the end of that conversation, but from everything that we know that the Doctor has done beforehand, their philosophy – the Doctor’s philosophy – is not this idea – you know, the concept of, if you enjoyed the time, if you felt good during the time, if you were putting effort into something, and you genuinely believed that it was the best use of your energy while you were doing it, like that’s not wasted time. That was you building yourself. That was you making your path. That was you growing as a person. Like, all growth is good growth, cause it means that you can move forward, and you can continue to mature, and continue to think about things more complexly. Even if later on, you can be like, “Oof, I shouldn’t have done that bit.” You wouldn’t have the knowledge that it was a less informed choice if you hadn’t made the choice, if that makes sense. Like, all the path, all the journey, is significant, and all of it is meaningful, and none of it is wasted. And we see the Doctor’s compassion here more than we have previously. He actually goes to seek Dickens out to apologize for snapping at him, which is something that I don’t think the Doctor from the previous two episodes would have done. And he’s like, “I’m really sorry I snapped at you. I shouldn’t have said that.” Like, he sees Dickens trying to figure it out logically and I think he really appreciates that being like, you know, “You’re doing your best.” And then after the seance, when the Doctor’s like “They’re aliens” and then Sneed is like “From Breckon?” And the Doctor doesn’t make fun of Sneed for that. He doesn’t push back on that.
He’s like, “Yeah. You know, if that’s your understanding, I’m going to work with your understanding.” And like, it’s actually not essential, it’s not important, for Sneed to understand exactly what’s going on. He just needs to understand what’s going on within his own context of the world. Whereas with Dickens, Dickens does get it.
He’s like, “Wow! Creatures from another world!” Like, Dickens is on top of it. And so the Doctor is actually working with different levels of understanding and knowledge while including everybody, including Gwenyth, and I love this moment because Rose — it’s so interesting, and this is where we start to see Rose’s sort of less admirable side, where she gets in her “Knight in Shining Armour” position, where like, she wants to be the protector. She’s taking a stance, which she sees as like the right stance of “Gwenyth is clearly vulnerable. I’m going to take a stand. I’m the person in power here.”
And so she simultaneously berates the Doctor for being like, “She’s not fighting your battles” while fighting Gwenyth’s battles? (Lucia laughs) And then Gwenyth calls her out on it being like, “It’s very clear, because I can see inside your head, that you think I’m stupid and I’m not. You’re not making space for me and that’s not right.”
Talia Franks: Yeah. I really appreciate that moment because I really appreciate the acknowledgement that, you know, just because Gwenyth didn’t go to school, just because she didn’t have the same privileged upbringing, you know, she’s sheltered, like that does not mean she’s stupid, and I think that’s a good message. I think that at the same time, they undermine that, because her making the choice herself and taking control of her autonomy and going against Rose, and what Rose wanted for her, is what leads to her death. Because if she had just listened to Rose, who wanted the best for her, then she wouldn’t have died.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. The fact that this plot relies on a trope, which is referred to as “The Idiot Ball”, which basically means that in order for the plot to work, people have to be stupid. The Gelth are so suspicious from the first thing, like the fact that the very first thing that we see a Gelth do is possess a dead body and then kill someone else, is all you need – like, and then they do this whole like, “No, we’re little victims. We’re special.” They are playing on the Doctor’s compassion and his guilt, right? Of what the Time War has done to other people, (Talia: Yeah) that the Doctor just goes straightforward without any kind of fact-checking without any diplomacy mission, it all happens incredibly fast, and it’s only because the Doctor isn’t taking the correct precautions, which he usually would, that it gets that far in the first place.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And the thing that you just made me realize, is that the word “Gelth” sounds like the word “guilt.”
Lucia Kelly: It does, yeah, it’s quite similar.
Talia Franks: The next thing I just would say, because I’ve been trying to think of it in my brain, which episode it was, because when you were saying that it is something that the Doctor says and I’ve realized it’s another Gatiss episode, because it’s “The Lazarus Experiment”, when the Doctor says “Some people live more than 20 years and other people live in 80. It’s not the time that matters. It’s the person,” and that’s a Gatiss episode.
Lucia Kelly: So this is clearly something that Gatiss is like, this is one of his things that he thinks about. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: At least one of his things that he thinks about.
Lucia Kelly: the fact that they change visually when they’ve revealed their plan makes me angry.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: That’s not –
Talia Franks: I think that breaks the science.
Lucia Kelly: It does break the science! Bad science! Bad, bad, science. That’s not how bodies work. Like again, again, if you explain it, if you’re like, Oh, they were putting up a mask, or they were like –
Talia Franks: And why do they get drawn out by the gas in the air?
Lucia Kelly: That part too, right? You establish that gas draws them out, and that ends up being what defeats them. And simultaneously the reason there’s so much gas around is because you’re in the Victorian era and they use gas. But because you were in the Victorian era – there’s gas! You can’t have it both ways.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And the other thing is, is that the person is like “Environment hostile.” So they get dragged into the gas lamp, so why didn’t they get dragged into the gas lamp that was in the hallway?
Lucia Kelly: I think what we’re meant to understand is the leakage is what draws them out. So as long as there’s untapped gas, that’s not being lit, as long as there’s gas in the environment, that is what draws them out. So if you’ve got a lamp on, it’s lit, it’s being used, so that’s not actually going to draw them out, but depending on how well made the lamp is and how much leakage there is, is going to be how powerful it is in order to draw the Gelth out of the body.
Talia Franks: I just don’t know anything –
Lucia Kelly: So like –
Talia Franks: about how gas lamps work, so…
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, I mean, (Lucia vocalises doubt) again, the science is a bit shaky, but I’m willing, I’m willing to go along with that one because they do go out of their way to be like, “This is how it works.” And I’m like, “Okay, it’s not how it works, but at least you’ve established why it does.”
so, Gwenyth stands up for herself and says, “I’m going to do this. This is my choice.” And we have this whole back and forth between the Doctor and Rose about donor cards and again, going to this two core themes of consent and knowledge of like, what this would mean and what having aliens come in and take possession of dead bodies would actually mean for the future as well. So, this is the first time we’re introduced to the idea of Flux. That there are certain points in history where – even if you come from the future, if you go back and things change, you – they don’t do the “Back to the Future” thing where it’s like, “If things change enough, you will just fade.”
It’s more of a splintering-off kind of idea, of you will just switch back and forth.
Talia Franks: This is where I start to agree with my partner, that “Doctor Who” time travel makes no sense, because fixed points versus things being in flux, like it doesn’t make sense, like in order for Rose’s future to exist in order for it just it just does, it, it didn’t happen. Like it’s just –
Lucia Kelly: Which is how they get around it, right? Is that this doesn’t go forward, and no one knows about it, and it’s this tiny little blip that for the rest of the world didn’t happen, and so Rose’s future is safe and I think, like, we’ll keep an eye on it, but I’m pretty sure that’s how the vast majority of flux moments happen is “OoOooOo, the timeline’s in danger!” and then we’re not going to touch it.
Or, we take a whole episode like “Turn Left”, for instance, where we do a whole episode about this alternate timeline, which you have to then fix, right? So, yeah. Time travel!
So we go down to the morgue and okay, I have a point of contention here. I’m sorry. So later on, after everything’s gone down, the Doctor says, “I think she was dead from the minute she walked in that arch.”
That’s not true. That’s not what happens. You can watch the episode and… No, she’s dead when they start coming out of her mouth. When the bridge is established, from the moment the bridge is established and they start coming out of her mouth, that’s when she dies, you can see the difference in like – and also, all the props, all the props to Eve Myles who plays Gwenyth. She is so, so good. In the whole episode, but particularly that last 10 minutes, is insane.
Talia Franks: No, she’s fantastic. And I think that’s totally why they cast her in “Torchwood”, but… I don’t disagree with you about that’s the moment when Gwen it’s dead, I disagree with you about the Doctor knowing that that’s the moment when Gwen is dead.
I think he knows the moment she died. I think he’s oversimplifying for Rose.
Lucia Kelly: Which annoys me because we’ve established that the Doctor appreciates intelligence and he appreciates emotional intelligence as well, like it’s not just “Are you logical? Are you clever?” The reason that Rose is a good companion for him is because of her compassion and because of her care for others. He appreciates that in her. So the fact that this traumatic event just happened, and then he tries to minimize it, or tries to simplify it for her, really bugs me.
Talia Franks: No. It doesn’t actually bother me as much because it makes sense to me that he would try to simplify it, because it’s not just that this traumatic event just happened, it’s that the traumatic event is still happening, and she’s still processing it, and he knows that she’s still processing it. And so, I think he’s trying to simplify it so that she has as few things to process as possible. I think he’s trying to simplify it to spare Rose further pain, and to allow her to process the trauma faster.
Lucia Kelly: I still don’t like it. Like I know that I would appreciate to be told the truth, even if it was a hard truth, even if that made that processing time longer or more complicated, don’t lie to me, and don’t lie to Rose.
Talia Franks: In general, I would usually prefer to be told the truth, unless it doesn’t matter – I dont think it really matters whether she was dead when she stepped in the arch or whether or not she was dead when she opened her mouth. I think those moments were approximately 30 seconds apart.
Lucia Kelly: I dunno. It just bugs me that we actually do have the visual language, the way that it’s shot, the way that the scene plays out, it’s very clear when she actually dies, and then we say textually that it happens at a different moment.
Talia Franks: May I suggest that the director and the writer were not on the same page?
Lucia Kelly: Possibly. Yeah. Probably.
Talia Franks: May I suggest that this is a television show. (Lucia laughs)
Lucia Kelly: Oh! Marks in direction going down, marks in science going down, marks in acting through the roof. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Through the roof. As always.
Lucia Kelly: As always. Oh my God, the way that – her dead stare and the way that she still conveys so much emotion, and the way that Christopher Eccleston plays off that. Their little scene together is so touching and so emotional.
Talia Franks: It is. It is. I had to stop, like once this episode was over, I just had to stop and process.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. But clearly it didn’t affect the characters that much, because we have that little moment, you know, Dickens quotes Shakespeare. It’s all very sweet. We have this little moment together.
And then we just cut to, they’re walking down towards the TARDIS, and suddenly everything’s happy again? And it’s such a weird mood shift? Like, you’ve just gone through this incredibly traumatic event, a person that you all knew just died. There’s a fire going on in lower London.
I hope you told someone about and like? They’re like “La di da di da di da,”
Talia Franks: It’s a Christmas episode. It’s a Christmas episode and Christmas episodes have to end happy.
Lucia Kelly: No Christmases are miserable and sad and more people should acknowledge it. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: But that’s how Christmases is actually are, but Christmas episodes have to end happy.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Okay. Fine.
Talia Franks: Yes, it came out in April, but it’s clearly a Christmas episode.
Lucia Kelly: So, do you think they just didn’t know whether they would be given the resources or time to have a Christmas episode, so they made this as a backup? Cause now, eleven, twelve, thirteen seasons in, the Doctor who Christmas episode is established, you have an episode on Christmas day about Christmas.
Talia Franks: Now they have New Year’s episodes.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Hmmm.
Talia Franks: It felt weird to me to always have Christmas episodes. It feels weird, (Lucia hmms in agreement) like, Christmas is a religious holiday for one religion.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, that is true. I mean, we can get into how Christianity has worked its way into the wider systems everywhere.
Talia Franks: Like, maybe I’m biased because I am not a Christian, but I personally prefer to not have a Christmas episode.
Lucia Kelly: No, that’s completely fair. So the Doctor, and Dickens, and Rose, have this whole little conversation outside the TARDIS. First of all, props to the Doctor, Dickens asks who he is. and he answers correctly! Well done. He doesn’t give some bullshit philosophy.
He’s like, “I’m just a stranger passing through.” That’s a good answer to that question. Well done. And then we have a really sweet moment when Dickens is like, “Do my books last?” and Simon Callow’s face when he’s like, “My books though.” Like, “I spent all this time,” and you’re like, “Oh!” And this is something that happens – it happens with Agatha Christie – I’m not sure if we meet any other really well-known authors, but often, at the end, they’ll be like, “But do my works? Is this – ?” Like, the same question that Dickens was preoccupied with before, “Does my work last beyond my death?” And, of course, the Doctors always like, “Of course they do. Don’t worry about it. You did well,” And it’s like, nawwwww, emotional. And then of course we have a penis joke, because of course we do. Let’s just wreck this beautiful moment with the penis joke.
Talia Franks: Yeah. I feel like they just weren’t able to have sincerity.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Like throughout this whole thing, there’s no – there’s this really beautiful moment, so these really beautiful moments of connection, but there’s no sincerity, and it really brings the episode down, I feel like. In that, all of the important moments, all of the really big things that happen are undercut with a joke, or with an aside, or by the characters, in universe, not taking something seriously, and it’s so unnecessary, and it speaks to a real immaturity and inability to engage with things on a meaningful level, that frustrates me, because there’s a core to this episode that could be incredible. If you just, shift around a few things, so that everyone is taken seriously, and everyone is given time, and everyone is treated with respect, you could have an incredibly moving episode that could easily be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who. (Talia hmms in agreement) But because there’s all of this, like comedy that’s used specifically to break tension. It’s the comedy that gets used when you’re uncomfortable with the situation so you make a joke in order to break the tension. And if you have character, where that’s one of their traits, like they don’t feel comfortable in those situations and so they make jokes? That’s fine. But if the whole episode is like that, it just undercuts everything, and it’s not okay. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Yeah, no. I feel like when you have something like that, it’s sort of self-defeating. And, it is disappointing because there’s so much – and I don’t think it ruins the episode or anything, but it does make it difficult.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. It doesn’t ruin the episode. It’s perfectly servicable episode. It’s just the potential is there to make it an excellent episode.
Talia Franks: Yeah. It definitely drags it down. So what would you say is your favorite moment and your least favorite moment?
Lucia Kelly: I think my favorite moment is probably the scene between Gwenyth and the Doctor in the morgue. I think that’s the emotional heart of the episode. I think it really, really works. My least favorite moment is that first scene all together in the undertakers when Rose’s calling Sneed out, specifically because that’s the start of when we establish that Sneed will not be held accountable for his actions. What about you?
Talia Franks: So, so, okay. Want to know something really funny? Reverse those and you get – not my most favorite and my least favorite, but some of the contenders.
Lucia Kelly: Wow! Interesting.
Talia Franks: Yeah. So the reason that I liked the scene that’s your least favorite is because I really liked that scene for Rose’s development. I don’t like it as a scene, but I like it for Rose’s development.
So it’s not my favorite, but I really liked that scene for Rose’s development.
Lucia Kelly: Okay.
Talia Franks: The reason I dislike the scene that’s your favorite, is because I hate that for Gwenyth. I hate (Lucia hmms in agreement) any scene that has a character sacrificing themselves, especially if it’s a female character. So that’s an automatic least favorite for me.
So I just think that’s hilarious that that’s your favorite and your least favorite. But those aren’t my actual favorite and least favorite. I just wanted to acknowledge that it’s kind of a hilarious (Lucia: yeah) that we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum. No, my actual least favorite is when Sneed drugs Rose and shoves her in a hearse.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Yeah, no. Fair.
Talia Franks: Because that is the worst. That is disgusting to me, especially because we find out afterwards that he was assaulting Rose at the same time, because that means he was drugging and assaulting her. And she was conscious of that.
And because, from her perspective, she just saw some people attack someone, and then she just realized that someone is now dead, and then she feels herself being assaulted and drugged, and then she wakes up in a room of dead bodies. So that is a horrible, traumatic moment for Rose, and I hate that for her, so that’s why it’s my least favorite.
Okay, so my favorite moment for this episode, is probably that first moment with Dickens and the Doctor, where at first (Lucia hmms in agreement) it’s like, “Who the fuck are you? Get out!” (Lucia laughs) And the Doctor start saying “No, I’m your biggest fan. I’ve read all your books. I love you. You’re great,” and then Dickens is like, “How exactly do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?” But he’s also just really into the Doctor being really into him. And you can (Lucia laughs) tell, like, Dickens hasn’t had someone who’s truthfully been so eagerly engaged in his work on such a one-on-one front. And you just see Dickens really come alive in a way that he didn’t with that other guy who was also really praiseful before, and you just get to –
Lucia Kelly: Oh! And that guy. We didn’t even get to it, but the fact that he’s like, “Oh, you can take my wife if you want.” Fuck you.
Talia Franks: No, but the, the fact that the Doctor just has this ability to liven up the people he’s around um, (Lucia hmms in agreement) It’s really beautiful and really meaningful for me, and I think it’s also something that is very true to the Doctor, but also it’s something that I feel is very true to the Ninth Doctor, in particular, because he’s so earnest about it. If you compare how the Tenth Doctor is with Agatha Christie, he’s like, “You fool me every time, well, most times, well actually only once, but it was a good once,” but here with the Ninth Doctor (Lucia: yeah) it’s unapologetically like, “No, you are the best. The absolute best!” whereas the 10th Doctor totally undercuts it.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. We’ll get to Ten’s lack of self-worth later.
Talia Franks: I have some thoughts about Ten. But we’ll get there.
Lucia Kelly: We’ll get there.
So for you, who is the Hero and who is the Adam? I’m pretty sure we have the same Hero and Adam.
Talia Franks: Sneed is the Adam and Gwenyth is the Hero.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, a hundred percent. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: That’s that.
Lucia Kelly: That’s it!
Talia Franks: Seems pretty straightforward to me.
Lucia Kelly: Yep. Beautiful. Done.
So now we get to grading.
Talia Franks: So the production.
Lucia Kelly: The production. I’m thinking about giving it a three, honestly. It’s all right. It’s okay. We’ve already brought up the fact that clearly – like Rose’s costuming. All wrong. It’s also so very, very, very clearly a costume. Like I’m so sorry, BBC closet, but the fact that the extras costumes are more detailed than Rose’s costume, and we see Rose’s costume up close, is a problem.
Talia Franks: It’s definitely a problem.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. So, Rose’s dress, and then the whole When Gwenyth Died moment, the fact that, because the thing is, all of Doctor’s little smiles at Sneed and everything, like I haven’t read the actual script, but he never gives verbal affirmation. So it’s all in the look, it’s all in the visual language, and that’s Direction.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: You make a choice to film that. You make a choice to focus on that, as well. And, none of these things are good things. So three for production? Or –
Talia Franks: Yeah, I think that’s fair.
Lucia Kelly: Three?
Talia Franks: Three.
Lucia Kelly: Bleugh, three, again.
Talia Franks: Acting. Hmmm I wanna give it a –
Lucia Kelly: Five!
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: Five. Five, five, five. Christopher Eccleston. Billie Piper. Eve Myles. Simon Callow. You all knocked it out of the park. Well done! (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Even what’s his name who played Sneed played a creepy guy really well.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. We’re not giving his name because he’s a bad character. I mean, well, actually. No. Let’s be fair. The actor –
Talia Franks: The actor –
Lucia Kelly: – played him exactly how he’s meant to be played, which is awful. We hate Sneed. He did a good job. He did a good job.
Talia Franks: He did a good job playing a bad character.
Lucia Kelly: He did a great job playing a very bad character. So let’s go find his name, and let’s give him the proper respect he deserves.
Talia Franks: He’s played by Alan –
Lucia Kelly: Alan David. Alan David, you also hit it out of the park and you did well.
Talia Franks: Did a great job playing a shitty guy.
Lucia Kelly: Science!
Talia Franks: Science!
Lucia Kelly: Okay!
Talia Franks: Oof, if I’m being generous, I’ll give it a three.
Lucia Kelly: Do we want to be generous? We’ve been so generous. I don’t feel like being generous.
Talia Franks: Give it a two.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: For Rewatchability I’d give this a solid 4.5.
Lucia Kelly: That’s fair. No, yeah, because – like, of the problems we’ve had where – we’ve spent the last hour and a half tearing this thing apart. I do genuinely enjoy watching it.
Talia Franks: I mean, I love Dickens. Like I said, my Dickens phase peaked in high school, but I’m pretty sure I read some Dickens in college.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Like, as much as we don’t like a lot of the writing, and everything, the character of Dickens, the way that he’s involved with the world, the storyline they have, the themes were good. They did a good job with theme, they stayed on theme, and I think all of the characters are really engaging.
So, it is pretty re watchable. It’s only when you start thinking about it.
Talia Franks: Yeah. You can’t think too hard about “Doctor Who” or else – it’s like, if you think too hard about America. I’m sorry.
Lucia Kelly: Don’t make me sad about your country. I spend too much of my day being sad about your country. All right. Drum roll.
“The Unquiet Dead” gets a D plus, which is exactly what it deserves. (Lucia giggles)
Talia Franks: It’s a D plus?
Lucia Kelly: Yup.
Talia Franks: It deserves higher than that.
Lucia Kelly: Hmmm, does it?
Talia Franks: I feel like, given its rewatch ability really should have a higher score.
Lucia Kelly: This is what happens when you use a rubric, right? You feel like it should be higher, but the science! The cold hard data! We’ve given it this mark. This is why rubrics are important.
I mean, I can change the marks we gave it in the rubric, but then everyone will know that you’re that kind of teacher, that looks at a student, and it was like, “Hmm. But they deserve better. I’m just going to shift this around a little.”
It’s a D plus episode and that’s where it stays.
Talia Franks: This has been the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Podcast.
Lucia Kelly: We hope you enjoyed this adventure with us through space and time.
Talia Franks: If you’d like to find us elsewhere on the internet, we are on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram as @WibblyPod.
Lucia Kelly: You can also find out more information about us, and our content, on wibblywobblytimeywimey.net, and full transcripts for episodes at wibblywobblytimeywimey.net/transcripts.
Talia Franks: If you’d like to get in touch, you can send us an email at email@example.com
Lucia Kelly: That’s all for now! Catch you in the time vortex!