It’s time for the Empty Child and the Doctor Dances! Nancy steals the show, Talia and Lucia continue to have extraordinary amounts of feels, and EVERYBODY LIVES!
Talia Franks: Hello and welcome to the Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey podcast.
Lucia Kelly: I’m Lucia Kelly, expert at applied analysis, and a good source of potassium.
Talia Franks: And I’m Talia Franks, media critic, fanfic enthusiast, and Marxism in action, or a West End musical.
Lucia Kelly: And we’re here today to talk about “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”, the ninth and tenth episodes of Series One of Doctor Who.
Talia Franks: “The Empty Child” aired on the 21st of April, 2005, and “The Doctor Dances” aired on the 28th of April, 2005.
Both episodes were written by Steven Moffat and directed by James Hawes.
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.
Talia Franks: With that out of the way, I think we better initiate Emergency Protocol 4-1-7. Let’s get in the TARDIS!
Lucia Kelly: A whole full series just on Nancy. I love Nancy so much. Just – (Lucia makes chef’s kiss noises)
Talia Franks: I want Nancy to get her own comic series, her own big Finish thing.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah!
Talia Franks: Her own everything. Her own everything
Lucia Kelly: Her own everything. She’s so – Oh my God.
Talia Franks: She’s the epitome of chef’s kiss. (Talia giggles)
Lucia Kelly: Just, so, so good.
Talia Franks: So, so good. I just, my heart.
So how do they know it’s 30 seconds from the center of London?
Lucia Kelly: I think the Doc’s just giving a bit of a conservative estimate. ‘Cause yeah! They’re in the middle of the time stream.
Talia Franks: They’re in the middle of the time stream, but also how is it 30 seconds from the middle of London? Because that’s a time and a distance and that’s not how that works.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
I guess if the TARDIS is locked on to it, it can predict where it’s going? So if this object stays at the same trajectory, it looks like in about 30 seconds, it will arrive in London, at some point in time, but (Talia: but)
Talia Franks: They’re in a time stream.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Yeah.
Talia Franks: It’s like, giving me mad “Parsec” vibes. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Just saying. Anyway, I also got to say, they finally said it. How long can you go around the universe without running into Earth? (Lucia and Talia giggle)
And how long can you go around the universe without running into England? The fuck?
Lucia Kelly: A day!
Talia Franks: A day!
Lucia Kelly: I will say we immediately jump into that very characteristic banter-y dialogue style of Moffat’s, which is banter on top of banter, on top of banter. It’s banter all the way down.
Talia Franks: Banter all the way down. I thought I was in a Marvel movie. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Lucia Kelly: Honestly, it’s surprising that Moffat has not been hired by Marvel at some point.
Talia Franks: Please don’t.
Lucia Kelly: I’m shocked. Yeah. I’m not inviting that into the world. Any gods of prophecy, don’t knock me down.
Talia Franks: Don’t at me. That’s not a request.
Also why doesn’t the Doctor know what year it is? Why doesn’t he just check the console?
Lucia Kelly: Because this is more fun. When has the Doctor ever checked the console? Ever in their lives? On purpose?
Talia Franks: He doesn’t want to do a scan for alien tech either.
Lucia Kelly: Nah. That would be too easy.
Talia Franks: Because it’s what the plot wanted.
Lucia Kelly: Okay. Yes. (Lucia and Talia giggle) But also in terms of making it work within character, like figuring out an in-world reason. This is setting up Captain Jack. This is the beginning of setting up the dynamic, and how, for the purposes of this episode, Captain Jack and the Doctor are, there’s a bit of narrative foil between them. They’re deliberately set up against each other.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And I got to say also, this episode introduces a lot of Moffat’s tricks. We’ve noted before that Moffat tends to repeat some of his old favorites in later seasons, including creepy small child who calls a phone that they shouldn’t be able to reach. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Well, I’m just saying it happens again in Season Six.
Lucia Kelly: And also, the base of a lot of Moffat’s Monsters of the Week tend to be, “Let’s take this innocuous thing that you see every day and make it super creepy.” So in this case, in a long line of horror tradition, we’re making “The Creepy Child”.
Also the child that you care for and want the best for, and immediately emotionally attach to?
The minute that dialogue starts, the minute the little question of “Are you my mummy?” comes out, I’m immediately bawling. I’m immediately in tears. I’m so concerned about this child.
Talia Franks: I’m just freaked out. I literally can’t hear the phrase, “Are you my mummy?” without shivers.
Lucia Kelly: Actually, the moment where I actually start caring about the child is the moment when it’s trying to get through the door.
Talia Franks: That’s when I actually start caring about the child.
Before then it’s just, the child is ominous, but when it’s trying to get through the door, and the Doctor is talking, and goes to open the door, and then the child’s gone. That’s when I started to care.
Okay, so let’s talk about Rose’s core strength, because really utilizing that gymnastics award is all I’m saying. She’s got a history now of grabbing onto ropes.
Talia Franks: She does. She has so much core strength. She must work out every day.
Lucia Kelly: I’m so confused, ’cause –
There’s a gym room specifically for her in the TARDIS. But also, okay. So she goes after this child. She grabs onto the rope. She literally looks up. Did she not see that it’s attached to a giant blimp?
Talia Franks: I have no idea. Rose is so smart and yet so not.
Lucia Kelly: So, we’re going to leave Rose hanging, quite literally.
Talia Franks: Also the Doctor, I feel so bad for him. Everyone’s laughing at him.
Lucia Kelly: If I was in that bar and I had come for a drink, the way he does it, the way the whole thing is set up, is very much “impromptu comedy hour”.
Talia Franks: It is.
Lucia Kelly: To the point where I would thought it was a joke.
I would have thought this is a new comedian on the scene, trying new material, I would have been looking a bit to the bouncer, being like “Is he meant to be up there?” (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Talia Franks: I would have thought “Oh, this singer just finished, and it’s a new act, and it’s a comedy guy.”
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Also, can we talk about that lighting?! The lighting in these two episodes, the way that the camera is framed?
Talia Franks: Beautiful.
Lucia Kelly: There are some absolutely gorgeous shots. The opening shot from behind the singer as light floods in and you see her silhouette? B eautiful. These episodes are definitely getting a five out of five for direction, maybe a four out of five, because there were some questionable choices, but by far one of the best directed episodes.
Talia Franks: Questionable? Tell me more.
Lucia Kelly: It was very much in the same vein of “The Unquiet Dead” moment that I had issues with, where what was shot and the text didn’t quite match up in a way that frustrated me. So Rose looking up and seeing, but not seeing the balloon is one of them. And there were a few other moments where it was just like I can’t think of them in the moment, but they were there.
Talia Franks: Okay.
If we’re going to talk about things that frustrated us, I got to say the fact that Nancy, wonderful Nancy, Queen of my heart, decides to blackmail Mr. What’s-his-face, because of his gay relationship.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. There are some really, which I mean, should we expect anything less from Moffat, but there is some questionable, kind of opposing ideologies about LGBT people, in these two episodes. So you’ve got Captain Jack, who is living his flirtatious, audacious, extrovert, flirty, bi life.
Living his best life.
Talia Franks: He is omni-sexual, actually.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: I was just going to say. I think they won’t actually use that phrase in this episode, but I know that’s how he’s described in other places.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Definitely the kind of guy that I love to watch on screen that I would absolutely hate to be in the same room with. I appreciate him as a character. Adore him as a character. I would hate him on sight. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Yeah, it’s on sight.
Lucia Kelly: So, we’ve got wonderful Captain Jack, and then there’s the scene you’re talking about where Nancy blackmails this – Also! Getting fatphobia vibes as well from that whole – that whole little family is very much “Look at these fat ugly people, and how they store food, and how they’re not working towards -“
Talia Franks: Yup.
Lucia Kelly: And then there’s the moment in “The Doctor Dances” where, Rose makes this comment like, ” Are the words, “Distract the guard” going my way,” and then Jack very calmly, just sort of like, “Mmm, you’re not his type.” (Talia mhmms in agreement) And is very cool about it. Very cute about it. And goes off and he’s like, “I’m going to distract the guard,” like genuinely looking forward to it.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Because he and that guard have a thing.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah!
Talia Franks: Like, they’re an established –
Lucia Kelly: And then –
Talia Franks: They’re – they’re friends with benefits and that’s their thing, and I’m cool with it.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. And then, Rose and the Doctor have this really interesting conversation, which is just –
It’s Rose versus bi-phobia and… it’s not great.
Talia Franks: It’s really not great. I don’t like that for Rose.
Lucia Kelly: I don’t know whether I’m just romanticizing Rose, but given everything we know about her, it also doesn’t really feel in character.
Talia Franks: It doesn’t.
Lucia Kelly: One of her big traits is her compassion and empathy, like that’s Rose. So, it doesn’t make sense to me, that Rose would be homophobic.
Talia Franks: Yeah. But then they also threw that “You’re so gay” line in episode –
Lucia Kelly: That is true. That is true. Maybe I am romanticizing Rose.
Talia Franks: Yeah. I don’t know. Or maybe everyone in 2005 was homophobic (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Lucia Kelly: Also a possibility. But yeah, it’s not great. It’s not a good time, but we move on from it pretty quick. Also, I feel like that scene was this specifically to show that point of view, which doesn’t need to be shown, as well. There’s a way to have that conversation without casting any kind of moral judgment on Jack. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
And that’s not what happens, and I don’t like it.
Talia Franks: Yeah. I also don’t like that the introduction to Jack, and having a character like Jack, who is so open and expressive and out and unapologetic about himself, is as a criminal.
Lucia Kelly: Also, that his opening line is sexualizing Rose.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: His opening line is (mimicking Jack) “Excellent bottom,” and then we have that whole back and forth.
So our introduction to Jack is as “sexually promiscuous person who is attracted to multiple genders”, which is a really problematic trope that is often – cause people run into the problem of like, “Okay, how do I show that this person is attracted to people who present multiple different ways?”
And the only way – cause they put two seconds of thought into it, like, “Oh, well I’ll just make them promiscuous.”
Talia Franks: And there’s nothing wrong with being promiscuous.
Lucia Kelly: Exactly.
Talia Franks: I love to see all kinds of characters out there. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a promiscuous character.
The problem is that when it’s the only representation of the character and when that character is someone who’s not just promiscuous, but objectifies other people in their being promiscuous, because as you said, that’s Jack’s opening line, rather than being like, “Oh, I should save this person,”
Lucia Kelly: Or even like, “That’s interesting.” Or something being like, “Huh. There’s a girl floating 600 feet above London with a Union Jack slashed across the chest.” I feel like that’s the more eye-catching part of what’s happening right there.
It’s a weird – I was going to say it’s a weird introduction to Jack. It’s not, it’s just not – Jack becomes so much more than that, and right now he’s very much a sort of – they haven’t coloured him in yet. They haven’t filled in all of the nuances that Jack will later have. (Talia: Yeah) So right now he’s just slutty bi con man, in brackets: American.
Talia Franks: This early Jack is so much different from who he becomes later on.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: For one thing, he’s not a giant disembodied head in a jar, (Lucia and Talia laugh) but that’s a whole other issue.
Lucia Kelly: That’s a whole other issue. I’ve got more problems with –
Okay, so, Jack rescues Rose. She gets brought in. I do like the fact that, as opposed to, “The Unquiet Dead” Rose is knocked unconscious again in the presence of a man. This one doesn’t violate her! Yay!
Talia Franks: Yay!
Lucia Kelly: I hate that that’s a bar we have to jump over, but there it is.
Talia Franks: He just put her in a bed and lets her wake up on her own. No zombies.
Lucia Kelly: Yay!
Talia Franks: Yay! That’s really low bar.
Lucia Kelly: But this psychic paper interaction. So, they have this back and forth with the psychic paper, and apparently, and I think we can trust Jack on this one because he mentions Mickey’s full name, so clearly it says something about Mickey.
Apparently, Rose has a boyfriend, but she’s “Very available”. Rose? What the fuck?
Talia Franks: The levels of my internal screaming are unmatched. Unmatched. I am just – it doesn’t sit right with my spirit. My heart clenches. Like, you say that Rose is an empathetic person, but she’s a – (Talia cuts themselves off in anger)
Lucia Kelly: I will say it’s a very specific kind of empathy, and I think I might’ve talked about this before, but Rose really likes to be the one saving people.
Talia Franks: She has a savior complex.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. So she will be on the lookout for victims she can save, but she’s not gonna, she’s also –
Talia Franks: A flighty bitch?
Lucia Kelly: A little bit, yeah, she doesn’t do a lot of internal reflection, or sort of, doesn’t really think about how she affects the people she’s close to. We see that with Jackie, we see that with Mickey. We also see that with the Doctor a bit, as their relationship develops. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
Talia Franks: You don’t say.
Lucia Kelly: She has an interesting one, that Rose Tyler.
Talia Franks: She’s selfish, and she’s petty, and I don’t like her.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, she is all of those things. That’s definitely a part of her personality. (Lucia sighs)
But let’s not talk about Rose. Let’s talk about Nancy, Queen of my heart. Oh my God. I love her so much. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Can’t Nancy be the companion? Can we just replace Rose with Nancy? Let’s bring Nancy and her little boy Jamie onto the Tardis. Let’s not leave them in World War Two.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Let’s not do that. She’s – hmm – I was going to say, she’s doing all right for herself. She’s not doing great, but, I don’t know, the way that she uses her power?
So, we’ve got this woman, single mum in 1940, young mum, as well. Like, would have been a teenager when she had Jamie, is probably only in her early twenties now, if that. And the way that she has just completely taken the life that has been given to her in both hands and said, “You know what? I may have been dealt a shitty hand. That doesn’t mean that I have a shitty life.” The way she takes all these kids under her wing, the way that she – I hate the fact that she uses this man’s sexuality against him. I love the fact that she takes control of the situation. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
I see a lot of parallels between her and the Doctor, the moment when they’re observing the train station (Talia mhmms in agreement) and, they’re having this whole conversation, and she thinks it’s over, and then he asks, “Who did you lose?” And the way that both the Doctor and Nancy react to intense personal loss, they turn that grief and they turn that pain into compassion for others and helping others is really admirable.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And the other moment that really strikes me as a moment of connection between the Doctor and Nancy is when they’re all sitting around the table and eating, and all the kids are there, and they’re passing the plate around, and none of the kids notice the Doctor, but it’s obvious that Nancy knew he was there.
Lucia Kelly: Oh yeah.
Talia Franks: None of the kids noticed him until he said, “Thanks, miss.” None of the kids noticed him but she knew he was there.
Lucia Kelly: Oh yeah.
Talia Franks: She spotted him the second he walked in. But she was chill with him. She was happy to let him share a meal with them until he started scaring the other kids, and then she was like,”Okay well, now you’ve got to go.”
Lucia Kelly: Well also started getting dangerously close to the truth. Like, she’s cool with you, as long as you don’t question her motives or her past, (Talia mhmms in agreement) and then you get very quickly dismissed.
Talia Franks: Yep.
Lucia Kelly: Which, we appreciate a woman with boundaries. (Lucia laughs and Talia mhmms in agreement)
Talia Franks: Yeah, no, because he was getting close to the truth, and he was freaking out the children, and that’s not something that she could abide.
Lucia Kelly: Not at this table. I will say another part of their conversation at the train station, the Doctor’s framing of England’s position in World War Two… It’s sure interesting. (Talia and Lucia start laughing) It’s sure interesting. It’s a – It’s a – That’s a, that’s a hell of a reframing there.
Talia Franks: It’s a – It’s a take.
Lucia Kelly: Sure is. Pretty sure it was more Empire against Empire. There’s no – There’s nothing – Tiny little island? Hmm.
Talia Franks: Tiny little island.
Lucia Kelly: One way to look at England, one way to look at England.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Whatever happened to “The sun never sets on the English Empire.”
Lucia Kelly: What about that? What about that thing you just said?
Talia Franks: But back to Nine.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: In that whole scene where he says, “Not sure if it’s Marxism in action or a West End musical.” First of all, I like that line, but also she says, “I suppose you would know.” And then he’s like, “I do actually.” And I wrote those two quotes down, and then I wrote down, “Nine’s curiosity and compassion makes me want to cry.” and I think I actually was tearing up at that scene?
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Oh my God. The way that Jamie is framed, from jump –
Talia Franks: From jump.
Lucia Kelly: And the uses of the phones, and controlling the media, and this tiny little request, and oh, it breaks my heart, so much, and the way that Christopher Eccleston plays off that, and just shows so many different layers at once. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
The way that he – like, Nancy is clearly terrified of this child, the rest of the children are terrified of this child, and the way that he sees that, acknowledges that, and still chooses to be kind. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
It’s just – my heart.
Talia Franks: Yeah. And I think also the kindness that he shows the doctor that he meets in the hospital.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: Which, that hospital is Albion hospital. Which is same hospital from “Aliens of London” and “World War Three.”
Lucia Kelly: Is it?
Talia Franks: Yeah. Where they took that pig that’s not an alien. So, it was the same hospital.
Yeah, so can I just say the Sonic screwdriver is a magic wand?
Lucia Kelly: It is.
Talia Franks: We just got to accept that at this point. It can diagnose people and –
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. If you took a screwdriver to someone’s head, I’m not sure it would give you –
Talia Franks: And then Jack is like, “Well, what can it do?” And then the Doctor’s like, “It’s Sonic.” And I’m just like, “But what can it do?” What like –
Lucia Kelly: You literally just use it as a medical diagnostic tool.
Talia Franks: You’re going to use it to reconstitute Barb wire.
What even is protocol 4-1-7? How does Rose know how to use this? It only has two buttons.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. How do you, is it (Talia: How do you -) like, a psychic link?
Do you have to do a little morse code combo to get it to the right setting? Do you have to calibrate it?
I’ve got to say the physical effect, every time they transform into the gas mask creatures. Oh. It’s so well done. It’s so creepy.
Talia Franks: It’s so well done and so disturbing at the same time. The terror in their faces, when they see what they’re about to become? (Lucia mhmms in agreement)
The way he has tears in his eyes when the only thing he can say is, “Are you my mummy?” He knows he’s losing his autonomy, and the way that he looks at his hand, and he knows that he’s going to transform, but he doesn’t say anything, cause he wants to – (Talia sighs) Richard Wilson! A plus! Like the acting is going to save the day once again.
Like “Before this war began, I was a father and a grandfather and now I am neither,” like gut punch!
Lucia Kelly: And the Doctor says, “I know the feeling.”
Talia Franks: Yeah. And I just –
Lucia Kelly: Oh!
Talia Franks: I am devastated.
But the thing is interspersed with the Doctor, and Nancy, and all this emotion, and heaviness, is Rose and Jack being campy as fuck. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Lucia Kelly: Oh. Jack, what are you d- when you go in the second time and you know that Jack is playing her. He’s being so transparent about it. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Yeah, I mean but Rose totally clocks it.
Lucia Kelly: Do you reckon?
Talia Franks: Yeah. No.
Lucia Kelly: I don’t think she does.
Talia Franks: Not, not at first, because Rose – does Rose normally let strange men tie her up is my question.
Lucia Kelly: I mean –
Talia Franks: No, but, okay. So let me pull up the transcript here – so there’s this point where Rose and Jack, they’re on uneven footing. I feel like Jack is very much playing Rose, right up until Rose says, “You know, it’s getting a bit late. I should really be getting back.” Jack says “We’re discussing business.” And then Rose says “On a spaceship during a German air raid. Do you really think now is a good time to be coming onto me?” That’s the point at which I think things switch over. I think Rose either at that point, or maybe a little bit before, kind of figures out what’s going on because – I –
Lucia Kelly: ‘Cause she acts real shocked when Jack comes clean, is the thing.
Talia Franks: She does not act shocked. You really think she’s shocked when Jack comes clean about being a con man? I think you need to watch that scene again.
I think that she’s outraged, and upset, that everything, at the fact that he’s a con man, and that everything that he did was – I don’t think that she clocked on to the fact that it wasn’t really a warship. I don’t think she predicted that it was actually an ambulance but I do think that she clocked on to the fact that he wasn’t authentic.
Lucia Kelly: The way that she says, the delivery of the line when Jack clocks that they’re not actually time agents, the bitterness and the spitting of “Just a couple more freelancers,” feels personal in a way that I read as she’d only just fully realized what was going on.
Talia Franks: Really? I read it the complete opposite.
Lucia Kelly: Interesting.
Talia Franks: I read “Just a couple more freelancers,” as sorta smirking, like “We were playing you just as much as you were playing us.”
Lucia Kelly: I don’t know.
Talia Franks: I think we read it completely differently.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah, no. And (Talia: We’ll have to watch it again) that’s fine. I love the fact that we have completely different takes on the scene. That’s exactly the kind of thing that proves how subjective analysis is. It’s just interesting that we read it completely differently.
Okay. So, “The Empty Child” ends, “The Doctor Dances” begins. The fact that the Doctor solves this problem –
Talia Franks: I love how the Doctor solves this problem.
Lucia Kelly: – by sending them to their room. With the all authority that has been honed by telling multiple toddlers the same thing. He is speaking as a parent. That tone comes from experience. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
That child actor. Stunning work. The little head tilts? My heart! It’s not his fault! It’s not his fault!
Talia Franks: The creepiness of “I’m here.”
Lucia Kelly: But – Okay! No one is answering this kid’s question. No one is acknowledging what he – He has one question. He has one question, and no one acknowledges it. I’m not talking about the answering it. (Talia: Except for the Doctor) I’m talking about acknowledging it.
Talia Franks: Except for the Doctor.
Lucia Kelly: Except for the Doctor.
But in that interview, we hear Constantine questioning the kid and no acknowledgement of like, clearly this kid has an objective. (Talia mhmms in agreement) Clearly, you’re not going to get any answers out of him. If we’re thinking about it from step one – If you just came across this child and you’re trying to figure out what happened to them, right?
Immediately, as soon as you try to start asking all the questions, like, “Where are you? What information can you give us about where you’re from, what your name is” and the only thing that kid is asking is, “Are you my mummy? Where’s my mummy?” You acknowledge that child. You switch beats. Those questions are not going to be answered. Switch beats. Acknowledge the child. I’m so upset.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Except no one acknowledges children because children don’t matter.
Obviously, I don’t think this, but this is what adults think, especially in the 1940s.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. It’s just heartbreaking.
And then, the room flooded with children’s drawings as the full impact of the depth of distress that is clear that this child is experiencing.
It’s an awful episode. I love it.
Talia Franks: What is wrong with you?
Lucia Kelly: I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. These two episodes. It’s the same with “Father’s Day”, right? The episodes that upset me the most tend to be my favorite. I don’t know why. I have no answers.
So we go from this deeply distressing scene to a little bit of camp banter with the whole banana situation. So they escape to this room, and this happens a few times, the Doctor slut shames Rose, mercilessly, in a way that I think we’re meant to read as jealousy, but honestly? Not a good look on him.
And to be fair, we’ve just come off Adam. I would be a bit techy too, about bringing any new boys on the TARDIS, if Adam had just happened, but he says, “Where’d you pick this one up?” And I really appreciate the fact that Jack immediately reframes the blame to himself.
Like immediately just steps in. So the Doctor says, “Where’d you pick this one up?” And he just steps in and says “She was hanging from a barrage balloon. I had an invisible spaceship. I never stood a chance.” He makes it all about him, in a way that takes the spotlight away from Rose, and there’s a bit of judgement in the way he delivers that line and being like, “Oi! Stop that.” (Talia mhmms in agreement) And I feel like that’s the Jack that I know.
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: Fun, campy, flirty Jack is delightful and always a fun time. But the Jack that I actually truly love is that Jack.
Which is almost immediately undercut by the fact that he vanishes all by himself.
Talia Franks: Yeah. That – I was going to say that’s a little bit undercut.
Lucia Kelly: Which is unfortunate. But also, Rose, my girl, my darling. Please raise your standards. She says “He saved my life. That’s up there with flossing.” My dear. (Lucia and Talia laugh)
Talia Franks: No!
Lucia Kelly: My darling dear. Does Mickey floss? This is now in question.
Talia Franks: No.
Lucia Kelly: We know he rinses rather than washes dishes. Are we about to take away Mickey’s one hygiene point? (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: You’re making me sad.
Lucia Kelly: It’s just – it’s just upsetting.
Talia Franks: It’s so upsetting.
Also, can we talk about how creepy this child is?
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. The ways that the script and the direction work together to build that tension, just build it and build it, and build it, to make this child, simultaneously as menacing, and also somehow compelling, and empathy drawing, as possible, is insane. (Talia mhmms in agreement)
Talia Franks: And also, this demonstrates that the child can say things other than “Are you my mummy?” But that question is so all encompassing, and so pervasive, and such a motivation driver, that’s all he wants to say.
Lucia Kelly: We’ve also got to acknowledge that a large proportion of his brain is gone.
There’s a lot of magi-science in this episode, (Talia: Yeah.) which I think actually works out. I think they do a really good job of explaining what needs to be explained. We see inside the mask a few times, and you see the back, like, the leather of it. It’s the empty child. There is no child there. And I think mainly that’s just because rendering half a skull would have been traumatizing and expensive. (Lucia laughs)
Talia Franks: Yeah.
Lucia Kelly: But we’re made to understand that the core essence, the spirit of the child, is what’s present. (Talia mhmms in agreement) Which again comes back – acknowledge the kid’s question, then he can talk to you.
Talia Franks: Yep.
Lucia Kelly: Which leads us very neatly into possibly the most emotional scene… ever?
The bomb is coming down and everyone is stressed. We have that gorgeous moment just before between Rose and Nancy, where – which is a reoccurring trope within Doctor Who, of giving people living in the present, slight spoilers about the future, or answering questions that they have, with famous people, it tends to be like, “Does my work live beyond me?” Like the Doctor’s not about to give out the lotto numbers.
Talia Franks: He gives Donna a winning lottery ticket though. I’m just saying.
Lucia Kelly: That is true. I have to take that back. He does, in fact, give someone the lotto numbers. Um… (Talia giggles) (ls) the moment between Rose and Nancy is very sweet, and I love the fact that she’s like, “Yeah, I believe you’re a time-traveler. I don’t for a second believe you’re from the future.”
Talia Franks: Yeah no, she says like, “I believe you’re a time traveler, but I don’t believe that there’s a future,” but also, I just love so much the moment when the Doctor realizes that (Lucia: Oh yeah.) Nancy is Jamie’s mother, because Nancy is like “Not the child. Jamie.”
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. That’s when he clocks it.
Talia Franks: That’s when he clocks it and then there, I was just sobbing and sobbing and sobbing and sobbing.
Lucia Kelly: When she’s kneeling with him, and we’re finally getting that resolution, the child’s question is being answered, and we get the gutting aside from the Doctor being like, “There’s not enough left of him.” This question is so all consuming that he can’t even hear the answer. And – so the actress’s name is Florence Hoath – By God. What a performance. I’m lit – I’m tearing up thinking about it.
It’s so moving. It’s so beautiful.
And to see her journey from this incredibly tough, but like, that toughness is brittle. It’s not solid, because underneath, and you see that throughout the whole thing, is that Nancy is constantly haunted by the belief that how she treated the whole Jamie situation was wrong. Like, the fact that she felt she couldn’t tell him that she was his mother. The fact that he died under her watch. The whole Jamie situation is just wracking her with guilt, and the final resolution of that, as she stands in the truth, and hugs him, and all the gold is everywhere.
Talia Franks: I’m going to cry. So we should wrap this up.
Lucia Kelly: Everybody lives.
Bu t not everybody because guess what? Jack’s in trouble.
Talia Franks: Guess what, Jack’s in trouble, except the Doctor knows how to dance. So (Lucia: Yay!) they land the TARDIS on his ship, but he has to come in quick –
Lucia Kelly: Which –
Talia Franks: – cause there’s a draft –
Lucia Kelly: Questions. We know how big the TARDIS is. Every time I watched that scene, I’m pulled out by the fact that the TARDIS would not fit in that ship. In that tiny little cockbay?
Talia Franks: Except –
Lucia Kelly: No way.
Talia Franks: Except the TARDIS can be smaller on the outside.
Lucia Kelly: But then how does Jack fit it?
Talia Franks: He crouches.
Lucia Kelly: Does he? I don’t think he does.
Talia Franks: He does. I remember him ducking in.
Lucia Kelly: Okay.
Talia Franks: I’m pretty sure I remember him ducking in.
Lucia Kelly: Alright.
Talia Franks: You can rewatch the scene if you don’t believe me, but I think I remember him ducking in.
Lucia Kelly: But yeah. Thus the throuple is born. Right? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more poly than that last scene.
Talia Franks: I have never seen –
Lucia Kelly: The dynamic that’s established. Beautiful. Perfect. (Lucia makes chef’s kiss noises)
Talia Franks: Nine/Rose/Jack is my OT3. (Talia giggles)
Lucia Kelly: Just beautiful chemistry between all of them.
All right. Well. Is there anything else that happened in these two episodes that you want to talk about before we get into the wrap up?
Talia Franks: I just want to firmly establish, dancing as a metaphor for sex.
Lucia Kelly: Oh yeah.
Talia Franks: I don’t feel like we said it explicitly yet, but dancing equals sex.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: In case that wasn’t clear.
Lucia Kelly: In case that wasn’t abundantly clear.
I mean, I guess we’ve really got to acknowledge now, they are 100% pushing Rose and The Doctor as a couple, (Talia mhmms in agreement) That is a thing that is definitely happening. While simultaneously, not being acknowledged. It’s very odd. Like all that needed to happen was Mickey needed to be her best friend.
That’s all that needed to happen.
Talia Franks: All that needed to happen.
Lucia Kelly: Why is he her boyfriend? It doesn’t make sense. Anyway…
Talia Franks: Because heterosexism?
Lucia Kelly: I want to double down on my assertion that Nancy deserves her own comic series, and I want to see it. I want to read it. I want to see Jamie older.
Talia Franks: Yep.
Lucia Kelly: I want Jamie’s adventures. I want Nancy, established, in her power, (Talia mhmms in agreement) and I want to see Jamie, as a young 20 something in the sixties.
Talia Franks: Yes! Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Especially because that moment when the Doctor…
Lucia Kelly: “Twenty years till pop music. You’re going to love it.”
Talia Franks: Yeah. And he picks up Jamie and he spins him around and it’s just like the cutest thing.
Lucia Kelly: Also, that Jamie. He’s so cute!
Talia Franks: He’s so cute! He’s so adorable!
Lucia Kelly: He’s so adorable! Oh my God. That sweet little face!
Talia Franks: But can we just point out that actor is probably at least 20 years old now.
Lucia Kelly: Exactly. Perfect time to bring back a mini series about Nancy and Jamie in the 60’s.
Talia Franks: Yeah, this is perfect timing. So, bring them back.
Lucia Kelly: Okay. What was your least favorite moment of the episode?
Talia Franks: When Nancy uses What’s-his-name’s sexuality against him. That was really gross.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah.
Talia Franks: Tied with Rose saying “How flexible?”, because bi-phobia is gross.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. No, my least favorite moment was the bi-phobia moment. I hate that. I hate that for Rose. I hate that for everyone involved. She seems to get over it pretty quickly.
Talia Franks: Oh, also the “Very available.”
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Some real low points.
Talia Franks: Real low points.
Lucia Kelly: Favorite moment though?
Talia Franks: “Everybody lives.” That’s obviously the best moment. The “Everybody lives” and the “Yes. I’m your mummy,” but those two moments (Lucia: Yeah) are so close together I feel like they’re one moment.
Lucia Kelly: One all encompassing, highly emotional moment.
Talia Franks: That whole scene. It grinds my heart into a pulp and then just spreads it all out into my chest until I feel whole again.
Lucia Kelly: Hero? Nancy.
Talia Franks: Nancy.
Lucia Kelly: Nancy.
Talia Franks: Nancy.
Lucia Kelly: 100%. Nancy.
Talia Franks: Nancy.
Lucia Kelly: Adam? Was there an Adam this episode? The closest I can think of is Rose for the bi-phobia moment, but like, everyone’s pretty solid.
Talia Franks: I think if there is an Adam, I would say that Jack is the Adam for “The Empty Child” only, because at that point –
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Okay.
Talia Franks: the Adam, for “The Doctor Dances,” but Jack is the Adam for “The Empty Child”.
Lucia Kelly: He is the worst, isn’t he? (Talia: Jack is the Adam for “The Empty Child”.) He get’s away with it – He get’s away with it because he’s charming, but he is the Adam.
Talia Franks: Yeah. Jack gets away with it because he’s charming, but he is the Adam.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. Alright.
Talia Franks: He does set this whole thing in motion.
Lucia Kelly: Which, at least he acknowledges in the end.
Talia Franks: He gets redeemed, but he is in fact, the Adam.
Lucia Kelly: Yeah. There’s a long period of like, (mocking Jack) “Well, I didn’t do anything wrong.”
And the whole volcano day comment and it’s like, “Eek. Wow.”
But, I feel like this is a five out of five for everything. Is there any point where it’s like
Talia Franks: No. It’s five out of five.
Lucia Kelly: It’s five out of five.
Talia Franks: This episode gets a hundred percent.
Lucia Kelly: A hundred percent. A plus.
Talia Franks: A plus. (Lucia laughs) This is the first set of episodes where they really knocked it out of the park.
Lucia Kelly: Just completely.
Talia Franks: Chef’s kiss.
Lucia Kelly: Chef’s kiss.
Anyway, come back next time, when we talk about “Boom Town”, one of the most underrated episodes of Doctor Who ever! No one talks about “Boom Town”.
Talia Franks: “Boom Town” is the best. “Boom Town” is my go-to episode when I need an uplift. When I need to watch a feel-good episode. When I need to just lose myself in Doctor Who, I watch “Boom Town.”
I love “Boom Town.” It’s my favorite. It’s a classic.
Lucia Kelly: It is a classic.
Talia Franks: Every season has an episode where I can just go to it and just lose myself in Doctor Who, (Lucia mhmms in agreement) and “Boom Town” is my go-to episode.
Lucia Kelly: And with that ringing endorsement, we shall leave you. Bye bye!
Talia Franks: Bye! 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: You can find this elsewhere on the internet, on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram as @WibblyPod. Follow us for more wibbly, wobbly content.
Lucia Kelly: You can 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lucia Kelly: Please rate and review us on apple podcasts and other platforms as it helps other people find us and our content.
Talia Franks: Special thanks to our editor Owen Elphick, who has been a vital member of the Wibbly Wobbly team
Lucia Kelly: That’s all for now. Catch you in the time vortex!