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Father's Day

May 16th, 2005 (12:03 pm)

The distinguishing hallmark of the current series of Doctor Who has, perhaps, been the role of human emotion in driving the plot of each story. 'Father's Day' is the most unadorned example of this trend, as a precipitate action by Rose traps all concerned in what becomes in retrospect a teardrop universe sustained by a temporal paradox; for the characters to survive, the root of that paradox has to be eliminated, but the Doctor is unwilling to be the cause of more pain.

One of the best things about this new series of Doctor Who has been the chance to see the series drawing from a refreshed and widened cultural palette. In addition, setting the story in 1987 helped put the 'recent past' of Doctor Who on television at a distance - the Sylvester McCoy era is the best part of two decades ago now. Where the series in the mid-1970s drew from Hammer horror films and their Universal antecedents, it now recognises what writer Paul Cornell, in one of his early Who novels, called the mediasphere. The smileys on the wall near where Rose's Dad died are a more vibrant way of referencing the past than 'Mawdryn Undead''s Silver Jubilee flags. Rose's farewell to her father, calling him 'her Daddy', echoes the idealized father-daughter relationship of the end of the film version of The Railway Children, an almost inevitable ingredient of a television childhood from the late 1970s onwards. The episode also recalls that film's sense of loss of innocence, fuelled by its somewhat over-age actors in the roles of children parallelled by Camille Coduri playing the younger Jackie. The Railway Children, while aware that memories are reconstructed in the light and shadow of later experience, was nonetheless unashamedly nostalgic, but 'Father's Day' tells its audience to be careful what they wish for.

The theme of temptation is carried over from 'The Long Game', and we see the Doctor's faith in humanity tested, but vindicated. For a while he lets himself believe that Rose is 'a stupid ape' - implicitly like Adam, who wants the universe to do something for him and not vice versa. One of the themes of Paul Cornell's Doctor Who work has been the value of human existence and human life, which the Doctor can only experience at second hand. The Doctor's exchange with Stuart and Sarah could have been cloying in the hands of a lesser performer than Christopher Eccleston. He's a hard act to follow.

(to be further updated later)

Comments

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 11:51 am (UTC)
Stern Conrad

I fangirl your syntax. Although I keep rendering your journal unclean with my experiments in language abuse. And the new girl-friendly emo-tastic Who.

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 09:24 pm (UTC)
Stern Conrad

And now I would like to say that echoes the idealized father-daughter relationship of the end of the film version of The Railway Children, an almost inevitable ingredient of a television childhood from the late 1970s onwards is probably one of the reasons why I like it. I hate those things. Rose's father is useless! In spite of her determination to eulogise him! And drops dead! *nods* This is reality as many of the viewers will know it.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 10:51 pm (UTC)

Does it make him more or less useless in that there are hints that he has the potential to be otherwise? There is his interest in solar power which is never developed in this episode...

Posted by: Penny Paperbrain (pennypaperbrain)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 11:11 pm (UTC)
Stern Conrad

That merely makes him, as you say, potentially less useless. It probably makes him slightly less realistic. But it's only a side touch.

Posted by: malaheed (malaheed)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 12:05 pm (UTC)

IMHO this was the second episode which read like it had escaped from Sapphire and Steel (the first being the Dicken's episode).

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 12:07 pm (UTC)

I think the production team would enthusiastically endorse this comment!

Posted by: Polly (jane_somebody)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 08:39 pm (UTC)

Yes! 'Time has broken in...'

Posted by: bunn (bunn)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 02:23 pm (UTC)

It was the first one where there was a really Annoying Companion Moment.

Don't touch the baby

Don't touch the baby

Don't touch the baby

Ooops! She touched the baby!

I really wished they could have found some way of either not having it drilled so thoroughly into Rose in advance, or for the church to have been breached in some other way. I do think that when your own life and your entire family depends on it, you would *remember* something like that, and it broke the character for me. If she'd even tried to jump backwards when he pushed the kid at her, that would have helped.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 02:44 pm (UTC)

I thought Rose's baby-seizing was understandable given the circumstances. Perhaps she was drawn to baby Rose just as the two Brigadiers were to each other in 'Mawdryn Undead'?

Posted by: bunn (bunn)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 04:14 pm (UTC)

Hmm, Ok, yes interesting idea. But they are such different characters - I mean you just *know* that the Brigadier has spent his life swiping icing off cakes and taking illicit short cuts and having polite yet passionate secret affairs and falling off horses he wasn't supposed to ride: it's convincing for him to not be able to keep his hands off himself (fwar fwar) (Or is that just me! Honestly I think the Brigadier tells his whole backstory by the way he wears his boots...)

Whereas Rose comes across as the one who has always had to be the sensible one who follows the instructions (cos her mum wouldn't) and gets a job and has a nice boyfriend who's a bit of a no-hoper, and keeps a copy of her gymnastics certificate and always phones home. It just felt wrong.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 06:37 pm (UTC)

I'll have to watch the episode again (no hardship) but not this evening (I will be watching 'The Daemons' with DSoc).

What's comment-worthy about the way the Brigadier wears his boots?

Posted by: Disparate Housewife (wryelle)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 03:51 pm (UTC)

I think the most brilliant aspect of it all is the somewhat inhuman but still emotional characterization of the Doctor. It makes you wonder what Gallifreyan romance is like!



Posted by: malaheed (malaheed)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 04:39 pm (UTC)

I think it runs something like this

Male : Hi. What's a nice girl like you doing in a bar like this?
Female: /slap
Male : What was that for?
Female : For sleeping with my sister in 10 years time.
Male : That's not fair!
Female : Tough
Male : Well at least I'll know when you will not have any headaches
Female : Bugger!
etc. etc. etc.

Posted by: Disparate Housewife (wryelle)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 06:37 pm (UTC)

lol :)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 16th, 2005 06:41 pm (UTC)

Devotees of the Virgin Doctor Who New Adventures series published between 1991 and 1997 would argue that there isn't Gallifreyan romance as such, as children are born fully grown from genetic looms. The exception is the pairing of Leela and Andred, as seen on television in 'The Invasion of Time' (1978), and it's clear that Andred is to say the least startled when Leela seizes his hand...

Posted by: malaheed (malaheed)
Posted at: May 17th, 2005 09:29 am (UTC)

Was Virgin the publisher or a statement?

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: May 17th, 2005 09:33 am (UTC)

Virgin was indeed the publisher - infamously they were bringing out a series of soft porn novels at the same time employing some of the same authors.