Doctor Who - The New Series


TX: 9 April 2005

Written by: Mark Gatiss

Directed by: Euros Lyn

Running time: 44' 08"

Location: Cardiff, Wales

Date: December 24, 1869 AD

Monsters and villains: The Gelth (ethereal creatures with the ability to possess corpses).

Plot Synopsis: The dead are rising from their coffins to stalk the living - but why? The Doctor has great expectations for his latest adventure, especially when Charles Dickens lends a hand.

Bad Wolf Reference: Gwyneth psychically looks into Rose's future and screams about "The Big Bad Wolf".

Trivia: (1) As well as being the third Doctor Who episode, "The Unquiet Dead" was the third time Simon Callow has played Charles Dickens onscreen; his two previous performances were in 2000 in The Mystery of Charles Dickens and a year later in Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale. The former was a recording of Callow's acclaimed one-man show about Dickens.

(2) Although Charles Dickens did indeed travel Britain giving readings of his works, he never visited Cardiff in real life.

(3) Writer Mark Gatiss is better known as the lanky thin one from cult British comedy The League of Gentlemen, although he is a lifelong Doctor Who fan and had already written several Doctor Who novels and a series of sketches for the BBC's "Doctor Who Night" before being approached for this series.

(4) Most of the first season was filmed in Cardiff, where this episode is set. It is ironic, then, that this episode - one of only two episodes to be set in Cardiff - was largely filmed elsewhere in Wales.

(5) Mr Sneed was the name of the dustman in the children's television series Camberwick Green.

Spoiler Synopsis: After the TARDIS malfunctions, the Doctor and Rose find themselves in 19th century Cardiff on Christmas Eve. Elsewhere in the city, an old woman's corpse rises from its coffin, murders her son and wanders off into the night. Mr Sneed the undertaker darts off in quick pursuit, taking along his maid Gwyneth who has strange psychic abilities and can use them to track the zombie.

In a Cardiff theatre, Charles Dickens wearily powders himself in preparation for that night's reading of A Christmas Carol. He is old and tired and cannot write any more, so is reduced to such readings to earn his money. He steps onto the stage unaware that the dead woman is in the audience, but soon finds out as she emits a chilling howl and releases a blue spirit that flies into the crowded theatre and is promptly sucked into a gas fixture.

Rose, the Doctor, Sneed and Gwyneth all hear the panicked cries from the auditorium and arrive at the same time. As the Doctor approaches Charles Dickens to find out what is going on, Rose sees Sneed and Gwyneth taking away the now prone corpse of the old woman. She gives chase, and is soon chloroformed and kidnapped by the pair.

The Doctor races outside and commands Dickens' hansom cab to chase the undertaker, but not before Dickens gets in himself. The Doctor takes the opportunity to enthuse about Dickens' work and the author, pleased, joins him for the adventure.

Rose wakes in a room in the undertaker's house, only to be confronted by the re-reanimated corpse of the old woman, now joined by her son. Terrified by the zombies, Rose hammers on the door to be let out, just as the Doctor and Dickens arrive outside. They barge into the undertaker's and open the door just as the corpses release their strange sprits, which are once again sucked into the gas lamps. Sneed and Gwyneth apologise, explaining that the house has been haunted for years, and subject to these strange possessions. As Dickens explores the house looking for a rational explanation behind the occurrences, Gwyneth reveals to Rose that she is psychic and that she was born in the building. She looks into Rose's mind and gets glimpse of the future, along with a vision of Rose's father and something called the Bad Wolf.

The Doctor, having learned of Gwyneth's powers and her connection with the house, asks her to act as a medium to summon forth the "sprits". Their seance summons the leader of the Gelth, a race of beings trapped by the Time War. They are able to pass through because the house sits on a rift, an area where space and time has warn thin. The decaying corpses give them the gas that they need to survive in physical form. They ask the Doctor to open the Rift and let them through, so that they can possess the bodies and continue some semblance of normal existence. Rose is aghast, but the Doctor agrees.

The Rift is located in an archway in the morgue. The Doctor convinces Gwyneth to enter so that she can become a portal for the Gelth to travel through. Once she does so, however, the Gelth reveal their true plan: there are millions upon millions of them, far more than the recently dead could house, so they want to kill everyone on Earth and use the corpses to contain their entire species. As the morgue's corpses rise up, the Doctor tries to bargain with them, but it is no use. Sneed is killed and possessed, Dickens flees to the streets above pursued by a Gelth spirit, and the Doctor and Rose find themselves trapped in a small cell.

Once on the streets, however, Dickens sees the spirit get sucked into a gas street lamp just like the ghost in the opera house, and has an idea - if the Gelth are drawn to gas, he can purge the corpses by turning on all the gas fixtures. He does so, and the Gelth are pulled out of the bodies they inhabited and forced to spiral out of control in the gas. Dickens takes Rose up to the street whilst the Doctor checks on Gwyneth - she appears to be dead, yet still moves. He sees her take matches from her pocket and runs from the morgue.

Gwyneth, somewhere between death and life, understands that she is the only one who can stop the Gelth now, by ending her life properly and severing the connection between the Gelth and Earth forever. She strikes a match.

The Doctor reaches the front door just ahead of the fireball that tears through Sneed's house, ripping it apart. The Doctor notes that a single parlour maid saved the entire world, and nobody will ever know.

Back at the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose say their farewells. Dickens, invigorated by the evening's events, says that he shall return to England and see his family for Christmas. As the TARDIS dematerialises, he wanders off, happily, into the snow.

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Sources: - The Internet Movie Database - Outpost Gallifrey - A Brief History of (Time) Travel