I saw the Fall of Troy!
World War Five! I was pushing boxes at the Boston Tea Party! Now I'm gonna die in a dungeon.... in Cardiff!
The first episode Mark Gatiss
wrote for the TV series, based loosely on his Big Finish Doctor Who
The Doctor tries to take Rose to Naples, 1860. The TARDIS disagrees, and instead takes them to Cardiff, Christmas 1869.Charles Dickens
is in town, prompting an outbreak of earnest fanboyishness
from the usually sardonic Ninth Doctor. The squee doesn't last — the dead are walking, so the Doctor springs into action. It turns out that there's a massive
space/time rift right in the middle of Cardiff. This will become important later
. A young psychic maid named Gwyneth (identical relative
of one Gwen Cooper
) can guide things through the rift.
Dragging the very skeptical Dickens along, he organises a seance and negotiates with the aliens. If he helps them through the Cardiff Rift, they can temporarily occupy some corpses until he finds them a better home. Rose is Squicked
, but the Doctor isn't in the mood to listen to some silly little human and coddle her delicate sensibilities.
The Gelth (as they call themselves) prove to be a bunch of lying promise-breakers, being "a few billion" in number and not being almost-dead. They were bent on wiping out humanity and taking over their corpses. The Doctor shows his raging Survivor Guilt
over having previously killed a few species, most recently his own, and hesitates to jump into action. Gwyneth takes the decision out of his hands by sacrificing herself. Charles Dickens learns an important lesson about Christmas, and merrily bids the Doctor farewell, planning to include all sorts of ghosts and blue lights and aliens in police boxes in his novels from now on. The Doctor gloomily notes that nothing will actually change, though, because Dickens will be dead of natural causes within a year.
The Cardiff rift remains open, and becomes a major feature of the Whoniverse
from this point on.
- Aliens in Cardiff: Trope Namer, together with Torchwood (which this episode is a direct prequel to).
- Arc Words
Gwyneth (to Rose): The things you've seen. The darkness. The big bad wolf.
- Can't Argue with Elves: Or, in this case, with the Doctor.
- Casting Gag: Simon Callow is a Dickensian scholar and has played Charles Dickens on several other programs.
- He later reprises the role in a cameo during Series 6, set in an alternate timeline where all history happens at once.
- Changed My Jumper: Trope Namer. Nobody but Dickens remarks on the Doctor's attire anyway.
- Christmas Episode
- Development Gag: The Running Gag about Cardiff apparently being a Fate Worse than Death is probably an affectionate little jab, since they film in Cardiff.
- False Innocence Trick: The Gelth claim to be refugees from the Great Time War who have lost their bodies and only want to use dead humans as Meat Suits. It turns out that there are many more of them than they claimed, and they want to take over all humanity, not just the dead ones.
- The Doctor and Dickens talking about The Signal-man and A Christmas Carol.
- Gwyneth, while reading Rose's mind without meaning to, comes across how much Rose misses her dead father and Rose agrees she's been thinking of him a lot lately. These thoughts turn into action in a few episodes down the line.
- Ghostly Chill: The morgue cools down when the Gelth appear.
- The Greatest Story Never Told: Rose laments that no one will ever know what Gwyneth did.
- Heroic Sacrifice: By Gwyneth to sabotage the Gelth.
- Historical-Domain Character: Charles Dickens
- Historical In-Joke: Dickens declares his intention to incorporate the Gelth into the climax of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a novel that famously went uncompleted due to Author Existence Failure.
- I Was Just Passing Through: The Doctor claims this when Dickens inquires as to his true identity.
- The Knights Who Say Squee: The Doctor squees at learning he's sitting next to Charles Dickens.
- Lame Pun Reaction
Doctor: Don't antagonise her. I love a happy medium.
Rose: I can't believe you just said that.
- Newspaper Dating
- Ominous Fog
- Psychic Powers: Gwyneth.
- Puppeteer Parasite: The Gelth.
- Rebel Relaxation: The Doctor, while watching Dickens check out a corpse.
- Recycled Script: Writer Mark Gatiss re-uses some ideas from his Big Finish Doctor Who story "Phantasmagoria". He spins them in different ways, but the similarities are there. (As a Shout Out, at one point Charles Dickens shouts "What phantasmagoria is this?!")
- Spooky Seance
- Temporal Paradox: Rose thinks that this means the Gelth can't kill her in 1869, since she's still living in 2005. As the Doctor explains, however, a paradox only prevents you from killing your past self — it's 100% possible for your present self to travel to a different time zone and get killed there.
- Victorian Britain: Cardiff, 1869.
- What Could Have Been: Originally to show history can be changed the Doctor would have taken Rose to the present and they would have seen corpses walking around, a homage to Pyramids of Mars. However they were unable to film this.
- You Look Familiar: The voice of the main Gelth sounds an awful lot like the Toclafane, and has a similar fear well, they both say that's what they're running from.