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Recap / Doctor Who S27 E11 "Boom Town"

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Breath spray. A genuine weapon against the Slitheen.

"What are you captain of? The innuendo squad?"
Mickey (to Jack)
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The one where Rose breaks up with Mickey.

Written by Russell T. Davies.


Six months later. The Doctor, Rose, and Jack pop back to 21st-century Cardiff, so that Rose can meet up with Mickey, the TARDIS can refuel from the Cardiff Rift, and mischief can generally be gotten into. Also, Jack isn't getting any from Rose, or from the Doctor, which annoys him and amuses everyone else. (But the Doctor merrily flirts with him, which annoys him even more.) Still, our three travellers have bonded together in a way that really irritates Mickey, who is getting a little sick of all the inside jokes and all the flirting with each other that the three of them can cook up.

Mickey's state of mind is understandable, but he's being a bit of a jerk about it — especially uncool since today, the usually dour Ninth Doctor is relaxed and grinning (probably still enjoying his victory from the last episode), and it's a beautiful sight to behold. But perhaps Mickey's not entirely at fault, because ultimately what really harshes the Doctor's mellow is the sight of Margaret the Slitheen (from "Aliens of London"/"World War Three") as the mayor of Cardiff.

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She's presiding over the final stages of Cardiff's new nuclear power plant, a project she's been shepherding since its inception and which could not possibly go wrong. With all the safeguards and design reviews the power plant has had, for it to get this far it'd have to have been designed to fail! And indeed it is, as Margaret plans to use the inevitable explosion to propel her to anywhere in the universe that isn't Wales. Oh, and it's called "Blaidd Drwg"; Welsh for Bad Wolf. For the first time, the Doctor realises that those words are following them.

The gang chases Margaret, captures her and imprisons her in the TARDIS to await transportation to her home planet, where she's been convicted in absentia and faces the death penalty. She talks the Doctor into taking her out to dinner (using a pair of Jack's Time Agent handcuffs to prevent escape), where she alternates between trying to guilt-trip him and kill him.

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She reveals that she's developed human feelings (which is true), that she's been trained to kill all her life (which is true) and that she's now trying to better herself and live in peace forever (which is a filthy lie). The Doctor defeats her by making her stare into the living core of the TARDIS, which causes her to revert to egg form. Problem solved!


Tropes:

  • Actor Allusion: The Doctor says that he'd make a very bad god. Christopher Eccleston played Simon Baxter, the Son of God in Russell T. Davies' The Second Coming.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Literally! Margaret Blaine, real name Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen, last survivor of the Slitheen from "Aliens of London"/"World War Three", decamped to Cardiff and got herself elected Lord Mayor as part of a plan to use the Cardiff Rift to escape Earth, destroying it in the process.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: In-universe, Mickey is a bit surprised that the TARDIS' disguise is based on a real thing.
  • Arc Words:
    • The nuclear plant project is named "Blaidd Drwg", which means Bad Wolf. This is the episode where the Doctor first notices the phrase "Bad Wolf" following him around.
    • Margaret points out that the Doctor messes with people's lives so much, one of the reason he is always running is because he "daren't look back". Davros mocks the Tenth about this in "Journey's End", and the Dream Lord tells Amy this about the Eleventh in "Amy's Choice".
  • Artistic Licence – Law: In real life the Lord Mayor of Cardiff is not an executive position, but the chair of the city & county council, and carries out diplomatic functions.note  Even when this is put aside, the construction of a nuclear power plant would be in the hands of higher government.note 
  • Batman Gambit: Margaret's Evil Plan relies on several potentially unlikely outcomes. In order:
    • Getting elected.
    • That everyone who finds out the truth will come to her first, because as the decision maker she's the logical choice.
    • That any hi-tech people who capture her will use the extrapolator.
    • That she has a hostage or is otherwise able to recover the extrapolator between the Rift opening and the planet exploding.
  • Becoming the Mask: Margaret has been in her human disguise for so long that she's starting to empathise with humans, particularly the Welsh.
  • Bi the Way: The Doctor enjoys his first flirt (of many) with a male companion in the new series. This is a beautiful case of Adaptational Sexuality, as the Eighth Doctor was portrayed as very bisexual in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels (and Eight was the first Doctor to be explicitly shown having any kind of sexual or romantic interest in anyone at all). Also a case of Author Appeal for gay Show Runner Russell T. Davies.
  • Blatant Lies: After delivering the Doctor's message, Blaine's secretary emerges with a stunned look on his face.
    Secretary: The Lord Mayor says thank you for popping by. She'd love to have a chat, but, er, she's up to her eyes in paperwork. Perhaps if you could make an appointment for next week?
    The Doctor: She's climbing out the window, isn't she?
    Secretary: Yes, she is.
  • Bottle Episode: While it predates the "Doctor-lite" trend, this was openly the first season's money-saver. The monster and guest star are both returnees, and most of the action is in the TARDIS or contemporary Cardiff.
  • Break Them by Talking: The Doctor's reply to Margaret's Hannibal Lecture is more mean-spirited than the usual Kirk Summation.
  • Breather Episode: A relatively silly episode sandwiched between two very dramatic two-parters (the latter of which is the finale).
  • Busman's Holiday: The Doctor just wants to take a breather in a city where Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here. He picks up the newspaper and sees Margaret Blaine's face on the front page.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Margaret Blaine challenges the Doctor's moral authority:
    "From what I've seen, your funny little happy-go-lucky life leaves devastation in its wake. Always moving on 'cause you dare not look back. Playing with so many peoples' lives, you might as well be a god."
  • Character Development: Or Out-of-Character Moment, depending on how you look at it. The Doctor had been (mostly) vegetarian since "The Two Doctors", but orders a steak in this episode. This was deliberately done by Russell T. Davies, who didn't want to just blindly inherit John Nathan-Turner's concept of the series. Still, it doesn't quite connect that the previously vegetarian Doctor who was so outraged and heartbroken by the suffering inflicted on an innocent pig just in the last previous Davies story "Aliens of London", would here cheerfully order a steak that came from a similarly innocent animal being butchered.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • That extrapolator's going to come in handy in a couple of episodes (and once or twice after that).
    • Both Jack's handcuffs and Cardiff's nuclear power plant become hugely important in the Torchwood season 2 finale, "Exit Wounds".
  • Continuity Nod: At one point Margaret mentions venom grubs and the Isop galaxy.
  • Cool Board: The extrapolator's intended purpose is a "pan-dimensional surfboard", which Margaret can use to ride the shockwave of an exploding planet back to "civilization". The Doctor takes the extrapolator once she's regressed to an egg, and generally uses it as a force-field generator for the TARDIS.
  • The Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: Blon explains the deaths of everyone who investigated her planned nuclear power station as accidents.
    Cathy: The number of deaths associated with this project. First of all, there was the entire team of the European Safety Inspectors.
    Blon: But they were French! It's not my fault if "Danger: Explosives" was only written in Welsh.
    Cathy: And then there was that accident with the Cardiff Heritage Committee.
    Blon: The electrocution of that swimming pool was put down to natural wear and tear.
    Cathy: And then the architect?
    Blon: It was raining, visibility was low. My car simply couldn't stop.
    Cathy: And then just recently, Mr. Cleaver, the government's nuclear adviser?
    Blon: Slipped on an icy patch.
    Cathy: He was decapitated!
    Blon: It was a very icy patch.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: The hilarious demise of anyone who might find out the Cardiff reactor is rigged to explode. The list includes explosives, an electrified swimming pool, Blon personally running someone over in "low visibility", and:
    Cathy Salt: And then just recently Mr. Cleaver, the government's nuclear advisor?
    Margaret Blaine: Slipped on an icy patch.
    Cathy Salt: He was decapitated!
    Margaret Blaine: It was a very icy patch.
  • Debate and Switch: The episode sets up the moral dilemma of whether the Doctor and his friends will be as bad as Margaret if they take her home to be executed, but the Deus ex Machina ending means they no longer have to worry about it, and the dilemma remains unsolved.
  • Deus ex Machina: An interesting variant in that while it's clearly an out-of-the-blue version in this episode, its appearance here acts as justification for the one in the season finale.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The scene where an English woman gets excited at having correctly pronounced a place name, while a grumpy Welsh woman rolls her eyes.
  • Dramatic Drop: After Margaret's secretary goes into her office to give her the Doctor's message, we hear the sound of a dropped teacup from inside her office.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Margaret's plan for escaping the Earth also means annihilating it.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Of course the whole Slitheen family is evil, Margaret included, but she makes it clear early on that she really grieves for them and that she didn't see them as evil ...
    Margaret: I had quite a sizeable family, once upon a time. Wonderful brothers. Oh, they were bold! But all of them are gone now. Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm cursed.
  • Evil Plan: Margaret rigged the nuclear reactor to explode immediately while she used the extrapolator to ride the ensuing wave back to outer space. After her capture, it transforms into guilt-tripping her captors into releasing her.
  • Explosive Leash: Jack provides the Doctor with one to keep Margaret from fleeing during her last meal, although it's designed to shock her rather than blow her up. Bondage jokes aside, it's another reminder that Jack got up to some shady stuff before meeting the Doctor.
  • False Reassurance: Margaret Blaine assures the citizens of Cardiff that the new nuclear power plant will cause no harm as long as she's walking the Earth. This is technically true, since she is an alien in disguise and plans to leave the planet before the meltdown occurs.
  • Film the Hand: Margaret/Blon does this when a photographer tries to take her picture during the Blaidd Drwg press conference, with the implication that she's been avoiding photographs so she's not found out as being still alive. Unfortunately for her, the photo, with her face clearly visible, winds up on a newspaper where the Doctor can see it, alerting him to her presence.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Three seasons in advance, at the end of Jack's story.
      Mickey: I knew we should have turned left!
    • The Heart of the TARDIS is quite important to the finale.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Mickey notes a woman staring at him, the Doctor, Rose and Jack when they exit the TARDIS.
      Jack: Probably wondering what four people were doing inside a small wooden box.
      Mickey: What are you captain of? The Innuendo Squad?
    • Mickey suggesting to Rose that they go to a hotel to spend the night.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    The Doctor: Cardiff. Early 21st century and the wind is coming from the ... east. Trust me, safest place in the universe.
    Margaret Blaine: This nuclear power station right in the heart of Cardiff City will bring jobs for all!
  • A God I Am Not: Nine says he'd make a very bad god (Eccleston played Simon Baxter, the Son of God in Russell T. Davies' The Second Coming). Blon thinks he's closer to A God Am I territory than he'd like, given the effect he has on everyone around him.
  • Going Native: Margaret/Blon — even while planning to blow up the entire planet, she mentions that the London government wouldn't notice if South Wales fell into the sea. "Oh. I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I've gone native."
  • Hannibal Lecture: After the TARDIS crew capture her, Margaret tries to guilt them into letting her go.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: Twice. Although the second time Margaret spares her. Also, it's implied by the conversation with the reporter that it happened a lot more in the past.
  • He Knows Too Much: Margaret kills anyone who finds out that the reactor is designed to blow up.
  • Idiot Ball: Cathy the journalist is intelligent enough to figure out that something is wrong with the reactor, and that everyone who finds this out winds up dying in a suspicious manner (including one killed by the mayor herself) ... then allows her to drag her alone to the toilets.
  • It's All About Me: The surviving Slitheen keeps trying to paint herself as a victim to the Doctor — being forced to kill at 13, that she'll suffer a horrendous execution, and so on. The Doctor calls her out on this. Earlier, she spares a potential victim, simply because the victim reminded her of her family. Oh, and she was going to destroy the Earth to get back home.
  • It's Probably Nothing: The Doctor and Rose finally notice the series' Arc Words and spend a minute or two getting more and more concerned about the implications until the episode plot grabs their attention again. But the Doctor dismisses it as "just a coincidence" and they never discuss "Bad Wolf" again for the rest of the episode.
  • Karma Houdini: Blon; despite her attempt to destroy the Earth to escape, and all the people she'd killed, she still manages to get a good ending when she looks into the heart of the TARDIS and becomes an egg again, thus giving her what she wanted all along — a second chance.
  • Kick the Dog: Poor, poor Mickey. First, he blunders his way through an alien capture and gets a mop bin stuck to his foot, then has his girlfriend break up with him and return his sweetheart ring.
  • Kirk Summation:
    • The Doctor reminds Blon that for all her pleas for mercy, she's doing it through the lips of Margaret Blaine, whom she killed.
    • Blon/Margaret gets one herself. After the Doctor takes her Pet the Dog argument apart, she retorts that only a killer himself would know the mind of a killer so intimately, and brings up his status as a Walking Disaster Area. "Playing with so many peoples' lives, you might as well be a god."
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Cathy Salt mentions to the Lord Mayor Margaret Blaine that nearly everyone opposing her proposed Cardiff nuclear power plant has died in a variety of mysterious accidents.
  • Mayor Pain: Margaret/Blon has got herself elected Mayor of Cardiff as part of her plan to escape Earth. That the planet will be destroyed if she succeeds doesn't bother her.
  • Monster Sob Story: Invoked intentionally by Blon. In her previous appearance she was just one of many Slitheen who planned to initiate a nuclear holocaust simply so they could sell the radioactive remains of the Earth as starship fuel. When the heroes meet her again, her motives haven't improved much; she intends to nuke Cardiff (tearing apart the rift) in order to escape the planet. She certainly never pulls any sort of Heel–Face Turn, but attempts to forestall her own execution by explaining how horrible her life has been (she would have been killed if she'd refused to be a killer like the rest of her family) and how unnecessarily cruel her death will be (dissolved in boiling vinegar). In the end she does get a sort of second chance, as she is regressed to an egg and can start her life over.
  • Mook Promotion: Margaret, by virtue of being the only survivor of the Slitheen seen previously.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: An inversion, with the villain in what's usually Bond's position.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • Jack entertains the others with a story at lunch. We don't hear all the details, but it involved fifteen naked people running from something with tusks, with the punchline "I knew we should have turned left!"
    • Rose tells Mickey about a trip she and the Doctor took to a planet called Woman Wept.
  • Not a Date: The Doctor and Margaret/Blon at her last meal.
  • Not So Different: When the Doctor accuses Margaret of occasionally sparing an individual to help her live with herself for wiping out a whole planet, Margaret snaps that only someone who's also killed large groups of people could possibly make such an accusation. She also tries it earlier, pointing out that if the TARDIS group takes her back to her home planet — where they know that the death penalty is waiting for her — they'll be killers, just as she is.
  • Oh, Crap!: Implied by the offscreen dropped teacup.
  • Pet the Dog: Margaret Blaine decides not to kill an Intrepid Reporter when she reveals that she's engaged and pregnant. Subverted when the Doctor accurately accuses Margaret of only doing it to balance the evil things she's about to do.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Margaret/Blon tries this on the Doctor by poisoning his glass but it fails as he switches the glasses when he turns back to her.
  • Poison Ring: Margaret first attempts to kill the Doctor by pouring some poison out of a compartment in one of her rings into his drink when he isn't looking. He switches glasses as soon as he turns back around. So she then attempts to use some of her species' natural poisons and those fail as well.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Lampshaded. Margaret has no problem killing people who investigate her scheme too closely, but when a young reporter nearly cracks the case and, while unknowingly waiting to be murdered, mentions that she's pregnant with her soon-to-be husband's child, the alien takes pity and lets her go instead. Later, Margaret tries to use that act as a sign that she's capable of change, but the Doctor isn't convinced, pointing out that sparing one person is an easy way to forgive yourself for killing countless others. Margaret immediately turns the tables and snaps that only someone who had done that very action could possibly speak so eloquently about it. And as the above examples show, she's absolutely right — the Doctor has wiped out whole species or planets and left a select few alive, apparently making him a "good" guy for his merciful actions (despite doing most of the killing/wiping out himself).
  • Raise Him Right This Time: The Doctor and co. find someone to do this for Blon between episodes.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Margaret: This is persecution. Why can't you leave me alone? What did I ever do to you?
    The Doctor: You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet.
    Margaret: Apart from that!
  • See You in Hell: Jack, once everyone's got their "assignment".
  • Self-Deprecation: As Doctor Who is currently mostly filmed in Cardiff...
    Margaret: It's Cardiff. London doesn't care! The entire west coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn't notice.
  • Sequel Episode: To "Aliens of London"/"World War Three".
  • Shock Collar: The handcuffs Jack loans the Doctor are designed to shock Blon if she gets too far away from the Doctor.
  • Still the Leader: Played for laughs. When Captain Jack comes up with a detailed plan for cornering Margaret:
    The Doctor: Excuse me, who's in charge?
    Jack: Sorry. Awaiting orders, sir.
    The Doctor: [looks straight ahead, goes all commanding] Right, here's the plan! [grins] Like he said. Nice plan.
  • Teleportation: Extensively. A particularly funny scene has Margaret continually teleport herself while running away from the Doctor, but a poke on the sonic screwdriver has her immediately re-materialise running towards the Doctor. Even funnier is, every time Margaret is forced to re-materialize, she appears slightly closer to the Doctor every time.
    The Doctor: I can do this all day.
  • Tempting Fate: "Cardiff, early twenty-first century, winds coming from the... east. Trust me, safest place in the universe." Then the Doctor finds out there's a Slitheen plotting to blow the place up with a faulty nuclear power plant.
  • Title Drop: Invoked when the Doctor gets in to see Margaret/Blon.
    The Doctor: Just go in there and tell her the Doctor would like to see her.
    Secretary: Doctor who?
    The Doctor: Just the Doctor. Tell her exactly that. The Doctor.
  • Trash Landing: Blon escaped the destruction of 10 Downing Street with her emergency teleport, but landed in a skip in the Isle of Dogs.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted; when Rose gets upset over Mickey seeing another woman while she's been travelling with the Doctor, Mickey throws her own selfish and not-entirely-dissimilar behaviour back in her face.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Subverted when Margaret Blaine repeatedly runs away from the Doctor, only to be forcibly teleported back by her own device.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: The Doctor's retort when Blon brings up how she spared the reporter.
  • Weirdness Censor:
    • After the Doctor explains what a police box actually is, Mickey can't understand how people don't notice the anachronism. The Doctor responds with this trope.
    • Cathy notices the signs that the Mayor of Cardiff is transforming into an alien behind the door, but appears to buy her explanations of the "faulty lights" and "sore throat".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Blon brings this up while talking about the Doctor's habit of saving the day and swiftly departing, suggesting that he's afraid to hang around long enough to see the potential consequences of his actions. This theme gets touched upon in the very next episode in a very big way.
  • What He Said: As quoted above under Still the Leader, the Doctor, after telling Jack off for going ahead and announcing the plan, doesn't bother to repeat it, instead saying, "Like he said. Nice plan."
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Mickey really lets Rose have it in this episode, and you can't blame the guy. He spent a year not knowing where she was and everyone thought he'd killed her! She gave him a kiss and a smile and ran off with another guy, making him feel like he was nothing, and the worst thing is, she actually expected him to wait for her.
    • Margaret tries to give this to the Doctor during their "dinner date", trying to guilt him into letting her go. The closest she gets to making the Doctor reconsider is when she points out how the Time Lord's constant running and "never looking back" has had consequences.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: When everyone's angsting about having to take someone to their execution — even someone who's already tried to destroy a planet — Mickey tries to justify it with "She's not even human." It's clear he's only trying to convince himself. When he asks her if she'd really blow up a whole world just to escape, she replies "Like you'd step on an anthill."


"Mickey the Idiot."

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