'THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES' COLLECTORS' EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1770) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2005.
The Doctor and Rose return to 1987 and the scene of her father’s tragic accident. But when she interferes in the course of events, the monstrous Reapears are unleashed upon the world, and a wedding day turns into a massacre.
14TH MAY 2005
Like many, I am a huge fan of Paul Cornell’s numerous landmark contributions to Doctor Who literature and audio drama, and so the prospect of an episode penned by him was a cause for excitement, to say the least. His episode’s intriguing billing only fuelled my excitement further, as Father’s Day promised a tale of time travel, paradoxes and broken Laws of Time; a tale of a girl who just, above all else, wanted to save her Daddy’s life.
With typical aplomb, Cornell threw us straight into the mêlée. Within just a few scenes Rose had altered history, her Father was alive, the world was changed, and her relationship with the Doctor was in tatters. Cornell’s trademark fusion of cutting edge science-fiction and gut-wrenching human drama has never worked better than it did here, perhaps because the toys that he has to play with in this fantastic new series are more malleable and - in my view, at least - altogether more interesting than those that he’s dabbled with in the past.
“He died so close to home. It was a hit and run driver. I only wish there'd have been someone there for him.”
I’ve always wanted to see a story like this where the Doctor’s companion actually succeeds in altering history. Right from the earliest days of William Hartnell’s Doctor, we have been regularly warned of the difficulties and indeed the dangers of altering history, yet the classic series never took the time to explicitly demonstrate these as Cornell does here. And thanks to the demise of the Time Lords, Father’s Day is able to really take the gloves off and finally show us why the Doctor’s people were so keen to uphold their stringent Laws of Time.
“They're like bacteria, taking advantage....”
In an emotional and character-driven story such as this, an intelligent and verbose baddie would never have worked, and so the monstrous Reapers introduced here are truly that - monstrous. Cornell needed a brutal and relentless force of nature; a primal race of beings that feed on wounds in time”, effectively consuming any divergent timelines, and that is exactly what he gave us. In this respect, the Reapers are similar to the Chronovores of The Time Monster and The Quantum Archangel, leading some fans to posit that the two races are indeed one and the same. Whether this was the writer’s intention or not I don’t know; but
I do know that, be they Reapers or Chronovores, these creatures work extremely well here, and the Mill have done and absolutely outstanding job of rendering them, particularly given that they appear for the most part in broad daylight.
Series composer Murray Gold also warrants a mention for his sensational score this week, which I think it’s fair to say is his most beautiful to date. The sooner the original soundtrack gets released on CD, the better!
“There is a man alive in the world, who wasn't alive before. An ordinary man.
That's the most important thing in creation. The whole world is different, because he's alive.”
However, there is no question that Father’s Day will be best remembered for the heart-rending performances of both Shaun Dingwall and Billie Piper, who play Pete and Rose Tyler. Pete is a superlative piece of characterisation in any event - a loveable rogue in the 1980s “Del Boy” mould on the outside, yet underneath a caring man all too aware of his
own shortcomings - but used as he is here, in the most stirring of storylines, he positively shines.
“I never read you those bedtime stories, or took you on those picnics.
I was never there for you, but I can do this for you. I can be a proper Dad to you now..”
I think what makes Pete’s journey in Father’s Day so compelling and affecting is that the script shows us a snapshot of Pete’s whole world before it ends it. We see his hair brain schemes, his philandering ways, his rows with Jackie; even his love for his family. We see him fret about going bald. About making ends met. About showing Jackie how to work the VCR.
We see him sacrifice his life to save the world.
The mundane and the incredible, hand in hand.
Camille Coduri also contributes another wonderful turn as Jackie Tyler. It was lovely to see her younger and even feistier than we are used to, fighting tooth and nail with the husband that she has evidently put up on a pedestal ever since his death.
“Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home - I've never had a life like that…”
Further, in what was perhaps the most Rose-oriented episode to date - which is saying a lot, given the title of the series’ first episode - Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor was not neglected either, enjoying some of his most powerful scenes yet. The scene in the Tylers’ flat and in particular his “another stupid ape” outburst really showed us the vulnerability in this damaged old Time Lord, as did the lovely scene in the Church where he promised to try and save the newly weds, having heard and been enchanted by the everyday story of how they fell in love. For me, these two scenes encapsulated this riveting new Doctor exquisitely. There was also something about the Doctor being stood in the pulpit that felt strangely appropriate...
“I had all these extra hours, no-one else in the world has ever had that.”
The final ten minutes of the episode were almost unbearable; not because they were poor, but because they were so profoundly moving, not to mention painfully uplifting. Though the story’s resolution was predictable - one might even say inevitable - the final scene between Rose, Jackie and Pete was an out-and-out tear-jerker, the like of which televised Doctor Who has never seen before.
When all is said and done, with this episode Doctor Who’s most celebrated novelist has potentially crafted one of the greatest Doctor Who television stories ever told, and certainly the most unique. Father’s Day is one of the most emotional and truly gripping shows that the series has ever done - exhausting to watch, but well worth enduring every single tug on the old heart strings.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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