Easily the most liked of the 9th Doctor’s adventures, “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances” is a classic episode. This episode has always held a special spot in my second heart. This was the episode where I officially got on board with this whole Doctor Who thing. When I started watching, I had people suggest that I start with “Blink,” but I am a completist, so I had to start at the beginning, or some kind of beginning, so I started with “Rose” and worked my through the first season. The first few episodes were ok, but kind of weird. This was the episode, though, that really sucked me in and kept me coming back through the rest of Eccleston’s time. It has everything I think you need to get to know your Doctor. In fact, if I were introducing someone to Doctor Who, this would be the episode I would tell the to start with, to maybe start with “Rose” and then skip to this two-part story.
Watching this again (and it was the first time in a while), it was interesting to see what stood out to me. I think the first time I watched it, I was focused on how creepy it was. The empty child was really pretty scary. I have a sister-in-law who watched the beginning of Doctor Who, but stopped at this story. I don’t think she even watched the second part, she was too creeped out. That is probably pretty extreme, but I can say I always felt like this was kind of on the scary side. Not horrifying, but I admit I was checking around corners and stuff afterward. Watching it this time, though, the creepiness factor was gone. I knew what Jamie was, I knew how it was going to end. As a result, I noticed other things that really make this story stand out.
One thing that really stood out to me was how the Doctor interacted with the kids, Nancy specifically, but all the kids too. He was friendly and warm to them, and comforting. He applauded them for being so bright as to steal food during the air raids. It was really kind of nice. I think, watching the episodes leading up to this one, we don’t see that side of the Doctor much, so it is nice to see it here. I like how he encourages Nancy to keep going and talks about how Britain and her people were so brave to stand up to Hitler, and how amazing they were. I love that kind of stuff. It really was an amazing thing that the British did stand up, alone, against Hitler for so long. The story of the Air Blitz on Britain is pretty incredible, historically speaking.
I also really liked the Doctor’s interaction with Dr. Constantine. This gives a glimpse of the Doctor’s character, who he was and what he’s been through. When Constantine says that at the beginning of the war he was both a father and a grandfather, but now he was neither, but he was still a doctor, and then the Doctor says “Yeah, I know what you mean.” We begin to get a glimpse of what the Doctor has lost, and part of why he is always running. Maybe not running away, but always to something, somewhere where he can help.
For me, the one down side, and I am ready for the negative responses, is this is the first appearance of Captain Jack. One of my least favorite “companions” of the Doctor. I just always felt slimy when he was on the show. Like he was always working something, and that bothers me. I know he is supposed to be a scoundrel, like Han Solo, but his character never hits that mark for me. It didn’t help to rematch it this time and seeing Arrow, where he plays Malcolm Merlin, who is always trying to pull a fast one. Unfortunately, that’s all I can see with Jack. I know that I am really in the minority here, and that’s ok. I get that people like him, and this is nothing against the actor, John Barrowman is a fantastic performer, and from what I’ve heard, a decent human being. I just don’t like Jack.
My favorite part of this episode, however, is the very end, when the Doctor shouts out “Everybody Lives, Rose, everybody lives!” This was the first moment in new Who, I think, when we see the Doctor as a hero. We have that doubt, since the first episode when Rose seeks out the computer guy who has been searching for the Doctor and tells her that death and despair follow him around. This is the moment I always think of when it comes into question whether the Doctor is a good man. I think of this moment every time, and think, “Yeah, he is a good man.”
What were your thoughts of “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”? Is it a classic, or is it just simply the best of a mediocre season? What were some of your favorite parts? Let me know in the comments.
The next episode I will be taking a look at, as chosen by our Facebook followers, it “The Parting of the Ways.” That should appear next Wednesday.