The Empty Child written by Steven Moffat introduces two things to the new series of Doctor Who that helped define it. Airing on 21 May, 2005, it made children in gas masks scary, especially if they ask “Are you my mummy?” and brought in a new character that made a huge impact, Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman).
The Doctor (Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) end up in 1941 London, when they receive an emergency signal from another time travelling ship. Once there, Rose finds herself bumping into Captain Jack who will woo anyone or thing, and the Doctor finds himself investigating a mystery that sees human DNA being rewritten.
Dark and funny, this episode introduced countless Whovians to the writing of Moffat, who in his time, would prove to be a decisive figure. But this story is a corker. So much so that it had to be spread over two episodes.
The story plays up some light humour, while also getting back to the idea that Doctor Who can be scary, and for some younger viewers, best viewed from behind the sofa.
The climax of the episode sees the Doctor being surrounded by the children in gas masks, closing in on him, right after Dr. Constantine (Richard Wilson), who is running an hospital ward filled with the same children, succumbs to the same rewriting of his DNA.
With Rose and Jack at his side, the group is left in a frightening cliffhanger, that, happily is resolved moments into the next episode.
The Doctor Dances, also penned by Moffat, aired on 28 May, 2005.
With the revelation that the emergency signal was faked by Jack to get their attention, the Doctor begins to realise that the ambulance ship that crashed in war-torn London wasn’t as empty as Jack claimed.
We were given the answer in the previous episode when Jack has his ship fix the injury on Rose’s hand. Nano genes. Unfortunately the first person they scanned was wearing a gas mask and dying, the repairing nano genes couldn’t differentiate the difference, having never encountered human DNA before, it rewrote all injuries or people they encountered to look like the reinvigorated gas mask children.
The episode races along, climaxing with the great line, “Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”
The episode is a solid conclusion to all the setup in the previous episode, and it also expands, just a bit, the Doctor and Rose relationship. Jack makes a nice addition to the team, and it also brings inclusion to the realm of Doctor Who in a nice way, something the Doctor takes completely in stride. If only the rest of the Earth could do the same, sigh.
Next week, the new trio take a brief respite in Cardiff before beginning the race to the conclusion of Series One.