TV Club: The Unquiet Dead

The last in RTD’s ‘present, future, past’ trilogy (a format he would repeat at the start of each of his series) brings us to The Unquiet Dead.

This is a story which went through quite the development process and even included a Pyramids of Mars-style ‘this is what the future will look like if we don’t defeat the baddie’ scene.

But, in the end we got Victorian funeral directors, ghosts and Charles Dickens for Rose’s first trip into history.

What are your thoughts on this story:

Available on iplayer:

And also on DVD and Bluray.

Just for fun, add your rating here:

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The first truly “meh” episode of NuWho. Enjoy it just fine while it’s on and it has some good bits, but one of the more forgettable episodes of S1 overall

I’m going to watch it again with the commentary on, but I’ve seen it so many times I can add some opinions now:

  • This is Mark Gatiss’ best story for the TV show by far.
  • For some reason I have a false memory that it’s a two-parter, with a cliffhanger when they are about to be killed by the Gelf. That scene must have made an impact on me during my first watch. The way he delivers this line:
Quote - spoiler

ROSE: But I can’t die. Tell me I can’t. I haven’t even been born yet. It’s impossible for me to die. Isn’t it?
DOCTOR: I’m sorry.

Incredible!

  • There are a lot of funny jokes, this episode makes me giggle.
  • There are a lot of sad bits. I love how Doctor Who can go from happy to sad in a heartbeat.
  • This also showed how compassionate and caring Rose is, as she was so concerned about Gwyneth. Also yay Eve Miles, glad we got her back in Torchwood after this.
  • First real occurrence of the Bad Wolf mentions - at the time remember internet theories abound at this. I really like the scene when Gwyneth is reading Rose’s mind.

This is a great episode! I gave it 4/5

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Haha it seems we disagree on this! I really like this episode a lot.

I’m glad it’s got fans! I have nothing against it, I just tend to forget all about it and when I do remember it, it’s mostly just for it’s role in setting up the Cardiff rift. May try to get around to a rewatch this week and see if I’ve got any different thoughts about it

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“What Phantasmagoria is this?”

Where “Rose” and “The End of the World” revolve around introducing Rose/the viewers to the crazy world and concept of Doctor Who, “The Unquiet Dead” is really the first proper adventure. It doesn’t have the “baggage” of introduction and can focus on being a single cohesive narrative.

It’s a ghost story, in Victorian times, with Charles Dickens! This really caters to me in the best way :+1: And it is Mark Gatiss writing to his strengths.

And the 9th Doctor and Charles Dickens is an amazing duo, but then again the Doctor is his number one method of keeping oneself cool :grin:

The Gelth trying to trick humanity to take us over is a story that has been told before but it is done in an interesting enough fashion that it doesn’t become mired in a predictable trope. Particularly the part where the Doctor and Rose have their discussion on a rather morbid piece of morality stands out here.

I absolutely get why Eve Myles was brought back for Torchwood, she is amazing in the role of Gwyneth. Her scene with Rose in the scullery is fantastic and the look on her face when she ignites the match at the end is superb - and her Welsh accent is just music to my ears.

Ranking: 4/5 :star: easily the best of the series so far for me :+1:

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Yeah, love this story. IIRC, the actor who played Charles Dickens was actually a bit of an expert on Dickens. He played the part well.

Gweneth was great. The moment at the end sticks with you, and I love her talking with Rose. Her being psychic is played well, too. Little things like preparing the Doctor’s tea exactly the way he likes it without being told.

I do rather like that for the first three episodes, we get a modern day story, a future space station episode, and a historical, too. It feels like RTD was trying to show new audiences a bit of what the scope of Doctor Who is.

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I used to dislike this episode but I found upon rewatch that it’s really not as bad as I remembered. Does it blow you away? No, of course not but it’s enjoyable. I love that they did a Victorian Ghost Story, it’s one of those basic concepts that just shines as like “Why has this not been done more?”

I think there’s a lot to be said that the Doctor wanting to help the Gelth so much comes from feeling guilty about the Time War as it’s heavily implied that the Time War is the reason they’ve been left in the state that they’re in. Their design is wonderful even if the CGI hasn’t aged massively well.

I guess my controversial opinion would be that I think the Doctor is right about the Gelth using the bodies of the dead but that’s a whole other moral debate that you get into.

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I have always seen this episode as a mid-episode that is a bit forgettable. But during my last watch of this, I enjoyed it and changed my mind. It is creepy in a good way and has good actors. I gave it 8/10

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Simon Callow did/does a one man show as Dickens performing his Christmas stories in theatres exactly like Dickens did in real life (as this episode opens with).

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My gut instinct is to say I don’t like this episode because historically I’ve found it a bit of a drag, but I haven’t watched it probably in years, so maybe I’ll give it another go and see what my opinion really is - I think the main issue is that I’m not a fan of Victorian era historicals in general :woman_shrugging:

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This was always one of my favourite S1 episodes. I love me a good historical episode, though, so that’s to be expected. I fell in love with Gwyneth from the first time I saw her, and her chat with Rose in the scullery always resonated with me.

I also remember it like that! Funny.

I agree with you there! I almost wish things had worked out and that would have been the ending we got, but I suppose keeping that up for the rest of time would have been a tad bit difficult.

I definitely need to rewatch and put some proper thoughts down.

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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle :recycle:

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I used to enjoy this one more but I think it is probably the most dull episode of Series 1 (/Season 27/Season -13). I think Dickens himself is quite fun, I loved The Doctor’s interactions with him in the carriage, a sort of nerding out we didn’t get to see as much of with 9 as some other incarnations.

It feels almost out of place with a lot of this season redoing 6th Doctor era stuff better, The Unquiet Dead just sort of exists as its own thing, establishing the new trope (Ik it has happened in Classic) of meeting historical figures and something related to what they’re famous for. Nice small feeling story, its just fine, competing with the Long Game for “worst” story of the season, but its a season of only good stories. And I do like the Long Game…

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The Unquiet Dead, AKA the 9th Doctor’s unofficial Christmas episode. I love this one, a fun romp but also has a sense of foreboding & dread. Simon Callow is perfect as Dickens. An episode I love rewatching.

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It’s interesting to read how many of you seem to have liked this episode more than you remembered! I believe this one tends to be a bit less popular among Eccleston’s episodes.

Mark Gatiss set the template for the modern-era historical with this one. It has a lovely Victorian atmosphere, great costume design and sets, and a fine performance from Simon Callow as Dickens (who ends up being pretty unlikeable). There are also many funny scenes, such as the “I’m your biggest fan” bit and the “I’m going to die in a dungeon in Cardiff” line.

The plot itself isn’t that exciting, and the pace is a bit slower. I find the Gelth to be a little underwhelming, even if the idea that they can reanimate corpses makes for a couple of tense scenes towards the end. However, the use of them is limited, and their motivations ultimately seem quite simple. Eve Myles is great here (though it’s weird to watch her here when she is so strongly attached to Torchwood).

Rose and Nine feel pretty comfortable, but they don’t stand out much, which ultimately leads to this being very standard fare.

Score: 71/100

By the way, remember the times the Doctor used to insist on their companions changing their attire to fit the time period? Those were good times!

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I like this episode quite a bit. For me it gives the first real sense of The Doctor running towards the danger because its fun. In Rose he is in the middle of the story already when we meet him and really its about opening Roses eyes to the fact the world is more than it seems. In End of the World we get a rather grumpy Doctor who is almost annoyed that he has to save the day. The casting, sets and overall story are great. Also this episode, if you think about it, reverberates through New Who for years to come.

Sorry for the ramble.

DMs always open.

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I think that rambling is the point of this site :blush:

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I seem to be on similar ground to most in this thread in that I remember being underwhelmed on first watch but a revisit opened my eyes to it’s positives - partiularly the stellar cast:

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I think this episode is pretty good. I think that the Gelth are a really interesting villain and they serve as another example of a species affected by the Time War which helps build on the early lore of the war. Gwyneth is the standout side character of the episode with great interactions with Rose and the one on one conversation between the two is great. Charles Dickens is probably my least favorite part of the episode with him not being particularly interesting to me. In the end, I would give this episode a solid 4/5

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