Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S01E09 – The Empty Child

In the ninth episode of the first series of Doctor Who, our time traveling friends land in the midst of World War II in London while chasing a mysterious (and dangerous) metal cylinder through time. They discover that the cylinder is slowly transforming residents of London into the most awful creatures imaginable. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

I need to stop making superlative statements about Doctor Who because, frankly, I’ve seen just a sliver of the full story and my thoughts keep changing. Maybe I’ll just preface everything with so far.

SO FAR, I actually think the Empty Children are way creepier than anything we’ve seen yet. I don’t know why children, when utilized correctly, end up being so scary. Here, they’re much like lifeless zombies in the way they amble down corridors, through alleyways, and they are just awful.

Anyway, I suppose I should back up because quite a bit happens of interest before we ever fully get to see these…things. I don’t really know what to call them, so Empty Children will have to do.

Steven Moffat does a fine job of weaving multiple complex, mysterious storylines together in “The Empty Child,” focusing on Nancy, the Doctor, and Rose/Jack Harkness and how the three of them intersect. I like that the episode is also set in a World War, giving a sense of frantic urgency to everything that these people are doing. And what they are doing, for the most part, is trying to figure out how on earth this mysterious cylinder is turning people into this:

I know that the CGI standards and budgets for these episodes isn’t quite what we have in the US for some of our TV and I am perfectly ok with that. I loved the transformation effect because it was so jarring and weird. I figured that the cylinder was alien in origin, but what on earth would cause aliens to look like that?

Moffat spends a few moments with Nancy, an orphan girl who takes care of other homeless children by stealing food from richer people as they hide in air-raid shelters. The Doctor follows Nancy into the home of one of the families hiding in a shelter, and that’s when he learns how she helps keep these children fed. The scene where the Doctor sits down for dinner is probably going to be one of my favorite of season one; the Doctor’s silly humor works well with children and is greatly contrasted with the stoic anger of Nancy. I enjoyed that her anger wasn’t diluted, though, by making her look foolish for reacting the way she does to the Doctor. We know that the Doctor has good intentions, but how can she possibly know, especially after what’s happened in London?

I have to admit that this episode cycles through some of the most-used horror tropes around and somehow, I still liked it. There’s a mysterious knock at the door. A child wearing a gas mask is outside, asking for his mummy. (This is the same child that gets Rose in trouble, but we’ll get to that.) The child can “control” electronic devices. His voice is creepy. Sometimes we only see the child’s legs or his shadow. All familiar imagery and tropes and yet I couldn’t help feeling disturbed by all this.

The Doctor, always quick to do what he needs to in order to figure out these sort of mysteries, follows Nancy to an abandoned train yard and confronts her. He’s figured out that the cylinder and this bizarre affliction are connected to the cylinder that fell a month before, the same cylinder the TARDIS was following. Still reluctant to share everything (I have a feeling Nancy is still hiding something), she does reveal that there’s a man inside a hospital nearby, a Doctor Constantine, who knows what’s going on. That’s when she also admits that she is so caring of the children because she lost her brother in an air raid recently. Just calling it now….her brother is totally that first little boy with the disease. CALLING IT.

Meanwhile, miles away, Rose is getting into trouble! She initially follows the strange boy up to a roof and then uses a rope hanging OUT OF NOWHERE to try and get to him. I don’t think Rose is particularly naive or clueless at all. But I had to giggle at the thought that she would just grab on to a rope hanging from the middle distance. That rope, by the way, is attached to a balloon that continues to move and lift off the roof. And that’s when we’re introduced to a new character: Captain Jack Harkness. Jack feels like the quintessential American male in a lot of ways, though the fact that he’s a Time Agent suggests that perhaps he isn’t human at all. (And what on earth is the Time Agency? We don’t get any information about that whatsoever.) Regardless, “The Empty Child” also explores the relationship between the smooth, arrogant Harkness and Rose, who is impressed with a number of things he says and does. (Honestly, though, it’s the nanogenes that does it for me. John Barrowman, who plays Harkness, is pretty attractive, but his attitude grates on my nerves. But nanogenes that heal any illness? COUNT ME AS A FAN.)

The romantic spark these two feel for each other is palpable and believable, at least for me. There’d been a few moments earlier where Rose sort of complained about the weird ways and methods that the Doctor has and here, she gets to see another time traveler who is much more consistent and apparently modern than the Doctor. I think there’s more to this than what we see, and I’m basing that off the conversation they have while hanging out in front of Big Ben. (That’s the second spaceship show with Big Ben in the series, by the way.) Harkness feels a bit slimy and I don’t really trust him. He’s a “freelance” Time Agent who is looking to sell something he’s come into contact with, thereby treating Rose as if she’s an agent as well. Well, he treats her like she can actually act in this capacity, and then he hits on her. What a swell guy.

That “thing” he wants to sell is his ship, a fully equipped Chula warship. Why on earth would you want to sell that amazing thing that has a tractor beam and nongenes on board? Unless nanogenes aren’t that expensive and you can buy more with the selling of the ship…in that case, SELL THE SHIP. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: Ok, I got confused watching this. Clearly, he is trying to sell the CYLINDER, not the ship. Once he said “Chula warship,” I guess my brain assumed he meant his own ship.]

I’m easily pleased if you can’t tell yet.

Let’s go back to the Doctor, who finds Dr. Constantine inside this spooky hospital with nothing but a bunch of the Empty Children. Only I guess I should stop calling them that because we see that children are not the only ones affected by this: there are plenty of full grown adults in the hospital. Dr. Constantine confirms the Doctor’s suspicions that the cylinder caused the first victim to spread this bizarre disease upon touch. My hunch proved to be correct; that first victim was Nancy’s younger brother.

So what on earth is this thing? We don’t get an answer from Dr. Constantine because he succumbs to the effects of the infection right before the Doctor’s eyes. I have no problem admitting that I wanted to turn away at the site of the gas mask forming on Constantine’s face. It’s seriously a ghoulish, haunting image. WAY TO GO, DOCTOR WHO.

Even worse, when Jack and Rose finally show up, the tension grows significantly in addition to the horror of not knowing what all this is or what’s causing it. Jack is dismissive of the Doctor’s concerns about the cylinder that fell to earth, but we get to see Eccleston rage a bit at Jack as they argue. Jack finally says that the cylinder was actually an ambulance. WHAT. An ambulance? How does that make any sense?

I didn’t look up in advance which episodes were arcs and I was so engrossed in this eerie story that I never looked at what time it is. So when the corpses, clad in gas masks, all rise and begin asking for their mummy, when Nancy realizes she is not home alone because her brother has returned to find her, I groaned loudly when it became clear this was going to end on a cliffhanger.

DAMN IT. I don’t have a single goddamn theory as to what any of this is! Why would an ambulance do this to people? Or, better yet, what was in the ambulance that would kill people and turn them into….whatever those things are?



  • “One day, just one day, maybe, I’m going to meet somebody who gets the whole “Don’t wander off” thing.
  • “Oh, and could you switch off your cell phone? No, seriously, it interferes with my instruments.” “You know, no one ever believes that.”
  • “And I’m looking for a blonde in a Union Jack. A specific one, mind you, I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.”
  • I think the best dialogue was when Nancy asked if The Doctor’s ears had special powers too. LOVE.
  • “Mister Spock???” “What what I supposed to say? You don’t have a name! Don’t you ever get tired of “Doctor”? Doctor Who?”
  • “Is it safe?” “Perfectly.” [EXPLOSION] “Okay, reasonably. Should have said reasonably there.”
  • Best line of the episode? “1941. Right now, not very far from here the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it, nothing until one tiny, damp little island says, “No.” No, not here. A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing. The lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me. Off you go, then. Do what you got to do. Save the world.”

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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344 Responses to Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S01E09 – The Empty Child

  1. Steve M says:

    Welcome to the world of Steven Moffat Mark, I've been looking forward to your hitting these two episodes ever since I found out you were going to do this show. My personal favourites out of the entire season and, frankly, The Moff holds that title for every single season that followed IMO.

    • Steve M says:

      Oh, forgot to mention:

      a) For a writer previously known best for comedy Moffat is (easily) the writer most likely to give you nightmares on Who.

      b) The gas mask people are indeed bloody scary…. but (and I'm being very very careful to avoid spoilers here) they are as fluffy kittens to what awaits many episodes down the road. Trust me, you'll know when you get there. Heck, the recently aired Christmas Special had an idea at its heart (again, no spoilers) that made me reluctant to let go of my wife for at least three days afterwards.

      • xpanasonicyouthx says:

        are you STEVEN MOFFAT????

      • FlameRaven says:

        This is exactly what I was going to say. Stephen Moffat is responsible for what are generally regarded as both some of the better episodes… and those episodes are all also CREEPY AS HELL. Seriously. And then in Season 5 he takes over as head of the show. Apparently he takes the "behind the couch" thing seriously- if you're not terrified, he's not doing his job or something.

        Also, this was the first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw. Even though it ends on a cliffhanger, I… didn't actually know there was a Part 2 to this for a long time. o_O It was upsetting.

    • MichelleZB says:

      I loved every single one of Steven Moffat's episodes when RTD was showrunner; now Moffat is showrunner and I don't like his writing as much. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? I don't know. Anyway, I guess I should elaborate in case of spoilers.

      I realise this is an unpopular opinion.

      • Openattheclose says:

        Well, I will sit over here with you, because while I don't think his episodes since he's been showrunner have been awful, I do think Moffat's episodes were way better when he wasn't the showrunner. Also, while I had some problems with RTD, I think he was a better showrunner. And I really need to think of a synonym for showrunner because I used it like 5 billion times. Headwriter? Is that his official position?

      • RUMyMommy says:


        This is how I feel too. I liked all of Moffat's stuff but when left to do an entire season I don't know. Still good but I'm going to stop so I don't say anything else. Part of the season felt flat? Idk.

        • MichelleZB says:

          Okay, I'm glad you and Openattheclose think so too, because I feel a lot less insane. I totally agree. It just feels a bit flat, and it's not Matt or the new actors. It feels like the writing.

          Maybe he's better at one-off episodes? Like, get in, scare the crap out of people, get out? Rather than plotting out a whole arc? I DON'T KNOW LEAVE ME ALONE.

    • flootzavut says:

      Moffat rules

      And I had forgotten this line:

      â– “And I’m looking for a blonde in a Union Jack. A specific one, mind you, I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.”

      Thanks mark. Made me laugh a lot 😀

  2. Slytherinnit says:

    Omg you updated us *goes to read*

  3. xghostproof says:

    Every time I see a gas mask now my mind automatically yells at me "ARE YOU MY MUMMY?" and I end up thinking about this episode the rest of the day.

    Doesn't help that creepy kids are always extra creepy to me.

  4. barnswallowkate says:

    – Nancy <3
    – Jack Harkness <3
    – Jack Harkness' coat <3333333
    – This episode has so many great lines. "Finally, a professional!"
    – Shortly after I saw this I was in a restaurant and some kid behind me started saying, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!" It took everything I had not to get up and run away.

  5. NB2000 says:

    Steven Moffat FEEDS ON FEAR. I think it is important that you know this.

    Nancy is five kinds of awesome and I kind of love her.

    As if cymbal banging monkeys weren't creepy enough, having the child's voice coming out of one made them even worse.

    • Steve M says:

      To borrow a phrase from TV Tropes: Moffat is the drunken captain of the oil tanker full of nightmare fuel that's headed full speed ahead straight for the rocky coast of your dreams.

      Five full seasons of New Who have convinced me that this is the truest statement ever commited to teh Interwebz

  6. Mudkipasaurus says:

    It think when he says he wants to sell a ship, he's not referring to his ship specifically.

  7. calimie says:

    Are you my mommy?

    And now that I've read it: I've spent the last three hours reloading this page. I LOVE this episode, easily my favourite ever. I love Jack, slimy and all, I love Nancy, the boys, the Doctor, Doctor Constantine (no trenchcoat?) and I'm still scared of the Empty Child. To me, this episode is perfect.

  8. Tauriel says:

    I love this episode, together with its follow-up episode (I always count two-parters as one story) it's one of my top 10 DW episodes (from NuWho, that is; I haven't seen enough of the classic series). The little boy with the gas mask is creepy as hell (as is the "Are you my Mummy?" line).

  9. who cares says:

    "I'd rather have Doctor Who than Star Trek." Actual line that was cut from this episode.

    Also yay Captain Jack and the introduction of the gay agenda, well the anything that moves agenda.

  10. cdnstar says:

    This double episode arc is my favourite 'episode' of S1. I still get freaked out by the 'Are you my mommy?'…

    My random thoughts on the episode:
    – love the scene in the club when everyone starts laughing at the Doctor because he asks them if they've seen anything fall from the sky.
    CAPTAIN JACK. Yes, he's bloody arrogant, but I have grown to love him over the years. I am not allowed to say more, but <3
    – Psychic paper – you now have a name for your weird identification paper! I like how it gives away a bit more information than Rose wanted, when she hands it to Jack.
    – And I agree on this being the best line: “1941. Right now, not very far from here the German war machine is rolling up the map of Europe. Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it, nothing until one tiny, damp little island says, “No.” No, not here. A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing. The lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me. Off you go, then. Do what you got to do. Save the world.”. I had actually quoted it down last night to post here, and now you stole it from me. Though … I was able to rewatch the whole arc and not just the first half … so I'll forgive.
    – Second to this: Nancy: Something wrong with that? // The Doctor: Wrong with it? It's brilliant. I'm not sure if it's Marxism in action or a West End musical!

  11. Danielle says:

    ALL HAIL THE GRAND MOFF. This two-parter is the best thing in the first series. I know they're using familiar horror tropes, but they're familiar because they WORK. Moffat is the Devil. His logic for Stuff To Put In Doctor Who often runs along the lines "I used to have this recurring nightmare as a kid. That'd be AWESOME in an episode."

    (P.S. I need to nitpick: Jack was trying to sell the cylinder, not his own ship OH GOD I CAN'T HELP IT I'M SORRY)

  12. Angela490 says:

    everyone is so damn scared of those…mask-people!
    But honestly they're also incredibly sad, somehow, aren't they?
    And Mark, it'll get worse, believe me. One of my favorite episodes in general and favorite from that season, definitely.

    • amandajane5 says:

      Scared and sad both – and the Confidential on this one is great! They couldn't actually find period gas masks so had to make their own, so they're slightly (slightly) scarier than real ones.

  13. echinodermata says:

    Whee, this was my first DW episode! What a way to start.

    Why is it that little kids make the creepiest monsters? And then you add the gas mask, and it's just JESUS CHRIST GET IT AWAY FROM ME. (Thank you Moffat for your ability to scare me like none other). The mask transformation with Dr. Constantine is great, but what really makes it for me is the eyes, where they come out and look like bug eyes and then just get bigger and bigger. *shudders*

    And there's so much more I want to say, but it all basically needs to wait for the next review. Curse you, two-parters!

    <img src=""&gt;

    • Steve M says:

      Oh my, what a way to start! Actually a friend of mine asked me for one, just ONE, story from the first two seasons of New Who to watch to see if they liked it and I recommended this. What I didn't know at the time (but good lord did I know afterwards) was they were going to watch it alone. After midnight. With the lights off. Wearing headphones so as not to disturb the rest of the house. Oops.

    • niamheryoumind says:

      Yes, that musical sting that means YOU MUST WAIT A WEEK TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS! I HATED THAT AS A KID AND NOW I HATE IT MORE! Oh those end credits! ¬¬

  14. Tauriel says:

    Also, re: Steven Moffat and fear factor: You absolutely definitely MUST watch Jekyll! It's beyond awesome. And scary as hell.

  15. kaleidoscoptics says:

    Maybe I'm misreading, but Jack doesn't want to sell HIS ship. He wants to sell that thing that crashlanded, the cylinder thing. That's what he was calling a Chula Warship, even though it was really an ambulance.

    Moffat is great at horror. This episode isn't really wet your pants scary, but it has this ever-present eerieness about it that's wonderful. The Child is so incredibly creepy, and probably would be even if he didn't have a gasmask melded onto his face. And Captain Jack! He's such an asshole here, but you gotta admit the plan is clever. But I can't say much more because spoilers. ):


    <img src=>
    <img src=>

  16. who cares says:

    “One day, just one day, maybe, I’m going to meet somebody who gets the whole “Don’t wander off” thing.

    Then again there wouldn't be much of a plot if they didn't wander off.

    • Sierra says:

      I think he keeps companions around because double the trouble, double the fun!

    • sabra_n says:

      Nah. "Don't wander off" is like "Stay in the car, Chuck." It pretty much doesn't matter whether the order is obeyed – some people are just trouble magnets. 😀

  17. quizzabella says:

    Oh I was waiting for this – honestly this two parter might be my favourite Doctor Who episode(s) ever. Can't really say much without giving things away, but Captain Jack.. well see what you think of him in the next episode.. Nancy is great, and I love the way that the Doctor genuinely admires her and the rest of the people enduring the Blitz. He can be a bit dismissive about humans, but here he seems almost humbled by their bravery.
    "Are you my mummy?" Such an innocent phrase said by a little kid/thing should not be so frickin creepy.
    Rose though – I adore you, but a union jack t-shirt? Way to not fit into your surroundings.

    • Hypatia_ says:

      To be fair, I don't think she knew she was about to land smack in the middle of the London Blitz.

      Though her dress sense can be questionable at the best of times :-). Love her anyway.

    • amandajane5 says:

      She did say she wasn't sure about it and was just giving it a try, so…a modicum of fashion sense?

  18. psycicflower says:

    *headtilt* Are you my Mummy?

    Did you recognise the name of the hospital? It’s the same building the space pig was taken to in the Slitheen two parter.

    Hello Captain Jack Harkness.
    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">
    I know people can have fairly mixed opinions about John Barrowman himself but god I love Jack. Champagne, Big Ben, Glenn Miller, invisible alien space ship, that coat. He really knows how to work his charm and I like that we know what his game was since he's a con man but he's still mysterious with talk of Time Agents.

    I also love Nancy. She's doing the best she can for those around her in very hard circumstances. I also love how she treats the meal like a proper one with rules and manners and how the children aren't allowed to bad mouth the home owners because it would be impolite.
    I totally agree with your favourite quote. ‘You’re amazing. The lot of you.’ It's that hope in the ordinary again.

    Me and exbestfriend talked about this the other night but Doctor Who is great at building up tension with what little budget they have. I mean the monster is basically a small child in a mask asking for his mother and yet it’s really scary stuff. Equally I love how the nanogenes are just lights, simple, pretty yet effective.

    And finally obligatory gif
    <img src="; border="0" alt="Image and video hosting by TinyPic">

  19. buyn says:

    This episode is given a 5 out of 5 for scariness. I do not blame them. This episode still makes me whimper. But Cap'n Jack <3. Him and his Hubby are adorable. Well, John's Hubby, not Jack's.

    Also: BUMBUMBUM.

  20. Albion says:

    OMG at last, I was F5ing like mad.

    I like that mauve is the universally recognised colour for danger, 'cause red is just camp.

  21. Maya says:


    Seriously, this two parter is my favorite "episode" of Doctor Who. Ever. It's got the creepy, the romance, the humor, the Moff…they're as close as it gets to perfect IMHO.

    I love the introduction of Captain Jack as a character. He's just so different than anything we'd seen prior and he's so FUN. Not to mention the fact that John Barrowman is one attractive man. SO MUCH LOVE.

    • pica_scribit says:

      Mmm…I could look at Jack/John for hours. He's such a twist on the cheesy all-American thing. Can't help but love him.

  22. kelseyintherain says:

    I have been waiting for this review ALL DAY!
    Congratulations, Mark, on your very first Moffat episode. Here's to future nightmare fuel and phobias!

    Anyway, I really love this episode/arc. Moffat is a fantastic story teller and it really shows here I think.

  23. Randomcheeses says:

    And thus you are introduced to Moffat, he who is the creator of Nightmare Fuel. Have fun. =D

    Also: Captain Jaaaack! <3

  24. Danielle says:

    It's very subtle in that shot, and you have to be looking for it, but you can see the back of his skull. There's no face under the mask; it's completely hollow.

  25. karate0kat says:

    I watched this episode for the first time alone, at night, in a basement apartment with only one exit. I slept with the lights on that night. Fucking creepy ass kids.

    Jack grew on me. But I don't want to say anything else on that just yet.

  26. murgatroid1 says:

    You know how Doctor Who can be all deeply emotional and stuff like in Father's Day? Yeah, it can also be THE MOST TERRIFYING THING ON TELEVISION.

    That's all I have to say today, I'll post a proper reply once you've seen the second part. In the meantime though, here is a GIF of an adorable kitten.

    <img src=""&gt;

  27. inessita says:

    "Are you my mummy?" still scares my. SO CREEPY.

    And Captain Jack? Well. Not going to say more.

  28. rys says:

    Love this episode! So creepy and full of great lines. And Captain Jack adds a hilarious dimension to the Doctor and Rose: he's so flirty and cocksure.

  29. monkeybutter says:

    I'm only a casual Doctor Who fan, but I've seen these episodes a half dozen times and I don't think I'll love any episodes more than these. I don't know if it's my stereotypical American obsession with WWII, Jack Harkness, or the creepiness of the kids in gas masks. Throw in some cheesy tractor beams and I'm sold.

    I love the scene with the Doctor in the nightclub when he asks the crowd if they've seen anything falling from the sky lately. Blitz stand-up <3

  30. Thennary Nak says:

    I love how this two parter is right after Father's Day since you end up with a good string of brilliant episodes and it makes you feel like the quality of the show in general has just kicked it up a few notches.

    I would love to gush about the episode but I'm afraid I won't be able to stop getting into spoilers for the next episode. So I'm just going to wait until tomorrow.

  31. who cares says:

    Talking about TV-Tropes Are You My Mummy is an actual trope on there. Now don't go looking it up as it spoils part 2.

  32. Minish says:

    OMG WE'RE FINALLY HERE! YAAAAAAAAAAAY! My f5 key has been totally raped. It's taking legal action. THIS IS SERIOUS.

    Err… sorry. Bit excited. LOOOOOOOVE this episode (I count two-parters as one episode). It's so dark and creepy and mysterious and emotional. Not only is this episode scary, it's also really clever and well-written. Steven Moffat is my favorite Doctor Who writer. Mark, never has this been said more aptly, YOU ARE NOT PREPARED.

    That poor girl must be absolutely terrified being stalked by her dead little brother. =( What's worse, having a dead brother, or having a dead brother that won't stay dead?

    What I love about this episode is that it doesn't take place during WWII for the sake of it, WWII is actually an integral part of the story, and it lends itself to the story really well.



    • Sierra says:

      "What's worse, having a dead brother, or having a dead brother that won't stay dead? "

      I think that's what makes that particular kid extra creepy. She's not only emotionally haunted by losing him, but he's actually _physically_ haunting her and there's nothing she can do to fix it or make him go away. *shudders*

    • Natalie says:

      "My f5 key has been totally raped. It's taking legal action. THIS IS SERIOUS. "

      No. Rape is serious. This quote is gross.

      • Minish says:

        In hindsight, the "this is serious" bit might have been a poor choice of words, but on the whole, I don't really find anything wrong with it. Then again, I probably have a darker sense of humor (not that it was particularly funny. At the time, I thought it was hilarious but I was a bit excited and couldn't think straight enough to be witty). I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree.

        • doesntsparkle says:

          "this is serious," isn't the problem. The problem is comparing something frivolous to sexual assault, which is a worldwide epidemic and using the word lightly diminishes the effect it has on victims and normalizes it. It has nothing to do with a dark sense of humor.

          • LadyLately says:

            I like to tell people I'm okay with murder jokes because there's no cultural thing about 'real' murder. I'll not freak at rape jokes when the same applies. Maybe. Long way to go.

        • Natalie says:

          I can guarantee that at least one person who reads this blog is a rape survivor, but there are probably several. That is how common rape is. The fact that you "don't really find anything wrong" with joking about rape is disgusting but the fact that you casually toss that word out when a rape survivor is certain to see it is extremely callous and absolutely unacceptable. The fact that you don't understand why this is unacceptable and haven't apologized just makes it worse. Your dark sense of humor does not take priority over the ability for members of this community to feel safe and comfortable

          • arctic_hare says:


          • Minish says:

            Does it count if that one person also happens to be the person that wrote it? Are you telling me I should be insulted by my own comment?

            Look, I understand that you all are just trying to be considerate, and I don't fault you on that. You're certainly not wrong for not wanting anyone's feelings to be hurt. Good on you, you're all very nice people. But you have to realize there's a difference between pointing at someone's face and saying "haha, you were raped!" and just making casual jokes. It's something I've had to come to acknowledge and it's actually ended up helping me. It helps me feel less like a victim. (Though, I should point out, that's not entirely the reason. It'd be a bit counterproductive if everything I do was just a coping mechanism for what happened instead of just trying not to let it encompass my life.)

            Not everything has to be taken 100% seriously ALL THE TIME. Yes, there's always bound to be someone who's going to be a bit sensitive to a particular joke, but that doesn't mean you have to always take into consideration EVERYONE'S feelings simultaneously on the chance that they read and are offended by your joke, otherwise all comedy would be really lame.

            But, yunno, that's just my opinion. I understand that you may not share it and I totally respect that.

            I was really hoping not to turn "I raped my f5 key" into a soapbox about political correctness.

            • echinodermata says:

              Look, you've offended people. Your own experiences do not negate the fact that other people were hurt by your comment. It's understandable that you feel defensive, and I'm sorry for whatever you've had to go through, but not everyone can joke about such things, and not everyone gets triggered to the same severity as someone else.

              Also, using "lame" as an insult REALLY isn't helping your cause.

              Honestly, I know I, and I imagine many others, would appreciate an acknowledgment that what you wrote hurt people, that the responses you're getting aren't simply about people being overly "considerate" and "PC", and that you'll learn from this and maybe avoid such jokes in public spaces in the future.

              I understand where you're coming from, but I hope your reconsider the stance you've taken in this comment.

  33. karate0kat says:

    Speaking of Captain Jack…are there any Stargate SG1 fans here?

    Picture this: Captain Jack meets Vala Mal Doran.

    I'll just wait here and giggle while you try to wrap your heads around those two coexisting.

  34. Steve M says:

    When you get right down to it Who should scare the living hell out of kids (and, it at all possible, adults). You should watch it from the traditional place behind the sofa and the best monsters become part of pop culture for no reason other than people can't stop having nightmares about them. Moffat just happens to be worryingly good at doing this while, at the same time, writing a story that you can't tear yourself away from.

    On the upside he also gave us Karen Gillan which I'd like to think is his way of saying sorry for the scares 😀

  35. carma_bee says:

    I was SO excited for you to watch this episode because I really love these two episodes. I love the story and how the Moff can make something so scary, I love the Doctor in these episodes, and I do love Captain Jack a lot.

    Also, I didn't know this until maybe a year ago, but Richard Wilson, who is Dr Constantine, is also Gaius on Merlin. A doctor in both!

    • who cares says:

      I didn't know this until this week. I was watching this and went. WTF, He was Gauis all along and I never noticed?

    • echinodermata says:

      Bonus: Dr. Constantine works at Albion Hospital in this ep.

    • NB2000 says:

      That makes Dr Constantine being infected so much worse if you're a Merlin fan. NO GAIUS!!

    • murgatroid1 says:


      How did I not notice this?????

    • sabra_n says:

      Huh. I can think of at least two other Merlin cast members with Who involvement, and I don't even watch the former show. There really are only 100 actors in Britain. 😛

      • carma_bee says:

        When I thought about it a couple of days ago, I thought up of 8 actors who were in both, and I've just learned from wikipedia of two more and there are probably more than that. It's almost like a game, to think of what other shows an actors been in, or what shows/movies connect different actors. Like Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley) is the grandson of Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor), and he's also been in an episode of Merlin.

  36. arctic_hare says:


    Er, pardon me, I've just been SO EXCITED for you to get to this arc, this is my FAVORITE of the first series and one of my favorites of the entire series. <3 SO. MUCH. LOVE. Welcome, indeed, to the wonderful world that is Moffat episodes! And yes, as others have said, he feeds on fear and I adore him for it. ALSO I LOVE CAPTAIN JACK FOR EVER AND ALWAYS. Have not watched his spinoff, granted, but I immediately fell in love with him here.

    oh god this is amazing <3

  37. nanceoir says:

    All I can add is that it's nice to see all this love for Nancy; as a fellow Nancy, I can pretend all the affection is for me. Okay, not really, but it's nice hearing the Doctor address you. *hangs head in pathetic embarrassment*

  38. darth_eowyn says:

    I started with Torchwood (about a week and a half ago), and it's great seeing how Jack was first introduced in Doctor Who. Although I wish I could have seen it somewhat less spoiled.

    And this episode took my being creeped out by gas masks to a whole new level. Not only do they look like insect eyes, they push their way out of your throat and FUSE TO YOUR FACE. EEEEK.

  39. Vicki Louise says:

    “Country after country, falling like dominoes. Nothing can stop it, nothing until one tiny, damp little island says, “No.” No, not here. A mouse in front of a lion. You’re amazing. The lot of you. Don’t know what you do to Hitler, but you frighten the hell out of me." One of my favourite lines of this series. When i was at school i was always taught about the devastating things that happened during WW2, the people that died, families that were torn apart, buildings and homes destroyed, but i was never told that it was okay to feel proud and grateful for what they did and what they sacrificed, they fought so i, and my future generations, could live freely.
    Then the Moff goes and tramples over my new found patriotism by making me wee myself in fear when Richard Wilson (Dr Constantine, Victor Meldrew from One Foot in the Grave and Gaius from Merlin<3) suddenly vomits up a gas mask! Needless to say this episode totally creeped me out!
    This in where Rose's calm-in-the-face-of-certain-death attitude really annoys me! If i was hanging from a balloon, in the middle of a German air raid with a Union Flag on my chest i would be FREAKING-THE-FUCK-OUT!!!
    John Barrowman <3 *swoon*

  40. thirty2flavors says:

    Unpopular opinion tiem: I do not love these episodes.

    I don't hate them, either, but they're not my favourites of s1 and they're not my favourites of Moffat's, either. I rewatched these recently to try and figure out why because they're so unanimously loved by fandom, and I think it is just that I find Rose kind of annoying and a bit OOC. IDK IDK I'm just not feelin' it.

    The Empty Child IS super creepy though, and Nine's got some great moments in this. And excluding Rose, who just generally feels off to me the whole two-parter, Moffat's dialogue is great and witty as always.

    • Minish says:


      Can we use our thumbs wisely, please?

      • thirty2flavors says:

        LOL THANKS BB!

      • thirty2flavors says:

        Also, it occurs to me now that people might think I mean I find Rose generally annoying, which is very far from the truth. I am a pretty big Rose stan, which is why her feeling OOC/irritating to me is such a big turn-off for otherwise decent episodes.

      • pica_scribit says:

        I don't think I've ever seen that particular verb before.

  41. Minish says:

    A lot of these comments are irritating me.

    We need a place to talk privately about what are and are not spoilers where Mark can't see.

    Just… think ahead before posting comments, guys.

    • psycicflower says:

      I agree. Just talk and speculate as if you haven't seen anything past this episode and if in doubt don't post it. I understand it's hard and sometimes there are honest slip ups but remember being coyly vague can be just as bad as out right spoilers sometimes.

    • Hanah says:

      Thissss this this this this. 'You're not prepared' is one thing, posting anything more specific than that feels spoilery to me.

    • totiebinds says:


      I don't understand the spoiling, wikipedia has entire synopsis of all the Revival episodes so people who have seen the episodes before can double check their limits. =/

    • pica_scribit says:

      Yeah, there's a lot of subtle things here that it may not even occur to the posters are spoilers, but THEY ARE, since they contain future knowledge about this show and its various spinoffs which Mark does not yet know. PLEASE, be careful, guys! Almost anything you can say about Jack is still a spoiler at this point.

  42. grlgoddess says:

    One of the things Steven Moffat looks at when writing an episode is how much the baddie will scare children, and then makes it as scary as possible. It's also filled with witty quotes. It seems strange that he went from Coupling, a hilarious comedy for grown ups, to Doctor Who, a sometimes-terrifying 'kids' show, but a lot of his writing style transferred over really well.

    Are you my mummy?

  43. doesntsparkle says:

    I don't have anything relevant to add, other than fangirlish squee, so here's a video of Barrowman singing.

  44. potlid007 says:

    Moffat why do you have this need to make me not sleep at night?!?!!?!?!?!?
    but these two episodes are in the top ten DW episodes of all time for me. Actually, I'm pretty sure all of my episodes are Moffat's…huh.
    <img src="; border="0">


  45. Erin says:

    I think part of the reason "The Long Game" gets dismissed as a so-so episode is that the next set of eps "Father's Day" through the two-parter are so BAM-BAM-BAM awesome that it gets forgotten.

  46. kelseyintherain says:

    Why would you do this to me? D8

    *hides under the covers sobbing*

  47. Blabbla says:

    This episode took me a whole day to watch, because I could only watch like 5 minutes at a time before I had to pause to do something non-scary.

  48. vermillioncity says:


    I don't have anything constructive to say, but I've been so excited for you to reach this two-parter. Absolutely my favourite of S01.

  49. Araniapriime says:

    We are now beginning the run of MY FAVORITE EPISODES EVER.

    Also, JACK HARKNESS IS MY ROLE MODEL. More on this as we progress.

  50. Blabbla says:


    I have to say, as a marxist I always have to sideye the Doctor's "marxism in action comment. No it isn't!"


  51. diane says:

    Oh Captain, my Captain!

    Are you my mummy?

    Easily my favorite episode of the season, with so many great lines and scenes. The Doctor's brief career in stand-up. Captain Jack romancing Rose in front of Big Ben, during an air raid. Doctor Constantine's face morphing into a gas mask. The Doctor at dinner, kicked out for taking two slices of meat. The "empty people" crowding around the Doctor, Rose, and Jack as the cliff-hanger.

    And yeah, this Moffat guy is pretty good.

  52. Vicki Louise says:
    Squeals, swoons then faints like the David Tennant/John Barrowman fan-girl i am!

  53. Gembird says:

    This is seriously the most terrifying Nu-Who episode for me. I find masks creepy at the best of times, and this is a Moffatt story on to of that. Just horrible.

    Even now, years after seeing it for the first time, the words "Are you my mummy?" scare the shit out of me.

    Also, John Barrowman will either win you over very quickly or make you want to kick puppies. Hopefully the former.

  54. bibliotrek says:

    I think it's interesting that this is supposed to be a kids' show, and yet this episode is the first one that really includes children at all.

    Also, how UTTERLY CHILLING is that line when the Doctor asks the kids why they're not in the country with the other evacuated children, and the one says, "There was this man…" and a couple others nod/agree? And the selfishness of the Lloyds? It's a reminder that even during "Britain's finest hour" not everything was stiff-upper-lip determination and patriotism, but that there was a dark side to morality during the Blitz, too.

  55. kitish says:

    Love these episodes but I don't think I can comment much without spoiling. Sooo, I can't wait for you to watch the next part!

  56. pica_scribit says:

    Love this episode. This two-parter is probably my favourite part of series one.

    But maybe we could dial back the obsessing over Captain Jack and other places he may or may not turn up just a bit? Just about anything that can be said about him at this point is either a direct or indirect spoiler. There are at least a couple of comments above that made me think, "But Mark doesn't know about —– yet!" And we do want his head to explode with the OMG!SURPRISE! of it all, don't we?

  57. I'm sure it's been said but OMG YOU HAVE NO IDEA. If this episode is good, then you may well explode at the next episode.

  58. ejays17 says:

    Cfreepy as anything this episode! It creeps the crap out of my husband – a few months ago one of the local TV stations had a 10-Best episodes special, voted by viewers, and he came in while this one was on, heard the kiddie say "Are you my mummy?" and immediately disappeared upstairs until i could tell him the scary people had gone away 🙂

    Have been waiting for you to get to this one (and Father's Day), seeing what your guesses / predictions for the 2nd-part will be. Can't wait for tomorrow to see your thoughts on teh conclusion!

  59. Internet User 027 says:

    I love Moffat. He manages to make me pee myself both in fear and while laughing.

    You have to see "The Curse of Fatal Death"! It's an affectionate parody written by Moffat in 1996. It's really, incredibly wonderful.

  60. trash_addict says:

    Captain. Jack. MFing. Harkness.

    This episode has so many wonderful lines, all up to the frreaking amazing Steven Moffat. I ALWAYS love his episodes the most, when he took over as showrunner I was so happy 🙂

  61. Yeah, thanks to this episode everytime I see a gas mask I hear, "Are you my mummy?" in my mind. For instance, when my mum and I went to see 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' we briefly see two mannequins in a shop window wearing gas masks. I leaned over and whispered, "Are you my mummy?" and my mum squealed like a stuck chipmunk. Extremely funny, but I've been given a phobia ever since then.

  62. Bridget says:

    I love Captain Jack Harkness! And John Barrowman. The accent, the coat, the smile! What's not to like?

    I also love Steven Moffat as a writer. I think that what makes his stories the most scary is that he takes ordinary, everyday things and turns them into something frightening. It's like how a bed itself isn't scary, but when you start wondering what is underneath it…

  63. sabra_n says:

    It’s seriously a ghoulish, haunting image.

    This might just be an urban legend, but I remember hearing that they had to edit out some bone-crunching noises from Doctor Constantine's transformation sequence because it was just too scary. Ah, body horror. Ain't nothing like it.

    • nyssaoftraken74 says:

      You're right, they did have to edit out some of the sound for the transmitted version. I'd forgotten about that.

  64. rainbowsinside says:

    God, this episode creeps me out. That is all.

    But I do have some thoughts on the series at large so far. When me and my boyfriend were watching the Father's Day episode, I mentioned how it seems like every episode they're put into serious life or death situations. I was really surprised during World War Three, when they were already dealing with self sacrifice and the world possibly ending. I mean, most shows leave that kinda stuff for season finales, but not Dr. Who! So let me just say that every episode so far has pleasantly surprised me in that they're not afraid to put their characters into very serious situations.

    Also, I really like how I can almost never guess how things will turn out. I'm about to watch the second part of this episode and I have no clue what is going to happen. I really want to know what is making everyone so freaking creepy and who this American man is.

    So cheers, Dr. Who. You've got me hooked.

  65. fantasylover12001 says:

    Jack kind of grows on you after awhile. When he first appeared I wasn't so crazy about him (even as he was making me giggle and drool because boy is he hot) but later on, he's grown on me. I find him to be a really interesting and fun character and refreshing because he's bisexual and it's never made into a big deal which you don't see much of on tv.
    One the things that I've noticed about BBC shows (I've been gorging a bit on them lately;)) is just how diverse they are as opposed to American TV. Really, they have interracial relationships (and it's never a major plot point or made a big deal out of), people of all races in there who aren't hugely stereotyped like they sometimes are in American shows, women are in positions of power (and no one ever goes 'a woman in charge? Really?' like they would have on an American show), there are bisexual characters and so on. When you compare it to American TV…well lets just say there's a big difference. I kind of wish American TV would take a cue from BBC, but I doubt that will happen. Still, it's nice to see.

  66. saintmercy says:

    One of my favorite episodes ever including the originals! I still have nightmares every time I see it.

    and I am totally head love heals in love with Captain Jack!

  67. notemily says:

    I, like many others I'm sure, have been waiting for you to get to this episode. This was the episode that made me go HOLY SHIT THIS SHOW IS AMAZING! This and the next one. I can't wait to see what you think of the conclusion to this arc.

    "ARE YOU MY MUMMY" SO GODDAMN CREEPY. CREEEEEEPY. I agree with you, it has a lot of horror tropes but it's just SO WELL DONE. I really like psychological horror (as opposed to stabby gore horror) and this was perfect. In the way that gives you nightmares.

    I also love the Doctor's line about WWII and Britain. Sigh. So dreamy. (The Doctor, and also Britain. This show turns me into an Anglophile. Well, more of one than I was before.)

    I also thought that Rose was kind of silly for grabbing on to a rope attached to nothing. My first thought was that the child saying "mummy" had some kind of supernatural hold on people where they just HAD to follow him and try to help him. Turns out Rose is just a nice person. Heh.

    Jack Harkness! So dreamy! I would totally make out with him if I were Rose.

    And yes… NANOGENES.

  68. Fluffy says:

    Now do you get why people flipped when that lolcat with the gas mask that said "Are you my mummy" appeared on your Harry Potter blog? D': I sure did, it wasn't long after I saw this episode and I was still on edge about it. Yay, uncanny valley!

    Funny story about this episode affecting me later on. My roommate at college has a fan that sits on top of our fridge/microwave, and my sleepy brain once interpreted it as a head with a gasmask on it. I had to tell myself out loud, "It's a fan. It is a FAN. It is not the empty child, it's a FAN. Fuck you, fan."

  69. Pingback: Tweets that mention Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S01E09 – The Empty Child | Mark Watches --

  70. I'm having a hard time remembering if I liked these episodes significantly more than the rest originally, or if the influence of the fandom has revised my stance on them. The monster is pretty great in these for sure- little kids have such a capacity for creepiness and there isn't really anything that isn't kind of horrible about a gas mask (minus that it saves you, I guess?)- the look, the implications of its need, etc etc. Combine them and you definitely have the stuff of nightmares.

    Also: I heart Captain Jack, but honestly, he seems like a pretty half-assed con man to me. Doctor: "What kind of warship is it?!" Jack: "OH SIR, YOU ARE SO CLEVER. THE JIG IS UP. LET ME CONFESS EVERYTHING." Did anyone else think he threw the towel in fairly early there?

    ETA: I like the shot when the phone rings in the house. THAT IS ALL.

  71. mpknighit says:


    This two-parter is BRILLIANT. Incredibly creepy, and BRILLIANT. I love the Steven Moffat episodes, because no matter what you think is going on YOU ARE NOT PREPARED.

  72. Hotaru-hime says:

    Empty Child and Doctor Dances are my favorite Nine episodes!

  73. vaporeon13204 says:

    THIS EPISODE WAS SO CREEPY! D8 I was freaking out so badly while watching it. XD; Love that we've been introduced to captain Jack though. Definitely a fun contrast. Doctor always wins for me though. 8)

  74. Elliott Mason says:

    I just saw this year's Christmas Special tonight, and — TRUFAX!! — one of the first things that ran through my head afterwards was,

    "MAN I can't wait till Mark gets to this sometime in, what, February? The recap is going to be EPIC!"

  75. wtrbrrl says:

    The Moff is brilliant.

    And don't you just hate the cliffhangers?

    Jack's a bit arrogant yes, but … well, Barrowman…

  76. azurefalls says:

    FAVOURITE EPISODE EVER. Actually, DD might be my favourite. But WHATEVER, this two-parter makes my brain squee. Moffat is a wonderful, wonderful man. Even if IMO he did push you-know-who on us a bit too forcefully.
    And YES FOREVER to Captain Jack. 😀
    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;

  77. whatsername says:

    So so so happy you've gotten to this arc! Despite being really creepy and I tend to like the funnier ep's…I love this episode so hard. Also, CAPT JACK CAPT JACK CAPT JACK! Whooooooo! I think it's hilarious you're not vibing on him, I loved him from the moment he hit the screen. But I guess I have a thing for swaggery dudes….

  78. kytten says:

    Unf Jack. The things I'd do…
    I have to say the arrogant, flash American thing is a bit of a cliche, but it works well with his personailty so I'll be alright with it.

  79. THE Nessa says:

    I love the creepy episodes so much. I can't wait until you get to Blink. OMG!

    • THE Nessa says:

      Who the hell are the 4 people who disliked this!?

      • Albion says:

        It's a spoiler, you're not meant to mention future episodes.

        • THE Nessa says:

          Blink is what is called a Doctor-Lite episode. It's not connected to any other episode in the series, therefore contains no spoilers. It's not like I gave away some huge secret or told him what it was about. Calm yo' tits, gurl

  80. Tauriel says:

    I want to apologise if any of my previous comments were spoilerish… I didn't mean to spoil you, Mark, and I guess I forgot how strict you are with spoilers. 🙁 I promise I'll be more careful in the future. I'm just so glad that you decided to watch and review Doctor Who, because it's a fantastic show and I'm really enjoying your reviews of it. 🙂 Can I be forgiven? *sad puppy eyes* (Oh, and btw, I'm a girl… 😉 )

  81. StarGirlAlice says:

    Steven Moffat episodes are always terrifying- well for me anyways, a girl can't even watch The Others without wanting to die, and that film isn't even that scary.
    Also, John Barrowman is one of my favourite people in the world. Ever. I Love Him.

  82. RJM says:




    Also, dude, there is an awesome Doctor Who convention in LA called Gallifrey in February and you NEED TO GO TO IT. Especially since Paul Cornell ("Father's Day" guy) and Rob Shearman ("Dalek" guy) and all kinds of people involved in the show go to it JUST TO HANG OUT WITH THE REGULAR FANS AND GET DRUNK AND BE GEEKY IN THE LOBBY. It is fucking awesome.

  83. Starsea28 says:

    Hi Mark,

    Just going to repeat what others have said: this episode and The Doctor Dances are my favourites of the first series of New Who. I love Nancy and I love the way Moffat introduces Captain Jack. Yes, Moffat is the Captain of the Nightmare Ship. Yes, "Are you my mummy?" is now one of the creepiest phrases of all time. And in summary, you are not prepared. Not at all.

  84. spectralbovine says:


    I can't wait to read your reaction to "The Doctor Dances." It's such a fabulous episode (…so sometimes the second episode of the two-parter IS better than the first).

  85. Beci says:


    also Jack <3

  86. qwopisinthemailbox says:


  87. Sarah says:

    Dear Mark: this was the first episode (or part thereof, anyway) that I EVER saw of Doctor Who. I came in when Nancy and the kids were sitting down to dinner in the house during the air raid, so I missed most of the funny and just caught the "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH WTF IS THAT FREAKY THING DOING???"

    I thought Doctor Who was a scary show. Like, horror. It wasn't until I saw a David Tennant episode that I realised the error of my ways, and have watched every one since.

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