In the eleventh episode of the first series of Doctor Who, our time travelers return to present-day Cardiff to recharge the TARDIS. There, multiple old wounds are re-opened as they find a Slitheen in hiding and Rose deals with the ramifications of leaving Mickey. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
If you remember (NOT THAT IT WAS A MILLION YEARS AGO), I didn’t really like the finale of the Slitheen episode. So when the image of Margaret Blaine flashed on the screen the first time, I was kind of upset, only because I didn’t really see what else they could have done with that story line. I mean, THE DOCTOR BLEW THEM UP.
That’s what incredibly awesome about this episode, though. Somehow, “Boom Town” as a whole is better than the entire two-parter earlier this series. Again, I’ll chalk it up to something this show has shown already to be fantastic at: emotional realism. It’s one of the things that consistently grounds the show for us so that it’s not all stuck in space-time and jargon.
The plot here is secondary to what the characters do with it. A Slitheen survived the attack via teleportation and is using the rift opened by the Gelth in 1869 to hopefully escape from earth through destruction of the earth. (Lots of aliens seem to want to destroy earth. Go pick on another planet!)
The first sign we get that this episode is not going to unfold like the last two is when a reporter named Cathy starts asking Margaret uncomfortable questions about the nuclear power plant she is building. (We’d seen her destroy anyone else who raised questions about the place, which is important to note. Her later conversations about her innocence are made much more complicated when you think of these moments.) Cathy follows Margaret into the bathroom and I expected a predictable scene where she kills the reporter, but things changed the second Cathy mentioned she was pregnant. This strange change of heart happens due to Margaret’s loneliness, as she is, like the Doctor, the last remaining member of her family. (Yes, the Doctor is actually the last of his species, but it’s still a very interesting parallel.)
After the Doctor catches her in a rather funny scene involving two teleporters being used at the same time, the episode’s tone switches dramatically. They discover Margaret’s plot (pan-dimensional surfboard!!!!!) and the Doctor decides it’s best to return the Slitheen to it’s home planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius. Of course, that action is not without a severe consequence: the Slitheen family are to be executed on site on that planet.
The Doctor briefly weighs this thought in his head and decides that after all, the Slitheen have murdered countless people and have plotted to destroy earth twice, he will take this last remaining one back to be executed.
The great part about this is the conversations that Margaret and the Doctor have about compassion. Their dinner “date”, for example, starts off humorously, as Margaret tries three times to kill the Doctor on the other side of the table, each time being immediately thwarted. Even though we now know that this was all part of a plan, I don’t think it’s fair to discount the things that Margaret says during their meal. Part of me wants to believe that this was a back-up plan, in case the device didn’t open the rift via the TARDIS, and that what she was saying was genuine. Of course, the acting between Eccleston and Annette Badland was so believable during this dinner that I forgot that this character had murdered people and then wore their skin. Should I feel as bad as I did? I’m still unsure. And I love Doctor Who for making me feel that way.
Parallel to this, we also watch Rose deal with her relationship with Mickey. And even though we don’t really know that much about him, Mickey’s story is still quite sympathetic and depressing. The truth is that Rose did up and leave him, and despite that we’ve loved their adventures together, it was unfair for Mickey to have to deal with this while Rose was off galavanting through space and time.
When Mickey admits he has started dating someone else, I didn’t feel bad for Rose. I felt bad for Mickey, because it’s clear he still has feelings for his old gal.
Plot-wise, you may dislike the way this episode ends (THE BEAM OF LIGHT SAVED HER OMG), but the forced poetry of the moment is commendable. We’ve known the TARDIS was telepathic this whole time, so after the rift is opened via Margaret’s long con, it reads her thoughts. Given that her thoughts were to have a second chance, this leads me to believe that a lot of what she was telling the Doctor this episode was entirely real. So it converts her back to a Slitheen egg, allowing her to have that second chance she so desperately wanted.
Too bad not everyone lived this time around.
That poetic ending also applies to Mickey, as Rose decides to let him go. She sadly states that he deserves better than her and it’s not hard to see that she wishes she could have done things differently with Mickey. Except this time, the TARDIS doesn’t do anything for her.
Poor Mickey. 🙁
- “She’s climbing out the window, isn’t she?” “â€¦Yes, she is.”
- “It was a very icy patch.”
- “We’re in Cardiff. London doesn’t care. The South Wales coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn’t notice! â€¦â€¦â€¦..OH. I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I’ve gone native.”
- BAD WOLF. AGAIN. Finally, the characters on screen actually mention it. I DON’T GET IT.