“The Unquiet Dead,” Doctor Who, Season 1, Episode 3

Gwyneth, The Doctor, Rose, and Charles Dickens unite against the Gelth, a gaseous race trapped in the pipes. The rift, a vortex of energy, makes its debut in this episode. It recharges the Doctor’s TARDIS and later becomes the power source for Captain Jack’s version of Torchwood. Eve Myles, who plays Gwyneth, will later star as a modern Gwen in Torchwood, as a distant relative of Gwyneth. The series name printed on all the series 1 production scripts for Doctor Who was Torchwood, which was an inside joke as it is an anagram for Doctor Who.

This is the first time a historical figure is part of the story in New Who. Charles Dickens appears and takes on near-protagonist status. He may not make the largest sacrifice, but he’s the character who comes out the other end, changed for the better.

This show’s entry follows the style of Dan Harmon’s story circle.

Dan Harmon's story circle

The Unquiet Dead

“What the Shakespeare is going on?”

Charles Dickens

1) In a zone of comfort

The Doctor and Rose arrive in Cardiff in 1869 for Christmas. Cardiff plays a large role in Doctor Who. It’s the base for the Torchwood series spin-off, among many other things. The Doctor shows up in Cardiff a lot early on. What will later become the Torchwood series will make its home right over the same spot where the rest of the story takes place over what they call the rift. A local undertaker and his house maid Gwyneth are having trouble because one of their charges gets up and walks off when she should be dead. Charles Dickens prepares to go on stage for one of his oral deliveries of a Christmas Carol. The Doctor and Rose, in the meantime, get ready to go out into the snow to celebrate a Christmas in the past. The Doctor introduces Rose to the TARDIS’s wardrobe where she picks out a lovely period dress before they go out on the town.

2) They desire something

Charles Dickens is in a slump. He is away from his family, doing holiday readings of A Christmas Carol, which are inspirational to everyone but himself. He wants to be reunited with them but faces the Christmas season, which has become a bit of a slog for him.

3) Enter an unfamiliar situation

In the middle of Charles Dickens orating on the ghostly version of Bob Marley’s face appearing in the doorknocker in A Christmas Carol, a dead person in the audience, possessed by a spirit hiding out in the gas pipes begins to glow and reminds him of the description he’s trying to make. People scream and run as Charles Dickens stands astounded on his stage, which of course attracts the Doctor and Rose. There’s nothing like a good scream to get everything started.

4) Adapt to the situation

Trying to make the best of what’s going on the Doctor speaks with the undertaker, trying to understand the history of the situation. It’s been happening for years, but now it’s getting worse and worse. It’s affecting Gwyneth and the Doctor notices that she has a psychic twinkle when she brings him his tea just the way he likes it.

Rose helps Gwyneth and tries to talk girl talk with her and reassure her only to discover what different worlds they seem to come from. The Doctor is starting to put the pieces together, and he doesn’t like the direction this is heading.

5) Get what they desired

In order to get in touch with the gaseous creatures, the Doctor stages a seance. I think he does it mostly for Gwyneth’s benefit because he believes them to be aliens, but he knows she believes they are angels that speak to her. He gets the undertaker, Rose, and Dickens, to join him. I think he does it mostly because he thinks Dickens needs to see this, and the Gelth show up spectacularly, with a huge blue light show, and ask for help. Please bring Gwyneth to the rift under the building and they can be free.

6) Pay a heavy price for winning

They take her to the weakest part of the house where the rift is. Gwyneth stands in it and opens it psychically, creating a bridge, but then it’s time for the big double-cross. The Gelth turn on them and attack, using all the dead bodies that were down in the morgue where they were. Gwyneth must save everyone by sacrificing herself. To save the day, she must die. The Doctor already knows this.

7) Return to their familiar situation

Then Dickens has an idea. With these gaseous creatures occupying bodies, he turns up the gas, flooding the house. He goes from room to room, turning up the gas. When he gets to the Doctor, he has the Doctor help him. As the room floods the Gelth are driven out of their host bodies. It gives Gwyneth the chance she needs to light a match and destroy the lot of them. The Doctor gets Dickens and Rose out in time. Rose is not happy about it, but she gets an object lesson firsthand that what she and the Doctor do is dangerous and sometimes people die.

This is, of course, not the only time that angels are made out to be evil creatures in Doctor Who. Later on, we will get the Weeping Angels. And of course, there are demons as well who show up in Doctor Who. There’s a certain amount of atheism that reigns in science fiction. I think it’s interesting that Doctor Who seems to be an equal opportunity villain maker when it comes to both Angels and Demons. (Maybe a little more so for angels.)

8) They have overall changed

Dickens gets a boost, energizing his mind as a writer, and it inspires him in A Christmas Carol sense to reconnect with his family. Someone who was kind of run down and toward the end of his life leaves energized and full of life and looking forward to visiting with his family again. The Doctor gives him a gift, to see the TARDIS disappear. He leaves laughing, his spirits high.

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