Doctor Who: The Empty Child

London, 1941: an alien craft has crashed, and a mysterious child is
terrorising the homeless children of the city. The scariest episode yet by a
considerable distance.

Cast and Crew

Christopher Ecclestone as the Doctor
Billie Piper as Rose Tyler
Kate Harvey as the Nightclub Singer
Albert Valentine as the Child
Florence Hoath as Nancy
Cheryl Fergison as Mrs Lloyd
Damian Samuels as Mr Lloyd
John Barrowman as Jack Harkness
Robert Hands as Algy
Joseph Tremain as Jim
Jordan Murphy as Ernie
Brandon Miller as Alf
Richard Wilson as Dr. Constantine
Noah Johnson was the voice of the Empty Child
Dian Perry was the voice of the Computer

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by James Hawes

Produced by Phil Collinson

Synopsis

After picking up a critical alert, the TARDIS follows an alien craft to
London, 1941. In the height of the Blitz, the crashed alien ship is under
army guard, and homeless children are being terrorised by a
mysterious child.

This episode was billed by the BBC as the ‘scariest episode yet’.
They were entirely correct, this is real hide-behind-the-sofa material,
scarier than any Doctor Who I remember from when I was a kid. It is
the first part of a two-part story.

High Points

  • Every appearance of the Empty Child. He never takes you by
    surprise, but he sends shivers down your spine without fail
  • The Doctor’s conversation with Dr. Constantine
  • Nancy’s dinner

Low Point

Although it was useful for the plot, why didn’t Rose let go of that
rope before it was too late?

The Review

This feels very original. Ghost stories set during the Blitz
aren’t the newest idea in the world, but this is a great – and terrifying –
take on it. Five out of six.

The effects were actually quite disappointing – Rose’s trip
outdoors during the air raid just didn’t quite do it. Of course, the
budget to make the raid look convincing would probably have been
about the same as that to make all the rest of the series, so we can
forgive them a bit. Four out of six.

As for the story… interesting, frightening and continually
throwing things at you with perfect pacing. Although it scared
frightened the wits out of me, I’m still eager to know what happens
next week. Six out of six.

The acting played up to the story and carried it well
without flaws or failures. Six out of six.

Does pure fright count as an emotional response? Yes, it
does. Six out of six for pure terror coupled with sympathy.

The production was good but not faultless. The look is
excellent – World War Two England as good as we ever see it. Some
things seem to have been skipped though – there is little evidence of
blackout precautions and not many people carrying gas masks. It
doesn’t hurt the story, but it doesn’t feel as authentic as it should be.
Four out of six.

Overall, any flaws this episode has are eclipsed by the
sheer quality of everything else – and the fear. Six out of six.

The grand total therefore is thirty-seven out of forty-two. If you
only get to see one episode of this series of Doctor Who, this one is the
one you should see. Next week’s will probably be as good, but without
this week’s it’s unlikely to mean anything.

21 replies on “Doctor Who: The Empty Child”

  1. y42 says:

    London? Again?
    I thought the TARDIS could go anywhere…

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: London? Again?

      I thought the TARDIS could go anywhere…

      It can, but London’s easier for production.

      Also, Rose is from London and so it allows them to muck about with her
      backstory a lot (and play with her mind too).

      And they did say when they started out that all of the first series would be
      centred around Earth. They may branch out a bit for the second series, but to be
      honest I don’t mind – they’re finding lots of interesting things to do in London,
      they can keep going back if they carry on like this!

  2. Kaki says:

    I missed…
    … the Bad Wolf reference again. Anyone?

    • dubbayoo42 says:

      Re: I missed…

      … the Bad Wolf reference again. Anyone?

      I’ve watched it twice now and I have yet to miss the Bad Wolf reference. This episode it’s completely eluded me… the absolute closest thing would be the Red Riding Hood reference about 2/3 of the way through, but that’s grasping at straws somewhat. I didn’t see it written anywhere, nor did anyone say the words (a la The Unquiet Dead or End of the World).

      Excellent episode… after 2 viewings I’ve got it slotted as second-best on my personal ranking list (The Unquiet Dead still has the top spot).

      • dubbayoo42 says:

        Re: I missed…
        That’s about as clear as mud… what I meant to say was I’ve not yet failed to catch a Bad Wolf reference in any other episode, yet after watching The Empty Child twice I haven’t caught this episode’s reference.

        • Eldhrin says:

          Re: I missed…

          That’s about as clear as mud… what I meant to say was I’ve not yet failed to
          catch a Bad Wolf reference in any other episode, yet after watching The Empty
          Child twice I haven’t caught this episode’s reference.

          Hmm, perhaps it’s in next week’s episode? Since it’s a two-parter it would still
          count, I think.

      • marc says:

        Re: I missed…

        … the Bad Wolf reference again. Anyone?

        I’ve watched it twice now and I have yet to miss the Bad Wolf reference. This episode it’s completely eluded me…

        There was some grafiti in the background just after the doctor got that strange phone call in his TARDIS. He runs off to find Rose and then there’s a short glimpse of something on a unflat surface. Couldn’t quite make it out though.

        Had a quick look, doesn’t seem to be Bad Wolf there.

        • Kaki says:

          Re: I missed…

          There was some grafiti in the background just after the doctor got that strange phone call in his TARDIS. He runs off to find Rose and then there’s a short glimpse of something on a unflat surface. Couldn’t quite make it out though.

          Had a quick look, doesn’t seem to be Bad Wolf there.

          I had a look at it. I agree it doesn’t seem to say “bad wolf”. It does seem to be some word, then a trident symbol below it and then another word below that.

          The building where the air-raid-family lives has something like “we are still living in this blast…”

          • Alexius says:

            Re: I missed…

            There was some grafiti in the background just after the doctor got that strange phone call in his TARDIS. He runs off to find Rose and then there’s a short glimpse of something on a unflat surface. Couldn’t quite make it out though.

            Had a quick look, doesn’t seem to be Bad Wolf there.

            I had a look at it. I agree it doesn’t seem to say “bad wolf”. It does seem to be some word, then a trident symbol below it and then another word below that.

            The building where the air-raid-family lives has something like “we are still living in this blast…”

            According To IMDB, Jack Is Going To Be In The New Few Episodes Until The ‘Bad Wolf’ Episode.

            I Don’t Think There’s A Refrence, I Think He Is The Bad Wolf. I Think Rose Is His Riding Hood.

            • Kaki says:

              Re: I missed…

              I Don’t Think There’s A Refrence, I Think He Is The Bad Wolf.

              That is a good sounding theory. Do we have anything solid to back it up? After all it was the Doctor with the big nose and ears.

            • roseblood says:

              Re: I missed…
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************
              ***************BAD WOLF SPOILERS************************

              According To IMDB, Jack Is Going To Be In The New Few Episodes Until The ‘Bad Wolf’ Episode.

              I Don’t Think There’s A Refrence, I Think He Is The Bad Wolf. I Think Rose Is His Riding Hood.

              While on the subject of IMDB, looking at the credits for the BAD WOLF episode I see that Nicholas Briggs was cast as the role of Dalek voices.

              Who is afraid of the big bad wolf.

              Doctor Who is afraid of the big bad wolf

              Doctor Who only seems to truely fear the Daleks.

              There’s a credit for at least one Dalek actor in the Bad Wolf episode.

              I think I’ve got a winner here.

              But I like the theory of the Doctor as the Bad Wolf too.

              It was his TARDIS that got tagged.
              The girl from the unquiet dead told Rose what she’d seen… “the big bad wolf” and at this point she hadn’t yet seen a Dalek (but she did see the doctor.) In the Empty Child episode the lead female child role noted the Doctor’s big ears (or she was about to) … all the better to hear someone with.

              Rose as red… first few eps. The red top under a hooded sweatshirt.

              But, I still think it’s the Daleks.

              What’s to story with the number 801?

              Room 801 in the hospital.
              801 the last 4 digits in the telephone number from [whatsits] suport line.

              Now..how do I do black sploiler covering stuff?

            • babasyzygy says:

              Re: I missed…
              [Spelling and grammar corrected]

              According to IMDB, Jack is going to be in the new few episodes until the ‘Bad
              Wolf’ episode.

              I don’t think there’s a reference, I think he is the Bad Wolf. I think Rose is his
              Riding Hood.

              The TV
              Tome
              entry
              somewhat explains the Bad Wolf references (there be spoilers, of
              course).

      • zocalo says:

        Re: I missed…

        I’ve watched it twice now and I have yet to miss the Bad Wolf reference. This episode it’s completely eluded me… the absolute closest thing would be the Red Riding Hood reference about 2/3 of the way through, but that’s grasping at straws somewhat. I didn’t see it written anywhere, nor did anyone say the words (a la The Unquiet Dead or End of the World).

        The conversation between the Doctor and Nancy about having a big nose and big ears is the closest I’ve managed to find to a reference to Bad Wolf too. I’m not so sure it’s grasping at straws though; it’s a somewhat surreal conversation fragment given the circumstances, and the only purpose it appears to serve is to create the possible “Bad Wolf” reference. Plus, the writers labour the point by referring to more than one anatomical part in the conversation, which seems OTT for a throwaway line.

        Personally, I think we’ve got so used to the Bad Wolf references being both very literal, ie actually saying “Bad Wolf”, and quite clearly in plain sight, that the slightly more opaque nature of this weeks reference has caught the Bad Wolf spotters on the hop.

        Andy

  3. obiwan says:

    Terrifying!
    This week’s episode was amazingly terrifying. Last week was amazingly poignant. The series just keeps getting better!

    • Alexius says:

      Re: Terrifying!

      This week’s episode was amazingly terrifying. Last week was amazingly poignant. The series just keeps getting better!

      I Don’t Scare Easy, And This Creeped Me The Hell Out.

  4. TwistyHat says:

    Age people?
    How old are you guys? I find it surprising that anyone (above young kid stage) would find this frightening?

    • Eldhrin says:

      Re: Age people?

      How old are you guys? I find it surprising that anyone (above young kid stage)
      would find this frightening?

      I’m twenty-three, my sister’s twenty-six and we both found it really creepy.

      Actually I’d be interested to see if Brits find it scarier than Americans in general,
      since we get the whole London Blitz scenario drummed into us at school and it’s
      not pleasant.

      • GrimSean says:

        Re: Age people?

        How old are you guys? I find it surprising that anyone (above young kid stage)
        would find this frightening?

        I’m twenty-three, my sister’s twenty-six and we both found it really creepy.

        Actually I’d be interested to see if Brits find it scarier than Americans in general,
        since we get the whole London Blitz scenario drummed into us at school and it’s
        not pleasant.

        24. Canadian. One in the morning. Not sure if I can sleep.

        To be fair though, I’m more creeped out than anything – there’s just something about that line and the voice.

        Mooommy…. Mommy…. Are you my Mommy?

      • dark-wing says:

        Re: Age people?

        How old are you guys? I find it surprising that anyone (above young kid stage)
        would find this frightening?

        I’m twenty-three, my sister’s twenty-six and we both found it really creepy.

        Actually I’d be interested to see if Brits find it scarier than Americans in general,
        since we get the whole London Blitz scenario drummed into us at school and it’s
        not pleasant.

        Well Im From England And Im 13 And I Didnt Find It Any Bit Scary Or Creepy In Any Way..

    • Kaki says:

      Re: Age people?
      I’m 28 (just turned today). I wouldn’t say that I was frightened watching this episode, but I was pretty creeped out a few times. That little kid voice, and Dr Constantine’s morph.

      Oh, and did other people notice that the announcer during the credits warned people that didn’t want spoilers to stop watching. I checked, the Dalek spoiler was before the credits. I like this better.

    • roseblood says:

      Re: Age people?

      How old are you guys? I find it surprising that anyone (above young kid stage) would find this frightening?

      Im 29. I don’t usualy find movies or televions to be “frightening” or scarry. Sometimes things will STARTLE me (someone jumps out of a closet on screen or in real life will give me that shot of adreneline.) This episode of Doctor Who really was disturbing to me at some level.

      It’s not disturbing in the way 8mm was (a view into [just] one of the darker sides of humanity.)

      I can’t explain to you why it’s disturbing. I’m not so hot at putting things to words.

      In addition to how the episode maked me feel about the whole enviroment, it really left me with a “they’re really frelled, now how do they get out of this” thought in my head. Far more so than the cliffhanger from Aliens in London/WWII.

      Really effective entertainment. Gets you on the edge of the seat somehow, without the requirement of high thought to put you there. You don’t have to reason something out to get the idea that things are very unusual, and perhaps a bit dangerous. Hell, the whole setting WWII England is a pressure cooker, perhaps it’s the history + a ghost story coming together for a one-two punch.

      But, back to the point, it’s not scary, something might give me a start, but you feel a good bit of tension. I just finished watching the episode and when the music came up and the DOCTOR WHO eyeball-like logo came up I FELT the tension melt from my shoulders and neck. Didn’t even realize how effectively this show ratcheted me up. Haven’t gotten that from TV sense “33” from the new BSG (although the episode of Blind Justice where the dog was taken ALMOST did it.)

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