Nu-View #16: Dining with the Enemy

Boom Town (Series One, Ep. 11; 2005)
Viewed 11 Feb 2014

Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: The Doctor Dances (Nine, Rose)
Succeeding Story: Bad Wolf (Nine, Rose)

    The fact that we happened to watch this particular episode the day before I left for Gally was totally fortuitous for me. Among other things, having it fresh in my mind helped me appreciate having Annette Badland (who played Margaret / Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen) at the con.

    Better yet, the re-watch reminded me what a profound episode it is.

    It begins with a reminder of how we first met the unfortunate Slitheen family. "I hate those guys," interjects jA. "They're ishy." And it seems "Margaret" hasn't changed much beneath, even if she has taken on an air of public service, heading up the Blaidd Drwg project.

    And so it proceeds, though the first half of the episode is mainly the slightly silly, doesn't-make-sense-if-you-look-to-hard fare we've come to expect from Who. RTD exhibits a bit of a tin ear for dialog in a place or two—e.g., when Blon takes Cathy the reporter to the loo with her, so she can shed her skin suit and kill the woman, then makes a seemingly rude noise upon entering the stall. Cathy comments, "Sounds like we got here just in time!" Incredulous, jA asked, "Who does that?" Perhaps we can give RTD a pass on that one, though, as he's presumably never experienced a communal ladies' room moment firsthand.

    But the meat of the story develops once Margaret/Blon has been apprehended. She's right, the clever thing; the Doctor isn't used to the consequences. He swans off as fast as he can once he's set things in motion. Very rarely has it ever caught up with him before (The Face of Evil being one notable exception). So when she forces him—and his otherwise self-satisfied TARDIS crew—to confront the reality of what it means when the Doctor takes action, it makes for some tense and uncomfortable moments. It's actually one of the most introspective moments the show has had, certainly in recent years.

    Of course, this being Doctor Who, everything ends up hunky-dory in the end. Blon gets a shot at redemption, Earth doesn't get blown to smithereens, and the TARDIS team can whoosh away high-fiving each other. So what stands out about the episode most for me? Is it the philosophical conundrum? The Doctor's admission that "[he'd] make a very bad god"?

    Nope. It's Blon's horrified self-realization, as she rants about how little London cares about what happens in Wales: "God help me, I've gone native..."

    General reactions:

    • jO - I totally don't remember this at all
    • jA - I really like this storyline
    • jE - Yeah, [Blon] changed so much she decided to blow up the whole planet...
    • mrfranklin - So much deeper than I'd remembered

    Not only is there some long-term plot development, what with the revelation that the heart of the TARDIS can shine out from below the console with incredible, heretofore unknown powers, but there's also some character development. The Rose/Mickey relationship gets a look in, and the Doctor even tacitly acknowledges how much Mickey means to Rose (note how he's always messing with him, calling him "Ricky" to his face, but at the end, when Rose is upset that she can't find him, the Doctor uses his real name). Put all that together with the thoughtful second act, and I'd rank Boom Town as easily the best episode to feature the Slitheen.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: Bad Wolf

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