Believe it or not, a few years back I wrote an outline for my perfect DOCTOR WHO story. It was set around Christmas in the 1860?, and involved (among other things) The Doctor meeting Charles Dickens. Well, imagine my delight when I heard about THE UNQUIET DEAD, written by Mark Gatiss, the man who gave the world the excellent New Adventure ?ightshade?in the early nineties, one of the greatest talents who never wrote for the original series. Well, he got his chance last night, and boy did he deliver.

THE UNQUIET DEAD is an atmospheric little chiller. On my first viewing it took me back somewhat that the story seemed to lack the scale the last two stories have had. However, once I got past this I saw the episode for what it truly was- a low key, brilliantly done ?host?story with some inventive twists. The Victorian period, it has been noted is so very ripe for DOCTOR WHO stories, and this is another shining example, with Gatiss using the Victorian setting to its fullest spooky potential. What struck me on my second viewing of this adventure was how excellent the sets and costuming were this week- it felt purely Victorian, and being a favourite period of mine it all added to my enjoyment.

Simon Callow as Charles Dickens was brilliant. He played the part not as it might have been- an over the top pastiche- but as a man haunted by past mistakes, reaching the end of his life propelled by momentum, not will, from one performance to the next. From his first scene Dickens was a loveable character, which only made the Doctor? revelation about the novelist? future all the more poignant. Eve Myles as maid servant Gwyneth was well played also- her reactions to some of Rose? suggestions and recollections were excellent, reinforcing the idea the TARDIS had truly landed in 1869. Her final fate was also mysterious- I loved the Dickens ?eaven and earth?explanation- it sent shivers up my spine.

The CGI was again, top notch this week- in fact, the most consistently good it has been since the series started. This was due largely to the fact Gatiss?script was so full of good dialogue it didn? need too much SFX to carry things along. When the Gelth did make their appearance, they looked great- especially in the fantastic theatre scene- Mrs. Peace looked truly creepy! Another nice touch that I only noticed on my repeated reviewing was the snow spinning around as the TARDIS dematerialised at the end of the story- a small touch, but something that gives the whole story a sheen of quality. The episode also carried along plot threads that are seemingly leading to something big in the future- more mentions of ?he time war?and Rose? father were great in that they did not distract the casual viewer but will pay off big time when the resolution finally arrives.

THE UNQUIET DEAD, then was an incredible piece of television. Putting aside the fact I am a massive DOCTOR WHO fan, the series has been exceptional so far. The teaser for ALIENS OF LONDON next week looked fantastic- I simply can? wait for Saturday? now! And in a final note, my perfect DOCTOR WHO story, where the Doctor meets Charles Dickens? THE UNQUIET DEAD was different- and better.



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