Come Home (2018; UK; Colour; 3 x 60m) *** pr. Madonna Baptiste; d. Andrea Harkin; w. Danny Brocklehurst; ph. Joel Devlin; m. Murray Gold. Cast. Christopher Eccleston, Paula Malcomson, Kerri Quinn, Anthony Boyle, Lola Petticrew, Darcey McNeeley, Brandon Brownlee, Patrick O’Kane, Brid Brennan, Derbhle Crotty, Rory Keenan. When mother Marie (Malcolmson) mysteriously leaves the family home, the repercussions are enormous, but when secrets are revealed from the past, both Marie and her husband Greg (Eccleston) realise they can’t just walk away from their lives. At times this often intense drama captures the depths of despair from both sides of the story with its structuring geared around a balanced perspective and a final episode designed to weight the arguments equally, leading to an almost inevitable conclusion. The story is therefore both authentic and ultimately disappointing. Authentic in that it does not go for the big dramatic climax and disappointing in that the climax itself is anticlimactic. Technical values are good, if at times the camerawork is overly self-indulgent. The performances from Eccleston and Malcolmson feel real and honest. In the end, though, you are left with more of a feeling of voyeurism than engagement – as if you’ve been watching real-life without the protagonists permission. This may well have been the intention, but the result is a good drama that somehow misses out on being something with more to say.
A Word – Series 2, The (TV) (2017; UK; Colour; 6 x 60m) **** pr. Jenny Frayn; d. Susan Tully, Luke Snellin; w. Peter Bowker; ph. Ruairí O’Brien, Ollie Downey; m. Rob Lane. Cast: Lee Ingleby, Morven Christie, Max Vento, Molly Wright, Christopher Eccleston, Vinette Robinson, Greg McHugh, Pooky Quesnel, Leon Harrop, Lucy Gaskell. Second series of the BBC drama following the Hughes family living in the Lake District and their young son Joe (the excellent Vento) who is diagnosed as autistic. In this second series Bowker opens up the story to broaden the scope of the story – bringing in the personal lives of the family and their impact on each other and on how they deal with Joe. Whilst the first series struggled initially to get the tone right before eventually striking a successful balance between drama and humour, this second series hits the ground running and produces a set of funny and touching scenes throughout an engaging and real story. The perfomances are excellent – notably the remarkable Vento as Joe and Eccleston as Joe’s tactless grandfather. Ingleby and Christie are also very good as Joe’s parents, who begin to drift apart as they struggle to come to terms with their son’s condition. Bowker’s writing manages to steer clear of descending into soap opera as he juggles numerous relationship storylines across six episodes. Making great use of its Lake District location this is a warm drama that treats its subject matter seriously whilst still finding a lovely humour that feels natural and respectful. 
1 episode / 44m / 4 June 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), William Thomas (Mr Cleaver), Annette Badland (Margaret), John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Noel Clarke (Mickey), Mali Harries (Cathy), Aled Pedrick (Idris Hopper), Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen).
Plot: The TARDIS crew take a holiday, but the Doctor encounters an enemy he thought long since dead. A plan to build a nuclear power station in Cardiff City disguises an alien plot to rip the world apart. And when the Doctor dines with monsters, he discovers traps within traps.
Comment: The Slitheen (or rather one of them), first seen in the earlier Aliens of London/World War Three, return in this uneven episode, which mixes juvenile humour, in the entrapment of Annette Badland’s alien, with commentary on the Doctor’s unwillingness to face the effects of the changes he instigates. The episode is best when tackling the latter issues packaged around a restaurant dinner in which Badland’s Slitheen prods and pokes at the Doctor’s conscience. There is also the reuniting of Piper’s Rose with Clarke’s Mickey and Clarke manages to at last add some depth to his character. Barrowman continues to impress as Captain Jack, but in more of a support role here. The finale adds a little spectacle to the proceedings and the denouement is fairly neat. But overall the episode is another struggling to find the balance between the serious and the silly. In retrospect it is easy to understand Davies’ broad brush approach during this first season, with him being keen to attract a wide enough audience back to the series after its lengthy absence. Fortunately he would get it right in the season’s finale.
THE EMPTY CHILD / THE DOCTOR DANCES
2 episodes / 85m / 21 & 28 May 2005
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: James Hawes
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child) Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd) Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr Constantine) Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child), Dian Perry (Computer Voice).
Plot: London, 1941, at the height of the Blitz. A mysterious cylinder is being guarded by the army, while homeless children, living on the bomb sites, are being terrorised by an unearthly child.
Comment: Atmospheric, funny, frightening and terrifically entertaining this remains one of the series’ all-time classics. The haunting “Are you my mummy?” plea of the gas-mask faced child is unforgettable. The story was shot entirely at night and set during the London Blitz. The visual effects work is impressive, notably during the scenes where Rose is hanging from a barrage balloon rope. Barrowman makes his debut as Captain Jack Harkness and immediately strikes up an excellent chemistry with the two leads. Eccleston was right when in the finale he claimed he was “on fire”. His performance here hits just the right mix of gravity and humour and his “Everybody lives” speech is the most uplifting moment in the series’ history. Full of witty one-liners, scary moments and one of the best cliffhanger resolutions, this is a story that lives long in the memory.
1 episode / 43m / 14 May 2005
Writer: Paul Cornell
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Shaun Dingwall (Pete Tyler), Robert Barton (Registrar), Julia Joyce (Young Rose), Christopher Llewellyn (Stuart), Frank Rozelaar-Green (Sonny), Natalie Jones (Sarah), Eirlys Bellin (Bev), Rhian James (Suzie), Casey Dyer (Young Mickey).
Plot: Rose travels back to 1987, to witness the day her father died. But when she interferes in the course of events, the monstrous Reapers are unleashed upon the world, and a wedding day turns into a massacre. Even the Doctor is powerless, as the human race is devoured.
Comment: Powerful and emotive episode that tugs at the heartstrings like no other story in the series to date. Cornell’s script may feel manipulative, but it plays nicely against the paradox of time travel. Ahearne also directs with energy and encourages exceptional performances from the main cast. By now Eccleston and Piper have established a strong enough rapport for the audience to believe Rose when she says the Doctor can never leave her. Dingwall is also excellent as Rose’s father, who’s bickering relationship with her mother bursts Rose’s idealistic fantasy of an idyllic marriage. The denouement is sympathetically played and is guaranteed not to leave a dry eye in the house.
THE LONG GAME
1 episode / 45m / 7 May 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Brian Grant
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Bruno Langley (Adam), Colin Prockter (Head Chef), Christine Adams (Cathica), Anna Maxwell-Martin (Suki), Simon Pegg (The Editor), Tamsin Greig (Nurse), Judy Holt (Adam’s Mum).
Plot: Adam discovers the wonders of travelling in the Tardis. In the far future, Satellite 5 broadcasts to the entire Earth Empire. But anyone promoted to Floor 500 is never seen again, and the Doctor suspects mankind is being manipulated. Does Adam have what it takes to become the Time Lord’s companion?
Comment: This episode is largely unremarkable and is the second in this series (after THE END OF THE WORLD) to use a space station setting. The premise doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny and the CGI monster of the week does little but show its fangs. Simon Pegg adds some wit to the proceedings as The Editor, but outside of the regulars the cast is largely unremarkable – save for Tamsin Greig’s poker-faced nurse. The direction by Grant is quite flat but there are a couple of memorable sequences – notably as Maxwell-Martin’s Suki explores Floor 500. A trend has been setting in through the series in that lead writer, Davies, has been responsible for the weaker scripts to date. Grand ideas lacking in logic and often held back by juvenile humour. Thankfully here that is kept in check and whilst the story fails to excite, it is not a disaster – merely bland. Also, thankfully, Langley was not kept on as a companion.
1 episode / 46m / 30 April 2005
Writer: Robert Shearman
Director: Joe Ahearne
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Steven Beckingham (Polkowski), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), Anna-Louise Plowman (Diana), Bruno Langley (Adam), Nigel Whitmey (Simmons), John Schwab (Bywater), Jana Carpenter (Di Maggio), Joe Montana (Commander), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek Operator), Nicolas Briggs (Dalek Voice).
Plot: Beneath the Salt Plains of Utah, the billionaire collector Henry Van Statten holds the last relic of an alien race. When the Doctor and Rose investigate, they discover that the Doctor’s oldest and most deadly enemy is about to break free. It’s a fight to the death, with Rose caught in the middle.
Comment: The series finally finds the right tone with this excellent episode. Eccleston gets his characterisation spot on as his hatred for the Daleks drives his anger at Van Statten’s keeping the creature alive in his underground museum. This gives Eccleston the opportunity to demonstrate his acting credentials and he delivers in spades. There is also some fun with corporate satire and the exhibits of Van Statten’s collection with various creatures from the Doctor’s past. Piper continues to impress as Rose who shows empathy for the tortured Dalek. Langley’s Adam, however, is not up to the task both as a character and in Langley’s insipid performance. This is the one down-side to what is otherwise the best episode in the revived series to date propelled by Shearman’s sharp script and Ahearne’s breathless direction.
ALIENS OF LONDON / WORLD WAR THREE
2 episodes / 86m / 16 & 23 April 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Corey Doabe (Spray Painter), Ceris Jones (Policeman), Jack Tarlton (Reporter), Lachelle Carl (Reporter), Fiesta Mei Ling (Ru), Basil Chung (Bau), Matt Baker (As Himself), Andrew Marr (As Himself), Rupert Vansittart (General Asquith), David Verrey (Joseph Green), Navin Chowdhry (Indra Ganesh), Penelope Wilton (Harriet Jones), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), Naoko Mori (Doctor Sato), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Jimmy Vee (Alien), Steven Speirs (Asst Commissioner Strickland), Elizabeth Fost, Paul Kasey, Alan Ruscoe (Slitheen)
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose home, but when a spaceship crash-lands in the Thames, London is closed off and the whole world goes on red alert. While the Doctor investigates the alien survivor, Rose discovers that her home is no longer a safe haven.
Comment: This is the renewed series’ first two-parter and whilst it suffers from inconsistency in tone and, in particular, the overuse of much juvenile humour, there are enough excellent scenes to display the potential of using the strong cast to its strengths. Eccleston again demonstrates a skill for the dramatic or reflective scenes, but a lack of subtlety with the comedic moments. The Slitheen lose any fear factor through the farting noises they emanate. Piper continues to impress as Rose and Coduri and Clarke return from the first episode, as Jackie and Mickey. The revelation of how long Rose had been gone adds some sobriety to the proceedings. There are some heavy-handed references to the Iraq War and international politics, but Wilton maintains dignity as MP Harriet Jones – destined for greater things. Disappointing for those who like their Who more serious and challenging, but fast-paced and entertaining for younger viewers. The tone would settle as the series progressed and as Eccleston grew into the part.
THE UNQUIET DEAD
1 episode / 45m / 9 April 2005
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Alan David (Gabriel Sneed), Huw Rhys (Redpath), Jennifer Hill (Mrs Peace), Eve Myles (Gwyneth), Simon Callow (Charles Dickens), Wayne Cater (Stage Manager), Meic Povey (Driver), Zoe Thorne (The Gelth).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose back through time to 1869. But in Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking, and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local Undertaker. Can they halt the plans of the ethereal Gelth?
Comment: The series kicks into gear with this episode, which delves into history and literature. The atmosphere is perfectly pitched by director Lyn with strong turns from his cast. Callow, a Dickens fan himself, is excellent as the renowned author as are David as the grim welsh undertaker and Myles as his housemaid, who has second sight. Eccleston and Piper have already built a strong rapport and there is plenty of opportunity for Eccleston’s Doctor to be commanding. The scene where the Doctor realises he has been tricked by the Gelth, who have used Myles as their passageway is wonderfully played by both actors. The only downside is some of the comedy early in the episode is again a little forced, but that doesn’t prevent this from being the best episode of the series to date by far.
THE END OF THE WORLD
1 episode / 45m / 2 April 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Euros Lyn
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo), Sara Stewart (Computer Voice), Silas Carson (Alien Voices).
Plot: The Doctor takes Rose on her first voyage through time, to the year Five Billion. The Sun is about to expand, and swallow the Earth. But amongst the alien races gathering to watch on Platform One, a murderer is at work. Who is controlling the mysterious and deadly Spiders?
Comment: This story moves into the far future and gets the chance to show off the excellent CGI visual effects from The Mill. Having introduced Rose in the first episode the focus here moves to the Doctor and we discover his race has been destroyed in a great war and he is the last Time Lord. We are introduced to an array of wealthy species who have paid to come to witness Earth’s destruction to an expanding sun from an orbiting space station. Cassandra (wonderfully voiced by Wanamaker) is the last human whose vanity has reduced to all vestiges of humanity being removes and what’s left is skin stretched tightly across a frame. The Face of Boe is also introduced and we will find out more about him/her as the series progresses. A special note for Lyn’s direction, which is a significant improvement over Boak’s for ROSE. Here, the humour is better managed and the tension builds nicely through the tightly edited finale as the station’s shields are sabotaged. Eccleston balances his performance between humour and gravitas, clumsy at the former but excelling at the latter and Piper continues to impress as Rose.