Aired 4 June 2005
It’s fair to say that the Slitheen race garnered less than stellar reviews during their introduction in ‘Aliens of London’ and ‘World War Three,’ and so it’s rather surprising that they would be chosen to make a return appearance so soon after. Wisely, though, rather than trying to recapture the bodily humour and cinematic scope of those stories, Russell T Davies instead offers a much more subdued and contemplative episode. While the end result may still not be perfect, it does slow events down to offer a much deeper look at the character of the Doctor and his guilt than most stories allow.
Viewers rarely get to see a TARDIS team enjoying a relaxed moment, and it’s a nice change of pace to see the Doctor, Rose, Jack, and even Mickey enjoying the sights around Cardiff while the TARDIS refuels at the Rift. Of course, the peaceful moment doesn’t last once the Doctor sees a photograph of Margaret Blaine on a newspaper, a sole survivor of the events at the end of World War Three, and one willing to do whatever it takes to escape Earth. The end result is not an episode for those seeking thrills and action, instead catered to those who enjoy discussion and wordplay. Margaret’s plan to escape and simultaneously destroy the Earth may not be the most imaginative or dramatic, but it does allow for the realization that the phrase Bad Wolf has been haunting the Doctor and Rose all throughout their journeys, Margaret’s Blaidd Drwg project being the Welsh equivalent.
There certainly is some decent drama to be had in the conversations between the Doctor and Margaret as the Doctor must willingly subject himself to looking his sentenced prisoner in the eye over dinner while confronting his inner rage, guilt, and turmoil, and being called a hypocrite who leaves only bloodshed and destruction behind wherever he goes. Unfortunately, these moments are all too brief. The characters in general carry an air of smugness about them, and the script tries too hard to insert humour where there simply doesn’t need to be any. Perhaps this is a purposeful tone whenever the Slitheen are involved, but it once again detracts from the overall story.
Noel Clarke is a superb actor, but the script once again portrays Mickey in a less-than-flattering light, seemingly wanting to win Rose back but doing everything wrong in the process. With Rose clearly not too interested in rekindling the relationship, this is a subplot that simply doesn’t carry as much dramatic weight as it deserves, possibly because of its placement within this series but more importantly because Mickey just isn’t written as a real character. No matter how great the acting is, it’s impossible to bring a caricature to life, and getting over Rose is clearly the step Mickey needs in order to regain some sense of normality and realism in his life. Hopefully this does occur, and Clarke will have a chance to play a more well-rounded and believable Mickey in future stories.
It’s actually quite strange that it’s taken so long for Doctor Who to confront the darker side of the Doctor’s journeys, but ‘Boom Town’ is unafraid to confront the body count and negative aspects of the Doctor’s interventions in time. It may be indirect simply through a conversation, but it clearly hits home and will undoubtedly be another major driving force for this already guilt-ridden Ninth incarnation. Along the way, it’s easy to see why Annette Badland was invited back to reprise her role as she is the perfect delivery vehicle for his message and instantly turns from sympathetic to dangerous figure repeatedly as needed. Even after all of the havoc she and her brethren have wreaked, she also gets a moment of redemption while looking into the heart of the TARDIS before regressing back to an egg to begin her life anew.
In the end, ‘Boom Town’ will likely not be remembered as an all-time classic, but as a breather between Moffat’s two-part epic and the upcoming two part series finale, it certainly serves its purpose well despite some major flaws, giving a much-needed look into the inner workings of Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor.