Father’s Day

Posted in Episode by - June 28, 2016
Father’s Day

Aired 14 May 2005

While Doctor Who has always been known for its ingenious concepts and stories, rarely has the programme purposefully tried to bring emotions to the forefront. There are, of course, some exceptions, but Doctor Who has usually been about the stories first with the characters’ emotions and motivations second. That changes with ‘Father’s Day,’ though, a story in which the typical script is flipped and the usual alien invasions and grander storylines takes a back seat to a very personal crisis, the death of Rose Tyler’s father, Pete.

Rose finally realizes the opportunities that time travel could afford her, and she asks the Doctor to take her to learn more about the man who was her father. The Doctor even- against his better judgment- agrees to take her to the day in which her father was run over by a speeding car so that she could be by his side when he passed. Of course, the reality of seeing the situation is different that an abstract thought, and Rose can’t help but intervene and save his life, causing havoc in the timelines. With the Doctor still hurting by Adam’s betrayal in ‘The Long Game,’ he berates Rose for conning him into this moment, but it’s easy to see the blame that both characters share.

A bad situation is made worse, though, when Rose embraces her younger self, further destroying the tenuous fabric of time and allowing the repairing Reapers to enter. Compounded with the fact that Rose must accept that her father is not the perfect figure she was led to believe- his failed enterprises and propensity for women being slap in the face for her- and that her parents were not blissfully in love and the entire experience soon turns into the worst possible one for Rose. At the very least, despite his flaws Pete is portrayed as a very smart and charmingly misguided man. He pieces together the puzzle regarding Rose’s relation to himself and is eager to determine what his future holds. As he witnesses the strange car that keeps circling around and fading out of existence, he has the courage and strength to admit that he understands that he is meant to be dead, making the ultimate sacrifice once more to resolve all of the timeline issues. Shaun Dingwall and Billie Piper are superb in these emotionally-heightened scenes s the realization of the situation slowly settles in, allowing the dialogue to flow easily and naturally between a father and daughter who had never truly met.

‘Father’s Day’ may rely on a reset button of sorts, then, but it goes to prove the Doctor’s point about how just one changed action- no matter how irrelevant- can tear apart the very fabric of time, certainly putting the scope and choices of his own interventions in a new light. Of course, Rose reminds him that a single person is always relevant, especially her own father, further grounding the Doctor in Rose’s world. The Reapers that Rose’s actions inadvertently call into existence are frightening and effective as they try to sterilize the wound in time, but it does beg the question of just what circumstances are needed for them to arrive since there have obviously been plenty of changes made in the show’s long history before. Hopefully their mythology is further explored in a future episode.

For a story that focuses squarely on the more intricate events of personal life, ‘Father’s Day’ manages to pack a giant punch both in terms of action and emotion. Director Joe Ahearne proves adept at handling the more personal and the more cinematic moments effortlessly. ‘Father’s Day’ is full of intriguing visuals and a monumental sacrifice by the Doctor himself, and even if Jackie does come off as a bit too heavy-handed and harsh throughout this story, it’s a fantastic insight into the character of Rose as well as the intricacies of time travel as well.

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