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The Discontinuity Guide
The New Series

The Unquiet Dead

9th April 2005

Writer: Mark Gattiss

Director: Euros Lyn

Roots: Ghost Stories, Image of the Fendahl, Phantasmagoria, The works of Charles Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol, Dickens quotes from Hamlet: 'There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.', possibly Gattiss's own Lucifer Box novel. Ghost Busters, Poltergeist, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ghost Light. The Doctor asks Dickens to 'Do the death of Little Nell. That cracks me up' - an allusion to Oscar Wilde's assertation that 'You need a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell withut laughing'. The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The Gelth's desire to inhabitour dead so they can continue their existence is reminiscent of an episode of the 90's The Outer Limits. Zombie movies including Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead ("It's not just dying... it's becoming one of them!"). The Doctor and Rose clasping hands and vowing their loyalty to another echoes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Goofs: Why is the Gelth in the pre-credits sequence trying to kill Mr Redpath? [The Gelth is in control at this point, and wants more dead bodies as hosts].

The Doctor claims that he's changed his jumper, but the one he's wearing looks the same as the one he was wearing before. [This may be an intentional in-joke pointing fun at the Doctor's unchanging costume].

Dickens' phrase "what the Shakespeare" suggests that the phrase "what the Dickens" refers to him, when the phrase was in fact invented by Shakespeare centuries beforehand. [It's intentional irony on Dickens' part].

How does filling the room with gas force the Gelth out of their hosts? [It takes effort to stay in the fairly low-gas human bodies, and no effort to travel into a room filled with natural gas, so they just weren't strong enough to hold on]. And how does burning down the house stop them when previous scenes suggest they can pass through burning gas. [They were killed by the explosion rather than the flames, or by the explosion destroying the gases they are capable of inhabiting, or it blocks the entrance to the rift].

If Gwyneth was dead when she stepped under the arch, then how did she speak to the others and light the match to kill them? [Like Redpath's grandmother, the Gelth inhabiting her were affected by her personality. Alternatively, the Doctor was lying about it for Rose's benefit.]

If Dickens has his own coach, then why does he plan to take a mail coach to get back to London? Especially when mail coaches had ceased to run by 1869. [His coach was only hired for local use, and was no longer anywhere near Sneed's house. Besides, the mail coach would be faster and he was terrified of trains after being involved in a crash in 1865.]

If Sneed didn't plan on kidnapping someone like Rose, why does he just happen to have a chloroformed rag with him? [Either it isn't chloroformed, and Rose is faking it, or he thought it would help subdue walking corpses.]

There's a modern road sign in shot early in the episode behind Sneed and Gwyneth.

Redpath's eyes open when Dickens opens his coffin.

There's a modern light switch in Sneed's house.

How does Dickens get back into Sneed's house after he leaves? He's slammed the door shut, and there's nobody to let him back in. [The door would have had a mortice lock which wouldn't have locked.]

In the pantry scene, the Doctor's jacket is in shot before he appears, but it's clearly in the wrong place.

At one point a red hexagonal pillar box can be seen in the background. However, pillar boxes were universally green until 1874.

Fashion Victims: The hat worn by the man sitting next to Mr Redpath's granny.

Double Entendres: The man at the theatre offers Charles Dickens his wife.

Dickens questions the Doctor and Rose going into the "small box" of the TARDIS, to which the Doctor replies "down boy".

'What Phantasmagoria is this?' refers to a Doctor Who audio of that name written by Mark Gattiss.

Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: 'You look beautiful. Considering.'

Dickens' reaction to the Doctor criticising one of his stories: 'I thought you said you were my fan.'

Dickens: 'Seances? Nothing but luminous tambourines and a squeezebox between the knees.'

Dialogue Disasters: Dickens: 'What the Shakespeare is going on?' (yes, I know lots of people liked the line, but I cringed)

Dickens: 'Tommyrot'.

The Doctor at the seance: 'I love a happy medium.'

Continuity: The TARDIS wardrobe is on the first left, second right, 3rd left, straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, and 5th door on the left from the console room.

The Gelth are gaseous creatures, who are attracted to gas lights. They can inhabit and control the physical bodies of other species, but can be drawn out if the room is filled with natural gas. They can travel through a weak point in time and space [the vortex]. They are from the other side of the universe. They claim to have lost their physical form in the time war, which was invisible to smaller species, but devastating to higher forms. However, this may be a lie on their part to convince the Doctor that they have good intentions. They desire a physical form. One of them escapes to a gas lamp in the street, and it is possible that it survived.

The Doctor thinks that Charles Dickens' short story The Signalman is the best short story ever written. He takes his tea with two sugars. He says that time can be rewritten "just like that", and Rose's world be destroyed as a result. He has enough victorian money on him to buy a newspaper.

Rose is 19, according to the Doctor. She says she hated every second of school. She used to go down the shops with her mate Shareen, where they looked at boys. She isn't very familiar with the Victorian era and its morals. Her father died "years back". She probably carries a donor card.

The rift is a weak point in time and space. A girl who has grown up on it gains some kind of second sight, including telepathy (cf. Image of the Fendahl). A seance can contact the Gelth across the rift [this is simply a means to concentrate Gwyneth's mind].

Links: The Doctor mentions being at the fall of Troy in The Myth Makers. The Time War that the Gelth mention is probably the same one in which Gallifrey was destroyed, as mentioned in The End of the World. Gywneth's second sight is given the same explanation as Ma Tyler's in Image of the Fendahl.

Location: Cardiff, 24th December 1869.

Future History: The Doctor says that Charles Dickens' books last "forever" [an exaggeration].

Unrecorded Adventures: The Doctor says that he saw World War 5 [possibly the war involving Magnus Greel from The Talons of Weng Chiang] and that he pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party.

Q.v: The Fate of Gallifrey, The End of the World; Bad Wolf, The Parting of the Ways.

The Bottom Line: 'The Dead are walking.' The Unquiet Dead is basically a cross between Doctor Who and a victorian ghost story. However, it succeeds remarkably well, having a good balance between spooky atmosphere, pathos, and a strong script. Simon Callow's Charles Dickens is well-written, though possibly gratuitous, and the season picks up pace, with mention of the Time War, it starts to feel like there's a continuing plot arc running through the series.


Thanks go to all the folk who commented on The Unquiet Dead in the Bloopers thread on Outpost Gallifrey's forum. Without them, the goofs section would have been a lot smaller.

You visited the Whoniverse at 4:37 pm BST on Tuesday 18th April 2006