The Discontinuity Guide
The New Series
The Empty Child
21st May 2005
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: James Hawes
Roots: War films (the gas-mask imagery) and zombie stories. Rose mentions Spock. Jack plays some Glen Miller music. Oliver Twist (Nancy and thieving urchins). The Time Agent material comes from Talons of Weng Chiang. Biggles (Captain Jack's boyfriend is called Algy). Quatermass and the Pit (alien spaceship mistaken for a UXB). Chasing probes is very Star Trek, and this story has echoes of an early draft of the TV Movie (Doctor goes back to the Blitz).
Goofs: Why does the building in which Jack is based have lights blazing out of the windows when there's a blackout? Come to mention it, Albion Hospital and the Lloyds' neighbourhood are suspiciously short of blackout material covering their windows.
Why is the barrage balloon secured by a rope (which would be cut through by German planes) rather than steel hawsers (which would have cut through the wings)? And why is it loose anyway? [Jamie did it.] Furthermore the barrage balloons and German planes were both flying too low, and there were sounds of divebombers which wouldn't have been used this late in the war, and didn't match the planes seen.
Why does Jack introduce himself as a Captain in the Air Force when his decorations indicate that he is a squadron leader, and there aren't captains in the Air Force? (maybe it's a nickname, or he claimed to have been a captain in the US Air Force before coming over to Britain). Also, given that he's in the Air Force, why isn't he flying a Hurricane or Spitfire to repel the German bombers? (maybe he's waiting to be given a plane, or has maanaged to get a little time off)
Jack claims to belong to 133 Squadron - which was an "Eagle" squadron, for American volunteers, but it was formed in July 1941, two months after the big raids on London had finished.
Why does Jamie just disappear when the Doctor opens the door?
If nanogenes are subatomic, how can they repair something as big as a skin cell?, besides, what are they made of?
Rose asks Jack if he has the time when, not only are they right next to the clock face of St Stephen's Tower, but (as Jack's instruments say) she is wearing a watch (though, admittedly, it might not be adjusted to local time).
No one notices a whacking great spaceship, floating in front of an illuminated Big Ben, in the middle of an air-raid! When the sky was full of planes, and the ground full of observers watching the sky. At the very least, there'd have been people specially detailed to keep a watch on the Houses of Parliament (along with other important buildings). Also, the brightly illuminated St Stephen's Tower doesn't attract any bombers. (Perhaps the cloaking device disguises everything).
If the Doctor knows that it's 1941, why does he not realise this when asking about the object falling from the sky in the nightclub?
The gas mask design is not authentic - civilian ones generally had a visor rather than two eyes. And the production team couldn't get hold of authentic ones.
The Charley Chimp, the classic Cymbal-crashing monkey, is an anachronism. Charley Chimp wasn't first made until the 50's. Also it contains no mechanism to make it speak.
Dialogue Triumphs: The Doctor: 'Just one day, maybe, I'm going to meet someone who gets the whole "don't wander off" thing.'
Rose: 'I went by barrage balloon. Only way to see an air raid.'
Memorable Moments: The Doctor asks a roomful of people if something fell from the sky with a loud bang just as the air raid sirens go off. Rose flies across Blitz London dangling from a barrage balloon whilst wearing a Union Flag T-Shirt.
Continuity: Mauve is the universally recognised colour for danger - red being unique to humans and considered camp by other species.
The Doctor can hack into the Chula hospital ship's flight computer and slave the TARDIS to it - following its path. However, because it was jumping time tracks, the TARDIS is a month or so out. He plans to pose as Doctor John Smith from the Ministry of Asteroids. He ponders about 900 years of phone box travel [presumably since An Unearthly Child - making him approximately 1350.], and says that he's nine centuries into being called the Doctor He has a pen and some paper in his pocket as well as high tech binoculars.. He says that he does know what it's like to be the only child left out in the cold. His sonic screwdriver can do medical scans.
The phone on the TARDIS door is not a real phone, not being connected, and it shouldn't ever ring.
Jack's ship has a tractor beam and mobile phones interfere with his instruments. His cover story is that he is an American volunteer in 133 Squadron, Royal Air Force. He wants Rose to think that he's single and that he works out. He has some psychic paper. He hasn't heard of Spock. His ship contains nanogenes, subatomic robots that can repair human injuries. The ship is able to make itself invisible. He used to be a Time Agent. He can scan for alien tech. He has high tech binoculars. He has a wrist-mounted hologram projector.
Rose fancies Jack. She considers herself to be footloose, fancy-free, and very available. She wears an LCD watch.
Nancy provides food for homeless Children on the streets of London during the blitz. She is usually good at avoiding being followed. She lost her brother Jamie when the Chula ship crashed - she had been out looking for food and he followed her.
The victims in Albion Hospital all have identical wounds: massive head trauma - mostly to the left side, partial collapse of the chest cavity, mostly to the right side, scarring on the back of the hand, and the gas mask being fused to the head. Their wounds are passed on by physical contact.
Jamie can lock doors.
Links: The Chula ship jumps time tracks (The Space Museum). The Doctor and Jack both use Psychic Paper (The End of the World). Jack's Psychic Paper mentions Mickey (Rose, Aliens of London/World War Three, Winner Takes All, Father's Day). The Albion Hospital was previously seen in Aliens of London. Time agents were first mentioned in The Talons of Weng Chiang.
Extras: Mickey's website contains two pages about the events of this two-parter. They feature the story of Doctor Constantine, and a story about the "Schlecter Wolf" bombs, which are also mentioned in a press release on the UNIT website.
Location: London, 1941.
Q.v: The Fate of Gallifrey, The End of the World; Bad Wolf, The Parting of the Ways; Rose's Love Life, The Doctor Dances.
The Bottom Line: 'Physical wounds as plague.' A very strong first half. The empty child is a truly frightening enemy, Nancy and Jack are absolutely superb new characters, even if the flirting between Rose and Jack occasionally becomes cringeworthy. Everything is superbly set up for next week's conclusion, and the cliff-hanger is brilliant, and the next week teaser doesn't spoil its resolution one bit.
Thanks go to all the folk who commented on The Empty Child in the Bloopers thread on Outpost Gallifrey's forum. Without them, the goofs section would have been a lot smaller.