The Discontinuity Guide
The New Series
5th June 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
Roots: Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, Marvel Comics' The Silver Surfer (space travel by surfboard). The appearance of the opened rift reminds me very much of the time rift in the Transformers comic story Time Wars, and a temporal rift caused by the TARDIS which can destroy the Earth is similar to the TV Movie (Enemy Within). The energy streams waving around between the TARDIS and the dark, stormy sky look rather like the bit in the TV Movie just prior to the Earth being destroyed at midnight. Scooby Doo ('I would have got away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling kids'). The newspaper headline is inspired by the Tories' mid-90s slogan 'New Labour, New Danger'. Soap operas. Russell T. Davies' Mine all Mine. Scaremongering about "Red Ken" (Ken Livingstone).
Goofs: It surely can't be legal to demolish Cardiff Castle to build a nuclear power plant in the middle of a major population centre. Besides, the site's almost certainly not big enough to house a nuclear power station.
The timescale of Margaret's rise to power doesn't seem to work. In six months, she's gone from landing in a skip on the Isle of Dogs to having been Mayor of Cardiff long enough to rush through the plan for the nuclear power station. However, her spell as mayor is recent enough to warrant a recent newspaper headline [unless the man in the cafe is reading a very old newspaper.] And the man in the cafe doesn't seem to mind the Doctor ripping the newspaper out of his hands. Also, it's surprising that nobody notices that the new Mayor of Cardiff was one of the Slitheen - you'd have thought MI5 would have noticed, as she used to be employed by them. Also, in the real world, the Mayor of Cardiff is a ceremonial role, rather than one with any power.
Margaret's secretary's excuse that the Lord Mayor is "having a cup of tea" is the most pathetic and unlikely excuse that I've ever heard. Surely you'd expect him to say something like "she's in a meeting".
Why don't the Welsh speakers in Cardiff make any comment on the name of the project - 'Bad Wolf' isn't exactly the most reassuring name for a nuclear power station. It can't be due to Cardiff being less Welsh than the rest of Wales, as Welsh is taught in all the schools and knowledge of the language is on the up. Also, why wasn't it translated in the English part of the banner? Come to think of it, why doesn't the TARDIS translate "Bad Wolf" for Rose's benefit?
Furthermore, the whole planning and design process for the Bad Wolf project is a bit strange. Usually, obtaining planning permission for a big project takes several months of local government bureaucracy. For something that requires the tearing down of a historic monument (which is surely a listed building) and replacing it with a nuclear power station, obtaining the appropriate planning permission to launch it to the public would take a lot longer than 6 months, even if it were possible. And designing something as complicated (and subject to intense scrutiny) as a nuclear power plant would take something nearer to 6 years than to 6 months.
When running back to the TARDIS, the Doctor removes Margaret's wrist-band, presumably in case they get separated by more than 10 feet, and then they run the rest of the way holding hands - so why bother taking the band off?
The Mayor's office is surprisingly similar to one of the rooms seen in Downing Street in Aliens of London / World War Three.
When Margaret ended up on the Isle of Dogs, why didn't she just teleport to her ship, which was parked in the Thames, rather than go to all that trouble to get offworld? [Maybe it takes too long to reprogram the co-ordinates, or she didn't want to have to deal with any military that may still be stationed there.]
Mickey was researching the Doctor for at at least the year between Rose and Aliens of London, so how come he is surprised that Police Boxes were real?
The cracks that occur in the pavement are surprisingly clean, almost as if they'd been added on digitally during post-production...
Fashion Victims: The Doctor's headband with red flashing light.
Technobabble: Tribophysical waveform macrokinetic extrapolator.
Dialogue Triumphs: Margaret's comment on the mysterious deaths of the European Safety Inspectors: 'But they were French. It's not my fault that danger explosives was only written in Welsh.'
Margaret: 'What did I ever do to you?'
The Doctor: 'You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet.'
Margaret: 'Apart from that.'
Margaret: 'We're in Cardiff. London doesn't care. The South Wales Coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn't notice. Oh, I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I've gone native.'
Continuity: Mickey travels to Cardiff by train, rather than in his car [maybe it broke down]. He is now going out with Trisha Delaney from the local shop, the sister of Rob Delaney. Trisha is "nice", she was a bit big, but lost weight. However, he is still clearly in love with Rose, and his relationship with Trish clearly isn't as real to him as his love for Rose - it's more a case of compensating for her not being there. Realising that the Doctor will always come first in Rose's life, he walks away.
Jack has a pair of bracelets that, if they are separated by more than 10 feet, the wearer of one gets zapped by 10,000 volts.
The sonic screwdriver can now override a teleportation device just by pressing a single button [and why didn't the Doctor use that rather than hunting for the teleportation control in The End of the World]. The Doctor orders steak and chips from the menu, clearly he is no longer vegetarian (The Two Doctors). The TARDIS appears to no longer operate in a "State of Grace" as seen in a number of earlier stories - as Margaret can snap Rose's neck off. [Since the destruction of Gallifrey] it needs refuelling, which it can do by absorbing energy from the scar caused by the closing of a rift in space-time. The heart of the TARDIS, its soul, can be seen by opening up some of the console panels. It can revert a Slitheen to an egg in response to what it sees in its telepathy.
After World War Three, the Slitheen posing as Margaret Blaine (whose real name is Blon Fell Fotch Pasameer Day Slitheen) escaped by using a personal teleportation device, arriving in a skip on the Isle of Dogs. On their home planet Raxicoracofallapatorius, there is the death penalty. Many years ago, the Slitheen were tried and found guilty in their absence. A returning Slitheen (or at least this one) would be executed. Margaret has a ring with poison inside. In extreme cases of mortal danger, a female Raxicoracofallapatorian can manufacture a poison dart within her own finger, and as a final resort, the excess poison can be exhaled through the lungs. The method of public execution is slow, they prepare a thin ascetic acid, lower victims into a cauldron, and boil. The acidity is perfectly gauged to strip away the skin, internal organs fall out into the liquid, and the victim becomes soup, still alive and still screaming. Slitheen are forced to carry out their first kill at 13. If they had refused, they would have been fed to the venom grubs. Margaret refers to killing as "the hunt".
The extrapolator can drain energy from the TARDIS engines to open the rift.
Links: Rose mentions travelling to Justicia, a reference to The Monsters Inside, the first time a TV story has explicitly referenced a non-TV story. The Doctor mentions the Chameleon Circuit getting stuck (100,000 BC). Margaret Blaine was originally in Aliens of London / World War Three, and the rift was originally in The Unquiet Dead. Rose mentions platform one (The End of the World), and the Doctor being 'very good with teleports' from the same story. Mickey mentions the Doctor's big ears and suggests he look into a mirror, an allusion to the mirror scene in Rose. Margaret mentions that there are members of the Slitheen family offworld (see The Monsters Inside, where some of their descendants turn up).
|THE CANON DEBATE
For casual viewers, Rose mentioning her trip to Justicia from the novel The Monsters Inside is neither here nor there. But to long-term fans, it's a very big deal, and radically redefines the most contentious debate within fandom because, for the very first time, a TV story explicitly references a non-TV story. As readers of this site have probably noticed, there have been a lot of Doctor Who stories published in the decade and a half between the old series ending and the new series beginning and for the whole of that time fans have been debating whether these stories are "proper" Doctor Who.
At one end of the spectrum, there are the TV purists, who only accept the TV series to be "canon" - they argue amongst themselves whether the partially filmed story Shada or the charity skit Dimensions in Time counts. At the other end are the inclusivists, who accept anything that's licensed by the BBC unless it either isn't intended or can't be made to fit. In the middle are those fans who accept some, but not all, of the books, audios, and comics in addition to the TV series and on the outside are those who declare that nothing at all is canon.
Looking at it objectively, the strongest arguments have always come from the inclusivist side (with the exception of the argument from audience size "no non-TV material has ever had even a half-decent fraction of the audience of the TV series"), the books and audios are designed to fit in with the TV series, and plug far more continuity holes than they create (although the audios have intentionally distanced themselves from novel continuity in recent years, despite their earlier attempts to build on it), and having been the ongoing series for so long, they have become Doctor Who for a substantial number of fans. The comic strips have, perhaps, been less well served in the debate as, over their long history, they have varied from totally ignoring the TV series to trying to fit as well as the books and audios do.
However, by mentioning the events of a novel onscreen, Boom Town blows one of the established positions out of the water - no fan would seriously suggest that the TV series isn't canon, and here is the TV series explicitly stating that the novels [or at the very least the new series tie-in novels] happen in the same universe as the TV series. It is now safe for Doctor Who fans to assume that all parts of the novel series (unless directly contradicted by the TV series) are now part of the TV series continuity. For the TV purists, it's a kick in the teeth (though they'll get over it), for the inclusivists it's a cause for celebration that their position has been officially vindicated. Whether the audios and comic strips will also get official recognition in due course is anybody's guess, but for now it's enough to note that the boundaries of the debate have changed forever.
We should also raise the question of other official merchandise. For example, the non-fiction book Monsters and Villains by Justin Richards includes in-depth descriptions of monsters and villains portrayed in the TV series, providing greater a greater level of detail than was used on-screen or in the tie-in novels. Similarly the spin off websites, Who is Doctor Who, UNIT, Geocomtex and Bad Wolf all provided clues and further information about the lives of Earthbound characters between episodes.
Other, more subtle, references to non-TV stories include mention of the planet Lucifer in Bad Wolf, possibly a reference to the novel Lucifer Rising; kronkburgers - originally seen in an alternative Roman Empire in comic strip The Iron Legion, the Doctor being called "The Oncoming Storm" in The Parting of the Ways, which is an allusion to the novel Love and War, and the UNIT website's mention that one of the people sent to Downing Street in Aliens of London was called Frost - a nod to Muriel Frost from several Doctor Who Magazine comic stories, though it is clearly not the same character.
Extras: Mickey's website contains two pages relevant to this story. One mentions the reactor problems, and foreshadows the episode, whilst the other appears to be Mickey's feelings after the episode, along with a claim to have saved the world.
Location: Cardiff, six months after Aliens of London / World War Three (i.e. late 2006).
Unrecorded Adventures: Rose mentions going to the Glass Pyramid of San Clune. One planet Rose has visited a planet called Women Wept due to the shape of one of the continents. On one deserted beach, 1000 miles across, the sea froze in the middle of a storm, all the way to the horizon. At midnight, Rose and the Doctor walked under waves 100 feet tall.
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 (Prosecution): 'If I didn't know better, I'd almost think that someone wanted this project to go wrong.' Boom Town can be described in a single word: 'filler'. Although there are a lot of good (nay, perfect) character moments for the Doctor, Rose, Mickey, and Margaret, the 'plot' is virtually non-existent, Jack is totally sidelined, demonstrating that four companions is too many for the format, and the best bit of the episode is probably the (admittedly damn good) trailer for next week.
The Bottom Line (Defence): 'Nicely Done.' With a clever, casually paced and emotionally rich screenplay which develops and expands on all its characters and a setting that pays tribute to the stellar work done by the season's Welsh crew, Boom Town is not only a candiate for the best episode of the season, it's a piece where you can see the boundaries of what is and isn't possible in Doctor Who being re-defined. Joe Ahearne again demonstrates he has simply no equal in Britain when it comes to directing this kind of television and there isn't a single performance that isn't note perfect. A great character drama of wit, depth and subtlety. And how cool is Captain Jack?
The alternative Bottom Line is by Jim Smith.
Thanks go to all the folk who commented on Boom Town in the Bloopers thread on Outpost Gallifrey's forum. Without them, the goofs section would have been a lot smaller.