In Father’s Day, there are two absolutely uncharacteristic acts which beset our lead characters. One has hints of a plot thread that may or may not be taken up at a future date. The other, being the instigation of the entire plotline, marred my enjoyment of this episode somewhat. But only somewhat.
Rose Tyler was a baby when her father died in a traffic accident. She tells the Doctor that she wants to see him when he was alive. He agrees, with only minor misgivings, and takes her back to her father’s wedding. Then she asks to be there at the moment of his death. The Doctor has further misgivings, but agrees. Rose witnesses the accident, but freezes. She can’t come forward to be with her father in his last moments. Upset at herself, she asks the Doctor to take her back to try again. Despite major misgivings, the Doctor takes her back, and then Rose makes the fateful decision to change history.
The Doctor’s uncharacteristic decisions, in particular his attempt to spare Rose any further emotional pain, even as the paradox-unleashed Reapers eat every human on Earth, is covered effectively in this post by Rebecca Anderson, which I think you should all read. I have no problems with these acts from a plotting standpoint because I have a strong suspicion that this is going somewhere, and our mystery will be solved in the coming weeks. No. My problem with this episode is that Rose should have known better.
Erin suggests that I may be unfair, and that’s possibly true. It’s a very human reaction when Rose freezes before going to her father’s side as he dies. It’s also a very human reaction for Rose to want to go back and, from there, actually prevent the death from happening. But I would have thought that Rose, who has shown herself to be a very intelligent young lady, would have known better than to tempt fate like this. Perhaps it’s my twenty-plus years experience in science fiction, but one would think that “Don’t mess with the grandfather paradox — especially when it involves your father!” would be easy to grasp. I would have expected the Doctor to tattoo this on her forehead if there were any possibility that Rose didn’t get this, but then this goes back to the Doctor’s surprising actions throughout the episode, and a sense that this is Going Somewhere (see Rebecca).
Despite prepping up references to Rose’s father’s death in previous episodes, her request to see her father while he’s alive still felt as though it came out of nowhere for me, and it confused me. Much more explanation or preparation would have been invaluable — if not in Father’s Day, then in the episodes previous. To do otherwise smacks of sloppy plotting.
It’s as though Paul Cornell didn’t take the time to think through the set-up of the plot. Instead, he just wound up and tried to deliver a great big punch in the gut with brass knuckles. Fortunately, the punch connected, for the most part. The pain of letting a loved one die to save the world is an old chestnut, but there’s a reason for its longevity, and Paul makes the best use of it with a well-crafted script, and the tender story of the Doctor (albeit uncharacteristically — but, I say again, see Rebecca) trying to spare Rose the pain. All of the actors were in top form, and the direction produced a number of subtle but effective moments — possibly the best being when the children disappear all around young Mickey.
And I loved the fact that Rose does manage to change history. The last five minutes were Paul Cornell’s brass knuckles connecting, and as unfair as the punch might have been, it was darn effective.
The Doctor and Rose’s actions don’t stand up to scruitiny in this episode, and that may or may not be planned or accidental. And that describes Father’s Day. It is easily the most uneven episode of this season: a strong emotional episode built on a rickety plot foundation. Quite possibly the weakest episode of the season. But if this is as bad as the season gets, we’re still doing quite well indeed.
Oh, and House rocked, again. Less playing around with the point of view, more character drama as House and his ex-wife faced the same dilemma of consent that got them into their marital difficulties in the first place. The episode ended with hints that House’s character is growing and changing, and the second season might just build up on the first. As formulaic as the show may have been in its early episodes, it’s broken out, and will be around for a long time.
All in all, another good Tuesday. I don’t think I had this much fun when :Buffy: and :Angel: were on…