Doctor Who
Having gone into the future, our Geordie-or-somwhere-else-in-Northern-England-voiced doctor boogied into the past with Rose. Incidentally, I thank the folks who pointed out that the doctor does not have a Cockney. As John Lennon sang, I should've known better. My only defense is that my computer was giving me fits, causing my brain cells to click together like one of those swinging marble novelty items that sits on the desks of bored executives. (As much as I like the attention, please don't inundate me with pedantic e-mails about the history of swinging marble thingies.) The TARDIS was playing games of her own. Instead of going to 1860 Naples, like the doctor programmed her to, it deposited the Time Lord and Rose in 1869 Cardiff. Notice how the doctor made Rose change her clothes ("You'll start a riot, Barbarella!") without bothering to change his own? Apparently, leather jackets and T-shirts don't raise eyebrows among the 19th-century Welsh. I loved how Rose tentatively placed a footprint in the snow as if she was leaving her own imprint on the past. A lovely touch. I wonder if the TARDIS is drawn to trouble because it dispatched the pair just as corpses began roving about the streets of Cardiff. Merry Christmas, everybody. The mystery involved a seemingly haunted undertaker and a very Scrooge-ish Charles Dickens, who was flabbergasted by the starstruck doctor ("I'm your No. 1 fan!"). Christopher Eccleston has a knack for overplaying a scene without overstaying his welcome — the awful pun ("I love a happy medium") came with a delightful knowing wink. Billie Piper plays the straight woman, but Rose is so well developed that Piper turns even the most obvious scenes (e.g., talking with Gwyneth about a lad's "bum") into little gems. Most importantly, the producers (Russell Davies I'm sure made this a priority) have done a terrific job maintaining the doctor's balance of genius and humility. He makes mistakes and people don't always walk away. The doctor wanted to let the gaseous creatures keep the corpses ("It's like recycling") until they could build their own bodies, but he was duped and Gwyneth died. "There are more things dreamt of in Heaven and Earth than we will ever know," Dickens reminds him. "Even you, Doctor." The coda was perfect — Dickens runs through the streets shouting yuletide greetings. But what else can we expect from the new Who, a mind-bending adventure with a heart amidst the delicious rapid-fire dialogue. This is as good as sci-fi — and Sci Fi — gets. — G.J. Donnelly

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