1.8 – “Father’s Day”
Rose asks The Doctor to take her to the day her father, Pete, was killed. However, when Rose ends up saving his life instead, a paradox is created and suddenly Pete’s life isn’t the only one in danger.
We all know that I enjoy the more emotional episodes of Doctor Who. My soppiness should, by now, be familiar to most readers. And if not: “Hi, I’m Emma and I’m overly sentimental.” *waves*
“Father’s Day” begins with a flashback to Jackie Tyler telling a young Rose about her father. She explains that he was killed in a hit and run accident on the way to a friend’s wedding. We then cut back to the present day and Rose asks The Doctor if she can go to see her father when he was still alive, as he died when she was too young to remember him. We get a glimpse of the Rose I don’t like much when The Doctor asks where this request has come from and Rose feels the need to turn into a sulky teenager about it. But The Doctor is nicer than I am, so he grants her request rather than send her to her room and the duo head back in time to witness Rose’s parents getting married. We get a chance to marvel at Jackie’s poodle perm, before we cut back to the same flashback from earlier, during which Jackie tells her young daughter that she wishes someone had been with Pete when he died. Adult Rose then tells The Doctor that she wants to be that someone. With that in mind, the pair head for the date of the accident: November 7th 1987.
This episode touches on a question many of us have probably asked ourselves at some point; if we could go back in time and save the life of someone we love, would we do it? It sounds like a no-brainer. However, Rose doesn’t say that she wants to save Pete’s life. She simply asks to go back in time so that she can be with him and offer some comfort in his final moments. Billie Piper is emotionally convincing as Rose and The Doctor stand at the roadside. She explains that her father had been running late for the wedding, having been to pick up a wedding gift. You get the feeling of tension as Rose steels herself for what she’s about to witness. The Doctor slips his hand into Rose’s and it’s a nice, yet simple reminder that he genuinely cares for the feelings of his companion. The accident takes place, but Rose can’t bring herself to watch and once her father is lying in the road, she finds herself unable to go to him.
I’m going to interject here to say that whilst I love the emotional content of this episode, there are times when it’s a bit heavy-handed with the dramatic close-ups and slightly scary music. It’s a shame, because that actually detracts from the genuine emotive content. This moment is a case in point; as Rose laments the fact that her father still died alone, there’s a strange close-up of The Doctor’s eyes, along with a dramatic surge in the music and it just feels a bit like a random Doctor Who/generic spy movie mash-up.
Aaaanyway. Rose asks if she can try again. The Doctor takes her back, but warns her not to make a move towards her father until the previous versions of Rose and The Doctor are out of sight, as it’s a “very bad idea” for two versions of them to be in the same place. As the accident is about to unfold, however, Rose realises that she can’t watch her father die again. She dashes into the road and pushes Pete out of the way of the car, saving his life. Whilst Rose is overjoyed and relishes the opportunity to meet her father, The Doctor is furious. He remains silent and deadly – much like a fart – whilst Pete takes Rose and her “boyfriend” back to his place. When The Doctor does speak, it’s to berate Rose. He calls her a “stupid ape” and demands that she hands back her TARDIS key. As he stomps away, we see an overhead shot, coloured red and accompanied by scary music. It’s the second time we’ve seen this happen in this episode and jeepers, could it be a clue that all is not well?! Well, yes, because Rose’s decision to save her father’s life has created a paradox. Rose has caused a “wound in time” and creatures called Reapers are attempting to sterilise it by consuming everyone they see. These monsters are perhaps a little under-explained, but work within the context of the episode.
I really enjoyed the short scene in which Pete and Rose are driving to the church. It’s well acted by both Shaun Dingwall and Billie Piper, as Rose listens to Pete making conversation about his life and begins to realise that her mother has embellished a few facts about the father she never knew. It’s subtly done, which goes some way to making up for the heavy-handed moments from earlier in the episode. I also like the fact that the car that was supposed to kill Pete is seen rounding the corner, narrowly missing Pete’s car, before disappearing into thin air; the driver doomed to repeat this action again and again.
When Jackie arrives at the church and sees Pete with Rose, she believes them to be having an affair. Rose gets an unwelcome insight into her parents’ marriage. I really enjoyed this aspect of the episode and it’s commendable that the writers didn’t fall into the trap of making everything blissful and saccharine between Jackie and Pete. The truth of their tempestuous relationship adds to the drama of the episode.
Meanwhile, after finding that the TARDIS really is just a police box as a result of the paradox, The Doctor rushes to the church and announces that he can restore the TARDIS due to the key still being warm. Next time my car breaks down, I’ll try sitting on my keys…Again, this isn’t as fully explained as it could’ve been, but the focus is on the emotional content in this episode and it delivers on that aspect to the point that you can almost forgive the odd bit of plot weirdness.
The “downtime” whilst The Doctor is working on saving the day gives Pete a chance to speak quietly to Rose. In genuinely touching scenes, he realises that she’s his daughter. The emotional impact grows as Pete begins to ask questions about what he’s like in the future and what kind of a father he is. Rose is unable to answer, having never known him in her lifetime. Later, when Rose tries to invent a childhood with her father that neither of them ever lived, Pete is forced to acknowledge that the man she’s describing isn’t him. He explains that he understands that he was supposed to die in the earlier hit and run and tells Jackie that Rose is an adult version of their baby daughter and that she saved him. As he passes the baby to Rose to hold, it worsens the paradox and the Reapers manage to get into the church. One of the creatures consumes The Doctor and Pete realises that the only way to save everyone now is to sacrifice himself. The scenes in which he says goodbye to Jackie and Rose are genuinely moving.
As Pete is hit by the car, the Reapers disappear and The Doctor – along with everyone else they consumed – is restored. Rose is able to hold the hand of her dying father and say one last goodbye. The episode ends with Jackie recounting that the driver of the car did stop and that there was a young girl who stayed with Pete so that he didn’t die alone. Rose has done what she set out to do.
To be honest, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy this episode. I’m sure some fans will be madder than I am about some under-developed moments; sure, there are some plot points that are never fully explained but, as I said at the start, I’m a soppy mare and this episode packs one heck of an emotional punch. For that reason, it’s getting an 8/10. And I’m off to dry my eyes…
Written and edited by Emma Tofi