“THE DOCTOR DANCES” – Series 1, Episode 10, Story 165b – Written by Steven Moffat; Directed by James Hawes – The Completion to THE EMPTY CHILD sees the Ninth Doctor, Rose, and Captain Jack running around, dodging empty people with gas masks for faces as they try to piece together the mystery and save the day. They figure out what Nancy wasn’t telling them – she’s the mummy – and what happened to the empty child – it was the nanogenes. Which makes it Jack’s fault, though no one gives him too much grief because Rose thinks he’s dreamy and the Doctor is jealous. Since Rose and Jack danced last episode, Rose and the Doctor dance this episode. They do a lot of talking about dancing, but they don’t really mean dancing. They mean sexing. Because The Doctor Might Not Want To Talk About Sex, But He Wants Rose To Know That He Knows How To Do It; He’s Just A Bit Out Of Practice.
Where THE EMPTY CHILD set the mood and crafted the mystery, THE DOCTOR DANCES sees a quickened pace as everyone races to their desired ending.
Director James Hawes does impressive work in this serial, easily switching gears between the fast bits and the slow bits, and the horror bits and the mystery bits and the action bits.
As we left our intrepid heroes and their con man acquaintance, the empty children were approaching them, trapping them with no way out, and everyone knowing all it takes is one touch to doom them. Now there’s not just one kid asking, but a whole room full of the Children of the Gas Masks asking, “Mummy?” The Doctor decides to play Mummy and scold the children, ordering them all to go to their room.
It works, and all the zombies go back to bed.
They head upstairs to Room 802, where the empty child was originally taken, held, and studied. There’s a humorous bit between Jack and the Doctor as Jack opens the door with his sonic blaster, allowing the Doctor to recognize that the device comes from the 51st century. More specifically, the blaster was manufactured at a facility that he blew up, replaced by a banana grove.
I’m not generally a fan of having multiple Companions because the result is usually less screen time for the Doctor and less actual development for the Companions. The horrid Adric/Nyssa/Tegan days saw the three Companions basically turned into static types and took time away from the Fifth Doctor. Harry was a perfectly nice chap, but the Fourth Doctor didn’t need him and Sarah Jane both, especially as the Doctor’s personality and forcefulness expanded from the Third Doctor’s run.
That said (and even though he’s not official, yet), the Doctor-Rose-Jack troika has fantastic chemistry right from the start. Rose’s constant comments comparing the two of them – and her clever branding of the Doctor as “Spock,” while referring in her asides to Jack as “Spock,” highlights what they both are and are not. Rose might want the Doctor, but her want isn’t exclusive.
Inside Room 802, the best scene of the episode plays out. They’re in the child’s holding room, complete with its own observation room, separated by a piece of glass and containing a tape recorder for Doctor Constantine to record his interview sessions. The child’s room is a mess and the tape in the machine keeps asking for the identity of his mummy. As the Doctor thinks through the mystery – thinking maybe one of the homeless kids wandered too close to Jack’s allegedly empty capsule – the tape finishes its playback.
The kid keeps talking.
The Doctor realizes he’s screwed himself – he sent the Gas Mask Gang to their room and this is the empty child’s room.
Which means the creepy voice is coming from inside the room.
There’s a bunch of running around as the comatose turn zombie again, and the three heroes end up trapped in a storeroom. Then Jack uses his personal teleport to jet and the Doctor and Rose talk about dancing. Jack’s voice comes to them over a radio, telling them he couldn’t ‘port them out of there, but he’s working on it. The kid’s voice cuts in, but Jack jams it by playing the same Glenn Miller song – “Moonlight Serenade.”
As they’re stuck in the storeroom, the Doctor and Rose have the “third date” conversation – that conversation you have when you and your date are trying to figure out if you’re going anywhere, if you still want to go other places with other people, and you’re coming to grips with your own emotions towards this other person.
The Doctor can’t hide his schoolboy jealousy – he wants to know why Rose trusts Jack and Rose answers that Jack reminds her of the Doctor, except with “dating and dancing.” It’s the classic, “I’m going to tell you what I want you to be by telling you what I like about someone else” routine. Rose expertly walks the line between dealing with real emotions and playing the courtship game – her feelings are real but developing, and you can see that she wants to be wanted. Nothing wrong with that, and it’s Jack overt desire – whether it’s motivated by pleasure, business, or both – that adds the sparkle to the obvious physical attraction.
The Doctor calls her out for assuming he can’t dance, she asks him to prove it, and as they start to stiffly slow dance, Jack teleports them to his ship. Jack fixes the Doctor’s burnt hand with the same nanogenes he used to fix Rose’s hands, and you can see it in the Doctor’s face that another piece of the puzzle has fallen to him.
Eventually, the Doctor figures out that the nanogenes are responsible, that they encountered the dead kid wearing the gas mask and interpreted that as the normal human and that they automatically “fixed” everyone else they encountered to take this form.
Nancy is revealed as the empty child’s mother, not sister, and her love for the kid shows the nanogenes the error of their ways and everyone lives and that makes the Doctor happy.
And then Rose has to remind him that Jack’s not going to live, because Jack grabs the impending bomb and flies off with it on a suicide run to get it away from anyone it could hurt, so the Doctor goes and saves Jack, too, and we’ve got a new Companion.
The scene ends with everyone in amazingly good spirits as the Doctor and Rose dance to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” inside the TARDIS, Jack looking on happily, probably figuring out whether he wants to seduce the Doctor, Rose, or both.
It’s nice to see a happy ending every once in a while, and it’s really nice to see the three of them just hanging out in the TARDIS. There’s not a ton of TARDIS scenes this season, and they usually involve coming and going. I tend to have a soft spot for the hanging out scenes in the TARDIS – be it the control room or deeper inside – and this is a good one.