Timestamp #168: Father’s Day

Doctor Who: Father’s Day
(1 episode, s01e08, 2005)

 

Time can correct itself, but the consequences are deadly.

Rose reminisces about her father, Peter Alan Tyler, who died in November of 1987. She asks the Doctor if they can travel to see him and the Time Lord agrees with a caveat: “Be careful what you wish for.” They watch their wedding, where her father nervously messes up Jackie’s name during the vows, and then travel to the day of his death so he won’t die alone.

They stand on the roadside as Peter Tyler drives up – “Bad Wolf” is scrawled on a poster on a wall – but Rose cannot stand the sight of the hit and run accident. She asks the Doctor for another chance, an event that crosses their own timelines, and saves her father from death. They accompany Pete back to Tyler flat where Rose joyfully looks at her father’s belongings before being upbraided by the Doctor for changing the timeline. He demands the TARDIS key back and leaves, unaware of the eyes in the sky that kill three people in rapid succession.

Pete tries to console Rose over her boyfriend troubles, but she rebuffs his advice before escorting him to the Hoskins-Clark wedding. Meanwhile, the Doctor arrives at the TARDIS to find it an empty (and normal) police box. He runs after Rose, who is currently riding in a car (and getting Rickrolled like we all did back in the day) before hearing an anachronistic song on the radio. She picks up a message on her superphone – “Watson, come here, I need you.” – and narrowly avoids being hit twice by the same driver who nearly killed her father before.

They arrive at the church to meet Jackie and baby Rose, and a spat between Rose’s parents reveals her father’s infidelity. Nearby, a young Mickey watches everyone on the playground disappear before running to the church. The Doctor arrives just in time to save Rose and most of the wedding guests from dragon-like creatures. Everyone hides in the church – the older something is, the stronger it is against the rupture in time – and the Doctor reveals that the creatures are there to sterilize the wound by consuming those involved.

The Doctor watches as the hit-and-run driver makes another loop in time and Pete puts the pieces together. They tearfully embrace and talk about time travel as the creatures try to enter the church. The Doctor continues his rounds in the church, meeting the bride, groom, and their unborn child. Witness to their ordinary lives and potentially happy future, something he has never had, he promises to save them.

Jackie looks after Mickey as the Doctor watches baby Rose. The Time Lord is still angry about the paradox, for which he has no solution, and prevents Rose from comforting her younger self lest it add to the problem. Rose apologizes, the Doctor forgives her, and they realize that the TARDIS is (literally) the key to the problem. The Doctor uses an ’80s mobile phone battery and his sonic screwdriver to charge the key as Rose tries to console her father with false memories, but Pete knows that what she’s telling him is a lie. The TARDIS begins to materialize around the key and it becomes a race against time to save everyone in the church.

Unfortunately, Jackie picks that moment to confront Pete over Rose. The baby gets handed to Rose in the altercation and a creature materializes in the church from the new twist in the timelines. The Doctor tries to protect everyone but he is eaten by the creature, which then flies into the materializing TARDIS and stops the process cold. All avenues for success appear to be cut off. Rose mourns the Doctor as the world grows darker, and Pete makes a fateful decision about the looping hit-and-run driver.

Pete shows Rose to Jackie, who finally understands who the Doctor’s companion is, and says farewell to the daughter he barely knew. He grabs the vase that was broken in the correct timeline, leaves the church, and steps in front of the car. His sacrifice restores the Doctor and the timeline, and presents Rose one last chance to comfort her father before he dies.

History has changed slightly, but the fixed point in time – Pete’s death – has been restored. With this deeper understanding of the nature of space and time, Rose solemnly accompanies the Doctor back to the restored TARDIS.

 

This is a muddled story, and would otherwise be average (or less) as a result, but the confusion and unease that it inspires adds to the atmosphere. We don’t know why Pete Tyler’s death is a fixed (unmovable) point in time, but the mysteries surrounding it in this base-under-siege story infuse the poignancy with a degree of anxiety. It also adds more dimension to Rose and her awakening to the universe beyond her front door.

The Doctor still has some anger issues related to the Last Great Time War, but he’s also healing as we can see from his impassioned argument against fixing parts of personal timelines. He could stop the genocide, but the results could be catastrophic.

This isn’t one of my favorite stories, but it does the job well.

 

 

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Empty Child and Doctor Who: The Doctor Dances

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

 

 

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