People absolutely adored Heaven Sent as it was a one hander, people claimed it to be an absolute innovation for the show; but when you think about it, there wasn’t that much fanfare when, back in 2005, Doctor Who did something similar in Boom Town, a story that essentially had a two hander for the latter half of the episode; based mainly around character development instead of explosions and impressive looking monsters. Welcome to our review of the somewhat under appreciated episode, Boom Town.
Stopping off in present-day Cardiff to recharge the TARDIS, The Doctor, Rose and Jack encounter an old foe in the midst of hatching a scheme that could destroy the entire planet.
It’s very strange for Doctor Who to start with a ‘Previously’ that either doesn’t recap the whole series or recap the episode before, but instead recaps an episode from six weeks previously, but that is exactly how Boom Town starts. For those loyal fans who had watched the whole of the series, I’m sure it worked at refreshing their minds, going way back to the events of Aliens of London and World War Three, but for a casual viewer, who maybe joined back in Dalek, like I know a lot of people did, this might have been jarring; especially seen as BBC iPlayer wasn’t around for them to go back and catch up.
When the episode starts, a whole six months later, it seems very familiar to the events of Aliens of London and World War Three, we are in a grandiose building that could easily be parliament and we’re reintroduced to Margaret Blaine the Slitheen, who was presumed dead after the events of her previous episode.
This episode takes place in Cardiff as the Doctor has to recharge the TARDIS on the rift (why hasn’t he done that in so long?) and we’re joined by a very full TARDIS team of the Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack and
Ricky Mickey, meanwhile we see Margret as the Mayor of Cardiff preparing to create a nuclear power station right in the heart of the city.
One of my favourite aspects of this episode is the character of Cathy, the news reporter who has heard of a curse that seems to be associated with the Blaidd Drwg project; it’s probably not decent that I laughed so much at the “unfortunate” deaths of people associated with the project.
If there’s one thing that’s absolutely great about this episode, it’s that Margaret has a rather heartbreaking redemption arc; from deciding to not kill Cathy to what happens later in the episode. Before she’s fully redeemed herself however, there’s a lot of rather slapstick comedy to take place with Margaret’s attempted escape from the Doctor, Mickey, Jack and Rose.
Boom Town seems to be the episode where the Doctor and Rose realise that the words ‘Bad Wolf’ seem to be following them through time and space; however the Doctor rather foolishly instantly dismisses it as mere coincidence, what a fool the Time Lord can be. In the same scene, we see just how cold hearted the Time Lord is, acknowledging that he’s going to be sentencing Margaret to death back on Raxacoricofallapatorius and not feeling an ounce of remorse about it.
The second half of the episode is when we really get the interesting side of this story; if the first half of Boom Town was more of a romp, a farcical comedy if you will, then the second half is much more serious, exploring some rather deep and somewhat philosophical concepts, especially for a family show like Doctor Who.
Whilst rewatching this episode for the review, I was reminded of just how adult the show was back in 2005, especially with scripts written by Russell T Davis; with jokes about ‘dinner and bondage’ going straight over my head as a child.
It’s strange that, over ten years since this episode aired, that a lot of the episode still has a lot of relevance; I know that Doctor Who back in the Davis era was a lot more character based than recent years, focussing a lot on relationships and morals instead of monsters and riddles, but Boom Town deals with issues such as the death penalty, being left behind by a loved one, somewhat being cheated on in a relationship, and redemption. All themes and concepts that haven’t become any less relevant in 2016 than they were in 2005.
The exchange between Margaret (Or Blon-Fel-Fotch-Pasmeer-Day Slitheen if you prefer) and the Doctor in the restaurant is one of the most interesting pieces of Doctor Who’s first series in the revival; it’s not big, it’s not filled with explosions; instead it’s quiet, it’s modest, it’s directed very well and performed beautifully. It might be strange but I think it’s one of my favourite scenes of Doctor Who since the revival.
Unfortunately, the scene is a lot shorter than it should have been, probably because they didn’t want the kiddywinks to get too bored, so they chuck in a massive explosion, the TARDIS whizz-banging and Rose at the mercy of Margaret. Whilst I do enjoy this aspect of the episode, I can’t help but feel that more interaction in the restaurant would have made a much more intellectually compelling episode.
In hindsight, it’s great to see so many seeds be sewn that will come into play in the next two episodes, such as Bad Wolf and the heart of the TARDIS, which will become such an important and pivotal piece of information later on during The Parting of The Ways even if it’s power is used in a different way than it will be in the future; this time reducing Margaret to an egg, giving her a second chance of life.
There’s something about this episode that really appeals to me; and I’m not quite sure what it is. I know that this episode was designed to be the ‘budget’ episode, meaning they can spend more elsewhere, but the overarching theme of redemption in this episode is one that I somewhat believe in and something that is very rare for Doctor Who to do; usually it’s that there’s a bad guy and they have to be stopped at all costs.
The rating system on the Gallifrey Archive is achieved on a scale of 1-10.
For Boom Town, I will give a rating of: