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8 January 2015

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 738: Father’s Day

Dear diary,

When you’re a Doctor Who fan living in Cardiff, you often find you’re walking around with a strange sense of Déjà vu (You’ll be glad to know I’ve wrestled all day about making a ‘Déjà Who joke, but thought better of it. Whoops.). In the last ten years, so much of this city and the surrounding area has been used for the programme that you stumble across places from the Doctor’s adventures on an almost daily basis. Just on the walk from my house to Tesco I pass the Torchwood Hub, the New Earth hospital, the restaurant from Deep Breath, the Scovox Blitzer’s den, the Cherub basement from New York, and the police station from Blink… and it’s only a five minute walk!

Before I made the move, I used to beetle over to Cardiff every few weeks to visit the other half, and finding myself in locations like this was one of the most exciting things ever. She lived up about 20 minutes from Cardiff, and the first time we pulled up to her house I realised that it was the street where the Doctor and Donna arrived to see the Earth being moved in Series Four. Queue excitement! You’d stand in a street for five minutes trying to work out where in the programme it was used, and the moment when everything clicked in to place and you actively realised where you were was brilliant. Four years on, though, it’s sort of become a bit old hat. I’m still stumbling across new bits and pieces that can excite me (someone pointed out only last week that Captains Jack and John walk right past my house in an episode of Torchwood, for example, and I love the weird coincidence that I would have watched that episode in 2008 little knowing that I’d end up living in a building on the screen), but by-and-large the thrill has died down.

Sometimes, though, you do get simply magical moments of finding locations that feel massive and important, and ones that you never knew were there, right under your nose. Before I moved to my current address about a year ago, I lived the other side of the Bay in a little flat, and the quickest route into the city was to cut through a different part of town. I was never smart enough to simply check maps to find the best route, I’d simply pick different streets every time I went and see if it was any quicker, or just a nicer walk. One day, in the pouring rain, I thought I’d got it sussed. I’d worked out the quickest possible route from town back to my flat, and I hurried off to take it. After walking almost two miles through unfamiliar streets I found myself at what might as well have been a dead-end - getting round and back into the right area would mean almost entirely retracing my steps back for half the journey. I was just stood on a street corner, in the pouring rain, outside a big old church. 

A very familiar big old church.

The church from Father’s Day! (See, and you thought I was just off on some wild tangent…). It was so unexpected, and so out of the way of all my usual routes, that I was ridiculously excited to realise where I was. It’s not the nicest area of town, but it certainly brightened up a somewhat rubbish day.

Oh, I’m rambling, I know. Really I’m just trying to avoid admitting to you all that as this episode ended, with Jackie telling Rose the re-written version of Pete’s death… I actually teared up! That happens very rarely to me during Doctor Who. It certainly hadn’t happened the first time I watched this episode. I’m not even entirely sure what it was that set me off on this occasion - certainly the situation, the script, the performances all lead towards it being an emotional moment, but in watching today that really fell in to place for me in a way that it simply hadn’t done before.

I think it’s also because watching this episode knowing that Pete will have to make his sacrifice at the end of the tale lends even more emotional weight to so many other moments in the episode. It’s a very clever script, and in ways I’d never noticed before. Almost as soon as the core cast is barricaded inside the church, the Doctor looks out at the car appearing and vanishing… and works out how to solve the problem. Then, in the same moment he tells Pete that he doesn’t know what to do, and tries desperately to find another solution. He might not be happy that Rose has essentially brought about the end of creation but he loves her too much to let that stop him from trying his hardest to care for her.

The real revelation, though, must be Shaun Dingwall as Rose’s dad. Just in the same way that the Doctor very quickly figures out what’s going on, Pete starts to put everything together well before the halfway point of the story, slowly building up a picture in his mind of what’s really happening. We then get that delivered in two large places - firstly when he and Rose discuss who she really is, and then again at the end, when he admits that he knows what he has to do. It’s connecting to the very human side of this story that makes it all the better, and Dingwall turns in a fantastic performance that really feels every beat. 

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