In a series of quick cuts, we switch back and forth between two key points in Rose’s timeline. First, Jackie tells young Rose how her father Pete Tyler died on 7 November, 1987, the day of their friends’ wedding. The victim of a hit-and-run, he never got to see his daughter grow up. Next present-day Rose awkwardly asks the Doctor if it’s possible to see her dad alive. After viewing Pete and Jackie’s strained civil ceremony, Rose implores the Doctor to take her to the day Pete died. Someone ought to have been there for him, this man she’s heard was so clever and always having adventures. Might it be her? “Your wish is my command,” the Doctor says. “But be careful what you wish for.”
“The past is another country,” the Doctor observes as they step from the TARDIS. But “1987’s just the Isle of Wight.” They reach the road where the accident occurs. “Oh god, this is it,” Rose says. The Doctor holds her hand. Pete fails to see the speeding car. In a panic, the driver holds an arm up, shielding his sight as he hits Pete. “Go to him, quick,” the Doctor reminds Rose of what she’d wanted. But oh stars, poor Rose! She can’t move. “He can’t die on his own,” Rose says miserably moments later. “Can I try again?”
This time when the Doctor and Rose visit the scene of Pete’s death, they must avoid the first set of themselves still there. When that Doctor follows that Rose, this Rose can run to her dad and be there for him. Muttering, “I can’t do this,” this Rose runs to pull her father to safety. Giddy at her success, Rose introduces herself, only to be told Rose is his daughter’s name. “That’s a great name, good choice, well done,” she chatters. She mentions the wedding, leading Pete to believe she’s invited. “You and your boyfriend want a lift?” The Doctor stands on the pavement, terribly disapproving. As they leave, something overhead watches, its view filtered through a red scaly lens.
“I’ll tell him you’re not my boyfriend,” Rose says to a still-angry Doctor as soon as Pete leaves them alone. But no, what’s truly upset the Doctor how Rose agreed to accompany him when they met only when he mentioned time travel. He feels used and hurt, assuming this could have been her plan all along as he angrily rails he picked another “stupid ape.” It’s the same story, he accuses her: “It’s not about showing you the universe; it’s about the universe doing something for you!”
Rose pleads with him, contending saving Pete is so minor nothing will change. “Rose, there’s a man alive in the world who wasn’t before, an ordinary man, the most important thing in creation,” he retorts. There’s a reason he couldn’t go back and save his planet and family after the Time Wars were over. Ugh, he’s probably right to a small extent at least, that Rose’s longing to meet her father might have lurked at the back of her mind when she decided to travel with him. But her accusation to him also rings at least a little true: he’s jealous, now that “you’re not the most important man in my life.” He loses his temper, demanding the TARDIS key back. “You got what you wanted, so that’s goodbye then.”
“Boyfriend trouble?” Pete asks while outside the Doctor stalks away (under the eye of the red-lens POV). Nearby, various people doing ordinary tasks disappear, seemingly taken by the creature watching through the red viewpoint. “Why does everyone think we’re a couple?” Rose complains. “Pretty girl like you, if I was going out with you,” Pete begins, but Rose swiftly interrupts. They’re not going to go there, “you aren’t even aware there exists! For you, there is like the Bermuda Triangle!” she argues. Ahahaha! “Blimey, you know how to flatter a bloke,” he says, well put off.
At the church, the groom worries so many people are missing. “Maybe it’s a godsend,” his father says, trying to talk him out of the marriage. Later on he’ll think on this day and wish he could “turn the clock back.” The father stops, asking, “Is it me or did it just get cold?” Obviously no one should make changes when the clock turns back except for Time Lords! Meanwhile, the Doctor storms into the TARDIS — but it’s turned into an ordinary box. “Rose!” he cries, frantic.
On the way to the church, Rose realizes her father’s not the astute businessman her mother paid tribute to, but someone who does “a bit of this, bit of that,” just scraping by. “You’re not related to my wife by any chance, are you?” he jokes when she tries to make his plans seem grander.
As Rose tries to understand how this version of Pete turned into the idealized father of her mother’s stories, other clues show something wrong with the fabric of time. Radio songs from years later play on the radio (interrupting Rose and her dad getting rick roll’ed by “Never Gonna Give You Up”). And Rose’s cell phone transmits the very first words spoken via telephone: “Watson, come here, I need you.” Behind them, the accident car appears, and then disappears.
The groom’s father, talking on his HUGE mobile (which is the only thing in years to make me recall That 80s Show, says, “you’re better off not being here; it’s a disaster in the making.” Many of the guests haven’t shown, or have disappeared. The wedding party arrives, the bridesmaids including Jackie helping the bride while Jackie holds Baby Rose.
As Rose and Pete pull up, she realizes with horror the accident car’s bearing down fast, shouting, “Dad!” It disappears again, but Pete’s confused by what Rose yelled. “Wonderful, here he is, accident waiting to happen,” Jackie pronounces when she sees Pete. Ugh, worst choice of words ever, Jackie. She soon accuses Rose of being Pete’s bit on the side (honestly, even Baby Rose looks mighty suspicious). “Were you playing around?” Rose asks, shocked. “Did he tell you he’s this big businessman? Because he’s not, he’s a failure,” Jackie says harshly. “Stop, you’re not like that,” Rose yells at them both. “Oh Pete, you never used to like them mental,” Jackie sniffs. Pete shoos Rose to the car, giving her his keys and saying, “Don’t cause any more trouble!”
A small boy plays on the swing set as, all around him, various children and even the adult with him disappear, snatched by the monsters overhead. Dude, is that Mickey? I swear I called him at this point the first time I saw! He’s so darling and tiny, and he’s all scared! *cuddles frightened Mickey*
“It’s the duffel coats all over again!” Jackie wails, referring to when she caught Pete and a clerk with a rack of duffel coats covering them. “Sometimes a duffel coat is just a duffel coat,” Pete says anxiously. I get the sense he’s certainly a blundering kind of guy but he doesn’t seem the unfaithful sort. For the moment, Jackie seems to accept his apology; they kiss. The little boy from the playground skedaddles into the church, and when Rose hears the Doctor call her name, she turns with a smile. For her it’s a perfect moment, all the things in her life set to rights. But as she realizes the Doctor’s panicking, and sees the freakish dinosaur-dragon-bats sweeping down and grabbing the father of the groom and vicar, she cottons on that something just might be terribly wrong.
The older something is, the safer it is, the Doctor explains to the friends and family who are confused and trapped in the old church. There’s been an accident, “a wound in time,” and the monsters have come to sterilize this wound, the Doctor tells Jackie. She’s alarmed he knows her name, and chatters anxiously. “I’ve waited a long time to say this, Jackie Tyler,” he shouts, “Do as I say!” and go and help the others lock the doors. “Yes, sir,” she stammers, rushing off. The groom catches the Doctor’s attention to hand him his father’s BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD mobile; the Doctor incredulously listens to Alexander Graham Bell’s words to Watson.
Rose, terrified, asks if this is all her fault; the Doctor’s silence is as good as an answer. As Pete and the Doctor continue to secure doors, Pete catches sight of the accident vehicle before it disappears. “Was that a car?” he wonders. “Don’t worry about it,” the Doctor says gruffly, already willing to protect Rose’s mistake until the end.
What did it mean, Pete asks Rose, when she asked if it’s all her fault? “I gave you my car keys,” he says slowly, as if realizing it only when the words leave his mouth. “You don’t give your keys to a complete stranger.” “I trusted you the moment I met you,” he continues. You can see the clues add up: she has his eyes, Jackie’s attitude. He touches her face in surprise and they hug. “You’re my Rose,” he says wonderingly, while the monsters bash against the doors outside.
The groom and bride interrupt the doctor to ask, “Can you save us?” At his request, they explain how they met. The bride apologizes, saying “I know we’re not important.” “Who says you’re not important?” the Doctor objects. “You two, street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home — I’ve never had a life like that.” It’s another heartfelt reminder that the problems of ordinary people do amount to a hill of beans in the Doctor’s crazy world, bless him. “Yes, I’ll try and save you,” he says, smiling.
Though Pete says, “my head’s spinning,” he accepts Rose is his daughter remarkably quickly. “I’d thought you’d be a bit useless, with my useless genes and all,” he remarks, though obviously he’s impressed with her. He asks that all important question about the future: has he gone grey? Or, horror of horrors, has he gone bald? Her lack of answer makes him stare, but then he changes the subject, noting that it’s good if the Doctor’s just a mate, because “as your dad, I think he’s a bit old for you.” Ahahaha, if he knew how old! Poor Pete would pull an Adam-swoon.
Little Mickey (it is him!) runs up to Rose, wrapping his arms around her. “You have to let go of me, sweetheart,” Rose says, disconcerted, before muttering, “I’m always saying that.” “He just grabs on to what’s passing and holds on for dear life,” Jackie sniffs, predicting a world of difficulty for his future girlfriend (ho ho!). Jackie accuses Pete for sniffing around after Rose during the crisis. Understandably, Pete wants to tell her the truth right away, but Rose, wanting to avoid further time-space problems, convinces him Jackie won’t get this if she can’t get how to sue the damn Beta-max recorder yet.
“Now, Rose, you’re not going to bring about the end of the world, are you?” the Doctor coos at Baby Rose. Heee! “Jackie gave her to me to look after,” he tells her adult counterpart. “How times change!” But don’t touch the baby, the Doctor orders. Any further disturbance will make the creatures stronger. “Can’t do anything right, can I?’ she asks.
They bicker until finally the Doctor apologizes, saying he wouldn’t really have left. But the reconciliation is bittersweet, because as he says, “Between you and me, I haven’t got a plan. No idea, no way out.” The Time Lords could have stopped this, but now they’re all gone. “If I’d realized,” Rose begins, choked up. “Just tell me you’re sorry,” he replies. “I am. I’m sorry,” she says. The Doctor touches her cheek, just as her father did, and after grinning, hugs her close while I shriek, “My heart!” and pull an Adam-swoon.
Rose jerks back, burned by something in the Doctor’s coat. He pulls out a glowing TARDIS key. It’s still connected; though it they’ll get the TARDIS back. He explains a simple version to the rest, and the groom, who is really quite resourceful, finds batteries to help charge the TARDIS. “And then we can bring everyone back,” all the missing people, the Doctor explains, once the TARDIS is fully materialized inside.
Pete again approaches Rose, saying if he had a time machine, he wouldn’t choose 1987 as his destination. Was it to save him? “That was just really good luck,” Rose lies unbelievably. “Am I a good dad?” in the future, he asks. Rose spins a tale of him telling bedtime stories, taking them on picnics; “you never let us down.” Looking sober, he says, “That’s not me.” He’s beginning to understand what’s caused this wound in time.
The TARDIS key glows in mid-air, slowing re-materializing the lock and the rest of the TARDIS around it. From the pulpit (oh, how I lol’d!), the Doctor rants his own version of fire and brimstone — no one is to touch the key or the TARDIS! (Also, Rose, don’t touch the baby, remember?) “Stuart, Sarah, you’re going to get married, just like I said,” the Doctor tells the groom and bride. Outside, the accident car appears, the driver again holding up his arm to shield his sight, before disappearing.
Everyone waits anxiously for the TARDIS to appear. “When time gets sorted out,” Rose begins. “Everyone here forgets what happened,” the Doctor tells her, and “the thing you changed will stay changed.” “You mean I’ll still be alive, though I’m meant to be dead,” Pete finally acknowledges. It’s why his life didn’t mean anything, he says regretfully (though the Doctor tells him that’s not how it works). It’s all her fault, Rose tells him. “No, love, I’m your dad,” he corrects her gently. “It’s my job for it to be my fault.” What’s that wrenching sound? Why, it’s my heart breaking into a billion pieces!
Pete tries to tell Jackie this is Rose, his daughter. Jackie misunderstands, thinking her baby got a “second-hand name” from a daughter he must have conceived when he was twelve years old. “It’s disgusting!” Jackie exclaims. “How many are out there?” Ahahaha, the idea of Pete with a string of daughters all named Rose! “Look, it’s the same Rose,” Pete says, exasperated, taking the baby from Jackie to hand her to adult Rose. “No!” the Doctor cries out. Too late: Rose takes the child, and the monsters appear inside the church, unfurling their wings as they take stock of the people inside.
“I’m the oldest thing in here,” the Doctor declares. And that’s right — the monsters went after the older people in general, like the groom’s disapproving father and the vicar. Except at the playground, I guess? Though some of those teeter-totter-ers could have been shriveled old people, I suppose. *retcons* Anyway, there’s no time for hammering on consistency, because the bat-dinosaur-dragon monster EATS THE DOCTOR WHOLE! DDDDD: When the creature hits the partially-present TARDIS, it disappears. The key drops to the ground, cold and lifeless. “My god, he’s dead,” Rose says, stunned. It seems she’s traded one important man in her life for another.
Everyone panics, as well they might. “There’s nothing we can do, it’s the end,” one of the guests wails. Pete looks outside, spotting the accident car reappearing and disappearing in a loop. There’s one thing that can be done, and he’s the only man who can do it. “If there was another way,” Pete tells Rose heavily. But there isn’t. “The car that should’ve killed me, it’s here,” he explains. She begins to sob, but her father takes on the full mantle of responsibility saying the Doctor’s “not in charge any more, I am.”
“You can’t,” Rose weeps. “Who am I, love?” he asks gently, and it’s amazing, seeing Pete become that heroic father Rose always dreamed of. “You’re my daddy,” she cries. “Jackie, look at her, she’s ours,” Pete says. Jackie’s eyes widen, and she hugs adult Rose. “You’re going to be rid of me at last,” he jokes to his wife, though Jackie’s distraught. But “you’ve got to survive” to raise Rose. Pete and Jackie kiss, and it’s utterly romantic and tragic. Rose gets her storybook family just for a moment before they’re all torn asunder. Quick, help me gather up my heart so it can shatter all over again!
“I never read you bedtime stories,” Pete tells Rose. (*pauses scene for weeping*) “I never took you on picnics; I was never there for you.” But he can do this for her, and be a proper dad. He’s gotten this amazing chance to see her grown up: “How lucky am I?” he says, his voice breaking. As the car loops around, Pete sees his moment, and runs out. He’s hit, the creatures disappear, and Rose closes her eyes.
The Doctor appears beside Rose (well, yes, I knew he would survive, but THANK GOODNESS! *moooshes Doctor and Baby Rose and Adult Rose and Jackie and Pete together in a heap*) “Go to him,” he urges her, and Rose runs to hold her father. He watches her, wonderingly, as he dies.
As the others re-convene, with the disappeared people reappearing unharmed, we hear a new version of the story Jackie told at the start. During it, we see clues that this is a kinder world — the disapproving father of the groom comforts his future daughter-in-law, and the driver, rather than speeding away, stops and gets out of the car.
“The driver was just a kid,” Jackie tells young Rose. “He stopped, waited for the police. It wasn’t his fault – for some reason Pete just ran out.” And there was this girl: “she sat with Pete while he was dying. She held his hand. And then she was gone.” So though the Doctor couldn’t give Rose her father back for the rest of her life, he gave them all this immense comfort in the midst of a terrible tragedy, the death of an ordinary man who meant the world to his daughter.
Rose and the Doctor join hands, and leave for the TARDIS. And I shall leave in my own (cardboard) TARDIS, but I’ll be back tomorrow with a new recap, for “The Empty Child”. Join me, won’t you? :D