Doctor Who 1.11 – Boom Town

The face of doom (and uncontrollable flatulence): the return of Slitheen Margaret Blaine.

Six months after the Slitheen nearly reduced the Earth to a slag heap so they could sell it for fuel, Cardiff’s nuclear expert advisor appeals to the city’s new mayor. No matter how he’s studied the designs, the newly approved nuclear power plant can only lead to “destruction like the British Isles have never seen before.” “Well, goodness me…you’re the expert,” she defers to him at first, saying, “nothing is more important than human life.” But as her tummy rumbles, we recognize Margaret Blaine, one conniving surviving Slitheen disguised in a human skin suit.  

“Thank goodness we’ve got you, our esteemed leader,” Cleaver says, missing the bit where Margaret’s just shucked her human husk so she can tear him limb from limb. Seriously, six months have passed, and in that time Margaret managed to get over the foiling of her evil plans, endure the demise of her family, run for mayoral office and win? Crank up some Destiny’s Child, because this alien’s a survivor!

Hey, it’s Mickey! The last time we saw you, you were only this high! *pinches his cheeks* He gets off a train in Cardiff and heads to the Oval Basin where the TARDIS sits in plain view. Jack answers the door with a brisk, “Who the hell are you?” Mickey finally pushes past him only to be greeted as “Ricky” by the Doctor. Be nice, boys! Jack watches Rose and Mickey hug, complaining, “How come I never get any of that?”  “Buy me a drink first,” the Doctor advises him from his ladder. “You’re such hard work,” Jack grouses. “But worth it,” the Doctor says smugly.

Mickey’s brought Rose her passport by her request.  Though he doesn’t mind her traveling with “big-ears up there,” (“Oi!” objects the Doctor) Jack’s kind of—”Handsome?” Jack supplies helpfully. “Cheesy,” Mickey says. While Jack tries to decide if cheesy is bad—and isn’t bad good in twentieth-first-century slang?—Rose mentions the Cardiff Rift. She, the Doctor, and Jack all chime in bringing anyone who missed “The Unquiet Dead” (DW 1.03) up to speed. Remember how servant girl Gwyneth back in Charlie Dickens’s day sealed the Rift after the mean old Gelth tried to slip through? Well, now the remaining radiation’s harmless to humans (uh, really?) but just right for powering up the TARDIS.

“You all think you’re so clever, don’t you?” Mickey complains. Mickey, don’t feel like a fourth wheel! Think instead of Jack’s point, that passers-by might wonder what four people were doing together inside a small box. Just say the word, and we could make that happen, nudge, wink, say no more! Instead Mickey retorts, “What are you captain of, the Innuendo Squad?”  Well, yes, among other things.  They head off to explore Cardiff, or, as the Doctor says, the “safest place in the universe!”

Mayor Margaret Blaine hosts a reception for “a monument to Welsh industry,” the nuclear power station. Saaayy, isn’t nuclear power dangerous? “I give you my personal guarantee that as long as I walk upon this earth, no harm will come to any of my citizens,” Margaret pledges. So we understand pretty much right away she’s planning to get off Earth but quick.

A peppy young reporter from the Cardiff Gazette waylays Margaret with pesky questions about the project’s curse. Lots of personnel have died, but Margaret blusters she can’t help if some were French (doesn’t everyone read Welsh safety instructions?), or the last one slipped on an icy patch. “He was decapitated,” the reporter corrects her. “It was a very icy patch,” Margaret replies sternly. The reporter reads Cleaver’s findings online. Margaret coos, “Who’s been doing her homework?” before dragging her off to the ladies, “All girls together!” to finish her off.

“He almost made it seem deliberate,” the reporter says about Cleaver’s expose of the nuclear plant’s vulnerabilities. If she’s going to print this information, “so be it,” Margaret says inside the stall, ready to shed her skin suit. But then the reporter mentions her upcoming wedding and baby. “You’re with child?” Margaret says weakly, pausing half-out of her disguise instead of going for the kill. She herself “had quite a sizeable family once upon a time,” but lost them.  “Maybe I am cursed,” she murmurs. “Run along,” she tells the reporter, letting her live. She leans forward, eyes closed, crying—it’s a great moment, because she’s so freakish and alien looking with her disguise hanging about her, but Margaret’s never been more human.

Mickey quickly fits in with the gang as they raise a ruckus over lunch and one of Captain Jack’s sexy adventure stories. The Doctor doesn’t have time to enjoy the vision of Jack and fifteen friends totally nude fleeing from a monster, though, because he glimpses the newspaper. Showing the others the photo of Margaret he compalins, “And I was having such a nice day.”

Doctor the Ninth has a posse

The four of them march into city offices, with Captain Jack devising strategy and barking out orders. “Excuse me, who’s in charge?” the Doctor demands. “Awaiting orders, sir,” Jack says with a sigh. “Right, here’s the plan: like he said.  Nice plan!” the Doctor announces with a grin.

The Doctor claims he’s an old friend of the Lord Mayor, passing by as a surprise.  “Can’t wait to see her face!” he tells Margaret’s assistant. He’s announced, and we hear china breaking. Margaret would love a chat, the assistant explains, but just has so much paperwork. “She’s climbing out the window, isn’t she?” the Doctor says calmly. “Slitheen headed north,” he informs his crew; they catch up with various shows of derring-do (Jack leaping over a tea trolley) and klutziness (Rose and Mickey crashing into people).

Outside, though Margaret dashes away from Rose, Mickey, and Jack (with her cute little assistant crying out, “Leave the Lord Mayor alone!” and tackling the Doctor), she can’t disappear. As Rose says, “the Doctor’s very good with teleports,” and he rematerializes her running straight at them. “This is persecution!” Margaret rages. “What did I ever do to you?”  “You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet,” the Doctor argues. “Apart from that!”

The Doctor doesn’t buy Margaret’s explanation that building the nuclear power station was a “philanthropic gesture,” and soon realizes it’s designed to explode.  Rose can’t believe no one in London’s checked up on this, but “The South Wales coast could fall into the sea and they wouldn’t notice,” Margaret complains. She stops. “Oh. I sound like a Welshman. God help me, I’ve gone native.”

The Doctor turns over a piece of the power station model, revealing what Jack quickly recognizes as a “tribophysical waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator.”  Jackie sure loves his gadgets! It’s a pan-dimensional surfboard she’s stolen, which will allow her to ride the wave of nuclear explosion unharmed away from Earth. “You’d blow up a whole planet just to get a lift?” Mickey asks in disgust.  “Like stepping on an anthill,” Margaret snaps.

The Doctor stops when he notices the power plant’s name: Blaidd Drwg, Welsh for Bad Wolf. Rose exclaims she’s heard that lots of times. “Everywhere we go, two words following us,” the Doctor says gravely. “Bad Wolf.” The moment of tension’s broken when he dismisses it as coincidence. Rose quickly gets excited—they’re not only going to turn Margaret in on Raxacoricofallapatorius, but she can pronounce Raxacoricofallapatorius! Fun with phonics isn’t so fun for Margaret, who with her entire family is under order of execution on her home planet. “Not my problem,” the Doctor says gruffly, though he’s clearly disturbed by this.

“I almost feel better being defeated,” Margaret marvels inside the TARDIS, which she calls “the technology of gods.” As Jack works to tap into Margaret’s surfboard for fuel, Rose gets a giddy again because now the police box “is really a police box!” with a criminal inside. “You’re very quick to soak your hands in my blood, which makes you better than me how, exactly?” Margaret asks them all.  None of them can meet her gaze.

When Mickey and Rose duck outside the TARDIS, Rose confesses she made up the excuse of needing her passport just to see him. Cheeky! They could go get pizza, have a drink, “spend the night” in a hotel even, Mickey suggests. Rose agrees, laughing, and says she doesn’t need to tell the Doctor because it’s “none of his business.” Come on, Rose, you two are allll up in each other’s business these days. And to prove it, inside, the Doctor watches Rose and Mickey walk away on screen like a creeper.

Margaret needles the Doctor, saying though he’s “always the first to leave, never mind the consequences,” now he has to wait and face them. Margaret suggests the Doctor fulfill her “last request”, a meal at a restaurant she likes. Can the Doctor “sit with a creature he’s about to kill and take supper? How strong is your stomach?” Jack hands over some fancy link-less handcuffs to keep her in line. “Dinner and bondage; works for me,” Margaret says archly.  I knew the Slitheen were a kinky lot with those compression collars!

Wining, dining, and poisoning.

“Here we are out on a date and you haven’t even asked me my name,” Margaret points out. After she pronounces her name the way it will appear on her death certificate, she points out where she lived, using the Doctor’s distraction to slip poison into his wine. He turns back and immediately switches their glasses. Never go against a Sicilian Northerner when death is on the line, Margaret! Her other killing gambits, a poison dart shot out of her finger, and exhaling poison through her lungs (man, those Raxacoricofallapatorius are a weird bunch) fail as the Doctor immediately catches the dart and sprays breath freshener in her mouth. He’s so smooth. *Adam-swoon*

Rose regales Mickey with tales of some adventures we haven’t seen, such as the frozen sea on a planet called Woman Wept. “I’m going out with Trisha Delaney,” Mickey blurts out in the middle of her story. “She’s nice,” Rose says, startled, though she immediately says, “she’s a bit big.” Pfftt, Rose, we’ve found another little gap in your tolerance. “She lost weight,” Mickey says irritably, and besides, “you’ve been away.”  “Well, good for you, she’s nice,” Rose says. AWK-WARD!

Margaret’s just the best-est dinner companion! Who wouldn’t want to hear while munching on their steak and chips how execution victims get lowered into acid and dismembered? Yummo! “I don’t make the law,” the Doctor replies. “But you deliver it,” she points out. Instead he could deliver her to her other Slitheen.  The Doctor won’t believe she’s reformed, telling her she’s “pleading for mercy out of a dead woman’s lips.”  Though it’s hard not to feel some measure of sympathy for lonely, humanized “Margaret”, I do love that the Doctor reminds us all there was a real Margaret Blaine who fell prey to the Slitheen merely to furnish them with a convenient disguise.

Mickey brings up the hotel again, but “What would Tricia Delaney say?” Rose retorts. “You left me,” Mickey objects. They were happy and “you made me feel like nothing, Rose.” Well, that’s been a long time coming. Rose absolutely made the right choice, but the way she left Mickey was harsh. He can’t even go with a stupid girl from a shop, he says, because she only has to call and he comes running. “Am I just supposed to sit here for the rest of my life, waiting for you?” he demands. Oh, Mickey—I was so prepared to hear him say he won’t wait forever, but he immediately adds, “Because I will.” You need to get over Rose Tyler, kiddo.

Margaret claims she could have killed that reporter; it’s proof she’s changed. But it doesn’t mean anything to the Doctor that she let one go. That’s how she lives with being someone who slaughters millions: “Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.”  “Only a killer would know that,” Margaret accuses quickly. Urk, the way the Doctor looks shamed at that! *clutches heart* He moves on after playing with people’s lives; he “might as well be a god.” If he’s right, “sometimes you let one go,” then “let me go,” Margaret pleads. Seriously, Christopher Eccleston’s so good it gives me the chills! We can see all the conflicts play across his face as the Doctor considers granting Margaret’s request.

Mickey tries to compromise. He’s not asking Rose to leave the Doctor, because that’s not fair. He really does get that, I think; in that way, he’s the ideal boyfriend for Rose, because she can leave him and come back to him. But is that really ideal for either of them? “I need some sort of promise when you’re coming back, you’re coming back for me,” Mickey adds. “Is that thunder?” Rose asks, sensing a disturbance in the force Rift! Ouch! I love that Rose chooses the Doctor and danger and bravery, but I can’t help but cringe at this demeaning moment for Mickey.

Margaret’s pleas for mercy are interrupted by the rumbling outside. The wine glasses rattle, and the restaurant windows shatter. “Go ahead and run,” Mickey yells as Rose sprints into the disturbance. “It’ll always be the Doctor, never me!”  Meanwhile Margaret and the Doctor run, and when she falls behind and gets a zap from her cuff-less handcuff, he removes it from her wrist, ahem.

That damn Cardiff Rift! It’s wrenching open and scaring the bejesus out of everyone! Jack’s frantic—the Extrapolator’s feeding off the engine and he can’t stop it. “Time and space are ripping apart,” the Doctor realizes. Soon Cardiff and the entire planet will disappear. “What’s happening?” Rose asks as she arrives. “Oh, just little me,” Margaret coos, having shrugged off one human skin arm to grab Rose with her Slitheen arm, eep! This was always her Plan B, to open the rift and use the “considerable technology” of the people fascinated by the Extrapolator to put herself back on schedule. “Stand back, boys; surf’s up,” Margaret grins.

Light from the breaking TARDIS console shines on Margaret. In tapping into the TARDIS’s power, she’s pulling the ship apart. “So sue me,” Margaret replies. But the Doctor tells her she’s exposed the heart of the TARDIS, itself a living creature. She’s opened its soul. “It’s so bright,” Margaret says softly, entranced. “Beautiful.”  “Look inside, Blon Fel Fotch,” the Doctor urges her, using her Slitheen name. “Look at the light.” She smiles at the Doctor and he smiles back. “Thank you,” she says, beaming at him as light radiates all around her. Oh, how I love this proof that Margaret really has changed, despite her claims she hadn’t!

A moment later, Margaret’s gone, her skin suit limp on the ground. “Close your eyes,” the Doctor yells. With Jack and Rose’s help, he shuts down the forces ripping apart the ship. Was Margaret burnt up? No, for the Doctor discovers a large egg. It’s Margaret, regressed to babyhood by the raw energy of the telepathic TARDIS, which could read her mind and her yearning for a second chance. “Bring her up properly, she might be all right,” the Doctor says happily.

Poor Rose remembers Mickey at the last moment and bolts out to find him. Mickey just watches her from the shadows before he turns and walks away.  Rose returns to Jack and the Doctor, crying and distraught, though she tries to say it’s okay he’s gone, that he “deserves better.”  “Off we go, then,” the Doctor says. “Always moving on.” That’s the life he’s embraced by choice, just as he hopes Margaret will choose a better life. They’ll drop her off in the hatchery on her planet, and she’ll have a second chance. “That’d be nice,” Rose says distantly, perhaps realizing she’s blown her own second chance with Mickey.

Whoo-eee-whooo-ooo! Sorry, but I’m never going to stop singing along to the Doctor Who theme song! Join me tomorrow for the week’s last recap, Doctor Who 1.12—”Bad Wolf!”