Doctor Who Series 1 Retrospective: Boom Town Review

Despite its placing between fan-favourite two-parters, “Boom Town” boasts some brilliant performances and a thought-provoking plot

Starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper and John Barrowman

It is inevitable that within a collection of 13 episodes that there are some episodes that necessitate the cutting of some economic corners. How else would the highly climactic, ambitious finales work if it weren’t for stories like “Boom Town”, “Love & Monsters”, “Gridlock” or “Midnight”? Less concerned with action and more interested with words, “Boom Town” mainly succeeds through the strength of the writing and the tremendous acting performances from Christopher Eccleston, Annette Badland, Billie Piper and Noel Clarke.

Arriving in Cardiff to refuel the TARDIS from the rift that the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose (Billie Piper) previously encountered in “The Unquiet Dead”, the Doctor, Rose and Jack (John Barrowman) meet up with Mickey (Noel Clarke) and discover that Margaret Blaine (Annette Badland) has become the new mayor despite actually being a Slitheen. Immediately, the group set off in search of her and successfully manage to capture her, but by deciding to return her to home planet Raxacoricofallapatorius, Margaret reveals that they would be sentencing her to death. So ensues a moral quandary for the Doctor, as he is forced to confront the difference between him and his enemies and the implications of killing somebody else for their crimes. Elsewhere, Rose deals with a shift in her relationship with Mickey.

It is fitting to bring back Joe Ahearne for this episode, having previously directed both “Dalek” and “Father’s Day” – both of which feature a strong emotional core. Davies unpacks the consequences of the Doctor’s actions and – not for the first time this series – questions just how different the Doctor is from those he opposes. The Doctor and his companions pass judgement upon Margaret because she is a Slitheen, assuming that she must be evil because of her species and refute her capacity to change. The difference between justice and revenge is also touched upon.

It’s interesting and diverting enough, as is indeed the conflict that starts to emerge between Rose and Mickey as she discovers that he’s moved on from her, even though she abandoned him in favour of her travels with the Doctor. The highlight of the episode, of course – perhaps even of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor – is the tête-a-tête he enjoys with Margaret in the restaurant. Swapping the glasses of poisoned wine, catching her poison barb, neutralising her deadly breath, it’s all so decidedly nonchalant and the way that Margaret continues to plead for her life while the Doctor remains firm truly challenges the audience’s perception of the Doctor as a “good” man – something which the New Series continues to be fascinated with well up to Capaldi’s incarnation.

“Boom Town” is pleasant and diverting, giving plenty of room for the exploration of its characters and an examination into what it means to be the Doctor. Ultimately padding for time until the brilliant finale to come, it gives a real sense of the camaraderie of the TARDIS team before all hell proceeds to break loose.

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