"Doctor Who" is getting better week by week with "The Unquiet Dead" easily the best of the first three episodes. When I saw the first episode of "Dark Season", back in 1991, I thought this is pure "Doctor Who" and naturally assumed Russell T. Davies would be a good choice to write future episodes. Thus, at first, it might seem a little odd that I should prefer the script by Mark Gatiss! This has probably more to do with the fact that the opening two episodes of a series tend to set up the situation and Mark just happens to be the first writer allowed free reign and future scripts by Russell will improve on what Mark has done.
It’s not just down to the writer. The director’s input greatly affects the final feel of a drama. Think how bad "Revelation of the Daleks" might’ve been without Graeme Harper at the helm! It is menacing right from the off despite the inclusion of a DJ. And yet neither of Graeme Harper’s two serials would’ve been as scary without the incidental music of Roger Limb. Thus when I heard Russell was doing "Doctor Who" I hoped he would bring the director of his two children’s serials Colin Cant and composer David Ferguson with him as I believe they both played an important part in making "Dark Season" and "Century Falls" frightening within the bounds of children’s drama.
I think what is missing from new "Doctor Who" so far is edge-of-the-seat direction and incidental music that sends shivers up your spine. David Ferguson didn’t just do this on the aforementioned serials but for their immediate predecessor, "Moondial", and in subsequent Barbara Vine adaptations, for an adult audience, as well. Interestingly, like Christopher Eccleston, he has also worked on "Cracker". Without checking on IMDb, I’m not sure what has happened to Colin Cant other than some work on "Coronation Street".
I want to be positive about new "Doctor Who" and yet I find myself thinking that the last time it went back in time to approximately this period was "Ghost Light" and which would I rather watch again given the choice between the two? It also seemed like the moral differences between Rose and the maid had been lifted straight from "The Curse of Fenric". I also questioned whether it was a good idea to actually meet Dickens as good as Simon Callow was and is in this role. I loved the imagery at the end of him gazing on as the TARDIS dematerialised but thought about how the seventh Doctor didn’t actually meet Darwin in "Ghost Light" or the fourth Doctor missing Da Vinci in "City of Death". I’m sure we all remember what happened when the sixth Doctor met H. G. Wells!
Apparently there have been complaints that "The Unquiet Dead" was too scary for the very young but it has always been the programme’s intention to be frightening in the safe environment of your own home. I found it full of humour, like the two previous episodes, with lines such as "She can’t have got very far, she’s 85" and, after the corpse returns from the dead, "There’s life in the old girl yet"! Actually, I know a lady of that remarkable age who has just got back from seeing her daughter in America so there isn’t as much truth in the first quote as would at first seem!