Doctor Who and the Troubling Questions of “The Unquiet Dead” (S1E03)
Fresh from the End of the World, the Doctor and Rose travel from the distant future to England in the past. In the Doctor Who episode, “The Unquiet Dead,” the Doctor and Rose land in Cardiff, Wales on Christmas Eve 1869. A perfect Halloween episode, the Unquiet Dead was released in April and in Cardiff, the Doctor and Rose discover that reanimated corpses are roaming the streets of Cardiff.
Instead of running away like normal people, they start to investigate with help from local residents Gwyneth and Charles Dickens. Gwyneth for fans of Doctor Who, will be easily recognizable as the actress Eve Myles. Eve is one of the main characters in “Torchwood,” another show set in the Doctor Who universe, and has been seen on many other BBC shows over the years, including “Broadchurch” and the miniseries “Banished”.
While animated corpses often pop up in Doctor Who, the cause this time is due to aliens. The Gelth – an alien race – are seeking refuge on Earth after a warp core breach destroys their world.
The Doctor is able to open a portal between dimensions using Gwyneth’s psychic abilities, allowing the Gelth access to our world, but they quickly become too powerful. It seems the Gelth were being less than truthful and were, in fact, attempting to take over the Earth so they could use humans as a new source of life (welcome to the Matrix!) They had already begun the process of draining the skeletons of their life force in order to create an army of undead soldiers.
The Gelth are eventually expelled back to their own dimension using the portal opened by Gwyneth. The Doctor is able to close the portal and prevent the Gelth from wreaking havoc on Earth. With their mission ultimately successful, he and Rose bid farewell to both Gwyneth and Charles Dickens before departing in the TARDIS.
“The Unquiet Dead” serves as a reminder of how even seemingly unstoppable threats can be overcome with ingenuity and determination. It also serves as an exploration of morality and mortality thanks to its focus on themes such as death and resurrection, which can still be seen in the show today.
The episode also raises troubling questions that are still relevant today. For example, what is the right choice when faced with a moral dilemma, such as helping a race of aliens who could potentially seek to dominate humanity? No matter where the Doctor takes us on his adventures, he always leaves us with something to think about.