Doctor Who

Season 1 Episode 3

The Unquiet Dead

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Apr 09, 2005 on BBC America
out of 10
User Rating
677 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

Location: Cardiff, Wales Date: 24th December, 1869 Enemy: The Gelth
The Doctor plans to take Rose back through time to Naples, 1860, but instead they arrive in Cardiff, 1869. In Victorian Cardiff, the dead are walking and creatures made of gas are on the loose. The time-travellers team up with Charles Dickens to investigate Mr Sneed, the local undertaker, who's hiding a very big secret. However, this time, The Doctor won't be able to save everyone.moreless

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  • The Doctor and ghosts and my!

    The Beeb have always been wonderful when it comes to period costumes and settings and the beginning of this episode is no exception. From the frock coats and velvet drapery to the dim gaslights, the atmosphere of The Unquiet Dead is just perfect.

    The episode begins, fittingly, in a funeral parlor where the undertaker is expressing all of the clichd statements of sympathy to a mourner. It's clear that Mark Gatiss (the writer of this episode) has been to more than one funeral in his time, because everything about this scene is so typical of people who don't really know what to say (or care) to those who are in mourningit happens all the time: trite little sayings that sound good, but don't really hold any weight. It is also rather morbidly amusing to have an undertaker that is so obviously uncaring about the feelings of the families of the bodies he's preparing (rather irreverently calling them 'stiffs').

    Now I'm going to talk about the Gelth: the gaseous creatures that are taking up residence in the dead and making them 'come back to life'. They are creepy creatures, particularly in their opening scene where the deceased granny walks away from the undertaker's house. They are also revealed in later parts as creatures of beauty as well as fear, most notably during the sance scene and in the morgue. One can almost identify with The Doctor's delight at finding them. Thanks to some very impressive CGI (by Doctor Who standards), they look marvellous. It's almost a shame that they turn out to be the villain, though it is a very innovative way that they are introduced. Right up until Gwyneth is tricked and possessed, we the viewers are not entirely certain as to whether the Gelth are friend or foe.

    I'm usually not a fan of the stories where it's someone other than The Doctor who saves the day. But, as evidenced by this story, when done tastefully and sparingly those very types of stories can be the most poignant. Between the beautiful special effects, well-formed characters, fine plot, and Charles Dickens.moreless
  • The Unquiet Dead

    The Unquiet Dead was a superb and pretty entertaining episode of Doctor Who. I enjoyed watching because The Doctor and Rose travel to 1860's London and encounter Charles Dickenson and some Alien spirits trapped in some sort of limbo. It was intriguing to watch the story unfold and I liked the dark feeling of the sets which definitely portrayed the times. I liked how every thing played out and how The Doctor influenced events. Rose learns some more rules about time travel which was nice. I look forward to watching what happens next!!!!!!!moreless
  • Beware of ghosts, nothing good has ever come from them, maybe it is best to leave them alone and go to Naples not Cardiff.

    This is a Doctor Who staple episode. The Doctor runs towards the screams with the goal of solving everyone's problems. Along the way he questions how we normally see right and wrong and is left with some tough choices.

    Not my favourite episode, I just wasn't really that pulled in [perhaps ghosts aren't my thing]. Dickens was merely a name drop to get ratings; his role could have been filled by any nameless sceptic which diminishes the brilliance of Dickens. It is nice to see a flawed Doctor who although he can't always fly the TARDIS correctly, can also be wrong about people/aliens and must live with the consequences.moreless
  • For Rose's first trip into the past, the Doctor & she land at Christams 1845, Cardiff, to her dislike since they were aiming for London 1945. Trouble stirs in the quiet town as 'the stiffs are getting lively again'moreless

    With a disastorous trip into the past inside the Tardis with the console constantly blowing up, the Doctor and Rose arrive in Cardiff, where Charles Dickens is at the theater, giving his word for word discription of 'A Christmas Carol'. Why the Doctor's Tardis has such toruble going into the past is unknown. I mean everytime its being pulled by something or it has a slight malfunction, some big or small part of the console blows up!

    This problem seems to have heavily followed into his Tenth Life as he kept having torubkle getting the Tardis to land in some places.moreless
  • I loved it

    This was one of my favourite episodes of Doctor Who yet! I love Charles Dickens too so it made it even better! I haven't seen this one in awhile so I don't remember much about it but I love it just the same. / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / I give it a 10 out of 10! WOOHOO!moreless
Meic Povey

Meic Povey

The Driver

Guest Star

Alan David

Alan David

Gabriel Sneed

Guest Star

Simon Callow

Simon Callow

Charles Dickens

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (14)

    • The Doctor gives Rose some very complicated directions to the TARDIS wardrobe: "First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left." This establishes that the interior corridors of the TARDIS beyond the console room still exist despite the redesign, and echoes a similar conversation between Romana and Chris Parsons in the uncompleted serial, Shada, about where to find the TARDIS medical kit. The presence of such mundane items as rubbish bins recalls The Invasion of Time, where the TARDIS interiors resembled an Earth-style building (complete with a swimming pool). In The Eleventh Hour the Eleventh Doctor would reveal that this incarnation of the TARDIS retained the swimming pool, "in the library."

    • When looking into Rose's mind, Gwyneth is frightened and breaks off contact when she sees "the things you've seen... the darkness... the Big Bad Wolf!" The phrase "bad wolf" recurred in all of the stories in this season, culminating in the episode "Bad Wolf" and finally explained in "The Parting of the Ways". As for the darkness, it is a reference to the series four final, when Davros attempted destory reality.

    • When The Doctor saves Rose from one of the possessed dead, it is one of the rare cases when he opens a door without use of his sonic screwdriver, most likely because he didn't have the time.

    • The Gelth light up the door-knocker as Dickens rushes out of the undertakers - a reference to Jacob Marley in Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol.

    • The Gelth mention that their current state is a result of the Time War. After the emotional scene with Jabe in The End of the World the inference is that the Doctor helps them out of guilt for his actions.

    • This is the episode that first mentions the Rift in time and space which runs through Cardiff. It is used again as part of the plot in a later episode of this series, Boom Town, and is also central to the Dr Who spin-off series Torchwood.

    • When the Doctor sends Rose to the wardrobe, "First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left." it is the first confirmation in the series that there is more than one room in the TARDIS.

    • The Doctor advises Rose to change her clothes as to be less conspicuous in the 1860's, yet he himself did not change his clothing. Does the Doctor need to change his clothing, or does he make people perceive that his outfit is nothing out of the ordinary for the society that he visits? This also seems to be one of few times the Doctor is concerned about his companion(s) blending into the time period. Most times nobody changes clothes.

    • Dickens says he is going off to catch a mail coach. Mail coaches were no longer used some 30 years earlier in 1830. This may however be an in-joke since Dickens himself wrote in Pickwick Papers about how mail coaches' had gone out of service, replaced by the railway.

    • When Rose is locked in the room and the bodies come toward her, you can see a modern-day electric light-switch to the side of the door she's trying to get through. As the Doctor runs down the hall toward her, you can see a central heating radiator. Both are wildly anachronistic for the time period.

    • Dickens uses the phrase "On with the motley..." which is anachronistically incorrect. The phrase translates from vesti la giubba, a line of dialogue from the opera I Pagliacci. The opera wasn't written until 1892, and wasn't translated into English until 1902 (by Enrico Caruso).

    • Historically, Dickens had abandoned his "farewell tour" and other charitable performances on doctor's orders in the spring of 1869, six months prior to the timeframe of this episode. (December 1869).

    • In this episode, Christopher Eccleston is credited as 'Doctor Who', not 'The Doctor'.

    • Dickens did indeed die in 1870 leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood unfinished, but he died on June 8th 1870, not in the winter as implied. He'd have had several months to write about "blue ghosts".

  • QUOTES (23)

    • Rose: How much do you get paid?
      Gwyneth: Eight pound a year, miss.
      Rose: How much?
      Gwyneth: I know! I would've been happy with six.

    • Charles Dickens: After all these revelations, there's one mystery you haven't explained. Answer me this… Who are you?
      The Doctor: Just a friend, passing through.
      Charles Dickens: But you have such knowledge of future times. I don't wish to impose on you, but I must ask you… my books. Doctor, do they last?
      The Doctor: Oh, yes.
      Charles Dickens: For how long?
      The Doctor: Forever.

    • The Doctor: (as he and Rose are trapped by The Gelth) I saw the fall of Troy. World War Five. I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party. Now I'm going to die in a dungeon. In Cardiff!

    • Mr. Sneed: What did you say, Doctor? Explain it again. What are they?
      The Doctor: Aliens.
      Mr. Sneed: Like foreigners, you mean?
      The Doctor: Pretty foreign, yeah. From up there. (points upwards)
      Mr. Sneed: Brecon?

    • (During the séance, the Gelth come through)
      The Gelth: Pity us. Pity the Gelth. There is so little time. Help us.
      The Doctor: What do you want us to do?
      The Gelth: The rift. Take the girl to the rift. Make the bridge.
      The Doctor: What for?
      The Gelth: We are so very few. The last of our kind. We face extinction.
      The Doctor: Why? What happened?
      The Gelth: Once we had a physical form like you. But then the War came.
      Charles Dickens: War? What war?
      The Gelth: The Time War. The whole universe convulsed. The Time War raged, invisible to smaller species but devastating to higher forms. Our bodies wasted away. We're trapped in this gaseous state.
      The Doctor: So, that's why you need the corpses.
      The Gelth: We want to stand tall, to feel the sunlight, to live again. We need a physical form and your dead are abandoned. They go to waste. Give them to us.
      Rose: But we can't!
      The Doctor: Why not?
      Rose: It's… I mean, it's not…
      The Doctor: Not decent? Not polite? It could save their lives.
      The Gelth: Open the rift. Let the Gelth through. We're dying. Help us… Pity the Gelth!
      (The Gelth vanish)

    • Gwyneth: (to Rose) You're from London. I've seen London in drawings but never like that. All those people rushing about… half-naked, for shame. And the noise. And the metal boxes racing past. And the birds in the sky... no, no, they're metal as well. Metal birds with people in them. People are flying. And you... you've flown so far, further than anyone. The things you've seen. The darkness... the big bad wolf.

    • Charles Dickens: Can it be that I have the world entirely wrong?
      The Doctor: Not wrong. There's just more to learn.
      Charles Dickens: I've always railed against the fantasist. Oh, I loved an illusion as much as the next man, revelled in them. But that's exactly what they were. Illusions. The real world is something else. I dedicated myself to that, injustices, the great social causes. I hoped that I was a force for good. Now, you tell me that the real world is a realm of spectres and jack-o-lanterns. In which case, have I wasted my brief span here, Doctor? Has it all been for nothing?

    • The Doctor: The rift's getting wider and something's sneaking through.
      Rose: What's the rift?
      The Doctor: A weak point in time and space. A connection between this place and another. That's the cause of ghost stories, most of the time.
      Mr. Sneed: That's how I got the house so cheap. Stories going back generations. (Dickens walks out of the room) Echoes in the dark. Queer songs in the air. And a feeling like a shadow passing over your soul. (pause) Mind you, truth be told, it's been good for business. Just what people expect from a gloomy old trade like mine.

    • Gwyneth: (opening the door to The Doctor and Charles Dickens) I'm sorry, sir. We're closed.
      Charles Dickens: Nonsense. Since when does an undertaker keep office hours? The dead don't die on schedule.

    • Charles Dickens: On, on I go. Same old show. I'm like a ghost, condemned to repeat myself for all eternity.
      Stage Manager: It's never too late, sir. You could think up some new turns.
      Charles Dickens: No, I can't. Even my imagination has grown stale. (drinks) I'm an old man. Perhaps I've thought everything I'll ever think.

    • Rose: Think about it, though. Christmas 1860. It happened once. Just once, and it's… gone, it's finished. It'll never happen again. Except for you. You can go back and see days that are dead and gone, a hundred thousand sunsets ago. No wonder you never stay still
      The Doctor: Not a bad life.
      Rose: Better with two.

    • Mr. Sneed: The stiffs are getting lively again. Mr. Redpath's grandmother, she's up and on her feet out there somewhere on the streets. We've got to find her.
      Gwyneth: Mr. Sneed, for shame! How many more times? It's ungodly!
      Mr. Sneed: Don't look at me like it's my fault! Now come on, hurry up. She was eighty-six; she can't have got far.
      Gwyneth: What about Mr. Redpath? Did you deal with him?
      Mr. Sneed: No. She did.
      Gwyneth: That's awful, sir. I know it's not my place, and please forgive me for talking out of turn, sir, but this is getting beyond now. Something terrible is happening in this house, and we've got to get help.
      Mr. Sneed: And we will! As soon as I get that dead old woman locked up and safe and sound. Now, stop prevaricating, girl. Get the hearse ready. We're going body-snatching!

    • (After Rose has just been pulled from the clutches of two Gelth-possessed bodies)
      The Doctor: Hi!
      Rose: Hi. Who's your friend?
      The Doctor: Charles Dickens.
      Rose: Okay.

    • The Doctor: Honestly, Charles, can I call you Charles? I'm such a big fan.
      Charles Dickens: What? Big what?
      The Doctor: Fan. Number 1 fan, that's me.
      Charles Dickens: How exactly are you a "fan"? In what way do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?

    • The Doctor: Now, don't antagonize her – I love a happy medium!
      Rose: I can't believe you just said that!

    • The Doctor: That a boy, Charlie!
      Charles Dickens: Nobody calls me Charlie.
      The Doctor: The ladies do.
      Charles Dickens: How do you know that?
      The Doctor: I told you, I'm your number one…
      Charles Dickens: Number one fan.

    • Rose: You can't let them (the Gelth) run around inside dead people!
      The Doctor: Why not? It's just like recycling.
      Rose: Seriously though, you can't.
      The Doctor: Seriously though, I can.

    • Rose: We'll go down fighting?
      The Doctor: Yeah.
      Rose: Together?
      The Doctor: Yeah. (Links hands with Rose) I'm so glad I met you.
      Rose: Me too.

    • The Doctor: I got the flight a bit wrong.
      Rose: I don't care.
      The Doctor: It's not 1860, it's 1869.
      Rose: I don't care
      The Doctor: It's not Naples.
      Rose: I don't care
      The Doctor: (unhappy) It's Cardiff!
      Rose: Right....

    • (The Gelth stream in and wreak devastation.)
      The Doctor: I think it's gone a little bit wrong.

    • Rose:...and don't think I didn't feel your hands having a quick wander, you dirty old man!!

    • (Seeing a ghost taking over an old woman)
      Charles Dickens: What sort of phantasmagoria is this?

    • The Doctor: (Over the noise of the TARDIS) You've seen the future, how about I show you the past? How does 1860 sound!?
      Rose: What happens in 1860!?
      The Doctor: I have no idea, let's find out!

  • NOTES (14)

    • Original International Air Dates:
      Turkey: September 13, 2009 on CNBC-e

    • In Russell T. Davies original pitch document to the BBC this episode was informally dubbed 'My Name's Dickens... Charles Dickens'.

    • Eve Myles who plays Gwyneth in this episode (the maid) later plays Gwen Cooper in the spin-off series Torchwood. Russell T Davies wrote the part especially for her after seeing her in this episode, stating that she was "one of Wales' best kept secrets". Later, in Series 4, Journeys End, when the Doctor and Rose see Gwen through a video link to Torchwood, they ask if she has an old Welsh family, and she says yes, she does. The Doctor and Rose then look at each other and this implies that the two are related.

    • The final viewing figure for the BBC One airing of this episode was 8.86 million.

    • Simon Callow, who played Charles Dickens in this episode, previously appeared as Dickens on TV in An Audience with Charles Dickens (1996), The Mystery of Charles Dickens (2000), and Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairy Tale (2001). He also played Dickens, and voiced the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, in the animated feature Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001).

    • The interiors of Talesin Lodge (the Theatre in this episode) were filmed inside the New Theatre in Cardiff.

    • Described in the SciFi Channel ads as: "The year: 1869. The place: England. The problem: The walking dead." However, the episode is set in Wales, not England.

    • Working titles: "The Crippingwell Horror," and "The Angels of Crippingwell."

    • Aaron Fisher - Theatre Spectator (uncredited)

    • Although the episode is set in Cardiff, it was actually filmed in Swansea and Manmouth, as the buildings there better suited the period in which the episode was set.

    • Mark Gatiss once played the role of the Doctor in 1 of 3 short BBC comedy sketches of Doctor Who.

    • The BBC received 91 complaints about this episode, many people complaining that the show was too scary. The BBC initially advised viewers that the show should be not watched by the under eights. They later retracted this and encouraged responsible viewing with parents.

    • This episode was written by Mark Gatiss, who is also a writer on the Dark comedy "The League of Gentlemen".

    • It was described in the Radio Times Doctor Who special (26.03.05 - 01.04.05) as "to Victorian Cardiff, where the duo bump in Simon Callow's Charles Dickens, plus a few spooky Aliens".


    • The Doctor: No no no, the one with the trains.... The Signal-Man, that's it!

      The Signal-Man was a short story written and published by Charles Dickens in 1866, and is considered to be a classic ghost story. It is likely that Dickens based this harrowing tale on the Clayton Tunnel train crash that occurred in 1861 with a loss of 23 lives but also on his own experience of surviving the Staplehurst rail crash of 1865 in which 10 people died and 49 were seriously injured.

    • The Doctor: I saw the fall of Troy. World War Five. I pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party. The Trojan War was the greatest conflict in Greek mythology. Fought between the Greeks and Trojans, it lasted for ten years. The city of Troy was considered impenetrable, until the Greeks built a giant wooden horse, secured a few men inside, and offered it as a gift upon their "defeat". After nightfall the men hidden inside climbed out and opened the gates to allow the Greek army into the city. Many Trojans were killed in the first hour of the attack, and Troy fell.

      The Boston Tea Party took place on December 16, 1773, and was an act of protest by the American colonists against Great Britain's decision to tax the colonies without allowing them representation, the colonists responded by boarding three British ships delivering tea to Boston and dumped 342 crates of tea into the harbour. This was one of the acts that lead to the American Revolution.

    • Charles Dickens: There are more things on heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
      This is a direct quote from the Shakespeare play Hamlet, in which Hamlet is explaining to his colleague Horatio why the ghost of Hamlet's father could have been seen around Elsinore Castle.

    • Charles Dickens: God bless us, every one!
      Referring to the last line of his novel A Christmas Carol, and the famous line spoken by the crippled Tiny Tim.

    • Charles Dickens: Maybe the mystery of Edwin Drood...
      Towards the end of the episode Charles Dickens speaks of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a book he was writing at the time the episode was set. He says how the mystery could be related to his experience during the episode. The ironic truth is that the mystery was a mystery because, as mentioned by the Doctor, Charles Dickens died before he could finish the story.

    • The Doctor: Go out there dressed like that you'll start a riot Barbarella.
      Barbarella was a French comic strip heroine who was memorably played by Jane Fonda in the 1968 film by the same title. She's a 1960s version of a completely sexually liberated woman from the 400th century. To the, by our standards, puritanical Victorians, Rose would appear rather similar - heaven forbid that a woman should go about in man's clothing (trousers). This issue was encountered with some notice but little rioting in the second season episode, Tooth And Claw, occurring at almost the exact same time and even in proximity (Scotland vs. Cardiff)

    • Charles Dickens: Merry Christmas!
      The development of Dickens' character throughout the piece in many ways mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Dickens book A Christmas Carol. The character, ill at ease with the world, is confronted by the paranormal and in doing so discovers a happy side to himself, culminating with him walking out into the street wishing everyone he sees "A Merry Christmas".

    • Charles Dickens: What sort of phantasmagoria is this?
      This story is written by Mark Gatiss. His first story for 'Big Finish Productions' (Who makes original past Doctor adventures on CD) was titled 'Phantasmagoria'.