Sue: I definitely remember this one, Neil. I can tell you what happens right now, if you like. I’m pretty sure I watched it more than once when we lived in the caravan, it was that good. And I didn’t even like Doctor Who back then.
This is the story of Pete Tyler.
Sue: He reminds me of Dennis Waterman. If they ever decide to bring back Minder, he’ll walk it.
Rose wants to visit her dead dad.
Sue: I’d love that. That would be such a wonderful thing to do, don’t you think?
Me: I couldn’t think of anything worse, to be honest.
Sue: Oh, what do you know? You never visit your dead dad, and he’s still alive. I couldn’t think of anything better to do with a time machine, even if it is stupidly dangerous. Even I know that.
As the title sequence does its thing, we end up discussing the pros and cons of interfering with your own timeline.
Sue: If you could travel back in time, Neil, what advice would you give yourself?
Me: I’d say, whatever you do, don’t make your wife watch Doctor Who with you. Leave the poor woman alone. Oh, and that cushy job you’ll want to leave someday – you might want to give that a bit more thought, too. What about you? What would you tell yourself?
Sue: I’d tell myself not to smoke.
Sue: That way I’ll never meet you because I won’t need a light. I’m joking. I wouldn’t change a thing, even the Doctor Who bits, although I’d probably skip the trip to Guernsey.
The Doctor takes Rose to her parents’ wedding.
Me: Does this remind you of your 1980s wedding, Sue?
Sue: A bit. My hair was similar to Jackie’s, but I wore a grey suit; 1940s retro was all the rage back then.
Sue married her first husband the same day Madonna married Sean Penn.
Sue: I’ll never get those six weeks back.
Me: They should have called your first husband Ian. Oh wait, they did.
Rose asks the Doctor if it’s okay for her to watch her father die.
Sue: That’s taking it a bit too far. I can’t believe the Doctor is actually going along with this. It’s insane.
The Doctor takes Rose to November 1987. ‘Never Can Say Goodbye’ by The Communards is playing on a radio somewhere.
Sue: Can you see what they did there, Neil? Subtle.
A camera pans across some very familiar graffiti, which Sue fails to notice because she’s busy noticing something else.
Sue: I think I’m going to cry.
Me: Already? But Pete hasn’t died yet.
Sue: I’m talking about those posters behind Rose. The ones warning about the dangers of another Tory government. I mean, talk about rubbing it in.
Luckily, we have a box of tissues handy and Sue dabs her eyes.
Sue: ****’s sake.
Rose watches Pete become the victim of a tragic hit-and-run accident, but she can’t bring herself to watch him die.
Sue: Good. Because I wouldn’t have believed it if she had. This is a terrible idea.
Rose convinces the Doctor to let her have another go. Unfortunately, Sue is so busy complaining about how stupid he is for agreeing to this request that she fails to notice the Bad Wolf graffiti for a second time.
Me: Look! There! On the smiley face!
Sue: I still don’t understand how this Bad Wolf thing is supposed to work. Have we ever seen Rose acknowledge those words? Even once? How is this supposed to work?
Rose rushes into the street and saves her father’s life.
Sue: If I could go back in time, I’d probably throw my first husband under a car.
Rose has broken the laws of time.
Sue: How the Doctor didn’t see that coming is beyond me. I mean, what did he expect? The Doctor is an idiot. I mean, Adam wasn’t as dangerous as this, and the Doctor dumped him like that – (clicks fingers). Literally.
Rose’s dad is more like Del Boy than Terry McCann.
Sue: There’s no future in solar panels, chick. Not when the Tories are in power. Just ask Nicol. Her renewable energy business is completely ****ed now.
Me: Give it a rest, love.
The Doctor finally loses his rag with Rose. “My entire planet died. My whole family. Do you think it never occurred to me to go back and save them?” he yells.
Sue: Did it never occur to you to go back and check whether those things actually happened or not? Because they didn’t. You’d think he’d check, wouldn’t you?
The Doctor storms off in a huff.
Sue: That’s right, leave Rose behind in 1987. I’m sure that won’t make things worse.
Meanwhile, at a church that’s about to host a wedding, the father of the groom is telling his son that it isn’t too late to back out.
Sue: Isn’t that what your mum said to you the day you married me?
Me: Yes. By phone.
When the Doctor returns to his TARDIS, he finds an empty box.
Sue: It this because Rose has created a paradox? You’d think the Doctor would have known this would happen. This is his area of expertise, after all.
Pete drives Rose to the church. Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ is playing on the car stereo.
Sue: Can you see what they did there? Very subtle.
Me: They were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing pop songs from 1987 to use here. I checked before we watched this episode because I thought it might come up. They could have played ‘(I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight’ by Cutting Crew, ‘Here I Go Again’ by Whitesnake, and my own personal favourite – ‘China in Your Hand’ by T’Pau. You know, because he drops some china.
The car that was supposed to kill Pete won’t go away – it keeps appearing and disappearing as it takes ghostly laps around the block.
Sue: It’s just like Back to the Future, but instead of a swish DeLorean, it’s a shitty Morris Marina travelling at 20 miles per hour. That is so British.
Meanwhile, outside the church.
Sue: So did they call off the wedding when Pete died in the other reality, or did they still go through with it? I bet the reception was a barrel of laughs.
Jackie mistakes Rose for Pete’s mistress, and it isn’t long before the couple are rowing in the street.
Sue: Now this reminds me of my first wedding.
Putting aside some questionable decisions made by the Doctor, Sue can’t praise this story highly enough.
Sue: It’s very clever. I don’t understand why the old series didn’t do a story like this; it seems so obvious in retrospect. Everything about it works: the performances, the script, the direction, the little background details. It doesn’t get much better than this. Even you like this one, Neil. I know you do.
In a nearby playground, a child is scared out of his wits when everyone around him vanishes into thin air.
Me: That’s Mickey.
Sue: At least he’s played by a decent actor this week.
And then the Reapers attack.
Sue: Scary bastards, aren’t they? They should do another time paradox story and bring them back. They could be air support for the Weeping Angels.
A Reaper kills the father of the groom.
Sue: Good. I never liked him. Hang on a minute, I thought they made people disappear. This one is ****ing eating him!
Rose wants to know if she’s responsible for all this death and mayhem.
Sue: Of course not, pet. It’s probably some other time travellers mucking about down the road. Of course it’s your fault, you numpty!
The Reapers have left a trail of devastation in their wake.
Sue: This is very bleak. Like a 1970s Public Information Film sort of bleak. I’m surprised they got away with showing the empty prams and children’s shoes. This means the children were eaten, Neil. That’s horrible.
Pete realises that Rose is his daughter.
Sue: That took a huge leap of faith, but they’re running out of time, so fair enough. However, if I’d have written this, I’d have had Jackie walk in on them while they were hugging. What do you think, Neil? … Neil? Has your bottom lip gone? It has, hasn’t it?
Me: I’m just thinking about the election. It’ll pass in a minute.
Meanwhile, the no-so-happy couple, whose wedding has been interrupted, tell the Doctor how they first met: outside the Beatbox Club, at two in the morning; Sarah had lost her purse and didn’t have enough money for a taxi home.
Sue: For a minute there, I thought she was going to admit that they did it up against the bins.
Pete wants to know what the future holds.
Sue: (As Rose) It’s great. We’ve got a Labour government and everything.
Me: Just don’t mention Iraq.
Pete wants to know if he’ll lose his hair.
Sue: Typical male. That’s always the first thing they worry about, isn’t it, Neil?
Me: Stop looking at me like that.
The Doctor tells Rose that she mustn’t touch her younger self, no matter what happens, because this episode was made when things like the Blinovitch Limitation Effect still meant something, damn it! And then the Doctor tells Rose to apologise for being such a bumbling idiot.
Sue: He’s the one who should be apologising. It’s his stupid fault for letting her watch her dad die. TWICE!
If only the Time Lords were still alive.
Sue: Oh, for ****’s sake.
And then Rose touches her younger self and the Doctor is eaten by a Reaper.
Sue: He’ll have to take her back home after this. She’s a bloody liability.
Pete knows what he has to do to put things right.
And that’s when I stopped taking notes for a while. Because I was too busy concentrating on not crying. Look, it’s been a tough week and I’ve got a lot on my mind, okay? But it was a hopeless battle in the end, because I eventually broke down when a five-year-old version of Rose appeared in a flashback. You see, she looked just like Nicol at that age, and… and…
Sue: Here, love, have a tissue.
Sue is handling this a lot better than I am, but even her bottom lip is quivering a bit.
Sue: How good is this? It definitely doesn’t get any better than this.
Pete Tyler slips away.
Sue: (Singing) I could be so good for you. Love you like you want me to…
It’s a defence mechanism, I think.
Sue: At least it isn’t a hit-and-run any more. The car is still there. God knows where the driver is, but they’ve definitely changed history. Do you think that matters, Neil? … Neil? Oh, come on, love, let it all out. There, there.
Sue: Well, that was cheerful. It must be the saddest episode of Doctor Who I’ve ever seen. Unless you count the one where David Tennant leaves; I’m still getting over that.
Me: A solid six out of 10, then?
Sue: I’d give it an 11 if I could.
Sue: I think that was the episode that got me into new Doctor Who. Before then, I was only watching it because you were watching it and I didn’t have much choice. But that one really got to me. And just think – if I hadn’t liked new Doctor Who, I don’t think I would have agreed to watch the old ones with you.
Me: So this is all Paul Cornell’s fault?
Sue: Pretty much.
And on that bombshell…