Doctor Who Boomtown review

After a break of way too long, I’m back recapping Doctor Who in real time. This week; Cardiff, Nuclear weapons and the Slitheen return (but this isn’t automatically awful.)

My, but it’s been a while since I was doing these. For those catching up, I’m trying rewatch all of “new” Who (it’ll always be New Who to me, but then I’m an long-term Doctor Who fan, so there!) before we get new episodes with the excellent Jodie Whittaker.

I did similar for her first series, but, well, the BBC ain’t inclined to give me new episodes. The rumours are still swirling, but I’m not hopeful at this point that we’ll get one.

However, the going has been very slow. My own life keeps getting in the way. As always, I’m writing these as pure stream-of-consciousness, and spoilers abound. And I hate spoiling things for anyone, so I need something boom-related to act as a spoiler space.

Ah, yes, this will do nicely. Go beyond Sir Bob at your peril!

Previously, a clock tower was crashed into by farting aliens in the WORST TWO EPISODES of the season. Possibly the worst two episodes of new who, actually.

Mickey the idiot saves the world, and he never even got thanked for it!

Six months later.. In Cardiff. A civil servant is complaining about an unsafe design.
And we have another fart… oh dear.
It’s Margaret Slitheen.. No, I can’t remember her name, either.
And she’s smiling like she’s hungry. Annette Badland is wonderful being menacing, even if the Slitheen are pretty awful.
And then the civil servant gets eaten. He never even got a name, but he did get to scream on the way out.
Roll credits!
Oh, I’d forgotten this was a Russell T Davies story!
Mickey gets off a train at FFordd Allan, just to make it perfectly clear that this is a story set in WALES.

And then off to the bay — and I’ve been there, last january! It was about as empty as it is now, too.

I was not kidding. Then again, relatively few tourists visit Cardiff in early January. It’s a touch… cold.

Mickey meets Captain Jack for the first time. And then he works out that despite nicely delivering Rose’s passport, she’s staying with the Doctor, and this is all kinds of awkward.

We’re shooting in Cardiff because reasons. Mostly because it’s cheaper, but a rift under the city — the one we saw in Ghosts of Cardiff — is still there. Nice callback!

“What are you captain of? The innuendo squad?”
Mickey’s quite right there.

The Doctor gets to explain the police box history, for (I think) the first time in the new series.

I’ve been to Cardiff. The heart of the city is pretty busy. What’s going to get knocked down? The castle?

Ah, yes, the Castle. That’d be quite the loss.

I think this dragon might have words to say.

The press is after Margaret — and frankly, it seems like the rest of the media might just be a little bit on the slack side, given the history of accidents.

Slipped on an icy patch.
He was decapitated!
It was a very icy patch.

More fart gags. I wish these were dropped, because this is already better and more menacing than anything in the prior Slitheen appearance.

Margaret is getting out of her skin suit and getting ready to eat. Remember, she’s ready to do something TERRIBLE (we don’t know what yet) to all of Cardiff at least. With a nuclear power plant.

Mention of the boyfriend makes her pause, and the baby makes her stop. This is rather… un-Slitheen, I’ve got to say. I get that it’s meant to make her melancholy for her lost Slitheen family, but still, it feels like a stretch.

And this means THE STORY WILL STILL GET PUBLISHED. Which has to be a big problem for her evil plan, no?

The Doctor does not respect private property, and steals a newspaper.

The music here feels very… Avengers. The MacNee/Rigg version, not the Marvel one.


It strikes me that an entire generation will know Diana Rigg not from this, but from Game of Thrones. No bonus points if you do know who she plays without looking it up. None at all.

Candybar mobile phones! Yay! This has pretty much dated worse than anything else in Who, and it keeps on happening. Of course, it was quite contemporary at the time.

The Lord Mayor says thank you for popping by. She’d love to have a chat but she’s up to her eyes in paperwork. Perhaps if you could make an appointment for next week?
She’s climbing out the window, isn’t she?
Yes she is.

See, that’s funnier — and better delivered by Christopher Ecclestone — than any fart gag.

Mind you, Mickey with his foot stuck in a bucket is just awkward.

Margaret teleports away. But the Doctor gets her back. Somehow, she’s still running when she reappears, which I don’t quite get.

This is persecution. Why can’t you leave me alone? What did I ever do to you?
You tried to kill me and destroy this entire planet.
Apart from that.

Lovely. See, we don’t need bodily function jokes!

The model has a technobabble name I’m not even going to try to type, but WHY is the needed transport surfboard part of the model where anybody — a cleaner, say — could inadvertently find it.

The name Blaidd Drwg — “Bad Wolf” – and we’re building up the whole series arc that would define Doctor Who seasons for years to come.

Russel T Davies likes the name Raxacoricofallapatorius. WAY too much.

Margaret throws a wrench into the works — she’s under a death sentence. Which is an ethical dilemma that Who hasn’t really considered before to speak of.

Of course, there have been plenty of deaths in the past, but I can only really think of one instance where The Doctor explicitly takes someone to their death — and that’s in the telemovie, where the terrible Daleks execute the terrible Eric Roberts Master. Frankly, I would have done likewise.


Paul McGann doesn’t get his due, either, but the telemovie isn’t good. In just about any other way than McGann.

Of course, all of this works because Badland and Ecclestone can play so well off each other. As they say, acting is all about reacting, and they’re feeding each other great opportunities to do great work.

Mermaid Quay was bloody cold back in January when I was there, and that was daytime. Standing in front of the waterfall at night — yeah, Rose, it’d be freezing.

Mickey’s got a date with Rose… with benefits. Or at least he hopes so.

The Doctor is watching from the Tardis. Bit on the creepy old man side there Doc.

I wonder if you could do it? To sit with a creature you’re about to kill and take supper. How strong is your stomach?
Strong enough. Strong enough.

It’s delivery like that which makes me sad we only got one season of this Doctor. Quite sad.

Cardiff is quite lovely at night (in some parts), and this episode gives good scenery porn, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Margaret drops a poison pellet from her ring into the Doctor’s drink, but he’s onto her games.
No poison pellets, no poison finger darts, and the gas is neutralised with some breath freshener. Which is perhaps just a little too cute given the gravitas of their general performances, but I’ll let it pass.

Rose is totally, totally tone deaf to Mickey being upset. Great performances here from Billie Piper and Noel Clarke.

And then Mickey drops the bombshell about Trisha Delaney, and Rose is suddenly VERY pissed off. Which, frankly, she deserves.

Margaret’s pleas work precisely because the core idea behind Doctor Who is that it’s not about going down the guns blazing route. He typically gives the bad guys a chance to leave peacefully; they rarely do, but it’s all about that chance. Which he seemingly won’t give her at all.

Rose and Mickey are having their soap opera moment, and it’s pretty damned good. This episode is way, way better than I recall.

That’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in a while, on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction, you happen to be kind.

See, while I like Tennant and Smith, I’d argue that we don’t get anythingg that menacing until Capaldi takes on the role. That otherness combined with danger that reminds us that the Doctor isn’t human.

Cardiff is having… an earthquake? No, it’s the rift opening above the Tardis.. That’s going to attract some attention, I’d think.

The ground tearing effect under Rose as she runs to the Tardis hasn’t aged well. First poor effect for this episode, tough.

Then Margaret drops an arm and grabs a rose, and we have our second poor effect of the episode. Still, it was pretty inevitable, even if it was a bit of a Scooby Doo fake mask moment.

Stand back boys. Surf’s up!

yeaaaaah… that’s a bit hokey.

The Tardis doesn’t like being torn open. The heart of the Tardis, reminding us that it’s alive. And this won’t end the way Margarent/Blon wants it to.

Margaret gets reduced back to her egg form. Because… sure, why not?

So here’s what I don’t get. They deliver the Margaret-Egg back to Raxacoricofallapatorius, right? So she can have a new life, and so on.

But Adult Margaret has a death sentence on her head, and Raxacoricofallapatorians don’t always look like Raxacoricofallapatorians, right?

Which means she’s almost certainly known by her DNA. Or her alien DNA. You know what I mean.

So what do the Raxacoricofallapatorians DO with that information? I mean, Baby-Blon is still the one with the death sentence. Do they make her into soup like she said?

Also, she’s a weirdly hairy egg with dreads. I’m going to need a LOT of bacon, I think.

Mickey is NOT happy. And I don’t think he and Rose are going to hook up.

Off we go, then. Always moving on
I’m sure I’ve made the below joke before…

And with Boomtown done and dusted, it’s time to add it to the ranks as I…

Time to rank the episodes of Series 1:

  1. Dalek
  2. The Doctor Dances
  3. The Empty Child
  4. Father’s Day
  5. Rose
  6. Boomtown
  7. The Long Game
  8. The Unquiet Dead
  9. The End of the World
  10. Aliens of London
  11. World War 3

Boomtown is good. Way, way better than Aliens of London/World War 3, of course, although it does heavily rest on the assumption that you’ve watched every other episode first. Which of course I’ve done.

Next time: An even MORE dated reference! Several of them! And an episode that looks like it’s just lethal game shows… but then we get a spoiler for what it’s actually about!

Lead Image: BBC

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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