The main thing I took away from this episode was the effect the Doctor has on the people he encounters in his travels. There was, of course, Charles Dickens, played convincingly by Simon Callow, who, an incorrigible sceptic amd rationalist—the quintessential Victorian—had opened his mind to the possibility of a world greater than that he thought he understood after his experience with the Doctor. But there was also Gwyneth, the poor servant girl, who died because of her encounter with the Doctor. This was scarcely touched upon in the episode itself—that, if it weren’t for the Doctor’s meddling, Gwyneth would not have had to sacrifice herself. The Doctor’s interfering was responsible for Gwyneth’s death and was almost responsible for the death of all humanity. In later series, particularly during the Matt Smith era, this unfortunate phenomenon, the tendency for the Doctor to leave ruin and death in his wake as he passes through, is more directly addressed, but here it was almost skirted over, and the Doctor didn’t seem to have been affected at all by the fact that his injudicious meddling indirectly brought about the death of an innocent girl and was almost responsible for the premature extinction of humanity.
Nevertheless, this episode was enjoyable enough, although nothing special necessarily. The highlights of this episode were in its commentary on various matters. The episode used Charles Dickens’ intellectual “conversion” to comment upon the inanity of refusing to open one’s mind to the possibility that reality could exist beyond what one’s senses can comprehend. The bond formed between Rose and Gwyneth was also an effective reminder that, while
Cardiff the past may seem a different world, there really isn’t that much difference between our ancestors and us. We’re the same, no matter how much some might want to glorify supposedly more upstanding and virtuous generations past.
Overall this was a good story, unambitious but effective. Also, the Doctor fanboying over Charles Dickens was awesome. He’s doing what we would all do (if we weren’t absolutely starstruck) if we could go back and meet our historical heroes.