This was a really dark, emotive episode, and certainly one of the most beautiful stories Doctor Who has done. Rose and the Doctor travel back in time for Rose to see her father. They go to the day he died so Rose can be with him as he dies. She can’t stop herself from saving his life. Who, put in her position, wouldn’t? Father’s Day explores the implications of changing the past, and tells a very sad, beautiful tale of Rose’s meeting her dead father. The first time I saw this I was quite affected by the story, of Rose’s saving her father only to be faced with the prospect of the world being destroyed as the price, and it was heartbreaking to watch both Rose and Pete come to terms with Pete’s having to sacrifice himself to save them all. I think it was a good decision to put the emotive aspects of the story at its centre, leaving the threat of the reapers (as the manifestation of the “wound in time”) secondary to the interaction between Rose and Pete. To make the threat caused by the time wound the main focus of the episode would have cheapened it to another run-of-the-mill story about messing with the past. Rather, this was an intensely beautiful story about one girl’s longing to see her lost father. In this respect, both Billie Piper and Shaun Dingwall delivered amazing, admirable performances.
A major theme in this episode was the importance and extraordinariness of ordinary lives. The un-death of Pete Tyler would bring about the end of the universe. The Doctor insists that the very ordinary bride and groom were of tantamount importance. Moreover, Pete Tyler, an ordinary man, a self-described failure, becomes a hero, the most wonderful man in the world, as he selflessly and bravely sacrifices himself for the sake of the universe. The unsurpassed heroism of an ordinary man. This is a touching and heartwarming theme, but, of course, it can be overdone. The scene where the Doctor tells the bride and groom how important and amazing their lives are sets the precedent for subsequent instances where the Doctor gushes soppily over other singularly unremarkable people in later series.
This episode deals with the implications of changing the past. In one respect it makes a highly relevant point in that changing even the smallest thing in the past could potentially have far-reaching and significant implications in the future — going back and saving an ordinary man who would otherwise have died, for example. But the episode didn’t do a very good job of explaining how Rose’s saving Pete created a “wound” in time that would bring about the end of the universe, while the Doctor’s incessant interfering creates no problems at all. This is something Doctor Who in general is not very good at explaining — it’s usually brushed off with something along the lines of “I’m a Time Lord, I know what can and can’t be changed”, which is an authorial cop-out if there ever was one. Not that it matters, I suppose, it’s just a fairly large continuity hole.
I think, above, all, this is very much a New Who story. It’s not afraid to be emotive or character-driven, and, in that regard, succeeds wonderfully.