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Father's Day (Doctor Who)

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163 – "Father's Day"
Doctor Who episode
A winged alien with a scythe-like tail appears in a street.
The Reapers begin to emerge.
Directed byJoe Ahearne
Written byPaul Cornell
Script editorHelen Raynor
Produced byPhil Collinson
Executive producer(s)Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Mal Young
Incidental music composerMurray Gold
Production code1.8
SeriesSeries 1
Length45 minutes
First broadcast14 May 2005 (2005-05-14)
← Preceded by
"The Long Game"
Followed by →
"The Empty Child"
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"Father's Day" is the eighth episode of the first series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, first broadcast on 14 May 2005 on BBC One. It was written by Paul Cornell and directed by Joe Ahearne.

In the episode, alien time traveller the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) agrees to take his companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) back to the day her father Pete (Shaun Dingwall) died in 1987. When Rose intervenes and pulls her father out of the path of a car, time is wounded and dangerous Reapers attack, threatening to erase history. Pete eventually realises that to get rid of the Reapers, he must throw himself under the car that was originally meant to kill him.

Lead writer and executive producer Russell T Davies conceived "Father's Day" as an emotionally driven time travel story to explore Rose's character. He chose Cornell to write the episode; Cornell had written spin-off material during the years the programme was on hiatus. The monster element of the story was expanded based on suggestions from Cornell and BBC Head of Drama Jane Tranter, and the Reapers went through many designs. The episode was filmed in November 2004 at St Paul's Church and streets in Cardiff. "Father's Day" was watched by 8.06 million viewers in the United Kingdom and received generally positive reviews. Critics praised the focus on character and emotion.


The episode opens with a flashback of Jackie Tyler telling a younger Rose about her father Pete, who died age 33 in a hit-and-run accident on the way to a friend's wedding. In the TARDIS, the Doctor agrees to take Rose to the day her father died so that she can be there when it happens. Upon their arrival in London on Saturday 7 November 1987, they witness the accident, but Rose is unable to move when the Doctor tells her to go comfort her dying father. Rose asks the Doctor if she can try again, and the Doctor allows it but warns Rose to not run until their former selves have left to prevent a paradox. As the accident is about to happen, Rose suddenly runs out and pushes Pete aside, saving his life. The younger versions of the Doctor and Rose vanish. Rose and the Doctor fight about her actions, with the Doctor rebuking her for potentially damaging the timeline. The Doctor takes Rose's TARDIS key back and storms off without her. Rose decides to go with Pete to the wedding, while the Doctor walks back to the TARDIS only to find that it is now an empty shell. Strange flying beasts called Reapers appear and begin consuming people.

Rose and Pete drive to the wedding together, and the car that had been meant to kill Pete appears and nearly collides with their car. They join the other guests, including Jackie who has brought the infant Rose with her. Rose is surprised to find that Jackie and Pete argue frequently. A young Mickey runs in to warn the guests about the Reapers, who think it is a joke until a Reaper appears above and attacks them. The Doctor runs to the church and directs everyone inside, noting that the age of the church will protect them against the Reapers. The Doctor explains to Rose that her actions have caused a paradox that normally the Time Lords would have prevented. Without them, the Reapers are sterilising the wound in time by consuming everyone within it. The Doctor further warns Rose not to touch her infant self, as it could cause further damage to time and allow the Reapers into the church. Feeling that his TARDIS key is still warm, the Doctor sets it up in the middle of the church and the TARDIS slowly begins materialising around it.

While waiting in the church, Jackie sees Pete talking to Rose and thinks he is having an affair. Pete and Rose talk alone, and he comes to realise that she is his daughter. When Rose is unable to answer questions about how good a father he was, Pete realises he was meant to die in the accident. Jackie thinks Rose is Pete's daughter with another woman, and in a fit of frustration Pete hands the baby Rose to adult Rose. The paradox worsens, and a Reaper is able to enter the church. The Doctor declares himself the oldest thing in the church and offers himself to the Reaper, which consumes him and disappears. The TARDIS key goes cold and drops to the ground.

Pete realises that they now have no other choice and that he must die in order to restore the timeline. He bids Rose and Jackie an emotional farewell, races out of the church and throws himself in front of the car that was originally meant to kill him; it had continued to appear and disappear on the road just outside the church. The timeline is repaired, and the Reapers' victims reappear. The Doctor sends Rose to be with her father, and she holds his hand until he dies. Rose and the Doctor walk hand in hand back to the restored TARDIS. The opening flashback is replayed, but Jackie's description of Pete's death is different: the young driver stopped and waited for the police, while an unidentified "girl" sat and held Pete's hand as he died.

Outside references[edit]

"The Lamb and Flag", a pub from the sitcom Bottom, is referenced in the episode.[1] It also features the 2002 song "Don't Mug Yourself" by The Streets, indicating the damage to the timeline.[1] Rose believes Pete to be "a bit of a Del Boy", referring to the character from 1980s comedy Only Fools and Horses.[2]


The Reapers initially looked more like the Grim Reaper. (Pictured: an artist's representation of the Grim Reaper.)

According to producer Phil Collinson, showrunner Russell T Davies came up with the concept for "Father's Day" at an early stage in the planning of the series, as it was a "perfect time travel story".[3] Davies wanted the storyline to be easy to follow and drawn from human emotions.[3] Additionally, the previous seven episodes had established why Rose was a good companion, and so "Father's Day" shows that she does make mistakes, but in a relatable way.[3] Davies chose Paul Cornell to write the episode; Cornell had written Doctor Who spin-off material, especially in novels for the Virgin New Adventures, which bridged the gap between the classic series and the new.[4] Davies originally intended that the episode be a small budget-saver character piece investigating the death of Rose's father, but Cornell suggested the addition of the Reapers and BBC Head of Drama Jane Tranter encouraged the additions of monsters to the new series.[2] Working titles for the episode included "Wounded Time" and "Wound in Time".[5] Davies came up with the final title of "Father's Day" in February 2005, shortly before the series began airing.[4]

Davies and Cornell debated whether it should have been Rose's plan all along to save her father; this is left ambiguous in the episode. Billie Piper felt that it did not occur to Rose until after she began travelling.[6] In the original script, in the scene where the Doctor opens the TARDIS doors and discovers only a police box interior, the police box fell apart. This was changed for reasons of cost, and Cornell has stated that he thinks the change is an improvement.[6] Cornell also states that the character of Pete Tyler is based on his own father, who attempted many different jobs and schemes (including, like Pete, selling health drinks) before eventually finding success running a betting shop. Pete's line "I'm your dad, it's my job for it to be my fault" is taken from something Cornell's father once said to him.[6] Originally Pete was to take a swig of wine before sacrificing himself, but this was removed because a correlation between alcohol and bravery was not thought to be a positive message.[6]

St. Paul's Church in Grangetown.

The entire episode was shot in Cardiff,[3] in November 2004.[6][4] The weather changed frequently during filming, and the cast began to fall ill; Eccleston had a cold.[6] The production team selected several streets that looked similar.[3] Most of the streets were in the community of Grangetown. The streets did not require much work for them to resemble 1980s streets; only a few satellite dishes were taken down.[6] The church is St Paul's Church, also in Grangetown.[4] The set of the Tylers' flat was redressed for the time period.[6] For the 1980s style, members of the cast and crew brought in photographs of themselves from the 80s; for example, peach dresses and "big hair" were incorporated, but these elements were not meant to be distracting. Camille Coduri, who played Jackie, wore a wig for this episode.[3] Some of the conversation between Rose and her father in the car was cut because the car had made the dialogue delivery too "bouncy".[6] Piper was scared of holding the baby. Because the baby is present throughout the majority of the episode, but the number of hours they could work with the infant was limited, an "artificial baby" was used as a placeholder in some scenes.[6]

The Reapers went through many designs. Originally, they were supposed to be "men in cowls" based on the Grim Reaper; the final design retains some of this image with its "scythe-like tail".[7] The original design was deemed too similar to creatures seen in "The End of the World", and so were reworked into something more "otherworldly".[3] They were not originally intended to fly. There was also discussion of how much they should resemble animals as opposed to the Grim Reaper; the end result is a mixture of the two approaches.[6] The final design had a "shark quality", bat wings, and a mouth influenced by the praying mantis. Vulture sound effects were used for its screech.[3] The model was made over two months, being finished at the end of February 2005 rather than at the beginning of January as scheduled.[7] The special effects team then had two or three weeks to complete the "40-odd shots" of the completely CGI Reapers in the episode.[7] The episode ended up being more expensive than intended because of the CGI.[2]

When time is damaged, one of the effects is that mobile telephones all begin to repeat the message, "Watson, come here, I need you," purportedly Alexander Graham Bell's first words ever spoken over a telephone. However, historical records indicate the words to be "Watson, come here, I want you."[2] The error was not present in Paul Cornell's original script, but crept in at some point during production. Producer Phil Collinson speculated that it was because the line was rerecorded: it was originally recorded by someone who the production team felt put on too false a Scottish accent, and so it was rerecorded by a real Scot.[6]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"Father's Day" was first broadcast in the United Kingdom on 14 May 2005 on BBC One.[8] The episode received UK overnight ratings of 7.47 million viewers, an audience share of 42.74%.[9] When time-shifted viewers were taken into account, the number rose to 8.06 million.[10] It received an Appreciation Index of 83.[4]

"Father's Day" was met with a generally positive reception. Piper stated that this was her favourite episode of the first series, and the most emotionally taxing for her to perform.[6] SFX praised the way the concept of time was explored as well as the accurate representation of the '80s, and stated that Dingwall gave "one of the series' best performances" as Pete Tyler. However, the reviewer thought that the Reapers were the let-down of the episode, finding that "the episode doesn't feel as much like horror as it should".[11] Arnold T Blumburg of Now Playing gave the episode an A for the emotional impact and the acting. Blumburg did note, however, that there were "enormous logical gaps" involving "glowing TARDIS keys and under-explained paradoxes".[12] In 2013, Radio Times reviewer Mark Braxton described it as "a time-travel tale with immense heart" and highlighted the shift of identification from the Doctor to Rose and the acting of Piper and Dingwall. Braxton, on the other hand, felt that the Reapers were redundant and the episode would have done "equally well if you scythed the Reapers from the script".[13] Reviewing "Father's Day" for The A.V. Club in 2013, Alasdair Wilkins gave it a grade of "A", finding the story powerful.[14] In Who Is the Doctor, a guide to the revived series, Robert Smith praised the emotion and the dilemma, which he felt was not heavy-handed. He was also positive about the direction and Dingwall's performance, though he felt that removing the Doctor from the plot suggested that he would have done something else to resolve it, and he was not a fan of the scene where the Doctor tells two ordinary people how important their lives are, because it was "cheesy" and "disconnected" from the rest of the story.[2] Coauthor Graeme Burk was also positive, writing that it may be "the best story this season". He called the direction "wonderful" and the script "sublime", and noted how the story was more about family than time travel.[2]

"Father's Day" was nominated for the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, alongside other first series episodes "Dalek" and "The Empty Child" / "The Doctor Dances". The latter won.[15] "Father's Day" topped the third place category in terms of votes.[16]


  1. ^ a b "Father's Day: Fact File". BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Burk, Graeme; Smith?, Robert (6 March 2012). "Series 1". Who Is the Doctor: The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who-The New Series (1st ed.). ECW Press. pp. 35–39. ISBN 1-55022-984-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h "Time Trouble". Doctor Who Confidential. Series 1. Episode 8. 14 May 2005. BBC. BBC Three.
  4. ^ a b c d e Sullivan, Shannon (17 October 2009). "Father's Day". A Brief History of Time (Travel). Retrieved 10 January 2011.
  5. ^ Lyon, J Shaun (2005). Back to the Vortex. Telos Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1903889782.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Collinson, Phil; Paul Cornell; Billie Piper (2005). Audio commentary for "Father's Day" (DVD). Doctor Who: The Complete First Series: BBC.
  7. ^ a b c "Creating the Reapers". Radio Times. May 2005. Archived from the original on 2010-01-09. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  8. ^ "Series 1, Father's Day: Broadcasts". BBC. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  9. ^ "Father's Day Ratings Triumph". Outpost Gallifrey. 15 May 2005. Archived from the original on 19 May 2005. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  10. ^ Russell, Gary (2006). Doctor Who: The Inside Story. London: BBC Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-563-48649-7.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who: Father's Day". SFX. 14 May 2005. Archived from the original on 27 May 2006. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  12. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (18 May 2005). "Doctor Who — "Father's Day"". Now Playing. Archived from the original on 24 May 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  13. ^ Braxton, Mark (12 March 2013). "Doctor Who: Father's Day". Radio Times. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
  14. ^ Wilkins, Alasdair (15 December 2013). "Doctor Who: "The Long Game"/"Father's Day"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 6 January 2014.
  15. ^ "2006 Hugo Awards". World Science Fiction Society. Archived from the original on 7 May 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  16. ^ "Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form". 2006 Hugo Award & Campbell Award Winners. 26 August 2006. Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 28 August 2006.

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