The Doctor Dances

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164b – "The Doctor Dances"
Doctor Who episode
Doctor Dances.jpg
The army of "empty children" marches out of the hospital.
Directed by James Hawes
Written by Steven Moffat
Script editor Elwen Rowlands
Produced by Phil Collinson
Executive producer(s) Russell T Davies
Julie Gardner
Mal Young
Incidental music composer Murray Gold
Production code 1.10
Series Series 1
Length 2nd of 2-part story, 45 minutes
Originally broadcast 28 May 2005
← Preceded by Followed by →
"The Empty Child" "Boom Town"
Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)
Doctor Who episodes (2005–present)

"The Doctor Dances" is the tenth episode of the first series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on BBC One on 28 May 2005. It is the second of a two-part story, following the broadcast of "The Empty Child" on 21 May.

The episode is set in London in 1941. In the episode, the alien time traveller the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), his travelling companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), the con man Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and the homeless woman Nancy (Florence Hoath) investigate a spaceship which crashed the same time patients at a nearby hospital began turning into living dead beings with gas masks for faces.

The episode saw Jack join the Doctor as a companion. Together with "The Empty Child", it won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.


Continuing from "The Empty Child", the Doctor, Rose, and Jack are cornered in the hospital by patients that have had gas masks fused to their faces asking for their "mummy". Angrily, the Doctor orders them to go back to their room, and the patients shuffle off. They are unaware that Jamie, the index case of the "epidemic", also responded to this, leaving his sister Nancy alone. The Doctor, Rose, and Jack investigate the hospital room Jamie was treated at, and learn from recordings that the child is growing stronger with its powers and may become unstoppable. Jamie arrives shortly thereafter, having returned to "his room", along with other patients. The three flee again, and end up trapped in another room, the previous ploy no longer worked. Jack teleports back to the Chula warship and plays music over the radio as to help mask the Doctor and Rose's location. Challenged by Rose to dance while they wait, the Doctor accepts but is interrupted when they are teleported to Jack's ship after he was able to set the controls. The Doctor uses the ship's nanogenes to heal his wounds while learning more about Jack's past.

Nancy returns to the orphaned children and warns them to stay away from her, as Jamie is only after her, not them. She attempts to return to the site where the cylinder crashed near the hospital, but only to be captured by soldiers. They keep her under guard, but she panics when the guard starts transforming into a gas-mask wearing human. By this time, the Doctor, Rose, and Jack have returned to the site, and discover other guards transforming. The Doctor fears the contagion is airborne as they try to make their way in. They find Nancy, who saved herself by singing a lullaby to the converted guard. Examining the cylinder, the remains of a Chula medical ship, the Doctor deduces what has happened: as with the warship, the Chula medical ship carried nanogenes. They had scanned the first human they encountered, Jamie, who had died earlier that night, and presumed it was a template for all humans, transforming them into the gas mask-wearing people, and infusing them with added strength since the Chula are a warrior race. As the Doctor attempts to reprogram the nanogenes, the other transformed humans approach to defend it. The Doctor realises that Jamie's mind is the template controlling all these humans, searching for his "mummy", and that Nancy is not really Jamie's sister but his mother. The Doctor convinces Nancy to accept the transformed Jamie as her son and tell him the truth. Nancy accepts Jamie into her arms; the nanogenes gather around the two, determine that Nancy is Jamie's parent and that her DNA is the proper template for humans. The Doctor directs the nanogenes to undo their previous transformations, returning everyone to normal, including restoring Jamie to life.

The bomb prop, on display at a Doctor Who exhibition

As everyone is recovering, they see a German bomb approaching the site. Jack returns to the Chula warship and uses it to tether the bomb and steer it away from Earth. The Doctor orders everyone to flee the area, setting the Chula medical ship to self-destruct to destroy the technical parts without changing the timeline. The Doctor proudly boasts that "everyone lives" as he and Rose return to the TARDIS, but learns that Jack is unable to stop the bomb or leave the ship, and is preparing to sacrifice himself. As Jack comes to terms, he discovers the TARDIS has materialised aboard his ship, and he joins the Doctor and Rose aboard it as they dance together in celebration.


The working title for this story was "Captain Jax".[2] In the DVD commentary for this episode, writer Steven Moffat reveals that up until a very late stage, the nanogenes in this story were called "nanites". However, script editor Helen Raynor decided this name sounded too much like similar nanotechnological devices in Star Trek: The Next Generation.[3] Moffat had first used the line "Life is just nature's way of keeping meat fresh" in the second series of his 1990s sitcom Joking Apart. He reused it here as he thought it was a good line, but laments that people quote lines from this episode instead of that one.[3][4] The Chula ships are named after Chula, an Indian/Bangladeshi fusion restaurant in Hammersmith, London where the writers celebrated and discussed their briefs on the scripts they were to write for the season after being commissioned by Russell T Davies.[3][5]

The climactic scene of the episode at the alien crash site was filmed on Barry Island, Wales.[6] Several scenes of this story were filmed at the Vale of Glamorgan Railway sites at Plymouth Road on Barry Island.[7]

Anachronistically, Jamie's voice is recorded on tape. While compact magnetic tape recorders were developed in Germany in the 1930s, the technology did not make its way to the rest of the world until after World War II. Wire recording was used by the BBC during this period, but recording gramophones, using wax discs as a medium, were more common. Steven Moffat acknowledges this mistake in the DVD commentary for "The Doctor Dances", but jokingly suggests that an ancestor of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart stole the machine from Germany to help with the war effort.[3]

Both songs heard in the episode are by Glenn Miller. They are "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade". In a reference to Dr. Strangelove, Jack Harkness rides the bomb while it is held in stasis.[citation needed]

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"The Doctor Dances" received overnight ratings of 6.17 million viewers, a 35.9% audience share; this was the lowest figure yet for the series, but it was during a bank holiday weekend and was the most-watched programme on Saturday.[8] It received a final rating of 6.86 million viewers.[9]

SFX stated that the two-part story had "everything", particularly praising Moffat's script. They highlighted the ending of "The Doctor Dances" as "funny, surprising, heartwarming and life-affirming without slipping into syrupy schmaltz".[10] Dek Hogan of Digital Spy disliked Barrowman as Captain Jack,[11] but named the two-part story as the best episodes of the series.[12] Arnold T Blumburg of Now Playing gave "The Doctor Dances" a grade of A, writing that it "may be the production and plotting high point of the first series to date". He said that the episode "manages to smoothly present a ton of technobabble with clarity and precision" and praised the dialogue and the "exhilarating" climax.[13]

The scene where the child surprises the Doctor, Rose, and Jack in Room 802 was voted television's "Golden Moment of 2005" by viewers, as part of the BBC's 2005 TV Moments programme.[14] In a poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine in 2009, the two-part story was ranked the fifth best episode of Doctor Who.[15] The Daily Telegraph named the story the fourth best of the show in 2008.[16] In 2011 before the second half of the sixth series, The Huffington Post labelled "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" as one of the five essential episodes for new viewers to watch.[17]

"The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).[18]


  1. ^ "Dian Perry Official CV" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-02-08. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (17 August 2009). "The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances". A Brief History Of Time (Travel). Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Doctor Dances", DVD audio commentary
  4. ^ Steven Moffat, Joking Apart, Series 2 DVD audio commentary, Replay DVD
  5. ^ "Waking The Dead" featurette on Doctor Who Series 1 DVD, 2Entertain
  6. ^ "Walesarts, Barry Island Railway". BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-30. 
  7. ^ "The Empty Child – Location Guide". BBC. Retrieved 2012-02-20. [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "Sunday Series Update". Outpost Gallifrey. 29 May 2005. Archived from the original on 5 June 2005. Retrieved 29 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Russell, Gary (2006). Doctor Who: The Inside Story. London: BBC Books. p. 139. ISBN 978-0-563-48649-7. 
  10. ^ "Doctor Who: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances". SFX. 28 May 2005. Archived from the original on 27 May 2006. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Hogan, Dek (22 May 2005). "No love for the Island". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Hogan, Dek (19 June 2005). "The Global Jukebox". Digital Spy. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  13. ^ Blumburg, Arnold T (1 June 2005). "Doctor Who – "The Doctor Dances"". Now Playing. Archived from the original on 4 April 2006. Retrieved 27 March 2013. 
  14. ^ "2005 TV moments". BBC. Retrieved 2012-02-20. 
  15. ^ Haines, Lester (17 September 2009). "Doctor Who fans name best episode ever". The Register. Retrieved 2011-08-09. 
  16. ^ "The 10 greatest episodes of Doctor Who ever". The Daily Telegraph. 2 July 2008. Retrieved 2012-02-11. 
  17. ^ Lawson, Catherine (9 August 2011). "Catch Up With 'Doctor Who': 5 Essential Episodes". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-02-12. 
  18. ^ "Hugo and Campbell Awards Winners". Locus Online. 26 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-27. 

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