Sunday, 15 April 2018

D is for... Dickens, Charles

The Doctor and Rose Tyler encountered the celebrated writer Charles Dickens at Christmas, 1869. He was in the city of Cardiff on a reading tour, appearing at the Taliesin Lodge. He was feeling maudlin, conscious of his years and disturbed that he felt alienated from his family. During a reading from A Christmas Carol, he witnessed the appearance of a gaseous alien Gelth, which had taken over the corpse of an old woman named Mrs Pearce. He allowed the Doctor to make use of his carriage to give chase to the hearse belonging to Mr Sneed, who had abducted Rose and from whose funeral parlour Mrs Pearce had escaped. Dickens refused to accept the Doctor's stories of alien creatures, to the point that the Time Lord became angry with him. He was convinced that the Gelth were mere trickery. After a seance in which Sneed's maid Gwyneth made contact with the creatures, he realised that he was wrong. Such creatures did indeed exist. When Gwyneth allowed the Gelth to materialise in greater numbers - at the instigation of the Doctor - they realised that they were not the benign refugees they made themselves out to be. Dickens fled the house, pursued by one of the aliens, and witnessed how it could not survive in the atmosphere outside of a human host. It was drawn into a nearby gas lamp.
This gave him the idea to flood the building with gas, sucking the Gelth out of their hosts. Gwyneth then sacrificed herself to blow up the house and cut off their means of reaching Earth.
The encounter gave Dickens a new lease of life. He was determined to have "Blue Elementals" feature in his still unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The Doctor assured him that his work would live on forever. He decided to set off for London to spend the rest of Christmas with his family. The Doctor pointed out to Rose that this would be his last Christmas, as he would die in 1870, and Edwin Drood would remain unfinished.

In an alternative timeline in which all of history existed at the same moment in time, created after River Song failed to assassinate the Doctor at Lake Silencio, Charles Dickens was appearing on the BBC breakfast news to promote his latest Christmas TV Special.

Played by: Simon Callow. Appearances: The Unquiet Dead (2005), The Wedding of River Song (2011).

  • Callow is a bit of a Dickens expert, having written a book about him as well as playing him a number of times on stage (in a one man show), on TV and in films.
  • He also provided the voice for one of the Blathereen, orange-skinned cousins of the Slitheen, in the Sarah Jane Adventures story The Gift.

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