The Empty Child


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The Empty Child

Series 1

Episode 9

First Transmitted

21 May 2005

Final Ratings







The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
The Empty Child
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Regular Cast

Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose)

Guest Cast

Kate Harvey (Nightclub Singer), Albert Valentine (The Child), Florence Hoath (Nancy), Cheryl Fergison (Mrs Lloyd) Damian Samuels (Mr Lloyd), John Barrowman (Jack Harkness), Robert Hands (Algy), Joseph Tremain (Jim), Jordan Murphy (Ernie), Brandon Miller (Alf), Richard Wilson (Dr Constantine) Noah Johnson (Voice of the Empty Child), Dian Perry (Computer Voice).


Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by James Hawes
Produced by Julie Garner and Phil Colinson


Chasing a metallic object through the Time Vortex, the Ninth Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler, arrive in London during the Blitz.

While Rose meets “Captain Jack Harkness“, the dashing Time Agent responsible for bringing the object, The Doctor finds a group of homeless children terrorised by Jamie, an “empty” child wearing a gas mask.


The Doctor’s TARDIS chases a metal cylinder displaying mauve alert, which prompts Rose to ask why they are chasing it. The Ninth Doctor explains that mauve is the universally recognised colour for danger, and that “red’s camp” — only humans considered red a colour for danger. The Doctor hacks into the flight program of the cylinder and keeps the TARDIS locked on it. However, the cylinder begins jumping time tracks. Coming out of the vortex, they find the cylinder is thirty seconds from the centre of London.

The TARDIS materialises in a narrow alley between some brick buildings at night. The Doctor and Rose step out in search of the object; TFhe Doctor notes they have arrived a couple of weeks to a month after the cylinder’s impact — it was jumping time tracks, which made it hard to keep up. He hears music coming from behind a locked door and uses the sonic screwdriver to open it. He steps inside, but Rose hears a child calling for his mother. She looks up and sees a young boy wearing a gas mask on the roof.

The door The Doctor enters leads to a makeshift cabaret. After the singer ends her set, The Doctor steps up to the microphone and asks if any object has fallen from the sky in the last few days. Everyone laughs, and the Doctor finally spots posters showing that it’s 1941 — the middle of the Blitz — and closes his eyes in embarrassment.

In the meantime, Rose has reached the roof of the building where the young boy is standing on a cargo container. A rope dangles in front of her. She uses it to climb up, not realising that it is attached to a barrage balloon above. It rises, taking Rose with it, clean off the roof and hanging on for dear life. Rose sees bits of the city of London in flames, spotlights sweeping through the sky, the sound of anti-aircraft fire and bombers flying right at her.

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and sees no sign of Rose. Petting a stray cat, he rather sarcastically remarks that one day, he’ll get a companion that actually does what he says. He pulls up short when the exterior telephone of the TARDIS rings; it’s not a real phone. He prepares to examine it with the sonic screwdriver when a young woman appears and tells him not to answer it. The Doctor asks her how the telephone can be ringing, but when he turns back she has disappeared. He picks up the earpiece, but all that comes through is a child’s voice asking, “Mummy? Are you my mummy?” several times before the phone falls dead again. Hearing clattering down the alley, The Doctor looks over a wall into a residential garden and sees a woman ushering her family into an air-raid shelter. He also spots the young woman he saw moments before entering the house. Once inside, she begins to raid the cupboards for tinned food.

Rose is still hanging by a rope over a blazing London. From a balcony below, a man dressed in RAF uniform peers through binoculars up at her. A British Army officer addresses him as “Jack” and asks if he is going to the shelter, but Jack is distracted by the sight of Rose’s bottom in his sights. Jack mutters, “Excellent bottom”, and grins at the officer, before saying that he has to meet a girl, “but you’ve got an excellent bottom too.”

Rose loses her grip on the rope and falls, screaming, until she finds her descent halted by a blue beam. Jack’s voice tells her to deactivate her mobile phone and to keep her limbs inside the light field as she slides rapidly down the beam into Jack’s ship and his arms. Rose stares at the handsome Jack and gets out a couple of “hellos” before she faints.

Back at the house, the young woman has been joined by other children. They start to eat the dinner left on the table. The Doctor appears suddenly and deduces that all of them are homeless, but notes that, as it is 1941, they should have been evacuated to the country long ago. The children say that they were, but they returned to London for various reasons. Nancy, the young woman who told him not to answer the phone earlier, finds them food this way, waiting for families to hide in shelters before stealing their food. The Doctor thinks it a great idea, but isn’t sure if it’s “Marxism in action or a West End musical”.

The Doctor asks the children if they have seen the cylinder, drawing them a picture, but before any can answer, there is knocking on the window, accompanied by a child’s voice asking for its mother. Outside is a child in a gas mask. He wanders over to the front door, repeating his query. Nancy hurriedly bolts the door before he can get in. Nancy tells The Doctor that he is “not exactly” a child, and then orders the other children to leave via the back entrance.

The child sticks his arm through the mail slot; he has a strange scar on his hand. Nancy tells The Doctor not to let the child touch him or he will become just like him — empty. The telephone on the mantelpiece rings. When The Doctor picks it up to hear the same plaintive request for its mother, Nancy grabs the receiver and hangs up. The child has the ability to make telephone calls.

The Doctor asks the child through the door why the other children are frightened of him, but he keeps asking to be let in, saying he is scared of the bombs. The Doctor agrees to open the door, but when he does, the street is empty.

Rose wakes up in Jack’s ship, which she says is very “Spock”, a reference he does not understand. He introduces himself as Captain Jack Harkness, an American volunteer with No. 133 Squadron RAF. He hands her an identification card which Rose identifies as psychic paper — it shows her whatever he wants her to see, which is apparently that he is single and works out. To Rose’s embarrassment, when she hands the paper back, Jack reads it as showing that Rose has a boyfriend but considers herself “very” available. Jack uses his ship’s nanogenes to treat Rose’s hands for rope burns. He also tells her to stop acting, he can spot a “Time Agent” a mile away and has been expecting one to turn up. Jack invites her for a drink on the “balcony”; opening the hatch, they step out onto the invisible hull of the ship, floating next to Big Ben.

Nancy makes her way across an abandoned rail yard to a locomotive, where she unloads the tins she took from the house. The Doctor surprises her again, having followed her. He has made the connection between the fallen cylinder and the empty child. Nancy tells him about a “bomb that was not a bomb” falling near the Limehouse Green station. It is now guarded by soldiers and barbed wire. Nancy says that if he wants to find out what is going on, he needs to talk to “The doctor”.

On top of his ship, Jack and Rose continue to flirt. He tells her that he has something the Time Agency might want to buy and asks her if she is empowered to negotiate. Rose plays along, saying that she should talk to her “companion” first. Jack tells her that what fell on London was a fully equipped Chula warship — the last of its kind — and offers to get it for her if the Agency names the right price. However, the deadline for a decision is in two hours — because that is when a German bomb will fall and destroy it. He proceeds to look for her “companion” by scanning for alien technology. Rose gives an approving smile — The Doctor had earlier refused to do just that.

The Doctor uses his own binoculars to monitor the cylinder’s crash site from afar with Nancy. She encourages him to go speak to the doctor at nearby Albion Hospital. The Doctor remarks that Nancy is looking after the children to make up for something and she admits that it is because her brother Jamie died during an air raid.

In the wards, The Doctor finds the beds apparently filled with corpses wearing gas masks. An elderly man in a doctor’s coat appears. He tells The Doctor that there are hundreds of masked people in the hospital. Dr Constantine invites The Doctor to examine them, warning him not to touch their flesh. The Doctor finds that, impossibly, all of them have the exact same injuries to the skull and chest cavity. The gas masks are also seemingly fused to their flesh, although there are no burns or scarring. They also have lightning-shaped scars on the backs of their hands. Constantine has the same scar, but The Doctor does not notice.

Constantine explains that when the “bomb” dropped, it claimed one victim. Those in contact with the victim soon suffered the exact same injuries, the symptoms spreading like a plague. After The Doctor guesses unsuccessfully what the cause of death was, he asks Constantine for the answer. Constantine tells that there wasn’t one; they are not dead. When he raps his cane against an empty pail the “corpses” come to life.

The Doctor takes a startled step back, but Constantine tells him they are harmless: they just sit there. They have no life signs, but they do not die. The Doctor is shocked that the patients have just been abandoned with nobody doing anything about it. All Constantine can do is make them comfortable. Constantine states that before the war, he was a father and a grandfather; now he is neither, but still a doctor. The Doctor, having been through a similar experience, tells Constantine that he “knows the feeling”. Constantine suspects that the Army plans to blow up the hospital and blame it on a German bomb, but The Doctor suspects that it is probably too late for such a thing to make a difference. Constantine agrees, stating that there are now isolated cases breaking out all over London. Suddenly, he enters a coughing fit; when The Doctor moves to help him, Constantine tells him to keep back. He directs The Doctor to Room 802 on the top floor of the hospital, where the first victim from the crash site was housed. Afterwards, he must find Nancy again; the first victim was her brother, and she knows more than she is saying, but she has refused to tell Constantine anything.

Before Constantine can say anything else, he grabs his neck and starts to choke out the words, “Are you my mummy?” The Doctor watches aghast as Constantine’s features shift and change into a gas mask and he slumps in his chair, as lifeless as the rest of the plague victims.

Rose and Jack enter the hospital. Jack introduces himself to The Doctor, calling him “Mr Spock”, to The Doctor’s puzzlement. Rose privately tells The Doctor that she had to tell Jack they were Time Agents and give him a false name. She tells The Doctor about the Chula warship. The Doctor demands to know from Jack what kind of warship it is, but Jack insists that it has nothing to do with the plague. Jack confesses that the cylinder was just an ambulance — an empty shell which he was trying to pass off as valuable. Jack realises now that Rose and the Doctor are not really Time Agents. The Doctor explains that human DNA is being rewritten by an idiot — but for what purpose?

Back at the house, Nancy has returned to raid the kitchens, but the child gets inside. She does her best to hide, but the child eventually finds her in the dining room and asks her, “Are you my mummy?” Nancy backs away, calling the child “Jamie” and pleading, “But you’re dead!”

In the hospital, the gas-mask virus carriers suddenly get up and start advancing on the trio of time travellers, all calling for “Mummy”…


  • When Nancy approaches the crashed ship and cuts the barbed-wire fence, the score features the brisk string motif that would become the featured motif in the Torchwood series theme.
  • This is the second time that the cliffhanger from the previous episode was resolved before the main title sequence. The first was in World War Three. This practise would fall out of favour amongst the BBC Wales production staff, however. Since 2005, most part two pre-titles sequences have been comprised entirely of a part one recap, or of a recap plus a seemingly unrelated teaser.
  • This is sometimes assumed to be the first episode to use a verb in the title, but that honour actually belongs to All Roads Lead to Rome, part two of The Romans. In any event, it is unusual for a Doctor Who title to have a verb in it, but it is more common in the BBC Wales version of the programme. Steven Moffat seems to enjoy titles with verbs, having also contributed The Pandorica Opens, A Good Man Goes To War and Let’s Kill Hitler. Arguably, Blink should also be included, butblinkis both a nounanda verb.
  • The Tenth Doctor quips “Are you my mummy?” when given a gas mask to wear (The Poison Sky), as does the Twelfth Doctor when he sees the mummy-like Foretold. (Mummy on the Orient Express)
  • It was the first single-Doctor episode since Doctor Who and the Silurians, part seven, to directly name the programme’s main character in its title. However, it’s not quite so unusual as might be thought. It had happened a couple of time in Hartnell era episode titles, with The Death of Doctor Who and A Holiday for The Doctor. Also, the title of season 23 simply refers to The Doctor by another name, since he is the Time Lord inicated by The Trial of a Time Lord. And it has happened since The Doctor Dances, with The Doctor’s Daughter, The Next Doctor, Vincent and the Doctor, and The Doctor’s Wife. If one adds to that the number of times The Doctor has been referenced in the titles by another name”, Partners in Crime, Smith and Jones, Last of the Time Lords, The Lodger and A Good Man Goes To War, it can be said that it’s hardly rare for a story title to refer to The Doctor in some way. Nevertheless, The Doctor Dances was the first time it had happened in the BBC Wales series.
  • The French title is “Drôle de Mort” (A Weird Dead), while the Hungarian title is “Bomba meglepetés” (Bomb Surprise).
  • During his first incarnation, The Doctor and Susan also visited London during the Blitz in 1941. (The Alchemists)
  • As is routine for post-2005 Doctor Who, a NEXT TIME trailer for the next episode is shown at the end of the episode.

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