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The Empty Child
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Series Number: Series 1
Story Number: 164a
Doctor: Ninth Doctor
Enemy: Empty Child
Setting: London; 1941
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: James Hawes
Producer: Phil Collinson
Broadcast: 21st May 2005
Format: 1 45-minute episodes
Prod. Code: 169
Previous Story: Father's Day
Following Story: The Doctor Dances
"Are you my mummy?"
Empty Child



Chasing a metallic object through the vortex, the Doctor and Rose arrive in London during the Blitz. There, they find homeless children being terrorized, dead bodies with unexplained marks on their hands, a strange cylinder guarded by the army, and the dashing Captain Jack Harkness.


The TARDIS chases a metal cylinder displaying mauve alert. The Doctor and Rose pursue it though space and time. Whatever the cylinder is, it's dangerous and 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; the Doctor notes that they have arrived a couple of weeks to a month after the cylinder's impact. The Doctor hears music coming from behind a locked door and uses the sonic screwdriver to open it. He steps inside the building, but Rose hears a child calling for its mother. She looks up and sees a young boy wearing a gas mask on the roof. The door leads to a room set up as a makeshift cabaret. After the singer ends her set, the Doctor steps up to the microphone and asks them if any object had fallen from the sky in the last few days.

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, and she uses it to climb up, not realising that it is attached to a barrage balloon above. It rises, taking Rose clean off the roof with it and hanging on for dear life. There, 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 where the TARDIS landed, and sees no sign of Rose. He is puzzled when the exterior telephone of the TARDIS's Police box exterior rings. 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 even 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?" several times before it falls dead again. Hearing clattering down the alley, the Doctor looks over a wall into a residential garden and sees a woman ushering 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, but they are binoculars of an advanced technological design. 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 grins at the officer and, speaking with an American accent, says that he has to meet a girl, but adds as he leaves that the officer has an excellent bottom as well.

Rose loses her grip on the rope and falls, shrieking before she finds her descent halted by a beam. Jack's voice tells her to deactivate her cell 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, managing to get out a couple of "hellos" before she faints.

Back at the house, the young woman has been joined by several other children, and they start to consume the dinner that has been left on the table. The Doctor appears suddenly and deduces that all of them are homeless, but notes that as it is 1941, the children 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, by waiting for families to hide in shelters before stealing their food.

The Doctor asks the children if they have seen the cylinder, drawing them a picture, but before any can answer, there is a knocking on the window, accompanied by a child's voice asking for its mother. Outside is a child in a gas mask, and he slowly wanders over to the front door, still 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 by the back way. The Child sticks his arm through the mail hole, he has a strange scar on his arm.

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, and 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, claiming to be 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. At the same time, to Rose's embarrassment, Jack reads the paper 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 had 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 which is 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, and Nancy tells him about a bomb falling near the Limehouse Green station "that was not a bomb". It is now guarded by soldiers and barbed wire. Nancy says 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. He 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, to which Rose gives an approving smile.

The Doctor uses his own binoculars to monitor the crash site from a distance 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, telling the Doctor that there are hundreds of them. Dr Constantine invites the Doctor to examine the masked people, warning him not to touch their flesh. The Doctor finds that, impossibly, all of them have identical 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 a lightning-shaped scar on the back of their hands. Constantine also has the same scar, but the Doctor does not notice.

Constantine explains that when the "bomb" dropped, it claimed one victim, and those who were in contact with it soon suffered the exact same injuries; the symptoms themselves spreading like a plague. The Doctor asks what killed them, but Constantine explains that they are not dead. With a rap of his cane against a table leg, the "corpses" come to life.

The Doctor takes a startled step back, but Constantine tells him they are harmless: they just sit there, have no signs of life, but they just do not die. All Constantine can do is make them comfortable, but he suspects the Army has a plan to blow up the hospital and blame it on a German bomb, as isolated cases are breaking out all over London. He directs the Doctor to Room 802, where the first victim, Nancy's brother, was housed. Constantine says that Nancy knows more than she is saying but before he can say anything else, he grabs his neck and starts to choke out the words, "Are you my mummy?" Before the Doctor's eyes, Constantine's features shift and change into a gas mask and he slumps in his chair.

Rose and Jack enter the hospital, and 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, and 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 realizes 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?

The trio of time travelers are being backed into a corner, as the gas-masked virus carriers get closer and closer...



to be added


  • Jack mentions Time Agents.
  • Rose refers to the Doctor as "Spock".
  • When Constantine told the Doctor, that he lost both his son/daughter and his grandchild, the Doctor replied "Yeah, know the feeling". which possibly could reference that he lost his granddaughter.

Story Notes

  • This story introduces John Barrowman as Jack Harkness. Although slated to become a companion, Barrowman's name is not added to the opening credits. The notion of adding a third name to reflect an "expanded roster" would not be introduced until Barrowman's return to the series two years later in Utopia.
  • Jack Harkness becomes the first ongoing LGBT character in Doctor Who, although actor Barrowman is not the first LGBT actor to be cast in a major role in the series.


  • 7.1 million viewers

Myths and rumours

to be added

Filming Locations

  • Cardiff Royal Infirmary, Cardiff.

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • Whilst Jack and Rose were next to Big Ben, the clock continued to show 21:30 and Big Ben's clock never stopped during World War II, it continued to tell the time. This is set in the Whoniverse, where not only are things not the same as in our own universe, but time is also in flux.



DVD, Other Releases

Series 1 Volume 3 DVD Cover

External Links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for The Empty Child
  • The Doctor Who Reference Guide detailed synopsis of The Empty Child
  • The Whoniverse Discontinuity Guide to The Empty Child
  • A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Empty Child
Series 1
Rose  • The End of the World  • The Unquiet Dead  • Aliens of London  • World War Three  • Dalek  • The Long Game  • Father's Day  • The Empty Child  • The Doctor Dances  • Boom Town  • Bad Wolf  • The Parting of the Ways

This article uses material from the "The Empty Child" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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