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"Spirits from the other side!"
The Unquiet Dead
Series: Doctor Who -
TV Stories
Series Number: Series 1
Story Number: 159
Doctor: Ninth Doctor
Companions: Rose Tyler
Enemy: Gelth
Setting: Cardiff; Christmas Eve, 1869
Writer: Mark Gatiss
Director: Euros Lyn
Producer: Phil Collinson
Broadcast: 9th April 2005
Format: 1 45-minute episode
Prod. Code: 163
Previous Story: The End of the World
Following Story: Aliens of London



The Ninth Doctor and Rose arrive in Cardiff on Christmas Eve, 1869 and discover that something is making the dead come back to life. The time travellers team up with a world-weary Charles Dickens to investigate Gabriel Sneed, the local undertaker and his servant girl Gwyneth — and come face to face with the ghostly Gelth.


In a funeral parlour during the Victorian era, a young man named Redpath grieves over the open casket containing his dead grandmother. Closing his eyes in sorrow, he does not see a blue, glowing vapour wash over the corpse and enter it. The old woman's eyes snap open and she grabs Redpath by the throat, killing him. Gabriel Sneed, the undertaker, rushes in and tries to close the lid on the reanimated corpse but she knocks him unconscious to the floor before getting up and wandering out onto the street, wailing. Sneed regains consciousness and calls for his servant girl, Gwyneth. This is not the first corpse in the funeral home to come alive, and Gwyneth tells Sneed that they need to get help. Sneed protests that it is not his fault, and they have to get the dead woman back. Riding in the hearse, Sneed orders Gwyneth to use her clairvoyant abilities to seek the dead woman out, and Gwyneth focuses on the old woman's last desire: to see Charles Dickens, who is giving a reading in a music hall in town. Dickens himself is in a melancholic mood as he waits for his stage call. He feels old, is estranged from his family and his imagination is growing thin. He feels that he has seen all there is to see.

In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Rose are having a rough ride. As the ship shakes and they hold onto the console, the Doctor aims the TARDIS for Naples in 1860. When they land, Rose is about to rush out when the Doctor tells her that she would start a riot in her 21st century clothing. Rose returns more suitably dressed in an off-the-shoulder gown, and the Doctor compliments her, saying she is beautiful... for a Human. They step out into the snow-covered streets of history, the Doctor realising when he buys a newspaper that his aim was a bit off — it is Christmas Eve, 1869, and they are in Cardiff, not Naples.

In the music hall, Dickens gives a reading of A Christmas Carol, but stops short as the dead woman in the audience starts to glow blue. The vapour pours out of her mouth, an ethereal gas with a vaguely human shape that sweeps around the hall and sends the audience running in a panic. The screams attract Rose and the Doctor as well as Sneed and Gwyneth. Dickens accuses the Doctor of being responsible for the illusion, as the vapour completely leaves the dead woman's body to be sucked into a gas lamp, and the body collapses. Sneed and Gwyneth carry the limp body out. Rose goes in pursuit, and Sneed Chloroforms her, bundling her into the hearse with the dead woman. The Doctor commandeers Dickens's coach, but the great writer's protests vanish when the Doctor discovers who he is and gushes over his literary genius. When the Doctor tells him about Rose, Dickens chivalrously joins the chase.

Rose awakens in the locked viewing gallery of the funeral parlour, not seeing another gaseous entity take over young Redpath's body. As the Doctor and Dickens arrive at the parlour and force their way in, Redpath and his grandmother come to life again, approaching Rose menacingly. The gas lamps in the house flicker, and the Doctor realises there is something living in the pipes. He hears Rose's cries and breaks the door down, pulling her away from the corpses. He asks them who they are, and the corpses cry that they are dying because the Rift is failing and these forms cannot be sustained. Then the blue vapours stream out of the dead, and the bodies collapse once more.

Sneed explains that the house has had a reputation for being haunted, which is why he managed to buy it so cheaply. The Doctor explains that the house is built on the rift the aliens were referring to — a break in space-time that is growing. These entities are from across the universe. Dickens is still sceptical, refusing to believe that there are ghosts in the gas pipes. The Doctor tells him that as dead bodies release gas when they decompose, they are ideal vehicles for these gaseous aliens. Dickens tells the Doctor, shakily, that if what he has seen is true, then perhaps his entire life, spent fighting against injustice and for social causes in what he thought was the real world, has been for nothing.

Rose, in the meantime, talks to Gwyneth, finding out that she was taken in by Sneed when she was twelve, after her parents died. Although they initially get along well, Gwyneth sees the future in Rose's mind but is shocked when she sees the things Rose has experienced with the Doctor. She apologises, admitting her clairvoyance and saying that her abilities have been growing stronger recently. The Doctor has been listening, and surmises that Gwyneth's abilities are due to her growing up in this house over the rift, and she is the key. He suggests they hold a séance.

Gwyneth manages to summon the aliens, who speak through her. They are the Gelth, a species whose bodies were destroyed by the Time War and left them facing extinction in a gaseous state. The few Gelth remaining need to come through the rift and take over dead bodies to survive. Rose is repulsed by the idea, but the Doctor insists that they have to help. Gwyneth will stand at the spot of the rift down in the morgue and allow the Gelth to use her as a bridge. Rose continues to protest: she knows the Gelth do not succeed, because the future does not have walking dead, but the Doctor tells her that time is constantly in flux, and the future can be rewritten; nothing is safe. In any case, Gwyneth wants to help her "angels". The Doctor warns the Gelth that this is only a temporary solution—once they possess the bodies, he will transport them to another place where they can build permanent ones.

However, when Gwyneth stands at the rift, and the Gelth begin to come through her, the numbers are much more than they originally implied. The Gelth show their true colours — they do not just want bodies that are already dead, they are willing to kill to supply themselves with more hosts and occupy the planet. Gwyneth stands motionless at the position of the rift as the Gelth continue to stream in. Sneed has his neck snapped by a reanimated corpse and is taken over. Dickens, overwhelmed, runs in fear as the Doctor and Rose are backed up into a corner. The Doctor apologises to Rose that she is going to die over a century before she was born, but she tells him that she wanted to come. The Doctor holds her hand as they prepare to go out fighting together. He tells Rose he is glad he met her, she replies the same and they share a smile.

Outside, Dickens sees a pursuing Gelth get sucked into a gas lamp on the street, and has a brainstorm. He rushes back into the house, turning off the flames and turning up the gas. He goes down into the morgue, doing the same, telling the Doctor what he is doing. The Doctor realises that by filling the house with gas, the Gelth will be sucked out of the dead bodies like poison from a wound. This is exactly what happens, the Gelth pouring out of the collapsing corpses and swirling around in the confines of the morgue. The Doctor tells Gwyneth to send them back, but she says she is only strong enough to hold them here, and takes out a box of matches from her apron.

The Doctor tells Dickens to get Rose out of there before the two succumb to the gas fumes, and tries to convince Gwyneth to leave the Gelth to him. As he touches her neck, however, he discovers the truth of the matter, and reluctantly leaves. Gwyneth lights a match, and the house and the Gelth are consumed in fire. The Doctor tells Rose that when he checked Gwyneth's pulse, he realised that she was dead. He thinks Gwyneth died the moment she stood in the rift. Rose does not understand — Gwyneth spoke to them and saved them. In response, Dickens quotes Shakespeare, that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (Hamlet: Act 1, scene V). Rose looks sadly at the ruins of the funeral home—a servant girl saved the world, and nobody will ever know.

Dickens thanks the Doctor as they stand in front of the TARDIS. The things he has seen tonight have given him hope that there is more to learn. He plans to patch things up with his family and finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood, identifying the murderer as a blue elemental. He asks the Doctor if his books will last, and the Doctor assures a smiling Dickens that his work will last forever. Inside the TARDIS, Rose asks if Dickens writing about what they just experienced will change history. The Doctor tells her that Dickens will never get to write his story, as he dies the following year. Right now, however, they have made him more alive than he has been in a long time.

Dickens watches in wonderment as the TARDIS fades away before his eyes. He laughs out loud, and walks through the streets of Cardiff, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and declaring, "God bless us, everyone!"



to be added



Foods and Beverages

  • Gwyneth serves tea to everyone, the Doctor takes his with two sugars.

Last Great Time War

  • The Doctor reacts visibly when the Gelth mention "the Time War". Although the Doctor mentioned "the war" in his conversation with the Nestene Consciousness and then with Rose (following the destruction of Earth) that his people had fought a war "and we lost", this is the first explicit mention of the Time War.
  • Exactly how (or even if) the Gelth were involved is not elaborated upon.

Space-time anomalies

Theories and Concepts

  • When looking into Rose's mind, Gwyneth is frightened and breaks off contact when she sees, "the things you've seen... the darkness... the big bad wolf!"

Story Notes

  • Simon Callow, who plays Dickens, has also written extensively about the writer and is well known for playing Dickens on television as well as in a one-man show.
  • The address on Sneed's hearse indicates his mortuary is located in Llandaff, where, coincidentally, the BBC Wales production offices are. Terry Nation, creator of the Daleks, was also born there.
  • There are several literary in-jokes during Dickens and the Doctor's conversation in the coach. The "American bit" in Martin Chuzzlewit which the Doctor thinks is rubbish and "padding" was indeed inserted by Dickens to spice up the original serialised story when sales were disappointing, but did not improve sales by much. The death of Little Nell, which the Doctor says always "cracks [him] up," is cited (notably by Oscar Wilde in 1895) as an example of excessive sentimentality and purple prose that becomes unintentionally amusing.
  • Dickens also cries, "What the Shakespeare?", a play on the common exclamation, "What the Dickens?" Contrary to popular belief, the phrase has nothing to do with Charles Dickens; "Dickens" is a euphemism for the Devil. Riffing on this comment, in the 2006 Big Finish Productions audio drama The Kingmaker, William Shakespeare cries, "What the Geoffrey Chaucer?". Incidentally, William Shakespeare used the phrase "What the Dickens" in his work (The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, scene ii).
  • According to Doctor Who: The Shooting Scripts, the working titles for this story included The Crippingwell Horror and The Angels of Crippingwell.
  • Mark Gatiss stated in the Radio Times that the original script was more bleak and frightening, but that he was advised by Davies to "make it more of a romp."
  • The Doctor calls Rose Barbarella for wanting to go out before changing into something more suitable for 1869.
  • When Eve Myles was cast as Gwen Cooper in Torchwood, it was noted that the character she played in The Unquiet Dead had a similar name. Russell T Davies initially stated that there was no relationship between the two characters. In the fourth season finale episode, Journey's End, written by Davies, there is a short converstion between the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler. Russell T Davies has explained it as "It's not familial as we understand it. There's no blood tie. Spatial genetic multiplicity means an echo and repetition of physical traits across a Time Rift."
  • Simon Callow, who played Charles Dickens in this story, was seriously considered for the role of the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 TV movie.


  • 8.0 million


  • An ad for the American broadcast of this episode on the Sci Fi Channel read, "The year: 1869. The place: England. The problem: The walking dead." The episode is set in Wales, not England. The location of this episode is also misidentified as "Victorian England" in Doctor Who: The Interactive Electronic Board Game by Toy Brokers.
  • Author and Faction Paradox creator Lawrence Miles posted a damning review of this episode on the Internet within an hour of its broadcast, focusing on a perceived political subtext suggesting that asylum seekers (the Gelth) are really all evil and out to exploit liberal generosity (the Doctor). The review produced considerable backlash in various Internet forums, especially in light of his favourable reviews of Rose and The End of the World, mainly over his comments about writer Mark Gatiss. Miles conceded in a later edit of the review that the subtext was probably unintentional, but still felt it should have been detected and edited out of the script. The original view has subsequently been replaced and is no longer accesible.[1]


  • to be added

Filming Locations

  • Although the story is set in 19th century Cardiff, the production was actually filmed in Swansea and Monmouth, as there were not enough Victorian-looking buildings in Cardiff.
  • The funeral parlour was filmed at a children's home in Cardiff.
  • New Theatre, Cardiff (Theatre where Charles Dickens gives his performance)
  • Beaufort Arms Court, Monmouth
  • White Swan Court, Monmouth
  • Headlands School, Penarth
  • Cambrian Place, Swansea Marina, Swansea
  • Shire Hall, Monmouth
  • St Mary's Street, Monmouth
  • Unit Q2, Imperial Park, Imperial Way, Newport

Discontinuity, Plot Holes, Errors

  • There is a modern road sign in a shot early in the episode situated behind Sneed and Gwyneth.
  • The Doctor states that Rose is 19, but she hasn't gone missing yet, so should she be 17, coming up 18 (Rose was born in 1987)? There is serious discontinuity surrounding Rose's age in her early appearances, however, this is merely a production oversight. Moreover, the production needs Rose to be 19, as having her join the Doctor at age 17 (or possibly even 18) would have child abduction connotations that the show would want to avoid.
  • The Doctor takes his tea with two sugars, but in Rose, he takes his only with milk. Actually, in Rose, the Doctor said he only takes milk with his coffee, not with his tea.


  • The phrase "bad wolf" recurred in all of the stories in this series, specifically referred to by Gwyneth, culminates in the DW: Bad Wolf and finally explained in The Parting of the Ways.
  • "The Darkness" (also mentioned by Gwyneth) appears to relate to the events of DW: Turn Left, The Stolen Earth and Journey's End.
  • The Doctor suggests that Gwyneth's powers are due to her growing up near the time rift. Developing psychic abilities due to spending one's childhood near a time fissure was first established in DW: Image of the Fendahl.
  • The Cardiff rift reappears in DW: Boom Town and later becomes a core element of Torchwood.
  • The Doctor gives Rose some very complicated directions to the TARDIS wardrobe: "First left, second right, third on the left, go straight ahead, under the stairs, past the bins, fifth door on your left." This establishes that the interior corridors of the TARDIS beyond the console room still exist despite the redesign, and echoes a similar conversation between Romana and Chris Parsons in the uncompleted TV serial Shada /(completed) webcast WC: Shada) about where to find the TARDIS medical kit.
  • The Doctor's partiality to the works of Dickens was indicated previously when the Sixth Doctor quoted A Tale of Two Cities in DW: The Ultimate Foe. The Fourth Doctor also read out a description of Little Nell's dress (from The Old Curiosity Shop) in DW: Shada and the Eighth Doctor also read the same passage in WC: Shada).
  • When the old woman releases the Gelth in the music hall, Dickens cries out, "What phantasmagoria is this?" Gatiss also wrote BFA: Phantasmagoria.
  • Rose's conversation with Gwyneth is referenced in DW: Boom Town and in NSA:Only Human.
  • Gwyneth strongly resembles Gwen Cooper of Torchwood, due to being played by the same actress, Eve Myles. Russell T Davies initially stated that the two characters are not related but DW: Journey's End reveals that Gwen is a descendant of Gwyneth.
  • Donna Noble unintentionally references the events of this episode in DW: The Unicorn and the Wasp. ("Yeah, but think about it. There’s a murder, a mystery, and Agatha Christie.... No, but isn’t that a bit weird? Agatha Christie didn’t walk around surrounded by murders. Not really. I mean that’s like meeting Charles Dickens, and he’s surrounded by ghosts. At Christmas.")
  • In each series of the revived series, the Doctor experiences an adventure at or near Christmas, beginning with this episode and continuing in DW: The Christmas Invasion, The Runaway Bride, Voyage of the Damned, The Next Doctor , and The End of Time.


DVD and Other Releases

Series 1 Volume 1: Rose - The End of the World - The Unquiet Dead DVD Cover

See Also

External Links

  • Official BBC Website - Episode Guide for The Unquiet Dead
  • Doctor Who Reference Guide - Detailed Synopsis - The Unquiet Dead
  • Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) - A Brief History of Time (Travel): The Unquiet Dead
  • The Whoniverse - The Discontinuity Guide to: The Unquiet Dead
  • The Locations Guide to Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures: Story Locations - The Unquiet Dead


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 Unquiet Dead" article on the Dr Who wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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