Boom Town

Region 1
box set

Region 2
box set
Region 2
3-episode volume
(Doctor Who Story No. 169, starring Christopher Eccleston)
  • written by Russell T. Davies
  • directed by Joe Ahearne
  • produced by Phil Collinson
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 45 minutes
Story: Mickey Smith meets the TARDIS crew in Cardiff, where they are all shocked to discover that the new mayor is none other than alien Margaret Slitheen. Margaret has been leaving behind a staggering trail of cover-ups in pursuit of her nuclear power-station project. What is her real agenda? The Doctor wrestles his conscience looking for the most appropriate way to deal with Margaret, while Rose has to face some difficult questions in her relationship with Mickey....

DVD Extras (box sets only) include:

  • Audio commentary by John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Annette Badland (Margaret Blaine), and producer Phil Collinson.
  • Dr. Who Confidential featurette: Unsung Heroes & Violent Death (12 min.) with Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose),
    Noel Clarke (Mickey), writer Russell T. Davies, script editor Helen Raynor, and Dr. Who Magazine editor Clayton Hickman.

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have
already seen the program. To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide version instead.

This little character-piece coda to the Aliens of London story is actually a very nicely crafted tale. Although it isn't very ambitious in itself, it does a very fine job of intriguing the viewers and pulling them through each twist, turn, and revelation of the plot, and seems particularly good at making you think you know where it's headed just before pulling another surprise out of its hat.

Russell T. Davies has said how important he felt it was for Cardiff, England to appear on screen, since the new Doctor Who is made there. Hmmm. Somehow I think, with this being Doctor Who, it is rather more important for an alien planet to appear on screen, at LEAST once or twice per season. Yet with hardly any time left in this season, we're looking at England again for the umpteenth time. Curiously, there now seems to be a considerable amount of dialogue indicating that our band of time travellers has been to some amazing alien planets, and that they will soon be off to another one. Nice try, but not satisfying enough by a long shot. I do remember good old days like season 18, where the Earth only featured for half of one story - HALF - plus a little 5-minute beach cameo. The galaxy really has become a sad and smaller place.

The train makes a nice visual arrival at the station, and we soon learn that it has brought Mickey to the scene of the action. Sadly, nothing of the train interior is seen, but with the train being such an ordinary Earth vehicle, it isn't really necessary today.

Mickey soon introduces us to the rest of the story's main characters, the TARDIS, Jack, Rose, and Big Ears, and during the ensuing banter Mickey comes out on top and rules all. Amen.

Meanwhile, Margaret Blaine has re-established herself, her alien nature, and her questionable motives for the audience. Good, because there won't be time to investigate any of that after our heroes spot her. But you have to wonder why, if she's so afraid of having her picture taken or getting any visual publicity, why doesn't she get herself a new human face to wear? Like that of the existing Mayor perhaps? As Margaret she needs to get voted in, which requires publicity. Or perhaps she got rid of her rivals and got acclaimed into the role. Either way, this is an odd situation.

So the good guys brandish their weapons - cell phones. Pathetic. There's nothing more un-sci-fi than the latest, common place, over-hyped, radioactive, would-you-like-a-virtual-answering-machine-with-that cell phone. Captain Kirk's communicator was ahead of its time. The modern-day cell phone is just over-commercialized pop-culture, and this new series has been overusing them. Stick with the sonic screwdriver and the psychic paper, and give K9 a guest spot, but keep the cell phone use to a minimum, please. I'm begging you.

"I've seen you fight your enemies. Now dine with them."

After a nice bit of action and confrontation, character study takes over for a good portion of the episode, exploring issues and philosophy with no holds barred. Very nice. The Doctor and Margaret get the most intense bits for sure, but Rose and Mickey have an equally interesting session and Jack gets to throw his two-cents in from time to time. Even though Mickey gets a little weird near the end, he still remains my favourite character. Some good acting from Billie Piper, as Rose talks about him, makes an incredible assist in validating his character.

A magical TARDIS for hero

Neither the Doctor, nor Mickey, nor any other humanoid character are able to make the decisive heroic move at the story's climax though. Instead the TARDIS moves in, now with yet more new magical powers, and why not since it was being directly threatened. Margaret miscalculated a bit, didn't she?

But sadly that means the Doctor has missed out on owning this key moment in what, 7 out of 9 stories so far this season? That ratio seems a bit too high for a show that is still re-inventing itself. And note also how magic seems to be overused by writers to make up for a lack of strategy, either in the plot or on the part of the characters, or both. It seems improvements still need to be made.

I must confess, when watching this the first time through, I had at first hoped the second half of the story would take us to Raxacoricafalpitorius, or whatever Margaret's home planet might be, and when that failed to happen, I started to hope that the heart of the TARDIS was opening in order to let the Master back out. A new Master. That would have been cool. Didn't happen.

Well, Russell T. Davies' true aims with this story may have been less grand than I had hoped for, but he does manage to hit his target really well, and for what this is, it's of really high quality. I enjoyed it more on repeat viewing than I thought I would, to the extent it may cause an upset in the season rankings. Nicely done. Not a grand Doctor Who story, but perhaps finally a little gem.

International Titles:

Deutsch: "Der Spalt"

Magyar: "A nagy durranás"

Français: "L'Explosion de Cardiff"

Русский: "Городской бум"

Italiano: "Città esplosiva"

There's a nice double meaning to the English title for this story, and I'm not convinced that ANY of the translations here managed to echo its implied rapid economic growth of the town. The only real variation here is in the German title, which seems to refer instead to the exploited fault beneath the town.

This story has become available on DVD:
DVD NTSC Region 1
13-episode box set
for the North American market:
in the U.S.
in Canada
DVD PAL Region 2
13-episode box set
for the U.K.
DVD PAL Region 2
3-episode volume
U.K. format only

Note: The 13-episode box sets contain commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and other extras. The 3-episode volumes only feature the plain episodes.

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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "Bad Wolf"

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