Well, this one got me misty-eyed at the end, I have to admit. Despite the plot-holes and the “I can see it coming a mile away” ending, it still worked for me.
Let’s get some of the unanswered questions out of the way first. Why is the car that killed Pete caught in a loop, constantly reappearing near Pete, as if to give him a chance to repair time? Is it a case of time trying to repair itself somehow, without the direction of the Time Lords? The behavior of time without any lords to direct it is interesting topic, and one that ought to be addressed at some point in the series. Of course, in plot terms, the car is the ‘magic reset switch’ that allows time to be mended, and so it’s disappointing that no explanation is given to us during the course of the story that allows it to be anything other than that reset switch.
And then there are the reapers. Interesting creatures to be sure, but why do they devour everyone they see as opposed to just the people involved in the time change? I’m not sure this is a plot hole so much as simply an unanswered question. I do wonder, if they appear out of nowhere outside the church, why they can’t do so inside the building until the paradox of Rose holding herself as a baby makes them stronger? As an aside, did anyone else make the mental link between the chronovores of “The Time Monster” and these reapers? I did, though it wasn’t stated explicitly. Until told otherwise, it makes sense to me to consider them the same creatures. Or cousins at least.
The main plot is full of emotional moments, and is obviously meant to emotionally manipulate the audience, something I normally despise. Most movies or TV programs that try to wring sentiment from the viewers fall flat. “Father’s Day” will no doubt strike some people as too maudlin, yet it worked for me because the premise is sound, along with the dilemma presented to Rose. Who among us, having lost a parent or a grandparent wouldn’t, if able to travel in time, want to go back and spend just one more day with them? Or an afternoon? Or even five minutes? I think most people would jump at the chance, and Rose’s desire to just be with her dad as he’s dying is very human and very real, and not at all forced. The Doctor indulges her, which in the past might well have been unthinkable. At the moment, she’s his closest friend in the universe, and he’s under no one’s authority but his own, so he chooses to allow her to return and watch her dad die. Yes, it’s a mistake, especially the second time, but again, how many of us have gone along with friends on debatable actions simply because of that friendship? It happens. The Doctor’s not perfect, but it does make his berating of Rose later on very unfair, since he facilitated her actions. Like true friends, they do forgive each other and move on, an action I appreciate. I’d much rather see forgiveness than bitterness and revenge.
So Rose gets to spend some time with the father she never knew, and her childhood idealistic view of her parents is stripped away, as no doubt any of ours would be had we known our parents when they were younger and less mature. It’s a good thing we can’t see our parents like that. Pete and Jackie are very human, and Pete in particular comes across as a good-natured man, trying to do the best for his family despite a very shrill and nagging wife. Earlier in the series I wondered where Rose got her intelligence considering Jackie’s ditziness, and I finally found out, as her dad works out just exactly what’s going on with time and realizes the truth. With monsters outside the church and the car looping in time, the evidence seems undeniable, and he’s broad-minded enough to accept it, as well as give his life for his daughter. Self-sacrifice for love is a theme that can be horribly melodramatic if not depicted carefully. It’s one of the highest and noblest virtues a man or woman can display in my opinion, and between the excellent acting,script and direction, it’s well portrayed in “Father’s Day”. A man looking over his life, knowing himself well enough to realize that he’s not what he should be as a father, and yet still willing to do the noble and right thing for his daughter was touching. Yes, we all know that’s what he’ll do in the end, but Pete’s character rings so true that his actions don’t feel cliched. He’s not a hero, he’s just a man muddling his way through life, who chooses to sacrifice for his child.
Lastly, there’s the Doctor, at both his worst and his best. Indulgent to his friend, blaming her for saving her dad when he’s equally to blame by allowing the situation to happen, insulting her and walking out, only to do his best to save as many lives as he can when the reapers appear, even though the situation is hopeless. He ultimately pays with his life as the reaper enters the church, but it’s not sadness I felt when he did it so much as pride at his actions, because that rings so true to the Doctor’s character. Protecting innocents to the last. And even with time having been damaged, even with his condemnation of Rose for doing it, he still fights to save Pete rather than take the quick and easy way out of sending the man to his death.
To sum it up: a somewhat predictable story and a few plot contrivances exist, but the story manages to transcend them with some very good performances and characters, and some very real explorations of loss and family. My favorite episode so far.