NOTE: Spoilers ahead!
The Doctor: - the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We're falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go...
[He releases her hand]
The Doctor: That's who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.
I first watched this episode in 2012 or 2013 and I remember it looking a bit dated then. That said, revisiting it almost 10 years later and now being a fan of Doctor Who, I enjoyed it much more on a second viewing. Christopher Eccleston does a marvelous job of conveying both mystery and innocence in his Doctor - we don't know who or what he is, but he also seems like he's only a threat to those who would harm others. Billie Piper somehow pulls off both strong and vulnerable, and I like how she saves the Doctor at the end of the episode.
All in all, a great start to the rebooted series!
Rose Tyler: [Cassandra is dying] Help her.
The Doctor: Everything has its time and everything dies.
One of those DW episodes that's somehow more than the sum of its parts. Cassandra is such a memorable villain ("Moisturize me!") and we get our first taste of what the Doctor looks like when he's angry and what he can and will do if his companions or friends are harmed.
The visuals of a doomed earth are great and the concept of this being 5 billion years in the future where everyone Rose (and by extension we as the audience) know and love are gone is quite poignant. Like Rose at the end, the experience made me grateful for the here and now. And chips :)
Charles Dickens: But you have such knowledge of future times. I don't wish to impose on you, but I must ask you... My books, Doctor. Do they last?
The Doctor: Oh, yes.
Charles Dickens: How long?
The Doctor: Forever.
If "The End of the World" (previous episode) is somehow more than the sum of its parts, to me this episode is somehow less. On paper it works: Recognizable historical figure, zombies, spooky Christmas setting, etc. However, all of these elements feel unfocused and never really connect. I think the main culprit is that Dickens' involvement is tangential to the central plot of the episode. Simon Callow's performance as Dickens is nothing short of spectacular, but his character detracts from the zombie plot rather than enhancing it. His character feels and acts much like a Doctor's companion, but we already have Rose, so he just feels very tacked on. Sadly, if you removed Dickens from the story, it would actually free up a lot of screentime for the rest of the plot/characters to breathe.
The Gelth are an interesting idea/villain, but the episode has so much going on that a proper amount of time can't be devoted to developing them. And their being like, "We need dead human bodies" and the Doctor being like, "OK, sure" just feels so out of character for the Doctor. Once again, I think having the Doctor be more cautious/circumspect was nixed for lack of time, a pity because it makes him look a little unintelligent in the end.
All in all, this is an episode that failed to live up to its potential. It either needed its scope reduced or to be turned into a two-parter if the writers really wanted to do all of their ideas justice.