Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways (Joint review)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by James Tricker

So, was it all worth it? The answer is a resounding yes. Bad Wolf and the Parting of the Ways represent RTD's epic season finale, his best contribution to the series to date and, minor concerns excepted, a hugely enjoyable piece of television.

Firstly, Bad Wolf. No episode this series has drew such gushing praise on the one hand and vitriolic abuse on the other, but again the majority who enjoyed it outweighed those who didn't. I do agree that being asked to believe these events are taking place 200, 000 years in the future is, yes, absurd, even 20000 would be stretching credulity perhaps. As for the reality TV segments, my friend tells me the Big Brother scenes were totally accurate (interestingly no satire here, not even parody, just a faithful reconstruction) so I'll take his word on that; the Anne Droid of the Weakest Link was obviously greatly enhanced in terms of effectiveness by us knowing it was Anne Robinson's voice (and what a way to go later on-I knew Anne wouldn't go down without a fight) and as for What Not To Wear, how curious of the BBC censors to allow Capt. Jack (whose finest hour these two episodes represent) to grope an Android's breasts but not to let us see his bum- which isn't a problem for me, as I'm a married man and have no desire to see the said bum, but it was rather curious.

This was a particularly well-paced and structured episode, whose energy and tension built up nicely as it became apparent that something unpleasant was literally pulling the Controller's strings- and what a powerful moment her death scene was, complete with menacing Dalek reflection, occurring as it did immediately after the dramatic realisation that Rose has been beamed to the Dalek ship, complete with the pleasing hum of its heartbeat. Much to my wife's dismay and my small daughter's delight I have actually played back the final moments of this episode again and again as the "But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan" exchange is just gorgeous, the type of stirring dialogue even an absent-minded chap like me can recollect with a warm glow; for a moment there I was transported back to that Dalek's final speech in Genesis in terms of dramatic impact. The epic scale of the Dalek fleet and general visual realisation of this episode was excellent, the former bringing to mind the epic fleets of the 1960's which infact was in RTD's mind's eye as he wrote. What an appetite-wetter for the finale!

And so to the Parting of the Ways. This episode, of course, contained all those elements that people love and loath about the new Who. Fundamentally, if you were one of those-and I know there are quite a few-who were concerned about the disproportionate emphasis on the companion at the expense of the Doctor throughout this season then the climax of this story (perhaps inevitable with hindsight) is likely to crystallise your disappointmant to an unprecented degree. You will ask whether the series should have returned under the title "Rose" with story 1 entitled "Doctor" just to get the true balance of this season right. Here we have the Ultimate Companion, the Bad Wolf who reduces the Daleks to dust (perhaps) and brings Capt Jack back to life. And what of the Tardis? Rose is able to tap into powers so immense that it makes you feel the old Type 40 has come a long way since being so desperately disabled by the city of the Exillons in Death to the Daleks that, deviod of a single click or tick, the Third Doctor has to prize open its door with a crank handle. I know that's perhaps an out of context point given that here we're talking about the Time Vortex, but all the same, it has never seemed so powerful or mysterious. Rose's timely intervention leaves the otherwise rather redundant Doctor to do the noble thing and save his friend's life by sacrificing his own. Whatever your feelings about all this, it is nevertheless powerful and compelling stuff, and to his credit the Doctor did have a Genesis-type dilemma on his hands anyway, and cannot bring himself to wipe out the Daleks via the delta wave because this would also involve wiping out the human race, or its Earthbound inhabitants at least.

One aspect I guess most of us could agree on is the brilliant realisation of the Daleks in this series. They are superb, not just visually:they're ruthless, practically indestructable (the climax excepted) and , as it turns out, utterly insane courtesy of the Emperor. To have them wipe out the hapless victims on the ground floor of the Game Station for no apparent reason other than to slaughter humans is spot on for the Daleks and I hope may pacify those who disagreed with the way the lone Dalek was handled in Rob Shearman's excellent story.

Having sent Rose home, the Doctor thus fulfilling a promise he made to Jackie, and which is in itself a very emotionally involving little sequence, we then have some extremely effective moments as Rose vents her desperate frustration at being, initially at least, unable to help her friend and realising how far she has travelled-metaphorically speaking-since first meeting up with him. The involvement of Mickey and Jackie at this point, and the dialogue between the three, is entirely appropriate and is a masterly touch bearing in mind that at this point, far, far away, the Doctor and Captain Jack are fighting what seems to be a losing battle. It also neatly tied together elements of earlier stories. Top marks for that.

The regeneration scene wasn't a showstopper as the ninth incarnation hangs around long enough to explain to Rose in practically sedate surroundings what is about to happen, but was reasonably effective. As for CE, his portrayal of the Doctor, whether he can acknowledge it or not, has steadily improved throughout the series and his will I'm sure go down as a brief but golden epoch in the show's history. Forgive the cliche but, fantastic!

May I conclude by saying we are all entitled to our opinions. Tolerance of differing opinions is an essential feature of our democracy and indeed one of the joys of reading the reviews section of this website is seeing those opinions. All seasons have their highs and lows in the eyes of the viewer as do individual stories within those seasons and this one has been no exception. But when criticism ceases to be that and becomes a tedious rant along the lines of new Who isn't entitled to call itself Dr Who anymore and that its chief writer doesn't appear to know what he's doing then criticism crosses the line into arrogant proprietorial nonsense, into what the Seventh Doctor referred to as unlimited rice pudding etc etc in Remembrance. For the vociferous tiny minority RTD has replaced JNT as the new hate figure. However you only have to look as far as RTD's latest offering, with its frequent nods to the show's past to know we're not dealing with a man who knows nothing about Dr Who. Tom Baker admitted that as his tenure increased he became more proprietorial about the direction the show should take and that trend I am afraid is reflected in the views of those whose loathing for the 2005 season is absolute and undiminished. But it must be appreciated that the majority of us do not wish to be lectured to about what is or is not Dr Who. We will make up our own minds. Neither are we moronic or hopeless victims of the dumbing down society to have believed this season to be a triumph. Yes it is a children's show. What a surprise. But we adults can still watch and admire, and we do. It should never have been brought back, some say- better to remember it for what it was than for the embarrassing shambles it has become. Thanks very much-so at the risk of not offending their sensibilities they would cheerfully deprive millions out of what has been compulsive Saturday night family viewing enjoyed also this time round by many people of all ages who wouldn't have bothered to watch in the past. Indeed what are we going to do with our Saturday nights until Christmas?

Look into the show's past for clues as to the criticisms of the present. When Troughton took over from Hartnell there were protests about wafer-thin plots and the character of the Doctor being reduced to a comic book creation- sound familiar? Many were troubled by the Pertwee-Baker changeover at the time. And the McCoy era was considered at the time by some to be so far removed from what had gone before as to be virtually unrecognisable as Dr Who. Now it enjoys a healthier reputation particularly the third season of that era. Infact it's interesting that we've seen an intensification of the Doctor/companion dynamic this season begun with the Seventh Doctor and Ace. I know for many it has been a step too far. But it has been an interesting RTD feature.

Could it have been done differently with the same or greater success? Unlikely. Has it been a success or failure? A huge success, reflecting the wonderful efforts of all concerned, its chief writer included. The Ninth Doctor promised us the trip of a lifetime. He has delivered on that promise.

Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways (Joint review)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Shane Anderson

Hmmm... 200,000 years in the future, and reality TV is still going strong? Humans still haven't evolved into something more advanced? And still wear 20th century clothing? And fight Daleks with bullets? Where are the laser guns? You know, just set it in 2200 or something. That would be a believable yet distant time period. Half your problems are solved. The other half is not so easily dealt with.

How exactly did the teleport beam enter the TARDIS? How did the controller pilot it or otherwise bring it so she could hide it in archive 6? How did she know about the Doctor and detect the TARDIS in the first place? A lot of getting from point A to point B is skipped in setting this episode up, which a few lines of dialogue would have covered. Smacks of sloppiness to me.

Despite my nitpicking of the plot, I really did enjoy this set of episodes, until the last few minutes anyway. They start strong, build and build and then fizzle, before picking up again for the regeneration, but I'll get to that in a moment. "Bad Wolf" is an episode that is superficially entertaining and pretty good once you get past the contentions I listed above

I despise reality TV, so I sympathize with the Doctor's boredom on Big Brother. Game shows are better, but still not worth my time. I imagine a dilemma like Rose's would be pretty nightmarish. "What not to Wear" is something my wife used to watch but which bored me to tears, so I found Jack's version of the show much more entertaining. For once his over the top braggadocio seemed in-place as he was clearly having great fun with the androids. I hope he washed his hands after firing that gun though...

So the first half of the show is pretty light, but gets serious once we briefly think that Rose is dead. It's good to see the Daleks again, and in numbers we could only have realized with models before. The pullback reveal of the Dalek fleet is great. The Doctor's 'I'm a tough guy' speech is cringe worthy though.

Then we come to "Parting of the Ways", which really does contain some heartfelt emotion and genuine drama. It's far better than "Bad Wolf", and one of the better episodes of the season. It has its flaws of course, but is still very enjoyable.

I'll start with the Daleks. I love CGI, allowing us to realize things that could never have been portrayed convincingly before, and it allows us to see a massive Dalek fleet, as well as hordes of Daleks. I'm sure this is what fans like myself have wanted to see on the show for ages: some sense of vast scale. Also welcome is the absence of Davros, and the return of the Dalek Emperor, who we've seen once before. Not so welcome are the emperor's delusions of godhood and the Daleks' cries of "Blasphemy" and "Worship him". It's difficult to see this as anything other than an attack on organized religion, since as an idea it adds nothing to the story. It doesn't change the behavior of the Daleks, and allows the emperor to rant in a very tiresome way about how the Earth will become a paradise, and how he's the creator of all things, blah blah blah. All very clichéd religious nut dialogue. Again, it's a pity RTD can't restrain his politics, get off his soapbox and simply tell a good story.

Stupid Dalek moments: the Daleks who can't quite fathom that the Doctor won't cooperate with them even when Rose is threatened, and the Daleks who back away when the Doctor tells them to shut up. Are they that afraid of him?

So Rose is rescued and along with the Doctor and Jack, returns to the gamestation, where the standoff begins. This episode really is Captain Jack's finest hour, as he rallies the few brave station inhabitants to make a stand against the oncoming Dalek fleet and buys the Doctor enough time to set up his Delta wave weapon. Even his "if it moves flirt with it" persona is mercifully toned down this episode. He knows he's probably going to die, either by the Dalek guns or the Doctor's weapon, yet like the Doctor and Rose, running away is never an option for him. Again RTD can't restrain himself and gives us Jack kissing both the Doctor and Rose goodbye. Admittedly both kisses are affectionate and quick rather than lascivious, but they are still unwelcome. And off Jack goes to fight the good fight. He faces death without flinching, and it's good to see him returned to life by Rose (hope some others made it as well!) and I was genuinely sorry that he got left behind. Some great acting by Mr. Barrowman really conveys the sadness he feels.

The Doctor is almost his old self this episode. He's generally brave and defiant in the face of an overwhelming Dalek threat, self-sacrificing, technically brilliant and compassionate. Up until the moment he wimps out, but I'll get to that momentarily.

He comes up with the solution to the problem rather quickly: using the station's transmitters to project a "Delta Wave", which I can only assume is some sort of lethal energy. Said wave will destroy the Daleks en masse. The problem being there's no time to fine tune it to only affect Daleks, so it will kill billions on the Earth as well. Nevertheless the Doctor throws himself into the work while still taking the time to send Rose home to safety. This is exactly what I expect the Doctor would do: get his friend out of danger while he takes the risks. His farewell hologram message to Rose is genuinely touching, as are her frantic cries of "take me back!" Well acted by both Eccleston and Piper. But then after all the humans on the station, including Jack, have given their lives to buy the Doctor time to finish his weapon, he fails. It's at this point that the episode falls apart, after such a strong beginning and middle.

Once again, as in "Boom Town", we are presented a situation in which the Doctor's enemy is put on an equal or higher moral plane than the Doctor and allowed to dictate moral terms. "Coward or killer?" the Dalek Emperor asks. Once again the Doctor, our hero and primary protagonist, is put in his place by the monster. It's utterly absurd. This idea that the Doctor is no better than his enemies if he stops their actions by killing them is moral relativistic garbage. By doing nothing to stop the Daleks when it is in his power to stop them, the Doctor has indeed become a moral coward and done greater evil than if he had used his weapon. Either he kills the Daleks and humans on earth, thus sparing the rest of the galaxy, or the Daleks kill the humans and in time expand to kill as many others in the universe as they can. Either way the inhabitants of Earth die. Sometimes life is messy, and the lesser of two evils is the only choice to make. It's a pity that in a show called "Doctor Who" that the title character is outdone by both of his traveling companions, not to mention nameless extras. Standing up to evil, taking responsibility and making hard choices are what the Doctor has always been about, and yet both Rose and Jack manage to do that in this episode while the Doctor fails. Fails utterly. He's not a bigger man for refusing to kill, but a coward who has saved no one. The point where the Doctor refuses to act is one of the lowest ever for the character, and is a monumental blunder that I hope is not repeated.

One thought I had about this though: is it RTD's answer to "The Ancestor Cell" where essentially the Doctor does what he refuses to do here, and kills everyone on Gallifrey to destroy Faction Paradox? Much like the situation with the Daleks, the Doctor is faced with either making an evil choice, or taking the "coward's" way out and allowing a greater evil to occur. I'd be curious to know if Mr. Davies has read "Ancestor Cell" and what he thought of it.

Back to the story at hand: Rose saves the day. Billie Piper does an outstanding job in portraying Rose's sadness and desperation in trying to get back to the space station. Her use of the TARDIS energy/time vortex to save the day is well portrayed, and her acting as the possessed Rose is superb. I don't know if they treated her voice electronically (I imagine so), but its every bit as emotional and sad and just as wonderful to listen to as you can imagine. She finishes off the Daleks, ends the Time War and brings Jack back to life. It's a great scene, and solves the problems of the episode. Sadly, as with "Boom Town" it also once again allows the Doctor to avoid making a hard choice, or in this case, allows him to escape the consequences of his choice. I'm tempted to just suggest that we change the name of the show to "Rose" and be done with it.

Others have addressed the flaws of using the TARDIS as a magic cure all plot device, so I won't belabor that point. Suffice it to say, it's too bad that the Time Lords didn't figure it out if it's so easy. I get mental pictures of Time Lord technicians doing routine TARDIS maintenance, accidentally looking at the power source and becoming demigods. "Castellan, we've got another one here..."

And then there's the ending, which is a nice little sentimental regeneration scene, leaving me with some hope that next year we'll have a happier Doctor in the form of David Tennant. The scene is well played by both Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston, though I'm not sure he was as fantastic as he claims. With the season over, I have to admit that Eccleston, while an excellent actor who really put a lot into the part, never seems very much like the Doctor to me. He doesn't look like the Doctor with his buzz cut and leather jacket and collarless shirt; and he rarely acts like the Doctor, with rare exceptions. The romantic tension with Rose is often juvenile in the way its portrayed, and somewhat creepy considering they're 1200 years apart in age.

Overall, "Bad Wolf" and "The Parting of the Ways" are a pair of episodes that encapsulate the uneven nature of series one: Brilliant at some points, hopelessly wrong at others. 7 out of 10 for the pair, though "Bad Wolf" is a weaker episode than "Parting of the Ways", and "Parting" would get a better rating without the deux ex machina ending. It's wonderfully dramatic, but crashes and burns when it comes to the payoff.

And with that, we come to the end of series one. Looking back, there are a number of flaws, and a number of strengths. The new series is certainly an improvement on the last few years of the original, with coherent storylines, strong acting most of the time, and some good visuals. I find the overt left-wing view of the world and the constant annoying sexual references unnecessary and offensive, but there's just enough done right that I can ignore the bad taste left in my mouth and give the next season a chance. Whether or not I follow it after that remains to be seen. What's just as bad as the general smutty undertones to the program is the fact that the Doctor has been turned into an ineffectual coward.

I'd love to give Russell Davies gushing accolades for bringing the show back, and I suppose he does deserve some credit for that... but if it's ruined in the process, what's the point? I'll take comfort in the fact that no producer stays with the show forever. Maybe the next one will clean it up and return its the family show roots.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Nick Mellish

‘Bad Wolf’ and ‘The Parting Of The Ways’ have a lot to live up to. They have to conclude Series One and lead into Christopher Eccleston’s departure, they have to reintroduce the Daleks, they have to wrap up the Bad Wolf plot thread that has been running through the Series, and they have to also be damn enjoyable in their own right. On top of all this too, they have to sustain enjoyment over two separate Episodes, something that I feel has been a bit of a weak link throughout this Series.

Both ‘Aliens Of London’ and ‘World War Three’ had their really great moments, but I felt that they were also severely lacking, with the latter Episode seeming a bit too much like padding when the two Episodes are watched back-to-back.

‘The Empty Child’ was one of the best Episodes of ‘Doctor Who’ ever made, balancing really eerie and frightening with a light touch; ‘The Doctor Dances’ on the other hand began well but ended terribly, with the final fifteen minutes being totally deprived of all suspense- you want to feel the tension, but there is no tension there to be felt. It is no surprise then, given that these are my opinions on the other two-parters, that it was the two Episode format that I was most worried about prior to transmission.

Fortunately then, I think that Russell T Davies pulls it off perfectly here. Watched alone, both Episodes are hugely enjoyable, but watched together and you get a far more explosive effect. The emotions are heightened, the frights are more shocking and the story hangs together in a way that simply cannot be appreciated if watched with a week long gap between Episodes. From the very beginning when the Doctor appears in a Big Brother house to the very end when David Tennant beams a winning smile into the camera, everything has been carefully crafted to make for a sense of completion within both the story and the Series as an entity.

The actual story itself is a great idea, and again it is one that manages to make the Series feel even tighter. Returning to Satellite Five from ‘The Long Game’ provides a neat inter-continuity fro the Series and it also enables Davies to explore territory that he had dipped his feet in merely an Episode beforehand: what happens after the Doctor has saved the day? In ‘Boom Town’ we have the Doctor face the consequences of his actions head on, but here we take it one step further. There is no cop-out ending this time, we are flung straight into the centre of what the Doctor has accidentally created. No amount of Daleks later on can escape the fact that everything which occurs in the next ninety minutes occurs partly as a consequence of his meddling and ‘swanning off’ (to coin a phrase). What makes the Doctor the hero of the piece though is that this time he faces it without hesitation. He sees the problem he has helped create but realises that someone has manipulated it further. It’s his fault as well as theirs, and so he sees it as his duty to stop it before it’s too late. The revelation that it is the Daleks who have done this provides not only a satisfying moment for the return of an enemy, but also provides an emotional impact when you consider the Doctor’s back story. It was the Daleks who destroyed his home and his people. It was the Daleks who changed the Doctor forever, and now it is time for him to finish this chapter in his life forever. By facing them head on, this incarnation of the Doctor turns a corner in his ‘healing’ following the Time War, and by facing his fears he is able to remember exactly who he has always been.

The most satisfying moment of the entire Series, in my opinion, is where the Dalek Emperor asks the Doctor just what he is- killer, or coward? For one moment, you think that the Doctor will go over the edge and use a weapon to save the day… but he doesn’t do it. He chooses coward. He chooses his death over slaughter; he prefers to be killed than kill. One criticism that has surfaced again and again throughout the Series is that the Doctor here is rather unlike the Doctor seen elsewhere in the history of ‘Doctor Who’, but with this moment you realise that this has been the Doctor as we know and love him all along. There’s no bravado this time, no avoiding the situation or getting angry at it. He stands there, exposed, ready to die rather than kill others. He says he chooses coward, but he does not. He chooses heroism. He cannot commit genocide here as he knows it will make him no better than the Daleks themselves, and rather than leave Earth to its fate as many people have claimed he is doing, he is instead showing his optimism: it doesn’t require the Doctor to save the day, because he knows that humans will do it instead with or without his intervention, and with the sudden spectacular entrance of Rose, that is exactly what happens.

Rose Tyler as a character is able to sum up everything that Davies knows ‘Doctor Who’ to be about. She is able to show everyone that no matter who they are, they can better themselves and make a better life for everyone around them. Her speech to Mickey and her Mum in a Chip Shop in ‘The Parting Of The Ways’ just sums it all up. It also shows just why Adam, earlier on in the Series, was not companion material. So many people have again levelled criticism at the character, saying that the Doctor treated him poorly, but here we hear just why the Doctor is right to dismiss him. Rose does not travel with the Doctor for the Aliens and the different Planets and the History. She travels with him to learn how to get a backbone and live a better life. Adam on the other hand travelled to get a better position in life. He was not concerned with the ins and outs of becoming a different person, but instead wanted to have a more comfortable position in life. The only time Rose attempts to do what Adam does, it all goes disastrously wrong, but she sacrifices something to repair the mistake. Adam makes no such sacrifice and learns no such lesson.

The very ending with Rose saving the day is the very message that Davies tries to get across throughout the Series. Rose is not possessed with unique abilities or super powers or any advantage over anyone else in the Series. Bad Wolf or not, she is ordinary and just like everyone else. This is why it is so important for her to save the day. It shows just how much she has learnt from the Doctor; it shows just how much she is willing to sacrifice to make a better world; it shows us just how much of a team the Doctor and Rose are. Rose travels forwards back to the Doctor, knowing it could kill her, to save his life. The Doctor sees it happen and kills himself so that she may live, and how does he do it? With something as human as a simple kiss. No magic gimmicks, no large explosions, no alien abilities. I must admit that when he went to kiss her, my entire family including myself all groaned and even screamed “No, don’t do it!” until we realised just what he was doing. He was killing himself in the most human way possible, as the most human of humans had just saved the day. The kiss in ‘Doctor Who’ (The TV Movie) was so wrong because it represented nothing other than bestial instincts, the like of which had not been displayed by the Doctor so explicitly before, but here it works perfectly as it represents the very crux of the story: humanity saves the day.

Davies’ script is frankly amazing. The tension is constantly maintained and the viewer is always eager to see what happens next. His use of the Daleks is great as well, making them servants to the Dalek Emperor and ruthless killers. The Dalek Emperor, whilst not as visually impressive as the original one from ‘The Evil Of The Daleks’ in my humble opinion, is a great creation, updating the very representation of the Daleks to something easily recognisable unfortunately in today’s society. Visually, they are very impressive too. The fact that whole CGI fleets of them are seen gives a real sense of scale, but more so it makes the CGI less noticeable. Whereas in ‘Dalek’ it was all too easy to play the game of ‘spot the CGI’, here an advantage is had by having hundreds of CG Daleks, making the effect blend far more seamlessly into the overall story. Davies also makes them truly horrible. When people say they are afraid of the Daleks, it’s not because of what they look like but what they do. They kill nice and innocent people- Lynda for example- without a care in the world, they massacre a room of humans just because they can, and they taunt the Doctor for no reason other than to intimidate him. The moment when the Doctor is on the Dalek Ship, resting his head against the TARDIS doors as all you can hear are Dalek guns going off says it all: even the Doctor is frightened. Davies also provides some of the most eye-watering emotional moments in the Series here; the Doctor’s optimistic ‘answer phone’ message to Rose is a real tears-in-the-eyes moment, as are his final words before he regenerates- okay, so they may have been written to be remembered, but when they’re that good, I’m not going to complain.

He is also able to really show just what a better life Rose has with the Doctor by flinging her back to Earth. After everything has been so quick and frantic, you suddenly get meaningless conversations in a Chip Shop, dreary surroundings with dull colours purposely contrasting the colourful Satellite Five, and a lot of sitting around doing nothing. The moment when the big Yellow Truck arrives driven by Jackie Tyler represents not just a turning point in her character but also a sign that the Doctor has been here- things are loud, colourful and anything but dull again. You just know that everything will be okay.

This isn’t just Davies’ finest hour, this is everybody’s. Billie Piper has never been so good as she is here, and it is testimony to how much she has invested in the role of Rose that when she apparently dies in ‘Bad Wolf’, even though we knew she was going to be alright, my family still gasped. John Barrowman too is magnificent, making Captain Jack a hero and even more likeable than before. The very ending, when the Doctor leaves Jack behind, not realising that he is alive, is heart wrenching, and is superbly played by Barrowman, as is his farewells to the TARDIS crew earlier on, with his kissing both Rose and the Doctor managing to be touching rather than amusing.

Despite only appearing so she can die, the character of Lynda Moss is instantly loveable, and her death is absolutely devastating, and Jo Joyner is more than a little responsible for this, having made her such a wonderful character throughout. Sweet doesn’t sum her up- she is adorable. Not only is her death chilling, but it also provides an amazing moment in Dalek history: you can lip-read them! You see them float, you hear nothing, but you know what is coming up next. Farewell, Lynda.

As Mickey, Noel Clarke undoubtedly turns in his finest performance of the Series and it just goes to show how good an actor he is when given a great Director to work with. Camille Coduri has never been better as Jackie either, with her shouting at Rose in the TARDIS when she tells her all about how the Doctor took her back to see her Dad being a brilliant moment in terms of character and acting.

Joe Ahearne’s Directing is great throughout the Episodes too, and is perfectly complimented by Murray Gold’s musical score- his best of the Series. Together, they help create one of the most memorable, terrifying and tense ‘Doctor Who’ stories to ever grace the show.

Of course, it is almost unnecessary to say, but I’ll do it anyway, that Christopher Eccleston is the person to impress most throughout the two Episodes. From his look of total devastation when he thinks Rose has died, to his ‘answer phone’ message, to his final moments, to his declaration of cowardice, he is on top form and reminds every person watching just why he was the perfect choice for the Doctor. Fantastic says it all.

I couldn’t pass off the opportunity here to not mention someone who is in my opinion the unsung hero of Series One, the Director of Photography, Ernie Vincze BSC, who really makes every shot count and has brought this Series to life in a way that I never thought could, but always hoped would, happen.

Then of course there is the actual Regeneration. Yes, it’s sad to see Eccleston go, and yet it just a few moments David Tennant is able to win over the entire audience and convince us all that ‘Doctor Who’ is in safe hands. In fact, the actual Regeneration itself is a great idea for the Series, as it means that new Viewers are now aware of pretty much the most important parts of the ‘Doctor Who’ legacy, and it also fulfils the whole ‘trip of a lifetime’ criteria in a very literal way!

Never before has Regeneration looked so painful, nor has it been so clearly explained, which makes the whole process just that bit sadder. I never understood what it meant when people said it was sad to see ‘their Doctor’ go, but now I get it: I was simultaneously devastated and overjoyed. The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor.

And so, that is that. No more Eccleston, no more Series One, and no more concerns over whether it would all go swimmingly well. It did, and thank goodness for that. It ends on a high. Series One’s highlight? Without a doubt. These two Episodes can do nothing wrong in my eyes, and I am sure that many other people agree with me.

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Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Adam Kintopf

It seems like a screechingly bad idea – Earth, hundreds of thousands of years in the future, dominated by . . . turn of the 21st Century reality-TV shows? OK, so maybe it doesn’t just *seem* like a bad idea. On paper, this story really couldn’t be more ludicrous, and from hearing about it beforehand I was frankly dreading it. And while I wouldn’t call this two-parter a classic story, or even a great one, ultimately it is a surprisingly watchable one, and considering the mess of a plot we’re asked to swallow, that is accomplishment enough in itself. The key to the success of this story, apart from the obvious crowd-pleasing plot points, might be Joe Ahearne’s straight-faced approach to the material – when the Anne Droid is brought out, it isn’t presented as a joke (even though the script works hard to make it one), and Ahearne’s unwillingness to wink at the audience helps us to believe it (or to try to, anyway, which is always enough in ‘Doctor Who’).

The idea of TV shows being tied in to a hideous conspiracy is hardly the freshest at this point – in fact, even in the context of this new series, the enslaved-by-television-fads concept is basically a reworking of ideas from this story’s prequel, ‘The Long Game.’ Russell T. Davies really doesn’t take his satire anywhere new here – but still, his point is certainly more relevant than ever. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about it is that he chose to use *real* TV shows as the butt of his jokes instead of inventing his own – not only would this have allowed him to satirize a little more freely, it also would have diminished the story’s high gimme-a-break factor. But he made the choice that he did, and for the most part it’s not too irritating. The ‘What Not to Wear’ segments are perhaps overly broad, but John Barrowman plays them so lightly that it seems at worst a silly distraction. And perhaps the most successful element of this story is the Controller, who works as a sad and terrifying symbol for the modern television viewer: literally tuned in to hundreds of channels, ostensibly controlling which ones get accessed, but imprisoned and blinded by her viewing habits at the same time. A smart, very scary idea.

This story abruptly drops the satire to bring back the Daleks, of course, and they look great in their new gold livery. Personally, I was relieved that the rumored ‘spider Daleks’ never actually surfaced – as someone mentioned, the Daleks are actually the most genuinely futuristic-looking of the new series’ monsters, and despite decades of pepperpot jokes, this is a real testament to the genius of Ray Cusick’s design. But the Daleks themselves aren’t used too well by the script – they’re presented as traditional ‘Remembrance’-style Daleks: i.e., mindless tanks with annoying voices. There was all sorts of speculation about whether Davros would or would not appear in this story; we got the Emperor Dalek instead, but it might as well have been Davros, and the series’ continuing concept of the Daleks as dependent on these ‘Super-Daleks’ for orders just doesn’t show them at their best, in my view. Still, the script makes them imposing enough – only one gets blown up, and when the Daleks appear at the space station window to kill Lynda (whilst flashing a four-syllable word, a lovely touch), it’s a great moment. And of course there are the requisite (and fun) nods to the past (“MY VISION IS IMPAIRED! I CANNOT SEE!”). But, again, Nicholas Briggs’s voices are a touch self-conscious, and the Daleks are so bloody *slow*! Honestly, I think my vacuum cleaner could outrun all half a million of them and not break a sweat.

As for the Doctor, some have convincingly argued that the character wouldn’t hesitate to wipe out life on Earth by using the Delta Wave against the Daleks, especially since he didn’t shrink from destroying Skaro in ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ and, it may be inferred, from doing the same to Gallifrey itself during the Time War. But to me it actually seems quite consistent with the Doctor’s character – not only has he often shown himself unable to single-handedly take life to achieve his aims (he most often prefers to let others do it for him, as Blon Slitheen rightly points out in ‘Boom Town!’), it can also be argued that by this point the Earth is more his real home than Gallifrey anyway, and is therefore the *only* thing that could stand in his way of destroying an enemy forever – even the Daleks. I think it works perfectly, in fact.

As for the explanation of the ‘Bad Wolf’ mystery, and the deus ex machina of Rose’s final solution of the Dalek problem, they have been much reviled by some fans, and, indeed, they are kind of crazy. The use of the TARDIS as a talisman to magically save the day at the eleventh hour is always somewhat unfair; it doesn’t help that Davies already did the same thing in the previous story, ‘Boom Town!’ But it’s obvious that Davies wanted this first series of the restored ‘Doctor Who’ to go out with a big bang, and these two story elements certainly provide that, even if they don’t work as nicely as some fans would hope. The story also achieves a sort of large scale in that it sees the shocking (if ultimately unreal) deaths of two companions, as well as the (real) one of the likeable semi-assistant Lynda. The floodlit finale is slightly melodramatic, but it works, allowing Rose to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor, and then allowing him to do the same thing for her – which is nice. And the regeneration scene itself is just lovely – for all his bluffed arrogance throughout the season, this Doctor is particularly aware of his own faults, and his self-deprecating jokes as he changes (“Can you imagine that, me with no head? Don’t say it’d be an improvement.”), make this perhaps most fallible and sad of all the Doctor’s incarnations seem terribly human for a moment. And then, the sudden change – for a moment the series really *is* brand-new again, and even those of us who have seen many regenerations past experience the shock of it as if for the first time.

In the end, this may not be the smartest ‘Doctor Who’ story ever, but it’s tasteful enough, and magical at the end – a fitting finale to a new age.

Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways (Joint review)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Andy Smith

And so it's over. Not just this current series - a whole era, the Christopher Eccleston era, is over. And boy, what a way to go!!

This final story had everything that makes good Dr Who, and had it in bucketloads. Fantastic effects, huge ambition, raw emotion, great acting, fabulous directing. In short, it was a microcosm of the 9th Doctor's era.

OK, let's get a few things over with. Yes, all you very clever reveiwers / critics that have picked at the "holes" in RTD's latest script. You're right - it's stretching things to imagine that Big Brother, Weakest Link etc will be around in thousands of years time. Very well spotted. But that's really not the point. We could have been shown some imaginary futuristic game shows - but that would have missed the irony, the sarcasm, it just wouldn't have worked so well, as showing us perverse versions of shows we already know. That's what satire is all about, and it requires a little thing called suspended disbelief. We know it's not real - we all turn over to Confidential afterwards and see how it's all done - but for 45 mins that doesn't matter. This whole premise could have gone horribly wrong - I shuddered when I first heard about this idea - but they took it, treated it absolutely straight (except for What Not to Wear - this was there for comedy value, and p - lease, I ask you, don't start picking holes in the logic behind this. It was a J-O-K-E and worked darn well!) The other shows were handled dead straight - pardon the pun - and as such were scary, suspenseful and unmissable TV.

Another point has been raised in these reviews - why didn't the Daleks just destroy the Doctor in the first place? Well, think about it. The Doctor discovered the Daleks presence partly because of the Controller - something the Daleks hadn't bargained on. The Emperor was loopy, and presumably had some mad scheme to humiliate the Doctor - the last of their great enemy the Time Lords - before killing him. But once the Doctor discovered them and revealed them to the rest of the humans, their strategy had to change, and they now needed him dead asap. So perhaps - yet again - RTD wasn't so guilty of "lazy" scriptwriting...

You get the point. There are loads of things which have been picked apart in this script, most of which can be rationalised, alot of which we just don't need to pore over. It would have been nice to know exactly how the Controller became the Controller. It would have been nice to know why Rose chose "Bad Wolf" as her message, instead of something a little more obvious.Etc etc. But it doesn't matter. RTD knows his business like few others out there and that's why he's managed to pull in a huge audience every saturday with something other than Celebrity Funeral Directors on Holiday. I'm sick to death of certain "reviewers" - you know who you are - slagging his scripts off and trying to be clever. In truth, most of my favourite scripts have been written by other writers, but this is purely because of the incredibly high standard of writing, and not because RTD's are bad.

OK. Rant over. But please, criticism is all well and good, but some of you guys just don't deserve this series.

Anyway - back to the show. So, Bad Wolf paved the way beautifully for the final episode. It was a shame the BBC totally ruined the surprise of the Dalek return - I'd known this was a rumour, but had actually got to the point where I wasn't expecting it, then all surprise was shattered with the previous week's preview. Stupid, idiotic mistake by the Beeb - one of the few feet they put wrong in their otherwise excellent publicity for this series.

Anyway, the Daleks' return sent shivers down my spine - and left me feeling like I did as a child, in being almost unable to wait for the final episode. The scenes inside the Dalek spaceship were absolutely gorgeous, and the space scenes of troops of daleks flying out - well, it just doesn't get better than that.

There was so much expectation on the final episode, it almost had to disappoint in some areas, and I must admit most of the "Bad Wolf" theories I'd heard proved to be far more exciting than the real one. I myself had plumped for either the Black Guardian's return, or Adam, enhanced by the knowledge he gleaned in the Long Game. (So what the hell was the point of taking Adam on board for one story...?!) The Emperor Dalek looked fantastic, but I just expected something else - it's always a problem to build something up as something absolutely mind blowing, had they not then I would have immediately realised that the voice in the trailer was the Emperor and not started with fanciful theories which then felt slightly disappointing not to be realised!

The whole Bad Wolf scenario too just didn't make that much sense - as I said previously, why leave herself such a cryptic clue?

But hey, did any of this matter? What we got was absolutely stonking Dr Who, with some of the best action sequences ever seen in the programme and some wonderful acting by the regulars. John Barrowman, so fantastic in the absolutely sublime Empty Child two - parter (surely the best episodes of the series), was just slightly annoying and smug in Boom Town, but here he was back to his best, and the touching scene where he said goodbye to the Doctor and Rose - and the infamous kiss - was as good as any scene in the rest of the season. There was another reason for this - I'll come to that in a second.

The peripheral characters were all ok, Lynda with a y was annoying and one of the worst performances of the series, which has to be said, has been as consistent as anything seen on TV. (The episode which convinced me of this was the aforementioned Empty Child, with the waif children - surely no one has managed to get such good performances out of a group of children other than Steven Spielberg who does it regularly - James Hawes, I salute you.) The inclusion of Anne Robinson was great, even if the name Ann Droid was a bit of a predictable pun and not the genius that RTD seemed to think! Her destruction of, and then by, the Daleks in the last episode made me laugh out loud. Again, sheer brilliant writing.

And despite huge space battles, incredible enemies and mass destruction - all realised quite magnificently by the best set of special effects people in the country - it all came down to Rose and the Doctor.

I mentioned the emotion of Jack's farewell to these two, and the reason it was so poignant was that this whole episode had a kind of dark foreboding to me which I haven't really felt since Logopolis. In that story, Tom Baker, my favourite Doctor and a man who had made the character his own over 7 years in a way that none of his predecessors had, finally bowed out, and the production team deliberately went for a very funereal atmosphere which grew through the whole story. That was 24 years ago. Since then, we lost Peter Davison - Caves of Androzani was a great story, a classic, but I really didn't care that much that Davison was going. Except that we had Colin Baker to replace him! He, of course, had no regeneration story and to be honest was no great loss (sorry Colin). Sylvester McCoy, well he had some great stories and some terrible ones, but by 1989 I almost didn't care that the show went, it all seemed a shallow mockery of what it had been with good old Tom.

And now, here I am, 40 years old, and after just 13 episodes, I felt that same blanket of dread again at the thought of Chris' imminent departure. Mr Eccleston I salute you. The era of the 9th Doctor, though painfully short, has been blissfully quality, owing in no small way to the lead actor. I had so many doubts before the show started - principally the costume, the fact that at first viewing he seemed to be more of a normal "bloke", all this has been blown away over the weeks as Eccleston's performances have soared. He had so many great scenes in these 2 episodes - when he felt Rose was dead, when he vowed to save her and destroy the Daleks, his scenes with the Emperor, his sadness when he sent Rose back. He has been simply awesome, and while nostalgia will probably always keep Tom as my fave Doctor, the 9th remains an almost perfect portrayal of our favourite hero.

And, of course, Billie Piper. It's an obvious thing to say that this series has been about her more than the Doctor, but I fear many just haven't got that. They've complained about the "soapiness" of Rose's home life, not realising that without this background we just wouldn't care about her as much as we do. Did we really care this much about Jo Grant or Sarah Jane Smith? Father's Day was the pinnacle of Rose's story, the singular most emotion-laden Dr Who story there has ever been. It was gratifying that Rose spoke to Jackie about this in this episode - I feared it would all be conveniently forgotten (and would have been in the original series). But no, as usual RTD has written these characters as real people, and therefore it was imperative they discussed this. Similarly with Mickey in Boom Town - Noel Clarke's best scenes by a long way (oh and my - written by that crap old bloke Russel T Davies...!)

And so, with soaring music - and I think Murray Gold, also much-maligned, has been pretty faultless in the last half of the series - the Dr and Rose kiss, a special kiss, a kiss that saves Rose's life, and ends the Doctor's. A shame that the regeneration had been given away too, I hadn't expected this. I'm still not entirely sure of this was just tacked on the end - it almost seems impossible now the way the season was structured, that it might not have ended with a regeneration. I suspect Chris was only ever going to do one season. And in a way, sad as this is, it's quite fitting way to end possibly the greatest TV series there has ever been - too OTT? - perhaps. But I can't think of another where just about every aspect has been perfect.

And ultimately, that's what worries me. I felt a genuine loss when the end credits came. David Tennant was fantastic as casanova, and I'm sure Billie Piper will be as good as ever. But I do feel an era has passed and that we'll always look back and say, Dr Who's good now, but what about the Eccleston era...? It's one of those times when you just know that things will never be the same again. Sometimes you don't realise it til a long time after, and that's when things are viewed with the rose-tinted lenses of nostaligia. But when you know straight away - and I do - you realise that you've just witnessed something quite, quite, special. Russel, Chris, Billie, Phil, writers, directors, effects wizards, actors, set designers, get the were, in the words of our hero, "fantastic". Shove the detractors. Thank you for giving me a little part of my childhood back again. Roll on Christmas...

Bad Wolf & The Parting of the Ways (Joint review)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Andrew Philips

Come In, Number Nine, Your Time Is Up…

There’s so much to talk about with these two episodes that I barely know where to begin, so let’s start at the very beginning. After a short recap, it suddenly appears that I’ve sat on the remote and switched to Channel Four. Of course, I’ve done no such thing. Having destroyed one reality TV Show in the ratings, Doctor Who now proceeds to send up the daddy of them all for an encore. It may be somewhat implausible for Big Brother to still be on air in 200100 AD, but frankly, that’s besides the point. The scenes of The Doctor in the Big Brother house are cheeky, very iconic, and superbly written and played by all. In the meantime, Rose’s Weakest Link segment provides some real danger, and Captain Jack is an absolute scream in What Not To Wear.

And to think when Russell first mentioned copyright issues with this episode way back in his first DWM column, I was convinced he was talking about using the daleks. Speaking of which…

They’re back. Sadly, it’s impossible to keep these things secret anymore – the age of Earthshock has long since passed – but for the BBC themselves to spoil the revelation of the daleks by including them in the Boom Town trailer just smacked of desperate ratings-grabbing. But never mind that – what are they actually like?

Thankfully, they’re superficially the same daleks we know and fear from Episode Six, and all the talk of redesigns that filled me with such dread has proved to be unfounded. There are literally hundreds of them onscreen, and they’re unstoppable (indeed, I counted only four dalek casualties before the final showdown). Their new-found religion/madness is intended to give them new depth, but it is really only through the Emperor’s dialogue that it is explored – otherwise the daleks act exactly as daleks should, exterminating everything and everyone in sight (and for my money, it is Lynda-with-a-y who gets the most spectacular exit). Even the TARDIS crew are not exempt from this fate, and after a touching goodbye to The Doctor and Rose, Captain Jack dies with honour, dignity, and most of all, style.

The daleks’ master plan, though, is somewhat flawed. Given that their species is weapons capable of cracking open an entire planet, why don’t they destroy the satellite once The Doctor has shown up? (And whilst I’m nit-picking, how exactly did the Controller acquire a transmat capable of breaching the defences of the TARDIS in flight?)

Nevertheless, the invasion of the satellite gives The Doctor a superb moral dilemma to grapple with at the series’ climax. He’s already hurting having wiped out the Time Lords in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to destroy the daleks – of course he’s not going to do it again. This whole episode is built upon past stories in which The Doctor’s actions have not turned out for the best, so this time he picks the supposedly “cowardly” option instead.

Fortunately for him, Rose’s more simplistic outlook means she is far more willing to commit genocide than The Doctor is. Given slightly-explained new powers from the TARDIS she is able to destroy all the daleks, bring Jack (but no-one else?) back to life, initiate the whole Bad Wolf thing, and get a snog out of The Doctor to boot. However overblown and poorly-explained this sequence may be, there’s no denying that her performance is incredible, with Cate-Blanchett-in-Lord-Of-The-Rings effects to match.

In summary, the whole show is well-structured, well-acted (even by Mickey and Jackie) and beautifully directed, with some superb dialogue. My one complaint with the realisation of this story is the amount of glare applied to the picture – especially when the daleks’ head-bulbs light up. It’s been a minor irritation all series, but it’s really noticeable here. However, such quibbles are unimportant. We’ve been given the flashiest finale to date in a gloriously wild and unpredictable season, in which Chris Eccleston has cemented a truly wonderful portrayal of the Doctor. He will be sorely missed by many.


But wait! I can’t finish without adding my two cents about the final scene. Chris’s final words are beautifully written and delivered, and his regeneration is originally executed and very moving. Unfortunately, he appears to have turned into that Casanova chappie, who may have a lot more of The Doctor’s quirkiness than Chris did, but appears at first glance to be too young, comical and generally unimpressive to play the part with the necessary weight and conviction. I predict many comparisons to Sylvester McCoy in the episodes to come. “Time will tell. It usually does.”