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

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Steve Manfred

This is one of those times when I'm not sure where to start. So much happened! I'll go backwards from my usual and tell you I'm giving the story 9 out of 10. This is to say it's about 10 times good and 1 part bad, so 9. I'll save the bad bit for the end.

Though it's meant to be one two-part story, in a way it's more like a "Seeds of Doom" type story where it's got a long prologue at the start before the real serious stuff begins. The prologue in this case is the satire on game/reality shows, specifically, the UK versions of "Big Brother," "The Weakest Link," and "What Not to Wear." Fortunately for me (non-UK person), I have seen the latter two shows on BBC America and consequently got all those jokes. And I'm familiar with the concept of the "Big Brother" show, even though I've not watched it, so the comedy here was blunted a bit for me. This was all very funny stuff, particularly the Anne Droid and how she apparently kills the weak link contestants. I do wonder though why Earth in the year 200100 is only recycling shows made in the UK in 2005... I know TV loves to repeat proven success, but surely some other formats must have become hits in the intervening 198095 years? And what about imports? Surely "Survivor" or "The Apprentice" deserved floors as well? (I would _love_ to see a Donald Trump droid!) Still, I loved seeing this genre getting skewered, though to be fair, Russell's not the first to use "Doctor Who" to do this. We've already heard this be done twice before on Big Finish, once in the DWM freebie disc "The Ratings War" where Beep the Meep was using reality TV to weaken the populace, and once in "The One Doctor" where none other than Rob Shearman's wife Jane Goddard did an Anne Robinson impersonation, again playing an android version of her (or was it a hologram?), in a Weakest Link-like scenario to test the mental mettle of Mentos, the greatest computer ever made. I wonder if RTD had to pay off Clayton Hickman, Gareth Roberts, and Steve Lyons for their ideas?

The games are all a front, however, to keep the population of Earth distracted from the rebuilding of the Dalek army on their doorstep and not expanding into the 4th human empire that the Doctor said should be developing after the events of "The Long Game." Back then they were doing it with news channels, and their collapse at the Doctor's hands brought about a global depression of sorts, though to be fair to him, I'm sure that was partly engineered by the Daleks, given that we find out they were behind the news channels too. His "mistake" was in not seeking out the masters of the Jagrafess back in "The Long Game." The front could have been anything... that Russell chose to make it reality TV is probably his way of jabbing at us today and how we're too busy getting involved in watching stuff like this instead of doing more useful and productive things. The news channels weren't any better though; the solution is to just not watch TV much at all.

Along the way to the Dalek revelation, it appears that Rose is killed by the Anne Droid. They play this out for a good ten minutes, and though the viewer knows that she can't really be dead if the viewer's aware of the advance cast listings, you still get a good sense of what the effect of her death would be from the stellar reactions we get from Christopher Eccleston and John Barrowman. Eccleston's Doctor just shuts completely down and says absolutely nothing while the satellite guards do their usual "you will be taken to the lunar penal colony" nonsense, then switches completely on again when the right moment comes to escape and get to floor 500 for the confrontation. I also liked the moment where Jack enters the TARDIS and sees Rose's jacket... Barrowman's double-take almost brought a lump to my throat. That Rose was actually transmatted by the Daleks wasn't that surprising to me... the Daleks worked the same trick on Susan Mendes in "Dalek Empire," and then there was that dust on the floor that the transmat left behind. I wonder if in an earlier draft the Doctor suddenly realized it was zanium. (and said "It looks serious!")

Along the way in the first part, we meet some more contestants and station personnel, and the stand-out here was Lynda with a "y," who was absolutely perfectly cast. Jo Joyner personified the word "sweet," and I might just start looking for other things she's been in; I liked her that much.

Also along the way, more "Bad Wolf" clues get dropped, but we're still none the wiser as to what it all means, despite the episode being titled "Bad Wolf." Given how it all turns out though, I think this is a perfect umbrella title for the story, if an imperfect one for the first part.

"The Parting of the Ways" begins much as "Bad Wolf" did, with the Doctor and Jack wasting absolutely no time in just snowplowing the TARDIS into the Dalek ship, materializing it around Rose and a Dalek, and then killing the Dalek with Jack's one-shot gun. (And can I just mention that this is the only time we've ever seen a Dalek inside the TARDIS? Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master, sure, but no Dalek had ever got inside before this... not that this one wanted to. (unless "The Mutant Phase" is canonical... but then those events reversed themselves, didn't they?) I liked how the momentum at the end of "Bad Wolf" continued right on into this, with nothing stopping the Doctor to this point.

And then it was time for a chat with the Emperor Dalek, which looked very impressive, and I was glad to see that it was back in charge of things, as it has been in most of the Big Finish audios. It's at this point where my one gripe with the story came in, but again, I'm going to save this for the end.

Then it was back to the satellite to try and hold off the Daleks from invading and destroying Earth, with the Doctor starting to rig up a Delta Wave that'll fry the brain of anything within the transmission radius. (I'm guessing the name comes from the techobabble of "Kinda," by the way.) Before the Dalek attack begins though, Russell's character strength writing kicks in full power as the Doctor sends Rose and the TARDIS back to her home so that she'll be safe. That he would do it really really works, and that Rose would hate that he did it also really really works. But what really really really works is all the material on Earth between Rose, Jackie, and Mickey, as Rose tries to find a way to get the TARDIS to take her back to the Game Station. There's a terrific ping-pong game going on between the characters as each one tries to convince Rose that life back on Earth eating chips won't be so bad, when she knows that this just running away isn't the way she wants to lead her life anymore. The best of all of this was the call-back to the events of "Father's Day," where Rose reveals to her mother that it was her who saw off her dying father when the car hit him, and how her dad would've wanted her to do whatever it took to save the Doctor. That this is what changes Jackie's mind and gets her to come up with the goods that they need to bust open the TARDIS console (namely that big truck) is fantastic character development that I didn't see coming yet completely understood when it did. That's just the way I like it. Billie Piper acting her socks off through all of this helped a great deal too. The work she did in this episode, particularly when she has her breakdown in the restaurant, is better than anything any previous companion has ever done. It'll be a very unfair day for her if she doesn't get nominated for a BAFTA for this when the time comes. And on top of all of that was the reappearance, in a bigger and actually quite scary way than ever before yet of the "BAD WOLF" graffiti everywhere Rose looks. And even at this stage, we still don't know what it means, except that Rose had better find a way to get the TARDIS moving.

The Doctor shows off his character development as well, though his big moment waits a bit until the Daleks have exterminated the entire station, including Jack, and we get to the point where he can fire off the wave and destroy all the Daleks, but only if he also wipes out every other living thing on Earth at the same time. And the Emperor Dalek taunts him expertly, asking if he's a coward or a savior, and when the moment comes, the Doctor realizes that he can't do this, and says "coward - every time." This is the reaction of the Doctor we used to know... the one who wouldn't put those two wires together on Skaro, the one who wouldn't shoot Davros in cold blood, and the one who couldn't shoot Charley Pollard to save the universe. It is not the reaction we saw from him earlier in the series, when he let Cassandra die horribly, or when he got himself a gun and was ready to shoot the "Dalek" Dalek even though it was becoming something new. Those reactions were what the war damage I've talked about here were doing to him. "Dalek" was a turning point, where Rose showed him what he was becoming... "The Doctor Dances" was the story where circumstances worked in his favor and for once everybody lived, and he loved that to death. He's been healing in the second half of the season, and it's complete by the time he doesn't push that switch here. Some will want to debate the morality and pragmatism of his decision here, but not me. I get the point now just as I have in those earlier instances; that is that the Doctor knows deep down that doing something so evil, even in the name of destroying greater evil, cannot lead to a good result.

And in the end it was just as well he didn't do it, because the Bad Wolf comes to the rescue. Rose gets the TARDIS console open, looks at the heart of the TARDIS, and the two sort-of become one hybrid being that calls itself the Bad Wolf. It scatters the words through time to wherever Rose can see them, so that she will remember them and know that she must return to the Bad Wolf Corporation's satellite as this new time vortex being and save the day. The Bad Wolf creates itself. I like it. It's a very elegant and very time travel-y thing to have happen. I'm still a bit fuzzy on whether they just took the name from the Corporation or whether they came up with the name and named the Corporation that too. I _think_ it's the former. There's also some poetry to it... Rose refuses to be just another sheep in the herd; she chooses to be the big, bad wolf instead. The whole "it's the power of the time vortex" stuff about how she time-destructs the Daleks works for me too. It's as though the Rose/TARDIS Bad Wolf creature is a sort of Chronovore. Rose has taken on the TARDIS' interstitial time powers, and it's taken on her sentience and desire to save the Doctor. The Bad Wolf wipes out all the Daleks, and also brings Jack back to life.

This can't last, however, without the effect killing Rose, and so the Doctor kisses her and takes it on (in a scene that I'm sure owed nothing at all to the Doyle-gives-Cordelia-her visions thing from "Hero" on "Angel" ), then directs it back into the TARDIS. This has the knock-on effect of it "killing" him instead, but he can save himself by regenerating, which he does, but not before he has a touching last scene with Rose in the console room. For once, the companion gets some warning about what regeneration is and what it'll do to him, and I like that this one happened with the Doctor standing up. I also really liked that they managed to give David Tennant some lines before the credits rolled.

Christopher Eccleston's final lines were nicely done as well: "Before I go, I just want you to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I!" The way I read that is that he's "dying" happy with how he himself acted here... happy that he's healed, and happy that it was Rose who helped him get there. And you know what, Russell T. Davies, this was fantastic, and so were you when you wrote this material.

And now I'll list some smaller moments that I really liked through the episode...

the fact that the Anne Droid did better against the Daleks than anything else Jack could muster, taking out three of them before they got her.

Lynda's death scene was really chilling. It hurt that she was dying, because I liked her so much, but the way they milked it with the attack seeming to come from the door, but then some Daleks sneak up on her from the window, flash "Ex-ter-min-ate" silently in the vacuum at her, and then blast the window to depressurize her room was just _nasty_. Well done here Joe Ahearne.

All the CGI of the massive Dalek armies and the spaceships, etc. It looked wonderful. Extra kudos to The Mill!

Jack being brought back to life was nice because I like him, but left behind and not even mentioned in the final scene was a bit odd, though there were bigger things going on at that point. Hopefully this gets addressed in the first scenes of "The Christmas Invasion."

Jack kissed a couple people goodbye before leaving for the battle he knew would kill him. That was nice to see. That one of them was male, and was the Doctor, I've no personal problem with. I can see this being a big sticking point with some US networks that might be considering the purchase of the series, though, if they are a network that skews towards family and kids programming, because the right wing pressure groups will work through the advertisers to try and have this sort of scene stopped. It wouldn't affect a more general "adult" network though, like Bravo or BBC America.

Finally, we come to the one beef I have with the episode, which was the Daleks getting religion. I can see what Russell was trying to do here, which was to graft his distrust (and many other people's it must be said, including mine) of organized religion and how it can steer the masses in the wrong direction, onto the psyche of the Daleks, and use them to illustrate the dangers of it in the same way that they used to be used to illustrate the evil of fascistic racism. This is a potentially very good science fiction idea, but it doesn't belong layered on top of what's already present in the Daleks. Whatever else Daleks are, they are _scientists_, with a dependence on rational thought. As the Doctor said, "since when did the Daleks have a concept of blasphemy?" The Emperor's answer that it reached into the dirt and made new life doesn't explain why he himself starting thinking of himself as the god of the Daleks as a result of doing that. He should be the most rational one of them all, and his hierarchical command structure worked well enough before this... I just see no reason for him and the others to start using religious dogma instead of just "obey." This really jars to me. Hopefully with all of this set of Daleks destroyed, we won't see this idea recur. I do think it's a good motivating idea to base an alien monster threat on... just not on the Daleks because they've already got a perfectly good motivation. Partly related to this was the voice of the Emperor, which I was also disappointed in. The modulation was right, and the sound was right, but the performance wasn't. I much preferred Nick Briggs' earlier Emperor Dalek performances for Big Finish... this one is a much more human-sounding Emperor Dalek and less the imperious overlord. He was more "lordly" before, which is ironic since this one thinks its God. I'm not going to lay the blame for this at Nick's door though... I don't think this is a decision he would've made on his own... I'm guessing Joe Ahearne or Russell T. Davies asked for this different version, and in my view, it was the wrong call. Oh, also, these new more radio-controlled Daleks are a gear too slow for my liking... I think I liked them better when their operator could shake them back and forth a bit and twitch agitatedly.

Overall then, 9 out of 10. 10 for the Doctor, Rose, Jack, Jackie, Mickey, the Bad Wolf, Lynda with a "y," the game show parodies, the CGI, and the direction, but subtract 1 for the new religious Daleks.





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

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

I have, on the whole, enjoyed the new series of Doctor Who, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the weaker episodes are those written by Russell t. Davies. I hoped however that for the two-episode season finale, Davies would pull out all of the stops and write a rousing, epic climax to the series. In one respect he achieved this, as the Doctor’s most familiar foes make a return appearance en masse, but in other respects the story is deeply flawed.

I’ll begin at the beginning. ‘Bad Wolf’ starts with the Doctor, Jack, and Rose trapped in futuristic versions of Big Brother, What Not to Wear, and The Weakest Link, respectively. If you can swallow the ludicrous (and frankly disturbing) notion that these programmes have survived largely unchanged until the year 200,100AD, the premise of the exercise is that the Daleks have secretly been massing in orbit around Earth for centuries, harvesting humans to convert into new Daleks via the various game shows broadcast from the “Game Station”, in which participation is now compulsory. Losing contestants are apparently obliterated via a disintegrator beam, but are in fact transmatted to the Dalek fleet to serve as raw materials for conversion.

Now I really, really hate reality television. It’s unimaginative, cheap television with little creative input beyond the gaudy sets, which works on the basis that the audience largely consists of voyeurs who enjoy, in every sense, seeing tits exposed on television. I had hoped when I saw the trailer for ‘Bad Wolf’ that Davies might make an effort at satire and have fun with the format, but the most we get is the vague and platitudinous line, “Half the world’s too fat, half the world’s too thin, and you just watch television.” Davies not only doesn’t attempt to criticize reality television, he doesn’t do anything with it; having refused to attack it, he refuses to defend it, and the entire Big Brother sequence feels like a self-indulgent homage with no real point to it. It’s simply an excuse for half-hearted and facile wit (including the cringe worthy line, “You are live on Channel 44,000, please do not swear”), although it does have the unexpected benefit of making me realize that Big Brother might actually be worth watching if the cretins that participate were disintegrated when they get nominated for eviction. Anyway, after the revelation that evictees are disintegrated, the Doctor, smugly aware that he has brought to the Game Station for a purpose, vandalizes the house, getting him evicted. He then saunters confidently through the exit door, confident that the unseen power behind the program won’t let him be destroyed because it has brought him to the station for a purpose and needs him alive. He is of course proved right, which raises two minor points. The first is, given that we later find out that the disintegrator beam is actually a transmat beam, why does it hold fire? Why don’t the Daleks transmat him to their ship and then exterminate him whilst they have the advantage of surprise? The second question concerns the Doctor’s line, “If they wanted me dead, they could have transmatted me into a volcano. They want me alive.” Actually they don’t, since they keep trying to kill him whenever they get the opportunity later on. The explanation for this whacking great plot hole is that Davies wants to create the impression later on that Rose has been disintegrated and decides to throw logic out the window to create a cheap thrill. The sequence also introduces the irritatingly wet “Lynda with a y”, whose sole function is to wander around after the Doctor, looking up at him with wet pouring out her so that Rose can briefly look jealous later on.

Speaking of which, we have Jack’s predicament. Jack wakes up in version of What Not to Wear, and finds himself confronted by android versions of Trinny and Susannah. The function of this in the context of the episode is to provide an excuse for John Barrowman to get his kit off on screen. Jack smugly says to the two androids, “Am I naked in front of millions of viewers? Ladies, your viewing figures just went up.” This is of course what stripping Jack off is meant to achieve in real life, and the scene also provides the unexpected but genuinely amusing sight of a butt-naked man whipping a pistol out of his ass in a Doctor Who episode. However, aside from that the sequence makes no sense in terms of plot logic, since if the games are designed to transmat humans to the Daleks for conversion, then Trinny and Susannah dismembering them seems self-defeating. There is also more really feeble humour on display here, including the description of Top Shop as a design classic and the reference to President Schwarzenegger.

However, where Davies’ largely gratuitous plundering of the worst aspects of common-denominator contemporary television works is in the case of The Weakest Link. This sequence, unlike the other two, feels genuinely dangerous, and is, thanks partly to the coup of getting Anne Robinson to provide the voice of the Anne Droid, absolutely bloody terrifying. This is largely due to the acting, particularly from Billie Piper and Paterson Joseph, a man I’ve wanted to see appear in Doctor Who ever since his exemplary performance as the Marquis de Carabas in Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Both of them, as well as the actors playing the other contestants, look increasingly terrified as the game progresses, and the sudden death round is gripping. So dramatic is the scene in fact that when Rose is seemingly disintegrated, even though I knew Piper was already contracted to appear in series two, my heart skipped a beat.

With the novelty television references out of the way, the Doctor and Jack start to gradually discover what is really going on, the second half of ‘Bad Wolf’ starts to build excitingly to the revelation of the Daleks. Even though it was spoilt by the trailer at the end of ‘Boom Town’, various trailers, and newspaper gossip dating back a year, I got an undeniable thrill as the hints and clues suddenly started to appear. The scene in which the Controller tries to reveal the truth and tells the Doctor, “They’ve been hiding… watching and shaping the Earth… My masters, they fear the Doctor” is very ominous and is swiftly followed by Rose waking up to hear a familiar throbbing heartbeat sound. Then we get the point of view shot of her captor, plus the familiar extermination of the Controller and the distorted reflection of a Dalek in a wall panel. The moment when the fleet stands revealed and Jack exclaims, “I know those ships. They were destroyed” only for the Doctor to coldly reply, “Obviously they survived” sends a shiver down the spine. The Daleks are easily the best aspect of ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’, and they are once more depicted as an unstoppable, remorseless force, with only the Dalek in the TARDIS actually being destroyed prior to the actually ending. The Emperor Dalek looks and sounds great, and the twist that after centuries of isolation spent rebuilding its entire species it has gone mad and thinks that it is god is both something new and quite effective, although when it declares, “This is perfection” it sounds like the three blokes that try and smuggle a pint out of the pub in a recent Worthington’s ad. The sight of the Daleks gliding silently around the station slaughtering everyone in their path is magnificent, and the mass murder on Level Zero is especially horrific, due to the terrified screams and sheer panic conveyed by the cast.

However, yet again Davies lets logic fly out of the window. The Daleks are invading the station purely to stop the Doctor; since the invasion of Earth is now underway, they have no further need of the station itself, and so if they have the ability to destroy entire continents so thoroughly that they actually appear to melt, why can’t they just destroy the station? Yet again the answer is that Davies is busy thinking about other things, and as in ‘Boom Town’ he sets the Doctor a moral dilemma. The Emperor Dalek reveals the truth about the Doctor’s plan, telling Jack, “There is every possibility the delta wave could be complete, but no possibility of refining it.” The choice is simple; if the Doctor uses the delta wave, he will wipe out not only the Daleks, but also every living thing on Earth. The trouble is, with the Emperor goading the Doctor, “I want to see you become like me. Hail the Doctor, the Great Exterminator!” the Doctor chooses to be a coward rather than a killer and is left standing ineffectually by the weapon that he’s been building for most of the episode but hasn’t got the balls to use. Which is all well and good, until we consider the fact that at this very point the Daleks are actually melting entire continents, so the Doctor’s choice is to destroy the Daleks and all life on Earth, or to let the Daleks survive so that they can destroy all life on Earth. It makes him yet again look utterly ineffectual and he’s left standing with a stupid look on his face until somebody else comes along to save the day. Which leads me neatly onto…

Bad Wolf. A series of warnings scattered throughout time by the Emperor Dalek to lure the Doctor into a trap, or sign that some hitherto unsuspected malevolent force is watching the Doctor wherever he goes? Actually no; it’s a cryptic message from Rose to herself so that she knows to look into the heart of TARDIS without turning into a foetus in order to become a superbeing and save the day so that the Doctor doesn’t have to. It really is utter bollocks, and although Davies has established in several of his scripts that Rose is none too bright, surely some kind of clear note would have been easier? ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’ sees Davies taking the piss out of ‘Doctor Who’ with Rose asking the Emperor, “But that makes them… half human?” only to be indignantly told, “Those words are blasphemy!” and the latter episode seeing the Doctor kiss his companion in a way that is crucial to the plot. But I personally wasn’t all that bothered by either the half-human revelation or the kiss in ‘Doctor Who’, I was more annoyed by the Here, you will notice, Davies repeats that same mistake with a horrendous deus ex machina ending in which the TARDIS uses Rose to save the day with magic fairy dust, resurrecting the Doctor’s dead friend in the process. As in ‘Boom Town’, it’s a last minute magical intervention so that the Doctor doesn’t have to weasel out of a moral dilemma for which Davies can provide no satisfactory resolution. It is also immensely unsatisfying, with Rose seen to resurrect Jack, but not, so far as we know, bothering to save anyone else, or restore the ravaged Earth, or put history back on track.

Where Davies does score points however is in his use of the regulars. I’ve already mentioned that Piper is great at conveying Rose’s panic and fear when she’s forced to play The Weakest Link, and she’s also convincingly emotional when Mickey and Jacky vainly try and comfort her in the café. Speaking of which, Noel Clarke puts in another decent performance as Mickey, who respects Rose’s dedication to the Doctor to help her open the TARDIS console, and astonishingly, Camille Coduri puts in a performance at the eleventh hour that doesn’t make me want to kick the television screen in. The scene in which Rose tells Jackie that she met her Dad and that he would tell her to try is quite moving, and well acted by both performers.

As for Jack, although at times he’s still in Captain Innuendo mode with incessant flirting and the dubious line, “The pleasure was all mine. Which is the only thing that matters in the end” his testosterone-crazed antics give way to an urgent drive for action when the true threat stands revealed. He bravely makes a futile gesture to buy time for the Doctor to decide not to bother using the Delta Wave, and faces death with his chin up. He knows he’s got no chance too; he tells the Doctor and Rose, “I guess this is goodbye… Rose, you are worth fighting for. Wish I’d never met you Doctor, I was much better off as a coward.” He then kisses them both in a scene that Barrowman’s performance makes genuinely emotional, and when he finally gets exterminated it is a heart-wrenching moment. So too for that matter is the crumpled, hurt look on Barrowman’s face when Jack is resurrected only to see the TARDIS dematerialize without him.

And finally, there is Christopher Eccleston. Although he’s spent too much time gurning and grinning maniacally during some of Davies’ scripts, there are times during ‘Bad Wolf’/‘The Parting of the Ways’ when his performance is sublime. Notable examples include the sheer hurt he conveys by facial acting alone when the Doctor thinks Rose his dead, the equally grim look when he sees the Bad Wolf Corporation logo, and the impression he gives of badly controlled fury whenever he has to talk to the Daleks. The “you hate your own existence” speech is especially memorable, as he looks at them with a combination of pity, contempt, and horror. His threat to the Daleks when he promises, “This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rescue her. I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky” manages to be intimidating thanks to Eccleston’s delivery, although in retrospect it is slightly spoiled by the realization that what he does is rescue Rose but then end up standing impotently holding his plunger. Unfortunately, during ‘The Parting of Ways’, his performance is hamstrung by some vacuous lines, which he always seems to have trouble delivering, such as when the Doctor glibly notes, “Daleks have got the answers, let’s go and meet the neighbours.” Nevertheless, for much of the story he puts in one of his finest performances as the role for one last time before the end.

And what an end it is. I’d been expecting a regeneration at the end of ‘The Parting of the Ways’ from shortly after suspicious rumours started circulating in the gutter press about Eccleston’s supposedly unexpected resignation. It gives the new audience members the opportunity to witness a key part of the series’ lore, and it’s usually an exciting event. Unfortunately, here it isn’t, because the entire scene is bereft of dramatic tension. Rather than having the mortally wounded Doctor visibly dying on the floor of the TARDIS, we get the sight of Eccleston gurning one last time and delivering crass lines including, “Fantastic place, they’ve got dogs with no noses. Imagine how many times a day you make that joke, and it’s still funny!” The whole scene is horribly contrived, with the Doctor jigging about and quickly providing a casual infodump, as he tells Rose, “Time Lords have this little trick, sort of a way of cheating death… It means I’m going to change.” But when it’s over and David Tennant is left standing there, a grin springs to my face. Whilst Eccleston has been great at times throughout the series, he doesn’t easily convey the natural eccentricity that I associate with the role; Tennant does, and when he mutters, “New teeth, that’s weird” I can’t help feeling excited about the future. I only hope I’m not disappointed…





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

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by Ed Martin

When I saw the trailer for Bad Wolf, I was dreading it - Russell T. Davies's flair for unsubtle, smug and crude satire had been rammed down my throat once too often and the prospect of seeing him riffing reality TV was not encouraging. It was nice to see a glimpse of the Daleks, but I was worried that they'd done a Planet Of The Daleks and ruined what could be an otherwise good cliffhanger by showing us the subject of it a week in advance. Fortunately, the season finale of the first series is not half as bad as I feared and does justice to an excellent reinvention of the programme; I may be disillusioned with Davies, but in fairness only two of the thirteen episodes have got a below-average rating from me and that's an impressive hit rate.

Things certainly get off to an overpowering start with the Doctor trapped in the Big Brother house, not knowing where he is, and with the picture hurtling around like the cameraman has middle ear trouble. The Big Brother theme tune is heard constantly and far too loudly throughout the pre-titles sequence - no disrespect to the people who made that song, but it makes my head hurt at the best of times. On the whole though, the game shows referenced work surprisingly well. Davies was restricted in his choice as he has to pick formats that will be recognisable outside the UK and therefore he has picked three shows that are far from new; I had this episode pegged as being the only story ever to be dated before it had even aired. It works though because Davies only focusses on the most basic elements of the formats rather than specifically picking each show apart. This means that for a person unfamiliar with one of the shows (certainly I have never watched an episode of What Not To Wear, and never intend to) the effect is still maintained as the generic ideas behind it remain undiminished. This means it may stand the test of time better than I expected, assuming that Davies's vision that The Weakest Link is still popular in 200 millennia turns out to be a trifle optimistic. However, I have to say that the Anne-droid is a terrible pun and one of the most annoying elements of the series yet. I know that if they'd just left it at 'android' there would still be a bad joke present, but having Billie Piper spell it out to us from her pedestal just rubs salt into the wound. I must say though that the lack of ITV shows present (ITV being the major supplier of reality TV) makes me laugh.

Even though I am looking for (and seeing) the best in this episode, it does feel like Davies is appealing to the populist audience in the cheapest and easiest way he can, and Captain Jack's nudity adheres to that same philosophy. Even if you really can't stand the reality TV of this episode though - and it's certainly not to all tastes - it doesn't last that long as the Doctor begins looking for a way out straightaway. I should note here that the Doctor gains a new companion for the episode, in Lynda Moss (forever to be known as Lynda-with-a-Y). He's right, she is quite sweet - but I was beginning to worry that the TARDIS would become overcrowded season 19-style. Having said that, the fact that she wants to travel with the Doctor pretty much makes her doomed from the start. The sections of The Weakest Link go on too long; we get the idea of the story without having to sit through entire rounds. The murderous twist is nice but obvious, as it's the only real way of instilling tension and a sense of danger - and what would Doctor Who be without that?

Things really hot up once we leave the games and hit Satellite V, a nice twist again dissipated by the fact that this episode begins with a recap of The Long Game. Having said that the Controller looks absolutely brilliant, streets ahead of her predecessor, Simon Pegg's gentleman villain. The sight of a young woman, atrophied to nothingness, plugged into a machine against her will and treated like another part of the computer is truly chilling, and the disrespect paid to her by her staff help underline the feeling (later to be confirmed) that she isn't really in control in the same way that the Editor was (not that he was in charge, but at least he was enthusiastic for the job).

Back in Captain Jack's storyline contrivance is pushed to new heights: only in a Russell T. Davies script could I say "Jack pulls a gun from his backside" and mean it literally. However, it's lovely to see the smugly sisters getting their heads blown off, even if they are just androids. Meanwhile the Doctor has discovered where he is and has had an enormous amount of back-story delivered by Lynda. For a world where the people are little more than sheep, it would seem that history lessons are unaffected. Lynda listing through the game shows on offer really is indulgent though, and Davies seems oblivious to the fact that in the future his episode may well be wide open to satire itself. It's nice to see that the events of this episode are a result of the Doctor's miscalculation (and it's not even that simple); this is one of the few episodes where we actually get to see the consequences of the Doctor's actions, and find out that the people he helped are actually worse off. Jack flirts with Lynda; I hope he's washed his hands since handling the bumgun.

Rose fake death is very well done, but in this day and age it's very hard to keep secrets and so I was simply left wondering about how she survived rather than whether or not she actually did. Whatever degree of spoilerage is present though, there's no denying that Christopher Eccleston's acting is absolutely flawless in this scene. Soon afterwards the Doctor, Jack and Lynda storm floor 500, giving the Doctor some excellent characterisation concerning his view towards guns.

Now we come to one of the episode's most successful aspects: the reveal of the Daleks. It's immediately obvious to an old-time fan through the use of the heartbeat sound effect onboard their ship, and there's an excellent homage to the wonderful first cliffhanger to The Daleks. The best moment of all is when we see a distorted reflection of one approach the Controller; I know their presence has long been spoiled but I'm always happy to see good direction. It is interesting to note that even in the 21st century the special effects department have decided to stick with retro-style flying saucers, the inherent campness of which makes the doom-laden choral score seem a bit melodramatic and cheesy. Also, the Daleks have gone halogen! The incredibly bright lights on their domes tend to just blend together rather than blinking on and off making them less effective but that's my only real criticism and Daleks en masse look as impressive as ever. The Doctor's promise to Rose is a very obvious set up for a calculatedly-dramatic cliffhanger - but that doesn't make it bad, mind.

The Parting Of The Ways has as many dramatic, sad and exciting moments as you would expect to find in an end-of-season spectacular. The first example of this is when the Daleks attack the TARDIS with missiles, but this has been done before (Timelash) and it seems to be alright. The mystery voice at the end of this episode's preview trailer last time is revealed to be the all-new Dalek Emperor, putting paid to a week of speculation that saw some pretty wild theories going backwards and forwards. The Emperor does look fantastic and Nicholas Briggs does a fine job of replicating the original voice from The Evil Of The Daleks, but that fact that the Emperor is rarely seen in great detail (it's either tight close ups or long shots) means that I'm not sure it will go down as the kind of iconic figure that the original Emperor did, although it's much better than the slobbering version presented in Remembrance Of The Daleks. The problem with giving the Daleks a leader though is that the leader gets all the best lines and so now the Daleks revert back to the old squawkers that do little but shout "exterminate", which to an extent spoils the improvements made to their character in Robert Shearman's episode. Unlike Shearman, Davies definitely overdoes the "exterminate" catchphrase. The Daleks' quasi-religious society is something very interesting, and it's a pity that the episode left so little scope to develop the ins and outs of it.

The Doctor's plan to build a Delta Wave is another case of deus ex machina but it fails anyway and such contrivances can work as long as the other parts of the episode are in place, which in this case they largely are. It just about gets away with the kiss as it works in the context of the scene, as opposed to the TV movie where it's just a science-fiction cliché bolted into place simply through a lack of originality. There are some very effective moments of despair in this episode, and it's well acted on all counts - one of the highlights of the season for me is the beautiful hologram scene, helped by a spectacularly good piece of direction where the phantom Doctor turns to face Rose.

After this, the flipping between time zones can be frustrating but it does help to generate even more tension, drawing out the climax for as long a possible. Rose's moralising does seem overly soapboxy, but the Bad Wolf reference is nicely atmospheric even if it is a little strange that, given that it's written on the ground in massive fluorescent letters, she doesn't notice it straight away. I'm glad the plan to rip open the TARDIS with a Mini fails, as it would cheapen that magical object slightly. The scene where Rose talks about her Dad is quite amazingly acted by Piper, and even Camille Corduri puts in a good performance for once. The character of the mother, as well as the actress, is also redeemed by her acquisition of a tow truck to help her daughter.

I should mention now that there are some superb battle scenes and Lynda's death is genuinely sad. She would have made a good companion, even if two is the effective maximum. These scenes are helped by the simple yet wonderful extermination special effect, which would never have happened without the primitive negative effect that worked so well back at the very beginning.

The Bad Wolf revelation came as a neat surprise (and it's impressive that they managed to keep it one), and Rose is brilliant as a superbeing. The Daleks are totally destroyed for at least the third time; we get to see Jack being returned to life, but it is left ambiguous about the other characters - I suppose it just depends on how romantic you are. The kiss between the Doctor and Rose works but courts controversy; it has shades of the TV movie and that's not a good thing. The regeneration is wonderful, although they're obviously playing it safe so as not to alienate the audience. Consequently we get more of an explanation now rather than the completely unexpected occurrence at the end of The Tenth Planet. It is interesting to note that the flame effect used is the same as for the power of the time vortex, almost like the power is being blasted out of the Doctor and taking his ninth incarnation with it. David Tennant is very promising in his twenty seconds of screen time, although he seems to have completely forgotten about Captain Jack. Leaving a companion behind has been done before with Time-Flight, but Arc Of Infinity showed us that it is hard to write them back in again in a believable way.

This story manages to do in ninety minutes what The War Games did in twenty five (not counting the other three and a half hours of course), but taken on it's own merits then even for a cynic this still makes a stonking season finale. Russell T. Davies just about redeems himself for his past mistakes, although he still leaves a lot to be desired. I'm being very kind to this story giving it full marks; part of me says it fall short of classic status, but a larger part says: who cares?





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

Wednesday, 22 June 2005 - Reviewed by John Byatt

Having been rendered a gibbering wreck by the absolute wonder and awesome quality of "Bad Wolf", I have somehow got my brain to function after being absolutely blown away by "Parting of the Ways".

Where does one start with something of this quality?

I want to begin by saying that the last thirteen weeks have been a revelation. Who would have thought that after the "death" that Doctor Who died in television terms back in the 1980s, that anyone at all could bring it back to life, let alone recreate it in the form of the magnificent piece of drama that it has now become in such a short time?

For this, Thank You Russell T. Davies, and everylast one involved in making Doctor Who. You have warmed the hearts of many fans in many places, and it's not over yet.

Who would have thought that an actor like Christopher Eccleston would not only play the part of the Doctor very well indeed, but would put such power into the part that he would leave people in wonder, in awe, in fear, missing heartbeats in utter delectation, week after week, so that he would become the best Doctor Who ever? And as for Chris leaving so as not to be typecast, well, that is already done. To many fans and even casual watchers alike, Chris Eccleston IS Doctor Who... And as for those who think "that's it," that Chris's Doctor is gone for good; think back at what has been done before, The Three Doctors? The Five Doctors?

So, Russell (T. Davies), Chris (Eccleston), writers, all those involved; please say you'll think about it! The possibilities are endless.

But now to this great finale of what has been arguably the best story of the whole series, and certainly the best RTD written one.

I was rendered largely speechless by the deep exploration into emotions in "Bad Wolf", yet did not write a review for it, so I suppose this is for the whole story.



I am one of those who was initially sceptical at the use of the reality television strands in this story, as like some, I cannot stand Big Brother, (and yes I have watched it), but I like The Weakest Link, partly because I like general knowledge quizzes anyway. Anyway, I thought Anne Robinson was a brilliant sport to voice this episode, and in the end the result was very credible. The concept of some "unknown" alien force exploiting the human trait for watching reality TV, in order to get the better of them in some way was a brilliant idea, (I loved seeing Trine-e and Zu-zana's heads blown off) and it worked totally.

One thing in particular that has impressed me about this series from the beginning is the high quality of acting by all involved, and especially the facial expressions that convey things like fear, anger, joy, bewilderment, disappointment, confusion, utter devastation, and so on. These have been so convincing as to be able to take the viewer along with those feelings to the point where they seem real.

The almost twin look of grief/anger on the Doctor's face as he witnesses Rose's "death" at the disintigrator beam of "Anne Droid" was a priceless moment that will live on in the hearts of fans everywhere.

The look on the faces of Captain Jack, Lynda (with a y), and the other Sattelite Five operators as the Doctor told the Daleks "No." was just as gobsmacking as the corresponding look on Rose's face, which was a ruddy picture. The Doctor said he was coming for Rose, and he didn't waste time either, landing the Tardis so that Rose was inside it, but also with one Dalek which was quickly "exterminated" by Jack.

"Let's go and meet the neighbours!" What an entry! So, the Dalek Emperor survived, and I must admit I never though of that; for some reason I was half expecting to see a trans-mutated-insane-alien-human-hybrid or-something-or-other in the form of Bruno Langley.

The concept of blasphemy, and of the Dalek Emperor being worshipped as some sort of immortal or god, was indeed weird, but fantastic.

Where did they learn these concepts from? My theory is that the lone Dalek in episode six - which downloaded the entire Internet - did not destroy itself. Instead, perhaps it lied to the Doctor when it said it had found nothing in the skies. Did it sort of "beam up" somewhere where this knowledge was imparted to the remainder of the Dalek race?

Had they perhaps driven themselves insane, not only by hiding away for hundreds of years, but by hiding away for hundreds of years poring over the Internet, which as most of us know consists of some good stuff, a lot of mediocre stuff, and a lot of decidedly dodgy stuff as well?

Of course, in science fiction anything is possible.

The force field was brilliant. Force fields in science fiction are such a common occurrence, that they can be overdone or else be too obvious. But this one augmented the Doctor's character so well, so that his seeming "extermination" stopped four feet in front of him, making his "Is that it?" with a wide grin and open hands an absolute masterpiece of dark humour. It was done so well, you "could not see the join", so to speak.

The next part I have to comment on is Rose being "sent home" and told by a hologram of the Doctor to let the Tardis die and have a fantastic life. Here again we come to those beautifully done expressions, this time on the faces of the Doctor, as he reluctantly sends the Tardis on what he thinks will be a one way final journey with his friend inside; then Mickey, as he struggles with the happiness at seeing Rose, but with her turbulent emotions at not only being separated from the Doctor, but also being powerless to help him; thirdly, Jackie Tyler as she tells Rose that although she "hates that man", at the moment she loves him because he sent Rose back home safely.

Finally, Rose herself, as she tries to convey to her Mum and Mickey just how angry, helpless, frightened, and almost grieving she feels at this seemingly hopeless circumstance... In these scenes, we saw - in my opinion - the best acting from these four of the whole series, bar none.

Then, when Rose is sat on this bench talking to Mickey, probably just beginning to think that she might have to accept the situation, - along comes "BAD WOLF" emblazoned on the playground in front of them, right before their very eyes... Not a warning! A message?

Well is it? Rose is suddenly galvanised into action. It means a link. A way back! A way to help the Doctor after all he had done for her! Surely! And yes, but What a way. After an abortive attempt in Mickey's car, (I see he's got rid of the yellow VW from episode One), and Jackie Tyler rolls up with a breakdown truck. Brilliant!

Some heaving and pulling, some shouting by Jackie, this brilliant white light, the Tardis doors slam shut, and Rose is off for a ride in the Tardis that would have a greater effect than anyone would have thought possible. The Doctor's kiss with Rose - if it ever was going to happen at all - had to be something more significant than a mere snog, and this was done excellently, with the Doctor having a clear reason for doing this that would help save Rose from the absolutely mega power of the Tardis, to close its heart, and allow him to continue after this completely discumknockerating and unexpected ending for the Daleks.

So Rose's actions ended the Daleks threat to the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. But they also brought life, to some at least.

Or at least to Captain Jack, who had definitely been "exterminated" by the Daleks. So, what of the others on board Sattelite Five, (Lynda with a y), the rest of life on Earth? Presumably the latter, surely!

So, we come to the regeneration, the final seconds of the Doctor (as played by Chris Eccleston), and to the first seconds of the "new" Doctor (as played by David Tennant). How many different ways of regenerating the Doctor had been thought out before landing on this one? Well, whether it was one or a thousand, it could not be better. And to have the Doctor regenerate in the Tardis with Rose there to witness it! I am running out of ways to say "Brilliant", "Awesome", or as the Doctor would say "Fantastic". I dare say some will be sceptical, because there is no doubt that Christopher Eccleston has been a "Fantastic" Doctor, and one might say, he has left a hard act to follow. But I'll wager this; David can do it. And the Doctor and Rose will be more awesome than this. But there's only one way to find out; materialise in front of the telly at Christmas. Fantastic. (Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways, 12/10)

(The Whole Series, 10/10)





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.