Sunday, 10 January 2010

Doctor Who: Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways

Bad Wolf

“Ladies, your viewing figures just went up!”

Arse. I might as well admit from the start that I’ve ended up awarding a 5/5 to every story of the season. This in no way affects my credibility, I’m sure.

Anyway, we start with a few clips from The Long Game, and a caption tells us it’s a hundred years later. Except that we seem to be in the Big Brother house. And the Doctor’s a contestant. Now there’s an extremely weird pre-titles sequence.

We then switch to Rose in a scene which directly parallels the Doctor’s, right down to parts of her dialogue. She’s about to play The Weakest Link. With an, ahem, “Anne-Droid”. And Captain Jack Back is with a robot Trinny and Susannah. Naturally.

In 2005 I was distinctly uneasy about these references to contemporary game shows, especially as this is supposed to be 198,100 years in the future and technically a bit implausible that people in the distant future would be watching these shows, although at the same time I admired how it was done. This time round it doesn’t bother me at all- that’s just the style of Doctor Who these days. And I can accept the implausibility because it doesn’t really matter- this is allegory, like a large chunk of science fiction generally is, and therefore really about the concerns of the present. Besides, we couldn’t possibly depict the distant future at all without doing this sort of thing on some level. Everything we see is necessarily an extrapolation of the present, so we might as well be blatant about it.

Anyway, it soon becomes clear that not only are the Big Brother contestants disintegrated once evicted, with the only prize being survival, but being the Weakest Link also means disintegration. Oh, and Trinny and Susannah extend their makeover tendencies to rearranging peoples’ faces. It’s all quite mysterious, too; the transmit beam which transported our heroes into these game shows did so inside the TARDIS, indicating considerable power. And no one in charge seems to be picking the TARDISeers- they seem to have just arrived.

Oh, and the Anne Droid asks a question about something called the “Torchwood Institute”. Just thought I’d mention it. No particular reason.

The Doctor escaped, with his new friend Lynda with a “y”, and learns that this is in fact Satellite Five. It seems this is all his fault, as the collapse of TV news is what caused all this to happen. Gosh. And there was me thinking that 24 hour rolling news was a complete load of crap. Oh, and the Doctor agrees to let Lynda travel with him in the most fate tempting way possible. She’s so going to die.

Rose is still playing The Weakest Link alongside the rather gittish Rodric, played rather well by Patterson Joseph (who, incidentally, I was expecting to be cast as the Eleventh Doctor- shows how much I know). The questions are rather amusing: Jackie Collins is now apparently classed as “literature”. Oh, and the Face of Boe is apparently from the Isop Galaxy. As is Vortis, I seem to recall. But just as the Doctor and Jack rush in to disintegrate her, apparently she’s disintegrated. And both Eccleston and Barrowman convincingly portray their characters’ utter dejection as they’re arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced, Frontier in Space style, to the lunar penal colony. Without trial, naturally.

Of course, they escape, and head up to Floor 500 with a whopping great gun. They soon discover that things are rather odd, and that people are just as unquestioning as in The Long Game. There’s a great moment of moral force for the Doctor when, upon being told that the people running the games were “just doing our jobs,” he replies “And with that sentence you just lost the right to even talk to me.”

There’s a brief power cut, courtesy of a solar flare, and the Controller is able to explain that the has brought the TARDISeers here in the hope that they can stop her mysterious “masters”. These “masters” were the power behind the Jagrafess and have been guiding humanity’s destiny for centuries- this means simultaneously that all this is, crucially, not actually the Doctor’s fault, but at the same time he should have thought to dig a bit deeper into what lay behind the Jagrafess.

Jack, though, has found the TARDIS, and it turns out that the “disintegrated” humans are not killed, merely transmatted- Rose is still alive! Then we cut to her- and a certain familiar throbbing sound…

At last we see loads of Daleks, and they look fantastic. The odds against the Doctor are huge, but brilliantly the cliffhanger emphasises not that but his resolve to defeat them.

The Parting of the Ways

“New teeth. That’s weird.”

The Doctor rescues Rose with admirable speed, materialising the TARDIS around Rose and a Dalek, while Jack shoots the Dalek with that whopping great gun. And now the Doctor naturally has to have a chinwag with the Daleks. He discovers they’re half-human. Ah, that old favourite…

It seemed they survived the Time Lord because of a single survivor, who is now their Emperor, with delusions of Godhood. Having established the Emperor’s a bit of a nutter, they all head back to Satellite Five. Once there things start to go a bit UNIT, with the Doctor taking charge of the boffin stuff while Jack takes charge of the military side of things. Jack kisses both the Doctor and Rose full on the lips, indicating he doesn’t expect he’ll live to see them again. Things are getting very dangerous. So the Doctor sends Rose home in the TARDIS.

Rose is not too pleased about this, especially as the conversation with Jackie and Mickey as they eat their chips is as mundane as a conversation can be. Rose is insistent that she can’t live like that, to which Mickey very reasonably retorts “Why, because you’re better than us?” But Rose insists it’s not the travelling she can’t live without, but the better way of living, the refusal to give up. I’m not sure she’s written as being entirely honest here, but it does the trick with Mickey. The fact that “Bad Wolf” suddenly appears as graffiti everywhere clinches it. Rose is determined to get at the heart of the TARDIS…

Meanwhile, the Doctor is nonplussed as the Dalek Emperor denies all knowledge of the Bad Wolf thing. And the cowards on the bottom floor, including Rodric, get what’s been coming to them. The situation seems hopeless, in spite of a bit of fight being shown by the Anne Droid, and Lynda is killed in a brilliantly executed scene. Meanwhile, on Earth, Jackie finds a truck for Rose and Mickey to use. It works, and Rose looks into the heart of the TARDIS. The TARDIS materialises…

It’s too late for Jack, though, who dies heroically. Everything seems hopeless; the Doctor is unable to carry out his plan in the end as the collateral damage would just be too great. But then Rose arrives, full of power from the TARDIS- again, the TARDIS has some worryingly powerful abilities, and this is a potentially bad precedent. But for now it provides a satisfactory ending. In something of a time paradox, Rose herself is the Bad Wolf, scattering the words throughout eternity. Jack is resurrected, the Daleks are all killed- and Rose starts to collapse. She won’t be able to survive all this power.

Of course, the Doctor saves her (with a kiss!) and they leave in the TARDIS. Without Jack, for reasons which remain unexplained. But the Doctor can’t survive himself, and regenerates, to the sounds of the “Chancellor Flavia” theme. Standing up.

Actually, this is one of the weaker episodes of the season. But it’s still good enough for a 5/5. And the season as a whole- wow. A perfect score. Surely this level of quality can’t be sustained?

No comments:

Post a Comment