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REVIEWS: Doctor Who, episode by episode

Latest episodes reviewed: "Bad Wolf"/"The Parting Of The Ways"

The Doctor and Rose have a life-saving snog.

Airdates: 11 June/18 June 2005
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
The one where: The Doctor ends up in Big Brother, battles thousands of Daleks, and meets Bad Wolf...

Review: There are about two moments of this two-parter that prevent it from reaching utter perfection. Two minutes in “The Parting Of The Ways”. After 12 episodes, the explanation of what those two words “Bad Wolf” signify left countless Who fans – this one included – feeling a little cheated. The only sensible interpretation was that it was a warning. So the revelation that it was some kind of message from Rose to herself left us feeling just a little conned, like some 3-2-1 contestants who’ve just discovered they’ve won Dusty Bin when the clues suggested they were about to bag the car.
It’s confusing too. If glowy-gold-Rose wanted to ensure that she would create herself, couldn’t she have found a more direct method? Maybe left a Post-It note on the TARDIS console? How does ensuring that, for example, Van Statten’s helicopter has the call sign “Bad Wolf One” help?
Having Rose look into the TARDIS and assume godlike powers is pretty much the definition of deus ex machina as a plot device. Whether you can deal with it or not probably depends on whether, over the course of 13 weeks, you’ve come to understand what kind of Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies is. He’s not really a science fiction writer. He writes science fantasy: Doctor Who in which the magical can occur. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since Russell’s a big fan of Buffy. Rose’s transformation is just the sort of thing that happened in the Buffyverse on a regular basis. For Doctor Who fans that kind of quasi-mystical moment is anathema, but a Buffy fan wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Those of us who are both will have found themselves going through the strange process of feeling indignation swiftly replaced by acceptance.
Other than those contentious few moments, there can be no debate about the quality of this closing two-parter. It’s Russell’s finest work of the season. For viewers who’d been tuning in every Saturday it rewarded their loyalty in spades, paying off on every possible level. Plopping the Doctor and his companions into a series of deadly TV shows was a cheeky idea that paid off big time, providing both laughs (ok, unsophisticated giggles, but still laughs) and genuine menace. It’s big, simple, tabloid-friendly ideas like “Doctor Who in the diary room” that have helped make this series such an astonishing success.
But it was once the Doctor and Jack escaped from the games that the storyline really began to fly. First triumph: Rose’s apparent death. This reviewer was fooled into thinking “maybe she’s really dead!” despite the fact that I’d seen photos of Billie in the following episode and knew she was busy negotiating a renewal of her contract. Yet still that moment packed an emotional wallop. Now that’s good writing and direction working their mojo...
From this point on, it was as if Russell had decided to hand us a gift-wrapped present of our ultimate fanboy fantasy. Daleks! Hundreds of thousands of Daleks! Flying through space! All-out war, with the future of humanity in the balance! Just what we’ve always wanted. That reveal of the Dalek fleet was one of Who’s leap-off-the-sofa-and-punch-the-air moments. Both Murray Gold and The Mill surpassed themselves.
Yet in the midst of all this epic drama, there was, as ever, always time for the personal, time for real human emotion. Time to bring it down to Earth by sending Rose home to Mickey and her Mum - a deeply satisfying way of tying together all the season’s ongoing threads. Time to tug the heartstrings, with that blub-inducing holographic message. And finally, time for a proper farewell, in a regeneration scene that acknowledges, better than any previous one, that regeneration is simultaneously a thing of sadness and a thing of beauty: a bereavement and a birth all rolled into one.
... And I haven’t even mentioned Eccleston’s performance, or the Daleks’ religious mania, or the all-round genius of Captain Jack (get him back in the TARDIS pronto! He’s the best companion ever!), or not one but two taboo-shattering kisses. Crikey. There’s just so much to praise about this finale. It was, quite simply: fantastic.

Nitpicks: Didn’t they invent any new game shows after 2005? Why can’t they use the transmats to send those 100 stranded people back to Earth? Why do the Doctor and Rose leave Jack behind?
The Bad Wolf reference: It’s the name of the company that runs the Game Station, ya dummy. And Rose has spray-painted it all over creation...
Best line: The Doctor: “This is what I’m gonna do: I’m gonna rescue her. I’m gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m gonna save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I’m gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!”
Official BARB viewing figures:
"Bad Wolf": 6.81 million
"The Parting Of The Ways": 6.7 million
SFX rating (out of ten):
“Bad Wolf”: Nine
“The Parting Of The Ways”: Nine

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