The Doctor wakes up with amnesia, to discover he’s a contestant on a futuristic and deadly game of Big Brother. Fantastic idea. Rose wakes up, also with amnesia, to discover she’s playing a futuristic, and just as deadly, game of The Weakest Link. Er… pretty good idea. Jack wakes up to discover he’s on a futuristic/deadly What Not To… yawn. Two’s company, Russell; three’s padding. The first twenty minutes or so of this episode just drag by, and it doesn’t get going at all until the Doctor announces he’s going to break out.
Why, oh why, couldn’t this episode have been based entirely around the deadly Big Brother concept? It could’ve been so, so good. But instead, we’ve got dull scenes of the “Anne Droid” (the joke’s lost on us Aussies) asking countless silly questions, and a naked Jack with two oversized Lego figures, playing dress-ups. What could’ve been a paranoid thriller has been turned into a camp nightmare unparalleled since The Happiness Patrol. And even that was cleverer, with its political agenda!
Oh well. At least we’ve got the lovely Jo Joyner as Lynda-with-a-Y, proving that there are better potential companions out there than the nauseating Adam, or even Jack, who I must admit has begun to annoy me a little at this point. He was good in Boom Town, but underused, and his scenes in this episode with those ridiculous robots are truly cringe-worthy. Not John Barrowman’s fault, naturally – that man’s a terrific actor, and perfect for Doctor Who. No, I just don’t like this script. Sorry, Russell. I loved what you did with Boom Town, but you’re really letting me down here.
Mercifully, things begin to pick up once the Doctor’s broken out of the game, and we discover we’re back on Satellite Five. The Doctor and Lynda are still being watched, from the Floor Managers on good ol’ Floor 500. They give great performances, as does the Controller, a very chilling and very well-written character. Rose’s final scene with the Anne Droid is nicely suspenseful, and although we all know she’s not really dead, it’s nice to watch the Doctor go more melancholy than he’s been all series (and that’s saying something). When he breaks out of incarceration with Jack and Lynda, it’s with a “Let’s do it”, and unfortunately not a “Now!”, which in my opinion would’ve been better. Less hokey. Oh well.
Finally they make it to Floor 500. And finally we’re in for some good drama, first from our leads, then from the Controller. I cheered when Jack discovered what was really inside the mysterious Archive 6 – our trusty TARDIS. And even though I already knew it, I cheered again when Jack told the Doctor he’d discovered Rose was still alive. Perhaps it was the look on their faces as they hugged.
And here comes a shock. The Daleks are behind it all. Okay, not a shock in the slightest. But why on earth are the Daleks producing reality TV? And a century before, why were they behind the news stations? I mean, these are Daleks! Actually, I know why. Russell T. Davies. And his obsessions with media manipulation (Aliens of London, The Long Game) and reality TV. Okay, he’s running this show, he can do what he likes. But he’s also got a reputation as a good storyteller, so why all this self-indulgence? Like Aliens of London, this episode seems just like one forty-five minute private joke. Save it for Torchwood, Russell. This is Doctor Who.
Anyway. The Dalek ships look excellent. Can’t tell if they’re models or CGI – which is a good sign. The Daleks themselves wobble a little, but when it comes down to it, who cares? I certainly don’t. The Daleks are scary as ever… until the army is revealed. I’ve hated the look of CGI Daleks ever since I saw The Curse of Fatal Death all those years ago. I know it’d blow the budget to make that many Dalek props, but it all just looks so fake this way! Seriously, the last shot just looked like a cartoon! Give me an “army” of three (like Day of the Daleks) any day.
So in conclusion, Bad Wolf was a big let-down for me. As I said before, it could’ve been brilliant. Joe Ahearne delivered again, as did all the leads, but the weakness of the script, and the CGI Daleks, have put this story down in my bottom three of this series. Sorry.
Drivel. After watching “Boom Town” and thinking nothing could be worse, along came “Bad Wolf”. Having sat through “The Web Planet”, “Horns Of Nimon” and “Delta And The Bannermen”, “Bad Wolf” ranks up there as one of the most embarrassing episodes in the series’ history. Where can one start to explain just how embarrassing this pretence at cleverness is?
The first point that people seem to hold is that Bad Wolf is a satire. I am pretty gob-smacked by the amount of people who have hailed this episode as, to quote one site, “a brilliant satire on modern reality-TV and game shows”. Which is rather funny when one considers the meaning of the word satire: “a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.” And while there’s plenty of derision coming from Eccleston’s Doctor (as usual, for example, the “whole human race reduced to mindless sheep” line, repeated from “The Long Game”, although one wonders why since reality-TV doesn’t imply that people are mindless sheep, just that they have very bad taste), the only irony here is that Bad Wolf contains all other aspects applicable to what most people would call a satire. Compared to “The Sun Makers”, it has the subtlety of a bull in a china shop; compared to the genuine moral messages in “Vengeance On Varos”, it is filled with irrelevant platitudes; and compared to “The Happiness Patrol”, it lacks both creativity and feeling. This is an episode that displays more sophistry than sophistication. That RTD has used popular contemporary game shows (and hosts) rather than invent his own, which could either mirror the content of said game shows or reflect similar themes, is sheer laziness. It’s not clever, it’s not trying to poke fun or be witty, it’s just a cheap ratings-grabber completely lacking in originality. What more do you need to justify this claim than the fact that 200,000 years in the future (exactly as in “The Long Game”) everyone is wearing 20th century clothes! Even when they were just jumpsuits with exotic symbols drawn on them or spikey foam attached, Doctor Who costumes have always tried to be different, no matter how ludicrous some of the outcomes. That people in the far-flung 4th Great And Bountiful Human Empire wear the same clothes we do, act the same way we do, watch the same shows we do, is not reflective of a genius writer but an uninspiring hack. And this doesn’t bother anyone?
(And again on creativity: why have all the stories in the season been set in London, Cardiff or a space station? When the series first began in ’63, the travellers ended up on an alien planet in the second story! And here we have gone one whole season without. I guess what’s really worse, is not just that all the stories have been set in these rather dull locations, but that “The Long Game” and “Bad Wolf” are actually set in the same location!)
The second point is on death. Now from what I can see, the only point of introducing Lynda was as a Rose substitute so that after Rose’s apparent death, viewers would assume she had really died and that Lynda would now be taking her place on board the TARDIS. (It’s not for nothing that the two characters are almost identical.) Is this a clever ploy to fool the audience into believing that Rose is dead? Perhaps, and if it is, it is quite clever. Unfortunately, like many similar moments in the new series thus far, the illusion is completely let down when Rose is revealed to be safe and well about ten minutes later! At least when we thought Peri died in “Trial Of A Time Lord”, we didn’t find out she was still alive until several episodes later.
The whole issue of using the death of main characters in drama to create tension, pathos or some such reaction from the audience, is only useful when the character really dies or at least is dead for an extended period of time, long enough for the audience to become accustomed to the fact. We have already had one Slitheen come back from the dead, we’ve had the entire cast of “The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, we’ve had Rose’s dad (who came back from the dead twice!), now we have Rose, and in “The Parting Of Ways” it will be Captain Jack. And then there’s the Daleks. It’s great to see them back and they do look superb but it’s annoying that here we have a species who were extinct bar one but six episodes ago. And now they’ve returned in force through a less-than-dramatic loophole only to be completely exterminated again as a species in the next episode! Arrrggghhh! What is the point of killing and reviving characters so frequently??? We know the Daleks will be back in a season or two anyway, so why make grand claims to have destroyed them completely?
Point three: the Bad Wolf arc. Now this is something laughably ridiculous. Lots of people have commented how Super Rose, having been able to send messages back in time and space, sent such obscure and unhelpful ones. Very few people have commented, though, that the messages Rose did send to herself were actually rarely seen or heard by her! The references in The End Of The World, Dalek, The Long Game, Father’s Day (give or take), and The Doctor Dances, would probably not have been noticed by Rose, either occurring when she was not present, being so small as to go unnoticed or else being in a foreign language! Once again we have what has become typical of the new series: a pretence at cleverness, and only that. There is nothing clever at all about the Bad Wolf arc. Even the revelation of what Bad Wolf is is unsatisfying and sloppy. Many of the theories fans have come up with are far superior than the one RTD has, which begs the question why he is penning so many episodes. Yes, people will get down on their knees and worship RTD for bringing back Doctor Who, but when it all comes down to it, a review is a review, not a homage. I am glad that the new series is back and while some of it is really good, with some cracking stories, a lot of it is a pale imitation of Doctor Who of old.
And the last point, although there are many more I could make and I’m sure others will make one day when everyone’s stopped worshipping RTD, is regarding characters. For me, one of the greatest disappointments of the new series is the lack of hero-figures it contains. When I watched Doctor Who as a kid, the Doctor and his companions were always people you could look up to, to emulate in life and try to make a better world. This new series has very few such characters.
The Doctor seems more incompetent than effective, unable to resolve any issues himself and makes blunder after blunder. After presenting the Doctor throughout this season as a killer, we see him in “Bad Wolf” realising that his past actions have created the world in which he now is. Strangely, however, he only dwells on this very important point for a minute, as opposed to the half-hour of pedestrian philosophy and padding for a plot we had in the previous episode, “Boom Town”. The way the Doctor has been shown in this new series, one has to wonder why he even bothers to do anything at all, since he can’t seem to get anything right and tends to make things a lot worse. The idea was already raised in “Trial Of A Time Lord” and rightly resolved as being mostly irrelevant since not only are the Doctor’s intentions good but also in the utilitarian balance of things, he tends to do far more good than evil. So why bother to raise the point again – and not just raise it, but leave it unresolved?
Then there’s the Doctor’s line about “wiping every last Dalek out of the sky” (which is technically wrong, since space isn’t sky). While I don’t have a problem with this intense machismo, which seems to be a very strong trait with Eccleston’s Doctor, it is, as usual, the machismo of a eunuch. Regardless of the Doctor’s boasts, it will be Rose/Bad Wolf who destroys the Daleks in the final episode of the season, leaving the Doctor doing bugger all. Again this reflects the trend of the entire season: a Doctor who is supposed to be a hero but rarely seems to have the answers to anything and finds himself in situations where he relies on others to do things for him (characters or props, viz. the overuse of the sonic screwdriver – you can see why JNT decided to get rid of it!). The 9th Doctor is so useless that he might as well give Rose control of the TARDIS and retire. And when the Doctor even confesses to loving “Bear With Me”, I’m sure we have to agree that it adds no small amount of “greatness” to his character.
So that’s the star of the show, although more of a red dwarf than a neutron star. What about the rest of the characters? Captain Jack’s main motivation in the show seems to be trying to sleep with everything he comes across or else making constant sexual passes and innuendos, to the point where every conversation involving his character is one. Although he adds some needed humour and action to the show, I’m sure most parents would love their children to display that certain quality of sexual perversity inherent in Captain Jack. His character is yet another example of how low the show has sunk. A critic of the new series has rightly pointed out that sexual (overtly homosexual) references may have some place in Doctor Who provided that they complement the context and themes in the story. However the gutter innuendo RTD seems to enjoy injecting into the series is pointless, probably just there for cheap jokes and to seem “contemporary”, and completely irrelevant to both plot and context. That the Doctor should spend even a line of dialogue in a 45-minute show trying appeal to Captain Jack or telling him (when the latter tries to pick up one of the station controllers in this episode) that “there’s a time and place” for that sort of thing, is abysmal and would have William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee rolling in their graves. RTD doesn’t seem to understand himself that “there’s a time and place” for that kind of muck, and the time and place certainly isn’t contemporary Doctor Who. I guess that’s what happens when one person on a programme has so much power he can sanction his own ideas, being both producer and main script-writer. He might be a great soap writer, but RTD sure has a hell of a lot to learn about writing either science-fiction or Doctor Who.
Rose is the only character that is in the slightest way admirable in the new series, even if she is incredibly stupid at times (and this is “incredibly” for a Doctor Who companion). And while all these characters may be entertaining – I’ll admit, they’re not boring in the slightest – the level of morality they exhibit leaves more than a lot to be desired.
Ultimately Bad Wolf is an episode in a series that is generally pretending to be clever and creative, but really can’t be bothered trying or else doesn’t have the talent to do so. (2/10)
Being a proverbial hater of surprises, I'd read all the spoilers I could regarding this episode. Which is pretty gosh-darned easy when you're a Canadian since we get the stories transmitted to us two weeks after their shown in England. I'd even read the reviews on this page to get some answers I was looking for and was actually disappointed to see how some fans of the series are, once again, being pointless "nigglers" who seem impossible to satisfy. With the diverse reactions I was reading, I once more felt like I did back in the eighties when I was subscribed to three or four fanzines. It seemed to be impossible to get a clear idea on the effectiveness of these stories since there were just such radically different opinions being expressed about them. I knew that, once again, it was all going to boil down to me watching the story and just judging for myself. And, if anything, forgetting the opionions I'd read already on these stories was the smartest thing I could do. Lots of points being made about them were extremely uneducated, at best, anyway!
So, I turned on my T.V. Tuesday night (again, things are a bit different over here in Canada - "Who night" is Tuesday for us) and powered up the VCR so I could add to my old VHS collection and waited for 8PM to roll around. I knew, already, what was going to happen in most of this episode. Which I realised might hamper my enjoyment of it (especially the "where did you get that gun?" joke with Captain Jack). But I accepted that as a consequence for my inability to resist internet spoilers!
Was I, even with all the surprises spoilt, still happy with what I saw?
Very much so.
I'm not so big of a "Russell T. Davies basher" as some of you folks are (funny how he's already being referred to as "RTD" just like poor old "JNT" of the old days). I thought "Rose" was the best way to start the series - "End of the World" was decent - the whole business with the Slitheen was his weakest offering but it was still some good storytelling overall and "The Long Game" ranks up there for me as being as excellent as the offerings the guest-authors have given us. But "The Parting of Ways", in my opinion, beats anything we've seen this season in terms of storyline and style. It's Doctor Who at its best. Not just because we've got classic villains in the mix but you've got a neat "T.V. gone bad" concept going on and an overall plot moving at breakneck speed too - something other two-parters of this season haven't managed so well.
Right from the start, as we get the dizzying rotating overhead shot of the Doctor stuck in the tiny closet, we can see this plot is barely going to slow down to let us catch our breath. Each member of the crew is thrown into peril and forced to deal with it in their own way. And, as some of them succeed at extracting themselves, we get embroiled in yet deeper plots. More problems on Sattelite Five and the deeper issue of "Bad Wolf" being brought to the forefront but still not quite revealed. I'm actually impressed with how the titles of some of Russell's stories don't quite make sense til later in the season - we see now, just how "long of a game" the problems of Sattelite Five really are. I was even a bit reminded of the old "Invasion of Time" story. How we get a bigger nastier alien race using a lesser villain to set things up for them until they can truly move in and "make the kill" they want to make. Great plot-building on "RTD"'s part and I don't think anyone with an inkling of appreciation of good writing can deny that. His ability to give us a "semi-umbrella-themed" season is masterful. I do hope he doesn't always handle his seasons this way. I would like Who stories to be a bit more independent of each other in later seasons. But this was a good move in the first season.
Now, to me, the final 10 to 15 minutes of this story is some of the strongest "Who" I've seen in the history of the series (a term that is probably getting overused already, I'm sure) but before I extoll on that, there are a few more elements I want to discuss. The rescue of Rose (or rather, the failed rescue of Rose) was extremely well-achieved - even though I knew already that she wasn't dead. The whole sequence gave us a bit of that "old series" feel where the Doctor always had to get the poor female companion out of danger cause she couldn't do it herself. But this time, we don't get the annoying "Doctor, help me!" screams. Rose is doing her best to get out of this problem on her own - and she almost manages it. She just doesn't have the technical advantages the Doctor or Jack have with sonic screwdrivers or guns-up-the-butt so she has to try to beat the game at its own rules. Which is, sadly, an impossibility. And, again, even though I know she's fine - I loved what they did with the Doctor staring at her pile of ashes. The whole operatic choir and background noise drowning out was very moody and effective.
The other really good point of this story is Captain Jack. I've completely fallen in love with the character now (even though I'm straight!) and, as I think I mentionned in another of my long-winded reviews, he can almost merit his own spin-off series. He's both played and written with just the right amount of style. And his ability to remain pretty well "non-plussed" about anything is great fun. As is his flirting! One almost wonders if they'll ever truly bother to explore the memory loss issue. They don't really need to if they don't want to. He's doing just fine as a valid member of the TARDIS crew that is just getting on with the adventure rather than dwelling on past pains. Like the whole "Nyssa never bothering to get revenge on the Master" bit that was done in the old series.
And then, finally, we reach the climax of the story. The Doctor finding out who is truly at the end of "The Long Game". Unless you closed your eyes and plugged your ears at the "next week" sequence during the ending credits of "Boom Town", you know already who it is. Just as you knew the Doctor was going to walk in and see a Dalek in the containment tank during "Dalek". But the anticipation of the revelation is still something to be savoured. And the "teaser" moments were classic. Rose slightly emulating Barbara in the "Dead Planet" as the eyestalk follows her after she regains consciounsess - the Controller laughing as she gets killed. It all just looked so great. And set up the moment we're all really waiting for: how's the Doctor going to handle things when he finds out it's the Daleks?
And how he handles it is one of the few surprises I hadn't read about yet. Which made the moment all the more poignant. First, the whole look on the Doctor's face as the communication channel is opened is yet another testament to Eccleston's performance. This is the Doctor really getting ready for a good scrap. He's facing another Dalek army and he knows he's gotta look mean!
But then, when he says "No" to the Dalek ultimatum - you almost think that obcession that was taking him over in "Dalek" is at work again. That, in order to defeat the menace, he's willing to throw aside his care for Rose. But when he twists it all around with the rest of his speech, it brought out in me all those "shivers" I'd got when I watched the old series as a boy. The Doctor telling off the bad guys were always my favourite moments in the show. And this is one of the best tell-offs the series has done since a similiar sequence in "Remembrance of the Daleks" where Doctor #7 took down Davros over a communication channel. It's bravado at its best, really. The Doctor has nothing in his favour to defeat the greatest evil race in the universe. And still, he's not scared. He's going to do it and he's not even worried about dieing in the effort. He knows he can beat the Daleks. He's done it before. And the fact that the Daleks actually brush Rose aside to accelerate their stratagem shows that they know he means business. That when the Doctor says he's going to win - he's to be taken seriously. Regardless of the circumstances.
I loved the feel of that moment. There's a big nasty fight just around the corner and the Doctor's not afraid of it. Fantastic stuff that's exhilarating to watch even if you're not that teenaged boy anymore!
As I write this, it's still one more day before I get to watch "Parting of Ways". Again, I've read all the spoilers and know how it will resolve. But again, this matters little. I have still spent most of my week dieing to see this final episode of the season. And that is because the penultimate episode was so well-achieved that I can't wait for the "bang" this story will finish off with.
Yes, there are a few flaws to "Bad Wolf" (ie: the "Bad Wolf" flashback sequence bordered on American T.V. cheesiness) but they pale so much in comparison to the strengths of this episode that I can almost ignore them entirely. With stories like these, I feel the wait for a new series was more than worth it. This is what season finales are supposed to be all about....
WHAT AN EPISODE! I wasn’t surprised as PREVIOUSLY flashed across the screen as highlights from “The Long Game” – the episode I’ve enjoyed the least – played. From various sources I’d heard this episode would be set in the year 200,000 so it was just a matter of 200,000 + 200,000 = “Long Game” sequel. However, although I didn’t care much for “The Long Game” it did raise some unanswered questions about the human race being held back, questions that needed to be answered.
So the Doctor awakes in the “Big Brother” house, authentic in every way right down to the theme tune. His housemates looked just like the type of wannabe-famous nobodies today’s version of the show dredges up. It really was exceptionally well done. As the Doctor slumps himself down in the Diary Room, Davina McCall’s voice says “…you are live on channel 4400. Please do not swear…” the Doctor just says “…you have got to be kidding!” and I think he spoke for the entire audience. Doctor Who in Big Brother? That would never work! Well it did, and here’s how.
As the Doctor’s memories gradually return, we are introduced to Lynda (with a ‘y’) who if we didn’t know better we’d say the Doctor was developing a romantic ‘thing’ for. He even called her “sweet,” though that was likely just to cheer her up. I found it a clever plot device introducing her character, setting her up as a potential companion, especially considering what happens later in the episode. It certainly keeps us guessing. As the Doctor remembers being “beamed” out of the TARDIS, I like his reference that they had just escaped from Kyoto, Japan. It’s good to know that the TARDIS crew have had adventures other than those we see on TV, at least from a continuity point of view. With only thirteen Eccleston episodes, over time, as with the 8th Doctor, his story needs to be continued in novels and maybe even audio dramas one day. After “The Parting of the Ways” I for one will be delving into the new BBC novels for my weekly Who-fix! Eccleston’s performance in this episode is right up there with “Dalek” in my opinion. The intensity he brings to the point is amazing as he realises it’s not just ‘a game’; the look in his eyes as he speaks to the camera; “I’m getting out. I’m gonna find my friends. Then I’m gonna find YOU.”
After the credits Rose wakes up in “The Weakest Link.” She encounters Roderick, who for a while I thought might be an ally to her. He explained about how people are brought from the Earth via Transmat and forced to play in these game shows. Like the Doctor in the Big Brother house, the music, the presenter, the set, the lighting; everything was perfect. If the production team where going to do this, they had to get it right. After her initial disorientation arriving, Rose has a great time laughing away to herself, totally unaware of the danger that she is in. The Annedroid is brilliantly realised, complete with Anne Robinson’s voice (and manner!). The Annedroid grilling Rose is a wonderful scene – “…so you’re unemployed but you can still afford peroxide?” Fantastic! Fitch’s apparent death scene when she is voted off is made all the more grizzly by Rose’s apathy. “That’s the game,” Rose says as Fitch is panicking.
Her apparent death at the hands of the Annedroid is quite disturbing – it’s just “You are the Weakest Link. Goodbye,” then disintegration! As the smoke clears we just hear “Adverts. Back in three minutes,” which made it very eerie indeed. This kind of horror is just business as usual for the people of the year 200,100. In another clever plot device, the contestant Rob tries to do a runner only to be disintegrated by the Annedroid, thwarting Rose’s ideas of escape, leaving her stuck in the game, playing for her life!
In a somewhat cheaper and less elaborate setting, Captain Jack wakes up in “What Not To Wear.” We are treated to a horribly gratuitous “defabrication” which leaves him standing naked, but somehow it still works as it doesn’t phase Jack one bit. In fact, he’s loving it. “You’re viewing figures just went up!” He even has a cheeky grope of Zu-Zana’s breasts! For me, though, the scariest part of the episode was when a naked Jack was faced with the marauding Trine-e and Zu-Zana droids. “Face off…. I think he’d look good with a dog’s head… or no head at all! That would be outrageous! How about putting his legs in the middle of his chest?” That really is chilling stuff, far scarier than even the Annedroid. Jack’s solution, though, was as comical as the droids were scary, as he pulled a ‘compact laser deluxe’ from out of his ass and blew them to pieces. It made me laugh watching “Confidential” to learn that the BBC made the producers removed the scenes of his naked bottom!
As Crosbie is evicted from the Big Brother house, like Rose’s attitude towards Fitch being voted off, the Doctor is nonchalant. His speech about getting out and making a fortune was hilarious and very true, the bit about “make a fitness video and she’ll be laughing” was particularly funny. Suddenly, though, the Doctor sits bolt upright and he’s paying attention as he sees Crosbie disintegrated before his eyes. Lynda’s “…she’s been evicted… from life” line encapsulates the horror wonderfully. The Doctor cleverly reasoned that whoever brought him into the house would have killed him already if they wanted him dead, so he damages the cameras with his sonic screwdriver in order to get evicted.
Then we come to it. “Bad Wolf.” From it’s very title we expected something more from this episode, something extra on top of all the action, drama and laughs that we’ve become accustomed to. The Broff character (the Gamestation employee) was a very good way of building up the intrigue as he himself was an employee of Gamestation, and even he saw that something was going on. His character talks of “stories” and “rumours that go back decades.” More importantly, he speaks about something being hidden underneath the Gamestation’s programme transmissions. By the time we meet the visually impressive controller, we have far more questions than answers.
Yes, ‘Bad Wolf’ is the name of the corporation running Gamestation, as we find out from Roderick. The other shoe drops and Rose finally puts it all together. For the benefit of the casual viewer, who bar the explicit reference in “Boom Town” probably never noticed any of the ‘Bad Wolf’ references, we are treated to Rose’s memories of most of the times she encountered those two words while travelling with the Doctor (though how she remembered Van Statten’s helicopter saying “Bad Wolf One descending” when she wasn’t there is puzzling. I know… I’m pedantic!) Rose realises that she has been brought onto Gamestation for a reason, though her time is running out as she goes one on one with Roderick in the final round of “The Weakest Link!”
The Doctor is at his best as he is evicted from the house, and as of course he isn’t ‘disintegrated’ he breaks out with ease, taking his flirtatious new young lady friend with him. I noted that he promised he would get her out alive. I don’t know why, and I hope it isn’t so because I quite like Lynda, but I have this horrible feeling she is going to die in “The Parting of the Ways.” Some of her banter with the Doctor is some of the best we’ve seen in the series… “I moisturise…”, “Bear with me,” et al. and I loved the line about the Doctor not paying for his TV Licence. “You can get executed for that!” a shocked Lynda informs him. The penalties haven’t got that much worse then 198,000 years on! “Let ‘em try!” the Doctor boasts, inviting Lynda’s “Who are you then Doctor?” line of questioning, leading to the inevitable “I could come with you… I wouldn’t get in the way…” and the Doctor’s “I wouldn’t mind if you did.” For a casual viewer, bombarded with press headlines about Billie Piper allegedly quitting the show, this looks just like the introduction of a new female companion, perhaps even love interest for our favourite Timelord.
Finally realising that he is on Satellite 5, the Doctor boasts about defeating the Jagrafess 100 years earlier; “Nothing serious. Easy,” he claims. As Lynda looks out at the Earth for the first time (third time for us in the same set… ) Eccleston gives one of his customary 9th Doctor speeches; “The Human Race. Brainless Sheep…” until he realises his big mistake. Yes, he saved Earth from the Jagrafess. He “put things right…” and then he left, and thinking back it was one of the hastiest departures at the end of an episode this series. After he left, Lynda tells us of the 100 years of hell that ensued after all the news channels shut down. The governments and the economy froze, and there was nothing left. Everything was set for ‘Bad Wolf’ to move in with it’s distinctive brand of snuff TV. “I made this world…” says a sombre Doctor. When the Doctor and Lynda find Jack, Jack of course flirts with Lynda, to the Doctor’s obvious jealously. The Doctor, having seen the “Bad Wolf” corporation’s logo and realised that someone has manipulated his “entire (9th?) life” is angry at everything, tipping over computers and shouting about stupid systems. Although we know that ‘Bad Wolf’ is the Corporation running the Gamestation, I’m sure there is more to it. The clues, for one, are yet to be explained…
“The Weakest Link” final is an unbelievably tense affair as we know from the off Rose knows nothing of relevance in the year 200,000 other than 1 or 2 lucky guesses and it’s just a matter of time before she is disintegrated. But the Doctor always saves the day, and we have the Doctor, Jack and Lynda rushing up to “The Weakest Link” stage – the Doctor staring intently at the numbers of the floors the lift passes. Inevitably Rose loses the game, and although Jack, the Doctor and Lynda burst in seemingly in the nick of time, this time they are too late. The Annedroid apparently kills Rose; the Doctor and his two surviving friends arrested by Gamestation security – an absolute masterstroke by Russell T. Davies. On the one hand, we have newspaper rumours about Billie Piper leaving the show, and on the other we have a potential new companion appearing in the form of Lynda, and Rose’s apparent death. I almost believed she was gone myself for a moment! Moreover, we get to explore the effect’s Rose’s demise would have on the Doctor without actually having her killed. The moment when he was arrested said it all – Eccleston’s eyes. The Doctor just wasn’t there. He had totally lost the plot. In his interrogation there were no jokes, no witty responses, no talking at all. His mug shots carried the same blank expression – the engine appeared to be running, but with no one at the wheel.
After being sentenced to the Lunar Penal Colony (a nice in-joke as the Doctor was sent there in “Frontier in Space,” a story which unravelled clues about a Dalek army the Doctor would go after in the next story, “Planet of the Daleks”) Jack and the Doctor have a brilliant moment where they just say “Let’s do it.” The Doctor is so angry, so distraught and grief-stricken he even violently rams the guard into the wall. Pertwee’s Venusian Karate aside, the Doctor has never, ever been a violent man. To see him like this, totally gone over the edge was both painful and a wonder to watch, especially bearing in mind Eccleston’s mercurial performance. Armed to the teeth, the trio head for Floor 500, just in time for the ‘solar flares’ we’ve heard the Controller panicking about throughout the episode. For a moment, huge alien weapon in hand, the Doctor looks at the Controller in the same way he looked at the Dalek in “Dalek.” Finally, his true self triumphs as he amusingly throws his gun to Broff, then begins to question him! Broff’s face is a classic as he looks at the Doctor, bemused. “…But I have your gun???”
Broff soon reveals his ‘log’ of suspicious going on to the Doctor and Jack. Jack finds the TARDIS, which works out that Rose isn’t in fact dead, she’s just been transmatted… somewhere. At this point the Doctor appears to be infused with life and optimism… he gets his ‘mojo’ back!
As the solar flares knock out the transmissions, we hear the voice of the true Controller. Her cryptic message, all the more creepy as it’s coming from her pasty white eerie face, tells us about her masters “hidden in the dark space… watching… shaping the Earth for so so many years….” who “fear the Doctor.” Even if the surprise had not been totally spoiled by last week’s trailer, who else could it be?
Rose wakes up on board a stunningly designed Dalek saucer. Not only was the interior beautifully created, it had that wonderful retro / organic / Flash Gordon look that has worked so well in the series. The director teases us with a view through the Dalek’s eyepiece as it stalks Rose, then as the Controller is transmatted onto the Dalek ship for her disobedience and subsequently exterminated, we are teased that little bit more as we see the slightly blurred reflections of several Daleks on the saucer’s interior wall. The Controller’s dying cry “I have brought your destruction…” served as a wonderful lead into the cliff-hanger.
Whilst Jack turns his attentions to flirting with Broff, the Doctor speaks of the ‘Long Game’ the Daleks have played in controlling the human race. At the time of episode 7, I thought the title “The Long Game” was a total misnomer – it seemed to bear no relation to the episode at all. Even now, having seen “Bad Wolf,” I think “The Long Game” would be a far better title for this episode, especially as it contains not only the three game shows, but the explanation of what this ‘Long Game’ actually is! Moreover, despite it’s title, “Bad Wolf” does not explain who or what is responsible for these references painted all over the universe, so calling this episode “Bad Wolf” is nearly as silly as calling “The Long Game” “The Long Game.” Not that it really matters or ought. What does matter is that the Daleks have been using the transmissions from Gamestation to hide 200 Dalek ships – nearly half a million Daleks! The reveal of the saucers is nothing short of epic; the music, the saucers themselves, the camera movement… absolutely stunning. We’ve never seen a Dalek army like this, and from the teasers and trailers for “The Parting of the Ways…” well. It’s going to be immense! We’ve seen the odd Dalek saucer here, a Dalek army in deep-freeze there, but never, ever half a million Daleks floating through space, ready for full-scale war!
Finally the Dalek menace is revealed to the audience. “WE ARE DETECTED!” In typical cheesy sci-fi serial style, the Daleks reveal their entire plan to the Doctor, then ask him not to intervene, using the age-old hostage bluff. What does the Doctor say? “No.”
I was as confused as the Daleks were! “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS NEGATIVE?” And then we got it… if ever a speech has encapsulated who the Doctor is, or what the show is about, then this it. Say what you like about Russell T. Davies, the man is a genius and his work on this show has been nothing short of phenomenal. This speech must have flowed from his pen sat in his Cardiff flat, a huge 9th Doctor like grin on his face…
“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 stinking Dalek out of the sky!”
“BUT YOU HAVE NO WEAPONS! NO DEFENCES! NO PLAN”
“And doesn’t that scare the hell out of you!!!!”
Russell T. Davies must have written that then leaned back on his chair with a huge grin on his face. Then he must have thought, “how in the blue hell is he gonna do all that????” and I cannot wait to see how!!!
Wow! That was good. I have a feeling that there will be actual tears when I watch the finale. Christopher Eccleston is just brilliant as the Doctor; the Doctor who doesn't stand around waiting for explanations - a Doctor who just does what he has to. Brilliant. I'm missing him already!
As far as the episode is concerned, the idea that reality shows are beamed to the populace to cover up an impending invasion is very satirical but also ingenius. I liked seeing the Doctor in the Big Brother house, acting as I know he would act. He was irritated by it all and wanted a way out. Excellent sequence which more could have been made of. The Doctor would be a more interesting housemate than the ones we have now!
I thought the What Not to Wear was less interesting, but when Captain Jack took the laser out of his ass I just couldn't believe it! A really good idea. It reminds me of the IRA prisoners in the H-Block jails who used to stuff cigarette packets to smuggle them in and exchange. Probably isn't good for prostate though.
The Weakest Link was also a good sequence and while I think Paterson Joseph is a good actor, you really did not quite believe him in this - there was something 'amateur' about his performance. The woman who got zapped first was definitely better in the small time she had! And when Rose got vaporised I really did think that was it - I mean we have been hearing she is and she isn't returning to the series. The look on the Doctor's face when he thinks she's gone was brilliant. He didn't fight off the guard cuffing him, he just looked crestfallen - like his whole world had crumbled. I did punch the air when he and Jack attacked the guards in the cell though. Go on my son!
I did not quite understand the fact that the laser was a transmat beam. We saw Rose on the Dalek ship, but where were all the other people who got zapped. And why are they zapping them all to their ships? Surely the Daleks couldn't fit them all! I'm sure this will be explained in the next episode. And the Bad Wolf thing hasn't really been properly explained, has it?
All in all, a fantastic episode and I have tried to avoid all the internet ramblings. Mr brother reckons the controller of the Daleks will definitely be Davros, I reckon it will be the Dalek Emperor and my friend at work Adam mentioned something about it being a deformed Bruno Langley [think Evelyn Smythe in Real Time]. I love the way I have no idea.
Roll on the finale!
I think RTD needs to look up the word ‘satire’ in the dictionary – somewhere in the definition the word ‘irony’ is mentioned. Now irony doesn’t seem to feature much in this episode. Nor does subtlety for that matter. RTD presents us with satire for the under 5s: instead of extrapolating the philistine dross that is Big Brother into a future scenario in which it takes on a different guise with a different name and set but detectably similar theme which the audience can pick up on and compare to their contemporaneous equivalent, RTD decides to simply reproduce exactly the same programme, along with its other cousin reality TV monstrosities, replace its hosts with androids who are obviously modeled on the real life presenters, and place it ludicrously over 200,000 years in the future. What we get then isn’t satire at all, but just direct replication of said programmes presumably as a vehicle to further cement New Who in the commercial public consciousness by meshing it with other TV brandnames (no doubt in a further misguided attempt to get teenagers identifying with it) without any notable sense of irony whatsoever. This is laziness of the imagination on a stupendous scale. Robert Holmes provided biting tax-related satire in The Sunmakers with references such as ‘inner retinue’ and it is rather despairing to deduce from this episode’s satirical failure just how RTD perceives his modern day audience: incapable of detecting subtext. Either RTD is overly cynical about his audience or society really has degenerated intellectually in the last 15 odd years to a clutch of atavists who need everything literally spelt out in front of their eyes. So we also get The Weakest Link, also with exactly the same sets and an absurd and pitifully written reference to ‘Call My Bluff – with real guns’. What the hell possessed him to write that line? It is amateur beyond belief. Greatest Show in the Galaxy was the last great Who satire, and, despite some fairly cringeworthy scenes here and there, demonstrated quite consummately how Who really can do this difficult genre to great effect. Happiness Patrol, despite its garishness, was another consummate satire (though it included some incongruous embarrassments script-wise with lines like ‘no more queues at the post office’). For God’s sake, even the fairly staid and lifeless Colin Baker era produced a reasonable satire – and surprisingly prophetic take on the future of (reality) TV, specifically voting programmes, not properly manifest back in 1985 – with Vengeance on Varos. One must ask then what exactly RTD was trying to say here? This is not polemical in particularly, only possibly in its rather lazy and unimaginative take on terminal versions of reality game shows, but this is 16 year old stuff. There is no satire here, at least not noticeably, because RTD doesn’t seem to be saying anything at all about the nature of reality TV, only reproducing it on a slightly more extreme level – therefore one can only assume it is yet another symptom of his all-too-blatant obsession with stamping popular culture all over the face of a once truly escapist and eccentric series. RTD missed a brilliant opportunity to truly criticize and comment on the insidious nature of reality TV here – a massive disappointment.
Nevertheless, the Trinny and Susannah scenes were actually quite well done and more understated than the clumsier others; their android equivalents were nicely designed and reminiscent of the Kandyman (which isn’t necessarily a criticism). Ann Robinson’s robot alter ego was also well realized despite the ludicrous red wig it had on. And a nice touch with the Big Brother eye symbol was the milky way swirling within its pupil on close up. So, the direction of these scenes – Jack’s prancing around nude and picking a gun from his arse aside – just about managed to override the simplicity and satirical barrenness of the scriptorial concepts; the better elements of these scenes reminded me a little of some of the McCoy era ‘oddballs’ such as Happiness Patrol and Greatest Show. There was a feeling of menace too, which was a masterful achievement for a director given such embarrassingly one-dimensional material to play with. Of course you may take it as read that I absolutely detest reality TV and regard it as the death of quality programming, and that I cringed at the sound of the Big Brother theme in some of the scenes – an horrendously sterile and visceral electronic racket of a theme – and find the only irony in this part of the episode being, unnervingly, the fact that the ultimate in unimaginative television gets a plug in – what was once and still could be – the ultimate in imaginative TV: Doctor Who.
Still, let’s just say RTD might just about have got away with his soundbite, commercially-preoccupied take on Who this time round – why? Well, because other aspects to this episode were well-realised and sufficiently intriguing to help the viewer ‘get over’ these cringeworthy reality TV intrusions; namely the behind-the-scenes programme riggers and particularly the excellently realized woman wired up rather like the Emperor Dalek in Evil of the Daleks, and the very impressive and vast sets they inhabited; and of course the impressive scale of the cliffhanger. What this episode had over all the other RTD episodes was a genuine energy, sense of menace and suspense, and engaging forward-moving drive to a genuinely thrilling climax. That, and the brilliantly realized What Not To Wear androids, rescue Bad Wolf by a hair’s breadth from being taped over on my video recorder (metaphorically speaking) and confined to collecting dust along with Aliens/War III and End of the World, the latter completely ruined by inclusion of a Britney Spears song, which is a pity as otherwise it stood up as a reasonable episode. Bad Wolf is easily RTD’s best episode so far, despite the appalling failure at satire by just duplicating contemporary reality programmes down to theme tunes, sets and logos (was RTD saving on the budget or what?) and placing them in a completely unbelievable future date, as usual. I hope this Relative Time Disorder is eclipsed by what promises to be a big climax in the next episode – let’s hope Captain Jack doesn’t take a shine to Davros’s nodules!