Monday, 17 October 2016

Story 166 - Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways

In which the Doctor and his companions suddenly wake to find themselves in deadly versions of TV game shows. The Doctor is in the Big Brother House - where evictees are vapourised. Jack meets robot fashionistas Trin-E and Zu-Zana, of What Not To Wear. After considering his wardrobe, they plan to use lethal weapons to refashion his physiognomy. Rose finds herself playing The Weakest Link, hosted by the Ann-Droid. Losing contestants are also vapourised. The Doctor realises that someone has removed them from the TARDIS. He deliberately has himself evicted - knowing that whoever is responsible isn't going to kill him. They could have done this before now. He takes with him another contestant - Lynda - after proving to her that she is unlikely to have survived to win the competition. He discovers that they are on Satellite 5 - now renamed the Game Station. It is run by the Bad Wolf Corporation. Lynda explains that 100 years ago, the news channels suddenly stopped broadcasting. Society on Earth collapsed. The Doctor is horrified to learn that he was responsible for this, as it is 100 years since his last visit here. Jack destroys his robot captors and joins them. They search for Rose and head for the Weakest Link studio. However, they are too late, and the Doctor sees Rose vapourised.

They are captured by security forces, who plan to imprison them in a lunar penal colony. The Doctor and Jack quickly break free and head for Floor 500, to confront whoever is in charge here. In the control room, one of the TV programmers has been detecting strange signals coming from the station. A young woman is linked to the station's computers, with all the channels being processed through her brain. She has been here since she was a child. The Doctor, Jack and Lynda arrive. Jack finds the TARDIS hidden in a side room. He goes in and checks the systems, and discovers the true nature of the signals that the programmer has been detecting. The contestants who are being vapourised are really being transmatted off the station. Rose is still alive somewhere. The programme controller tries to warn the Doctor but is transmatted away and killed. The Doctor has the station monitors focus on the region of space to where the signals are being broadcast. At first it appears to be empty, but then they see a vast fleet of saucer-like craft - Dalek spaceships. Rose is on the huge command ship, a prisoner of the Daleks. The Doctor signals to the fleet that he is coming to get her...

The Doctor pilots the TARDIS towards the Dalek command saucer. It materialises on board. Emerging, he and Jack are confronted by a vast army of Daleks, led by the Emperor. This is a massive static Dalek, with its own private guard of black-domed Daleks. It is a survivor of the Time War. It has spent centuries creating a new army, using cells from captured humans. It is quite mad, and the Daleks have been conditioned to worship it as their god. Rose is rescued, and the TARDIS returns to the Game Station where Jack begins to plan its defences. The Doctor has a scheme to destroy the entire Dalek fleet, but this will wipe out half the Earth. The fleet begins to advance on the Station. The Doctor tricks Rose into entering the TARDIS, which he has set to return her to London in 2006 by remote control. She is reunited with her mother and Mickey. The Doctor has left a hologram message that the TARDIS will simply shut down and eventually be forgotten about. Rose refuses to return to her old life and seeks a way of getting back to the Doctor. Eventually, Jackie and Mickey realise that she will never stay, so decide to help her. Recalling that the TARDIS console had opened when they were in Cardiff recently, she tries to make it open for her.

The Daleks arrive in orbit around Earth and begin devastating the planet. They invade the Game Station and begin working their way towards Floor 500. Jack and a number of station personnel try to fight them, but to no avail. Lynda is amongst those killed, along with the TV programmer. Jack is then himself killed. On Earth, Rose sees the phrase "Bad Wolf" written all over the place. She realises that this is a message to herself - that she can get back to the Doctor. Jackie borrows a tow-truck, and this is powerful enough to open the TARDIS console. The doors slam shut as Rose is filled with Vortex energy, and the ship hurtles back to the year 200,100. The Doctor is captured by the Daleks, and admits that he could never use his device to destroy the Daleks and half of the human race. He is about to be exterminated when the TARDIS materialises.

Rose emerges, now containing the entire Vortex. This makes her omnipotent. She brings Jack back to life, then takes the name of the corporation and spreads the words throughout time - as a message for herself. Finally, she removes the Daleks and their vessels from existence. The Doctor realises that she will die if she holds the energy for much longer, and so absorbs it into himself. He bundles her into the TARDIS and dematerialises. Jack arrives too late. Rose wakes to find the Doctor is seriously ill. He tells her that he is about to change, and he won't look like this anymore. The Vortex energy has triggered a regeneration. Rose sees the Doctor's body engulfed in a blaze of energy - and suddenly there is a different man standing where the Doctor had been. After a quick check on his appearance, he completes what the Doctor had been telling her. Rose looks on, dumbfounded...

Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways were written by Russell T Davies, and were broadcast on June 11th and 18th, 2005. It marks the end of Series 1 of the revamped show, and these are the last two episodes to feature Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. Naturally, it also features the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It sees the return of the Daleks en masse, and brings the Bad Wolf story arc to a conclusion. It also lays the seeds for Captain Jack's further adventures, name-checking the new show he will soon have all to himself - which will also be Series 2's story arc.
Davies had planned a story with lethal versions of TV game shows for a while. It is a very New Adventures concept, and could easily have found a home in the show back in the McCoy / Cartmel era. Indeed, both The Happiness Patrol and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy feature deadly talent contests.
Sadly, Eccleston's departure from the series had been made public way back just after his first appearance, so viewers were denied a surprise regeneration. Tennant had been a life-long fan of the show and had just starred in RTD's Casanova, and everyone was recommending the young Scot to Davies as the next Doctor. Davies is on record as saying that had Eccleston not decided to leave at the end of the first series, he might have had Rose depart. There is a ready-made companion in waiting on show here - Lynda. Instead, she suffers a heartbreaking demise. It is a remarkable death scene. The Doctor has promised to keep her safe. She is in a sealed off room monitoring the movement of the Daleks through the station when suddenly a trio float up outside the window. We don't hear what they say, but the dome lights blink out the word "Ex-ter-mi-nate" and they shatter the glass. Poor Lynda with a Y.

In the past, Dalek stories were always hampered by the obvious lack of props available to represent armies. We had to make do with flat photo blow-ups to swell numbers, or watch as the same four Daleks went round the back of the camera a few times to make it look like there were dozens of them coming through a doorway. The paucity of Daleks is at its most extreme in the concluding episode of Day of the Daleks, when it is obvious there are just the three of them. Vast armies of Daleks were confined to our imaginations, or the pages of TV Comic. Now, finally, we get to see a huge Dalek fleet of comic-like saucers, and thousands of Daleks emerge floating through space to attack the Station. The CGI doesn't quite stretch to showing us the attack on Earth. That's dealt with on some monitors, as the continents are melted out of shape. Ironically, there are just a a few Dalek props here as well, but split screen work multiplies their numbers.
Rose's return to Earth, to have a tantrum in a fast food outlet, does rather break the flow of the final episode, but it does finally resolve the Bad Wolf story arc.
This series has had a lot of very emotional moments - which some fans have not liked as they think them manipulative. I defy anyone to watch the Doctor's hologram message to Rose and not be moved - especially when he turns and appears to look right at her.
Story Arc points: 

  • As I mentioned last time, under Boom Town, this has been by far the most successful of all the story arcs - in that it gripped the wider media. It wasn't just fans who were keen to know. Turns out it's Rose herself - at least one inhabited by the Temporal Vortex. Bad Wolf Rose will be back.
  • The events on Satellite 5 from The Long Game are seen to have had repercussions.
  • The Daleks appear to be totally destroyed, but we know now of at least two lots that have escaped the Time War - the lone one from earlier in the series and the Emperor.
  • The Extrapolator from Boom Town is used to create a force-field protecting the upper floors of the Station.
  • First ever mention of a deadlock seal, which the sonic screwdriver can't open.
  • One of the questions in The Weakest Link mentions Torchwood...

Overall, a remarkable conclusion to what has been a remarkable series. No-one knew just how well the revamped show might have worked. It could have been a total flop. 11 years later, we're impatiently waiting for Series 10 to begin, and the third spin-off series is just about to launch. A lot of this is down to Bad Wolf, and especially to Christopher Eccleston - who was a fantastic Doctor. Such a shame he can't be lured back.
Things you might like to know:
  • Jo Stone-Fewing, who plays the male programmer, had just been in one of RTD's last series - Mine All Mine. This featured "Dalek Supreme" John Scott Martin in one of his final TV roles. Martin offered his services as a Dalek wrangler for the new series.
  • Jo Joyner - the nearly companion Lynda - went on to become a mainstay of Eastenders.
  • Rose's obnoxious fellow competitor Rodrick is played by Patterson Joseph, whose name continually features when new Doctors are about to be announced.
  • I have always had a slight problem with the cause of the Doctor's regeneration. Rose holds the Vortex for a considerable amount of time, and is a mere human. She's up on her feet minutes later. The Doctor takes it only briefly, and is a Time Lord, yet it kills him. Doesn't seem quite right.
  • There's an unseen adventure mentioned. After dropping off Margaret Slitheen's egg, the travellers have been to medieval Kyoto.
  • Doctor Who novels are referenced amongst the Weakest Link questions.
  • The production team managed to secure the real presenters of all three game shows featured, to provide voices. Davina McCall is the Davina-Droid for Big Brother. Ann Robinson voices the Ann-Droid, and Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine voice their robot counterparts.
  • The female Controller (Martha Cope) is connected up to the Station's systems by thick piping. When she is transmatted away we see that this has a hexagonal pattern to it. This is a visual reference to the original Dalek Emperor from Evil of the Daleks
  • Cope is the daughter of actor Kenneth Cope, who had appeared in Warrior's Gate during Tom Baker's final season, and is best known for his ghostly appearances in cult detective series Randall and Hopkirk. Tom Baker had a recurring role in its short-lived remake.
  • The new Emperor - a model made by Mike Tucker's team - has black-domed bodyguards floating around it. Black domed Imperial Guards also featured in Evil of the Daleks.
  • Bad Wolf attempts to keep the appearance of the Daleks a surprise - quite unsuccessfully. First of all, Daleks were shown in the "Next Time" teaser at the end of the previous episode. Then we clearly hear the Dalek Heartbeat sound effect when Rose finds herself on their ship. You can clearly see Dalek reflections on the wall when Rose wakes up, and when the Controller is killed - the extermination effect being the same as that seen in Dalek.
  • The Dalek saucers are a homage to those 1960's TV Comic strips. Those who like to watch the DVDs with the new CGI effects will have seen them in action already in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Purists are weirdly content to stick with the pastry cutters dangling on strings in front of a photo of the Houses of Parliament. Sadly, the new CGI on that DVD hasn't corrected the Doctor and Ian looking at totally different parts of the sky...
  • That Extrapolator will be seen again. However, it seems to get left behind on the station. There is no time for the Doctor to disconnect it and bring it onto the ship.
  • Apparently it took nearly a year of negotiations to use Big Brother in this. The other two series referenced already belonged to the BBC. Once Endemol were on board, however, they were right behind it - allowing a remix of the music and the new logo with the starfield behind it. Then broadcasters, Channel 4, were referenced as this version is screening on Channel 44000. It is still struggling on in the UK, on Channel 5. The regular version is watched by no-one - so no new non-entities have been sprung on the popular media. The "celebrity" version does have a handful of viewers I'm told.
  • The big red chair we see the Doctor sit in was sold to Channel 4 and used in subsequent series of Big Brother.
  • It is said that Rose was going to be killed by the Vortex energy had Eccleston stayed on. However, Davies has always said that he would never kill the audience-identifying companion, and so her demise might have been a fake ending for preview versions of the finale. Had Rose been written out at the end of the first series, her departure would probably have been more akin to Donna's - in that the Vortex had damaged her and she had to lose all her memories of travelling with the Doctor to save her life.
  • John Barrowman celebrated his birthday on his penultimate day of filming - with the Trin-E and Zu-Zana robots (inhabited by Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe, who was also inside the Ann-Droid). He was given a remote-controlled Dalek as a gift. There was much argument about whether or not to show his naked posterior on prime time telly. Barrowman and Davies wanted it to be inflicted on the nation - nay, the world. The BBC said no. Another good reason to keep paying the licence fee.

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