Sunday, June 19, 2005

Doctor Who - Parting of the Ways

And so the thirteen week odyssey concludes with an episode as triumphant and as impressive as any of the previous twelve. Parting of the Ways had a lot to live up to, promising to draw together all the threads and to present a conclusion to the series which would also be a new beginning and pointing to a Christmas Special ... And it delivered on pretty much everything. First off, the cliffhanger before the credits was in the right place - this is how the previous episode should have ended, with the Doctor's words 'I'm coming to get you' rather than random squarking Daleks and a thoughtlessly placed preview for the next episode. After the credits, the episode gets down to business with the TARDIS materialising around a Dalek and Rose. Wow. I was so impressed by this. I know we'd seen it before in The Time Monster and Logopolis, but it seemed more real and exciting this time ... and they were real beings brought into the TARDIS and not inanimate objects. After this superb start, a mis-step. The introduction of the Dalek Emperor was totally without any awe ... a shame I felt. In the original Evil of the Daleks, the Doctor and Jamie are escorted along corridors by the Daleks before they emerge into the Emporer's presence, a scene given much power by the change of locale from corridor to Chamber ... here it's all the same place, there was no build up and no revelation, and the Dalek Emperor really didn't look that impressive. But he was there and the Daleks all survived through him - he fell back through time, his ship surviving the Time War (as indeed did the Dalek in Dalek ... I wonder how many others survived as well?). But he's gone a little loopy and thinks he's the God of the Daleks and they all worship him ... some nice ideas were at work here, but they weren't really explored. But the Doctor's taunts get a little to much and while the Doctor and Rose return to Satellite 5 to try and stop the Daleks invading Earth, so the Dalek fleet starts to move in for the kill. The effects of this are stunning. Truly breathtaking and better than anything else I think I've ever seen! The Doctor starts to faff around building some sort of killing Delta wave thingy on the 500th floor while Rose and Lynda look on. The interplay between these two characters was fascinating - Rose is clearly disturbed and jealous of Lynda's intent to travel with the Doctor, and with the Doctor's willingness for this to happen ... it's a shame nothing more comes of this as Lynda, along with pretty much everyone else is slaughtered by the Daleks when they arrive. The Dalek's silent 'Exterminate' outside the observation windows was a master-touch. I found these scenes sad and poignant, that the humans who offer to help the Doctor end up cannon fodder while he himself cannot bring himself to use the device he spent all the time building as it would kill all the humans as well as the Daleks ... bit of a daft thing to build then. But then the episode twists again, and the Doctor tricks Rose into the TARDIS so he can send her back to her own time and to safety with her family and friends. However Rose finally realises what the 'Bad Wolf' messages mean everywhere ... they're not a threat, they're a message from her, to her, that she can get back to the future (what?? or something anyway) and so she gets Mickey and her mum to help pull the TARDIS console to pieces so she can look into the vortex therein. This seems to give her god-like powers, and the TARDIS returns to the future and Satellite 5 for a final showdown with the Daleks. When the Slitheen looked into the heart of the TARDIS it granted her wish, that she be given another chance ... Rose's greatest wish is that the Doctor be safe and protected from the 'false god', the Dalek Emperor. So Rose, using the powers of the vortex, sends the words 'BAD WOLF' spiralling back in time as a message to herself (neat bit of paradox there), she was the Bad Wolf all the time, and then sets about returning the Daleks to dust, unmaking their very atoms. They all seem to be destroyed, including the Dalek mothership containing the Dalek Emperor. She also returns Jack to life (but what about everyone else?), but then realises she cannot live with the power. The Doctor kisses her and draws the vortex power into himself, and then returns it to the TARDIS. All seems well, Rose is alive and so is the Doctor ... but he's now dying. As he tells Rose, all his cells are dying and he's going to change ... and this he does in spectacular fashion ... turning into David Tennant and tantalising us with the promise of a trip to the planet Barcelona. The question that this ending posed for me, was that if all it took for the Daleks to be destroyed, was for a single person to look into the time vortex ... and then the resultant power channelled to another Time Lord who then simply regenerated ... then why did the Time War happen at all? The solution seems very simple with no casualties at all on the side of the Time Lords (barring one incarnation of one Time Lord). Maybe it never occurred to them to do this, but this seems a little strange for a race with all the knowledge of time and space at their fingertips ... And so the season comes to and end. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that I have enjoyed the last 13 weeks of Doctor Who as I have enjoyed nothing else on television. Probably ever. Each episode contained visuals, character and dialogue to melt the hardest of hearts, and for the most part the plots were pretty good (though these fell down slightly as a result of the need to tell a story in 45 minutes, and the frantic pace that television in the 2000s seems to need to move at). However for every Rose there was an Unquiet Dead and for every Long Game there was an Empty Child ... Christopher Eccleston was a marvel, but the true revelation was Billie Piper. She was magnificent at every turn, and her 'possession' at the end of the final episode was a magnificent scene, acted by Piper in a very real and believable fashion. The series never descended into farce or self-awareness and everyone took it all very seriously (yes, even the farting aliens). Now we have to wait until Christmas before the Doctor is back ... and The Christmas Invasion is unleashed. I can't wait. My son suggested that The Christmas Invasion be as follows: The Doctor comes up against Father Christmas (who is in fact a Slitheen), distributing gas masks made of living Nestene plastic around the world using a transmat system to achieve it all in one night ... Well stranger things have been known to happen.


David K from America said...

It's prediction time! Considering your status as something of a Doctor Who historian, how you feel this season, and Doctor, will be regarded many years hence? This is all in fun, I won't look back in ten years and say, "David was wrong!" ;) I'm simply interested in your point of view.

The Co-ordinator said...

David you're right - quite simply a fantastic conclusion to the BEST EVER season of Doctor Who.

Haven't we been lucky !!

Anonymous said... am I wrong or was "BAD WOLF" an anagram? Rose was talking about changing the letters. And if IS an anagram...what is the real word or words?

David said...

I don't *think* it's an anagram. As far as I figured, it just happened to be the real name of the company that owned the GamesWorld satellite in the future and so it was those words which super-Rose spread through time and space as a reminder to herself ... Why she couldn't have used some other writing is beyond me ... 'Look into the vortex and get back to the Doctor' might have been more helpful perhaps ... but not nearly as mysterious :)

David said...

David K:

I suspect that the season will be very highly regarded overall. The stuff with Rose's family and Mickey however will be embarrasingly dated, as will the first half of BAD WOLF with the game show stuff - kids will be going, who's she and what's the weakest link anyway?

But I think the effects will stand up as will the production and music (I still feel that all the pre-JNT stuff stands up musically, but all the JNT Radiophonic Workshop scores are now horribly dated).

Email me in 20 years time and we'll see how close I am :)