"The fans are going to hate this ..."
I've said this a few times during the series and and I said it again tonight. It's an odd thing to say since it suggests I'm not a fan, but I really am. I have two shelving units filled with videos, dvds, cds and books graphically demonstrating this. But what I think it means is the hardcores. The ones who consider themselves the self appointed rulers of what's right and wrong in the series. Those who decried the brilliantly romantic moment at the end of the TV movie, the loss of the half hour episodic format, the casting of Billie Piper. What Russell T Davies has done throughout this series is largely and cleverly ignored what they think. To play to them would be to return to the series we were stuck with during the mid-Eighties when continuity was slowly throttling good story telling. Tonight's episode exemplified the Davies approach. Produced something which plays to the fans but also creates new fans. Tosses out the continuity without disregarding it.
But he also did something else. He gave it heart. I was always afraid that if you threw money at the premise it wouldn't work, that it wouldn't be the same. Thank god I was so wrong, and so right. The Parting of the Ways looked like a feature film, told an big epic global, galactic story but at its heart was a story of people, loyalty, morality and lord help us, religion. It didn't dump the essential elements while it was throwing thousands of Daleks at the screen. Davies did everything you'd want in the final episode (and in fact followed a clear model set down by new genre pioneer Joss Whedon). Produce it like it's your last, throw everything at it, but importantly underpin and underline the architypes of the series and underline everything you've been trying to accomplish. Rose saves the world in the end, because that's what she's been doing all series, and yet The Doctor is still the saviour of the universe because he inspires it of her, just as he inspired everyone from Gwyneth to Cathica. Through selflessness in words and actions. The Doctor of old had the arrogance that no one but he could win the day - this Doctor believed that everyone had that capacity. It was just a case of given them enough room to breath and showing them the way.
"Oh my god, they've killed off Jack ..."
Like the rest of the series this just kept hitting me at a gut level. Scene after scene mattered, contributing to the arc of the series, the plot of the episode, the story of the character. We found out what the Bad Wolf was (a time paradox and red herring rolled into one) and we saw The Doctor finally put his personal demons to rest. We got to see one of the best man on Dalek battles in the show's history in which we saw why they were the deadliest of foes. Taking the ideas of the Dalek episode -- the giving of an ounce of humanity to the pepperpot -- and then twisting it and darkening it. Not just loathing the universe but also loathing themselves. The design of Emperor Dalek was a great choice too, as this God created its race in its own image. We saw also that in fact it's not just The Doctor who had regenerated, Rose had too -- complete with that mess of amnesia afterwards -- she's seen too much to go back to her old life now.
But for all the writing (and this may have been Davies' best script of the series) I don't think the acting has ever been this good. In the Confidential documentary afterwards, Eccleston said that he couldn't internalise the character, that we were effectively seeing on screen was his reaction to the words and how they should be played -- it showed and it was exactly what the part called for, which sort of demonstrates what a great actor he is. Despite his epic lifespan, The Doctor has always been about how others see him and that's exactly how he appeared tonight. Is Rose Tyler the best companion we've had? It depends on your definition. But I tell you -- I don't know who else was up for the role but I can't imagine anyone else playing her. Billie Piper has simply been a dream throughout the series, funny and sad and tragic. And knowing. It's also to John Barrowman's credit that he's not felt like an interloper, although Captain Jack's been a good character -- it'll be interesting to see in Season Two if he feels discruntled about being left behinds and drifts off into his old ways.
I've written before about how it's difficult with some television to see the gaps between the director, the cameraman and the editor. It's a collaborative medium. Would this episode look and feel much different if James Hawes instead of Joe Ahearne had been the director? I don't think I'm clever enough to tell. What I will say is this. Of all the episodes this was the one which felt most consistently paced, visceral looking and deeply emotional. Characters felt less like a bunch of words than say Aliens of London and more like people. And again we saw the same values here as we'd seen throughout the series -- straight down the like drama and comedy without decended into camp. It believed in what it was doing and so we believed in it too.
"But ... he's regenerating. No. Noooo .... What! What! Hang on -- who's he going to be? Are we going to get to see it or is that the cliffhanger? We are going to see who it is ... fuck me, it's David Tennant ... Casanova's in the Tardis ..."
One of these days I'm going to build a time machine. Granted I took the arts stream at school so I did Fine Art GCSE when I could have been doing Physics, but hopefully I've got a good sixty years left on the planet so that should be just enough time to go back to school, do Physics and Chemistry and Biology as well, head off through A-Levels, get myself a degree in Quantum Physics, a PHd, a place in a great research institute, a team of mechanics and a billionare I can convince to finance a development project to build the first time machine. At the age of fifty (because I'm this for the long game) I'm going to strap myself into that extraordinary machine, flip the switch and head back in time back to this year. I'm going to get a job in the press office of the BBC and make sure I'm on duty one night in early April, so that when I see that a tabloid is going to print a story saying that Christoper Eccleston is going to quit Doctor Who, the last thing we do is confirm the bloody story. That way, this younger version of me can be shouting the words above at the screen as the latest series comes to a close instead of wondering what the experience would have been like.
"I'm still buzzing..."
The fact that it's hours since the episode aired and I'm still buzzing shows the achievement of the piece. I'm a cynical sausage really, but this is something else. This is about piling all your hopes and dreams into something and for once it actually works. You don't have to be making allowances and rationalisations because something just isn't as good as you were expecting. Refreshingly I can actually say that this is a show I'm proud to be a fan of and have all this history with. That I haven't been wasting my time as I saw it grow to fulfil its ultimate potential. And it's not over yet -- we'll still be watching this into 2007. I've said once before and I think I'll say it again.
"He's back. He's bloody back. Bless him ..."