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Jun 18, 2005

Bless him.

"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 ..."

Comments

I posted a comment about the Big Brother house etc, saying I could cry... Well, now, puttng my disbelief behind me and also the excellent nature of this series... All I can say is, amen to RTD. I am so glad he brought back this series. Im 24 and I rememmber Peter Davidson onwards (& watched Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Baker) but nothing compares to this series. This is the Dr Who I wanted, not the old people who remember it for the average effects (the storylines were good but...), some-person compained "enough of flying Daleks, we get the message" but if they can fly why the hell not, and if the budget supports it (for once) then go crazy. I am happy to see the pepperpots scary. I know I will make hardcore fans angry, but I am one of you, happy to see it back. I have books, magazines, videos and DVD's. My only regret is the new books 'seem' to be for kids unlike the virgin series. i know people will disagree and Im sorry, but for this 24 yr old, Dr Who had the revamp it needed.

Deux Ex Machina isn't normally a plot device i'd forgive, but this was great, since it was not only the nature of the plot, it also literally described the way Daleks and the Tardis were played.

My only other thought worth writing down is about the Daleks: I think maybe a couple of dozen Daleks would have worked better than the thousands: the more you have, the more diluted it gets.

Everything else just total praise y'know (and my partner is still ~verysad~ at Ecclestons departure), and I can't be bothered to write paragraphs and paragraphs when everyone here knows exactly what i'm saying!

"And you know what? So was I." Fantastic last words. And so true, Chris - you were.

I hope that with the Cybermen or the next Dalek story we get a full-on invasion of contemporary Earth with UNIT in the front line.

Just a couple of questions:

1) Who exactly did Rose bring back to life? Just Jack? Everyone on the station? Everyone killed on Earth as well? Was Lynda one of those brought back to life?

2) What did the Moxx of Balhoon mean by "this looks like a classic Bad Wolf situation"? Or did Rose just insert those words into his speech?

Ah, one other thing. I was in Cambridge and noticed that they were going to show Doctor Who on a BBC big screen. I was unable to attend, but did anyone watch Doctor Who with a crowd on one of these big outdoor screens while having a picnic on this warm summer's evening? Sounds like great fun to me and I'd like to know what the experience was like if anyone did so.

Quick question - is that the last we'll here of the bad wolf?

I'm not going to get too deep into this. This series was excellent. The regeneration was goose-bumpingly good. Tennant will be great but am I the only one who thinks he is a lookee-likee for Richard Hammond that annoying little prat from Top Gear? He has similar mannerisms too. Has anyone seen them in the same room at the same time? I'm just worried the TARDIS will land back on Earth and some kid will spraypaint "Top Gear" on the side. We've already had Anne Robinson. I just don't think I could bear a Jeremy Clarkson cameo next series...

I have been conditioned to look out for Bad Wolf references. It will be quite disconcerting if there isn't one in The Christmas Invasion. Although I was rather hoping that Bad Wolf would actually mean something or have some symbolic significance. I guess you can work in a Red Riding Hood analogy if you really wanted to.

Daryl, in answer to your question, I think Rose only brought Jack back to life but the Doctor stopped her before she revived anybody else. (That's how I read it, anyway!)

There must be loads more BW references - Rose/TARDIS/Vortex/Whatever planted them through space and time so they should still show up - much to Rose's embarassment and annoyance (not that she'll remember). Oh bollocks, it doesn't really work, does it? ;-)

Thanks GC. I was a little unclear on that point. It's a bit of a shame that we already know that Jack will be back in the second half of the next series as his return could have been a real surprise. Not that they would have been able to keep it a secret, of course.

I hope at some point the exact nature of the Time War will be explored a bit more, but I suspect this may be left to the novels as the series will probably want to move on. How exactly DID the Doctor destroy (almost) the entire Dalek race? Did they destroy Gallifrey or did the Doctor do it to wipe out the Daleks as well? And again - if so, how? And which other races were involved in the Time War and which side were they on?

One brief bit I did miss was how much time Rose's amnesia covered. Was it just during her demi-god status or has she forgotten anything else?

Talking of Jack, in all the excitement of the finale I can't believe that I forgot that Jack's 2 missing years still hasn't been explained. Please don't let the writers forget about this!

Also, I've been reading on this site about a number code that kept appearing in different places. Has anyone figured out what it was about?

I can't imagine they'll keep having Bad Wolf references in the series; it would get annoying quickly. You could rationalise it by saying that Rose scatters the words throughout space-time, but concentrated around their past travels. Otherwise, why should it appear in this season, and not on Spirodon, Terminus or Dulkis?

I'm hoping they'll follow the Babylon 5 path and bring CE back for a prequel telemovie covering what ACTUALLY happened during the Time War.

Wouldn't CE, daleks and the destruction of Gallifrey make a great 2006 Christmas special? [with no disrespect to DT, who I think will be great in the role].

Has the Time War and the destruction of the Time Lords ever been covered on screen? Have the events the Ninth Doctor talked about all series ever been shown, or even discussed, previously?

Daryl - in regard to your 'how much did Rose forget' question, she remembers being IN the TARDIS, so it's logical to assume that only remembers up to the point where she looks into the heart of the TARDIS. After that, it would probably be a blank as her mind is filled with the Time Vortex, which is apparently a pretty big thing to have crammed into such a small space, so I'm not surprised it was killing her. Ouch!

As far as I can tell, the new series is the only place outside of the novels (and possibly audio adventures, I haven't heard any apart from the one with Colin Baker where the Daleks attempt to invade Gallifrey) where the Time War has been mentioned, although with the possibility of the BBC going for another movie, maybe they could use that to cover what happened. Maybe get Paul McGann back to detail what happened, regenerating at the end into the Christopher Eccleston we all know and love... now who wouldn't want to see that?

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