RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES' COLLECTORS' EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1770) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2005;
OR 'REGENERATION' LIMITED EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD3801) RELEASED IN JUNE 2013.
The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack have to fight for their lives on board the Game Station. But a far more dangerous threat is lurking, just out of sight.
11TH JUNE 2005
(45-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 1 OF 2)
The production team’s decision to withhold the name of this episode until very
recently quite naturally generated a lot of intrigue amongst fans of the show. I half-expected
it to be announced as “Return of the Daleks” or something equally spoiler-laden, and so when it was made public that it would actually be called Bad Wolf - a title far more cryptic than the absence of one - my interest really was piqued. Perhaps, after ten episodes of veiled references to whoever or whatever this Bad Wolf is, we were actually going to get some answers. Perhaps we were finally going to find out who is afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf.
The episode’s opening reprise of The Long Game didn’t really come as much of a surprise. I had heard rumours that the two-part season finale was going to be set in the year 200,100, and so it was just a matter of 200,000 + 200,100 = The Long Game sequel. And although that particular episode has been my least favourite of the series, it did raise some burning questions about the human race being held back; questions that needed to be answered.
“Update from the Big Brother house. I’m getting out. I’m gonna find my friends. And then! I’m gonna find you.”
So the Doctor wakes up in the Big Brother house, authentic in every way right down to the theme tune. His housemates even look exactly like the type of tawdry, wannabe-famous nobodies that today’s version of the show dredges up. And, as the Doctor slumps himself down in the Diary Room, Davina McCall’s voice says “you are live on channel Forty-four Thousand. Please do not swear…”, to which the Doctor simply replies “you have got to be kidding”, speaking for the entire audience as he does so. The Doctor in Big Brother? You could not get two more dissimilar shows if you tried. Surely it would never work...
Well, to Russell T Davies’ credit it did work, and work spectacularly. If the production team where going to attempt something as ambitious as this, they absolutely had to get it right, and get it right they did.
But as the first housemate is evicted form the Big Brother house, the Doctor is nonchalant. His speech about her making a fortune on the outside was well-observed and humorous, particularly the bit about making the obligatory fitness video. But as Crosbie is apparently disintegrated before his eyes, the Doctor sits bolt upright; a look of steel on his weathered face. Lynda’s brilliant “she’s been evicted. From life” line encapsulates the understated horror of the moment beautifully.
And the intensity that Christopher Eccleston brings to the proceedings is almost frightening. Consider that look in his eyes as he speaks to the Big Brother camera, for instance. This episode undoubtedly marks his best performance of the season to date, save for perhaps
in the emotionally-wrought Dalek.
As the Doctor desperately tries to piece together his lost memories, we are introduced to the wonderfully endearing ‘Lynda with a Y’ who, if we didn’t know better, we would swear the Doctor was developing a romantic thing for. The cleverness in introducing her character in this fashion has to be applauded; particularly so, considering what happens to Rose later in the episode. Even for the casual viewer, bombarded with mainstream headlines about Billie Piper allegedly quitting the show, this looks like the introduction of a new female companion for our favourite Time Lord. It certainly keeps us on the edges of our seats...
“I could come with you… I wouldn’t get in the way.”
However, I note how the script seems to dwell on the Doctor’s promise to get Lynda off
the Game Station alive, leaving the character with almost no prospect of doing so. I think
this is a shame as I really like Lynda; Jo Joyner imbues the character with such warmth,
from her awkward gait to her wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm. And her banter with the Doctor is a real delight to listen to - “I moisturise”, “Bear With Me” etc had me in stitches. I especially love the line about the Doctor not paying for his television Licence. “Oh my God, you get executed for that!” a shocked Lynda informs him. It seems the penalties haven’t changed much in 198,095 years then...
And whilst the Doctor finds himself in the Big Brother house, after the opening titles Rose (nursery-rhyme red hood and all) wakes up inside what looks like an exact replica of The Weakest Link studio. There she encounters Roderick (Patterson Joseph), who explains about how people are brought to the Game Station from Earth via a Transmat beam and forced to participate in these deadly game shows.
“…you’re unemployed. And yet you've still got enough money to buy peroxide...”
And just like in the Big Brother house, The Weakest Link’s theme music, presenter, set, lighting, etc was recreated flawlessly - it could have been torn right out of BBC Two. The retro-look, irresistibly-named ‘Annedroid’ is particularly well done, furnished as it is with Anne Robinson’s voice and mannerisms. This sense of authenticity really heightens the underlying sense of unease; Fitch’s apparent disintegration at the hands of the Annedroid
is chilling (“You are the weakest link, goodbye”) and is made all the more unsettling by the casual voice that chimes in with “Adverts. Back in three minutes” as the smoke clears.
In a markedly less elaborate setting, Captain Jack wakes up to find himself inside a very futuristic version of What Not To Wear. In fact, so futuristic is the setting that fashion gurus Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine have been immortalised in robotic form. Jack has only been awake a matter of minutes when he is ‘defabricated’ (don’t even ask!) and
set upon by the marauding Trin-E and Zu-Zana droids.
“I think you’d look good with a dog’s head… or no maybe head at all, that would be so outrageous!”
The What Not To Wear skit has a lot more humour about it than the Big Brother and The Weakest Link sequences. The whole John Barrowman in the nude angle is carried off in
a very cheeky, Carry On sort of way; Captain Jack even has a cheeky grope of Zu-Zana’s breasts at one point. That’s not to say that it is any less disturbing though - one of the most scary moments of the entire episode comes when the droids began their brutal assault on the defrocked Captain. Jack’s defence, though, is as comical as the droids are scary, as
he pulls a ‘compact laser deluxe’ from out of his arse and blows them to pieces.
Nevertheless, whilst the first half of the episode is executed splendidly, Bad Wolf is slow
to deliver on the revelations that its title promises. It is not until the Doctor and Jack have escaped their respective games that Davies’ most complex plot to date begins to unfurl.
“I made this world…”
Finally realising that he is on Satellite Five, the Doctor boasts to Lynda about defeating the Jagrafess a hundred years earlier; “easy”, he claims. “Home in time for tea”. But as Lynda looks down at the Earth, the Doctor realises his big mistake. He “put things right” and then left, and thinking back it was one of the hastiest departures at the end of an episode in this entire series, frog-marching Adam into the TARDIS as he did. And after he left, Lynda tells us of the one hundred years of hell that ensued - the news channels shut down. The econo-my froze. The governments disbanded. Everything was set for the Bad Wolf Corporation to move in with its distinctive brand of snuff television and turn the human race into “mindless sheep”.
The Game Station’s male technician helps to crank up the tension further, as he complains to his colleague of “stories” and rumours that “go back decades”. And, most interestingly of all, he speaks about something hidden underneath the Game Station’s transmissions...
The Weakest Link final is an unbelievably tense affair as Rose clearly knows very little of
life in the year 200,100. Inevitably she loses the game, but deep down she knows that the Doctor will pull off a last minute rescue, and we of course know the same. And true to form, the Doctor, Jack, and Lynda burst into the studio just in the nick of time... only to fail. The
Annedroid’s beam apparently reduces Rose to dust, and the Doctor collapses to his knees, silent.
The scene following Rose’s evident demise is directed beautifully by Joe Ahearne. It’s
as if he allows the viewer to stand in the Doctor’s shoes; everything is muffled and slightly detached. You can all but feel the grief. The subsequent arrest and interrogation scene is equally well done - it’s as if the Doctor just isn’t there. In his interrogation there are no jokes or witty retorts; no words at all. His mug shots each carry the same blank expression – the engine is running, but with no one at the wheel.
After being sentenced to the Lunar Penal Colony (a nice little in-joke, as the Doctor was
sent there in Frontier in Space, a story in which he also unravelled clues about a Dalek army) Jack and the Doctor share a brilliant moment where they just say “let’s do it”. The Doctor is so angry and grief-stricken that he even violently rams the guard into the wall. Pertwee’s Venusian Karate aside, the Doctor has never been a violent man. To see him
like this is both painful and wondrous to watch, especially given Eccleston’s mercurial performance. Armed to the teeth, the trio then head for Floor 500, just in time for the solar flares that we heard the ominous Controller panicking about earlier in the episode. For a moment, huge alien weapon in hand, the Doctor looks at the Controller in the same way
that he looked at that Dalek earlier in the season. Fortunately though, his true colours show though as he surrenders the weapon to the male technician, and then begins to question him. The technician’s face is a classic as he looks at the Doctor, bemused. “But... I’ve got your gun...?”
With the technician’s assistance, it doesn’t take long for the Doctor and Jack to find the TARDIS in Archive Six and work out that Rose isn’t in fact dead, she has just been trans-matted… Somewhere. I love that as soon as the Doctor finds out, he is visibly infused with life and optimism - he gets his ‘mojo’ back!
And 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 is coming from her pasty white, hoary face - tells us about her masters “hiding in the dark space… watching and shaping the Earth...
so many years….”; masters who “fear the Doctor”. Even if the surprise had not been totally spoiled by last week’s trailer, who else could it be? And, all credit to Davies, even though
the audience knows that it is the Daleks that the Controller is referring to, the tension is still electric.
“Oh my masters. You can kill me. For I have brought your destruction.”
We then cut to Rose on board a stunningly realised Dalek saucer. Not only is its interior beautifully designed, but it has that wonderful retro / organic look to it that has served the series so well. The director teases us with a view through a Dalek’s eyepiece as it stalks Rose, and then as the Controller is transmatted onto the Dalek ship for her disobedience and subsequently exterminated, we are shown the slightly blurred reflections of several Daleks on the saucer’s interior wall...
“ALERT! ALERT! WE ARE DETECTED!”
Whilst Jack turns his attentions to flirting with the male technician, the Doctor speaks of the ‘Long Game’ that the Daleks have played in controlling the human race. The Daleks have been using the transmissions from Game Station to hide two hundred 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; cinematic, even. We have never seen a Dalek army like this before on screen; just 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 and, in gloriously cheesy science-fiction serial style, the Daleks reveal their entire plan to the Doctor, then ask him not to intervene, using the age-old hostage bluff. And what does the Doctor say? Simply “no”.
“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS NEGATIVE?”
And then we get 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 Davies, the man is a genius and his work on this show has been nothing short of phenomenal. He must have worn a huge ninth Doctor-like grin on his face as this speech flowed from his pen...
“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 last stinking Dalek out of the sky!”
Davies must have written that, and then leaned back in his chair and thought, “Now how in
the blue hell is he gonna manage all that?” I for one cannot wait to see how...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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