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.
Rose Tyler has seen danger and wonders alongside the Doctor, but now their friendship is put to the test as Earth plunges into an epic war.
18TH JUNE 2005
(45-MINUTE EPISODE, PART 2 OF 2)
War! Russell T Davies’ inevitably epic final episode of the season opens spectac-ularly and doesn’t let up from there. The Parting of the Ways is such a beautiful and a gentle title, but it really does not do this unremitting slobberknocker justice. I can’t think of a single episode of Doctor Who that comes anywhere near to this one in terms of spectacle, scale and heartrending drama. It’s exhausting to watch, frankly.
“They just went to fight a bigger war. The Time War.”
After the pre-title recap of Bad Wolf, Davies’ dramatic onslaught begins with the TARDIS racing towards the Dalek mothership where Rose is being held. Anyone channel-hopping could have been forgiven for thinking
that they had inadvertently tuned into the premiere of some blockbuster science-fiction movie as the Mill have utterly trounced the sum of their work on the series to date with this bravura display.
However, as many a big-budget blockbuster has proven, special effects are not the be all and end all - the audience has to care about what’s going on. Fortunately though here, both Davies’ script and the actors’ performances are such that there is never any danger of even the most casual viewer’s attention waning.
“D'you know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek Homeworld? The Oncoming Storm…”
The sequence on board the Dalek flagship is absolutely intense. The spectacle of a neat-little TARDIS materialisation and a Dalek inside the TARDIS (can you believe it?) is offset beautifully by Christopher Eccleston’s calm and confident delivery of some of the series’ most evocative and flowing dialogue thus far. I love how the Daleks are portrayed as being visibly afraid of the Doctor; how they back away from him, their eye-stalks twitching almost nervously. Davies even poaches the Doctor’s “Oncoming Storm” moniker from the Doctor Who novels to lend his dark mystique just that little bit more weight. Shameless fan service
it may be, but it’s nail-biting drama all the same.
And then the Doctor asks the obvious question: “how did you survive the Time War?”
”THEY SURVIVED THROUGH ME.”
The answer, though predictable, is delivered in the most outstanding of ways. The Doctor and his companions slowly walk towards a familiar, booming voice as the lights come up
to reveal the colossal Emperor Dalek in all his sickening glory.
And although Big Finish listeners will have heard Nicholas Briggs’ voice for the character
on occasion, visually the Emperor of the Daleks is unlike anything that we have ever seen before. I suspect that this is exactly the type of thing that David Whitaker had in mind when he created the character for The Evil of the Daleks, however, as the basic tenets have not changed - the Emperor is still essentially one gigantic, immobile Dalek that has been hard-wired into his Throne Room. Of course, back in 1967 such splendour was well beyond the means of the production team, but thankfully in 2005 it’s all in a day’s work for the Mill.
However, realisation notwithstanding, two elements set this Dalek Emperor apart from his predecessors. Firstly, the Dalek creature itself is on show, making the character appear
outwardly more monstrous, and also allowing Eccleston’s Doctor to look it in the eye, which
I think really lends their scenes together that little bit more weight. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, this Emperor is completely and utterly insane; not just an evil Dalek hell-bent on universal conquest, but a megalomaniac and religious zealot to boot.
“We waited here in the dark space... Harvesting the waste of humanity. The bodies were filleted. Pulped. Sifted.... I am far more than Emperor. I reached into the dirt and made new life. I am the God of all Daleks!”
His account of how he created his new race of Daleks from the remains of human beings
(á la Davros on Necros, in Revelation of the Daleks) is both grotesque and horrific, but it is as nothing when contrasted with the intensity of his “I AM THE GOD OF ALL DALEKS” rant
and the sheer creepiness of Daleks chanting “Worship him! Worship him!” in their grated, mechanical tones. And as the Dalek fleet descends upon the future Earth, buoyed by Murray Gold’s epic score, and the Emperor waxes lyrical about “purifying the Earth with fire” and
the planet becoming his “temple” and “paradise”, the melodrama reaches fever pitch. It’s powerful enough stuff to bring a tear to the eye; this is what Doctor Who always had the potential to be.
Of course, prior to transmission the press didn’t dwell on such matters. I had tried and tried to stay spoiler-free, but inevitably there was no escape from all of the sensationalist ‘Doctor Who in gay kiss shocker!’ headlines. When it came down to it, of course, the contentious scene was utterly inoffensive; just quick kiss on the lips. Fair dues, it wasn’t the way that I would have written it, and I dare say most viewers would concur, but all the same it was a well-crafted, brilliantly performed and genuinely touching scene which worked well in the context. Jack was just saying thank you to the Doctor for making him a better person, and
he sealed it with a kiss. A kiss that was in no way sexual.
“See you in hell.”
Ironically, I found that some of this episode’s most memorable and truly thought-provoking moments were those that were neither dominated by majestic imagery nor charged with controversy. Indeed, one of my favourite scenes in the whole story takes place during the only real lull in the action, where the Doctor and Rose find themselves alone on Floor 500 and ruminating on what they should do for the best. Through just one short exchange of dialogue the writer manages to say so much about his two lead characters, as well as the spirit - and indeed the mechanics of - the series as a whole. I love how the Doctor gently suggests to Rose that they should “...leave. Let history take its course... go to Marbella in 1989”, all too aware that such a course of action would never have occurred to her.
The scene where the Doctor tricks Rose is beautifully executed. The Doctor’s apparent epiphany is utterly convincing, and for a moment even the audience believes that he really
is going to cross his own time line and defeat the Daleks before they start. But then he just stops dead, and gazes back at the TARDIS forlornly; the TARDIS with Rose inside it. And then with a flick of the sonic screwdriver, the Doctor sends the TARDIS back to Earth, 2006. Back to Jackie and Mickey and the Powell Estate.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor’s hologram appears and it is such a profoundly sad moment. Knowing that a part of the Doctor is going to die is sad enough in itself, but the way in which his holorecording broaches the subject so matter-of-factly and so selflessly makes it all the more moving. It’s a proper, lone manly-tear trickling down the face moment.
“I'm dead or about to die, any second, with no chance of escape. And that’s okay. Hope it’s a good death.”
Now the quality of the science fiction in the series has been ripped to shreds by some, and to be fair they often have a point... but who really cares? Doctor Who has never really been about hardcore science fiction; it’s more about the drama and the fantasy. And throughout this revived series, the science fiction elements have been little more than a springboard
for some brilliant character-driven drama - as the Doctor so eloquently put it in World War Three, “...it’s not clever, it’s not smart, it’s just standing up and making a decision”. And of course, for our viewing pleasure, these decisions are never easy, and the convenient ‘Delta Wave’ which the Doctor intends to use to destroy the Daleks is perhaps the most blatant example of this so far. Who cares how it works? What we care about is whether the Doctor can make himself use it once it becomes clear that if he does, he will not only wipe out the Daleks but every living thing on planet Earth too.
Rose also sums up this concept wonderfully as she sits in some back street London café with her Mother and Mickey. On the verge of tears, Rose desperately tries to explain that the aliens and spaceships really don’t matter - the Doctor showed her a better way of living her life. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what Davies knew when he sat down in Cardiff to write Rose, and that’s what he knew when he went to tie up his ingeniously-crafted season with The Parting of the Ways. And that is why this show is such a positive triumph.
What’s more, here Davies explores for the first time in the series’ history what it must be like for a companion who has done such wondrous things to come home and be forced to lead
a normal life. Rose simply can’t do it. Through her tears she cries “what do I do, every day?” and there is no answer; no comfort to be drawn from her loved ones. She has to get back to the future; back to the Doctor; because there is nothing else for her now. It’s powerful stuff to say the least, and Billie Piper puts in her best performance yet. She is every bit Eccleston’s equal in this episode, and that really is saying a lot.
Meanwhile in the future (not a turn of phrase that I often get chance to use) the pressure just keeps on mounting. Lynda watches as entire continents are destroyed on the planet below, evoking strong memories of Tom Baker’s swansong, Logopolis, where Adric and Nyssa watch entire solar systems disappear into nothing in the blink of an eye, helpless to stop it.
We then see entire legions of Daleks flying through space, TV Comic-style; it is literally the stuff of nightmares (or the stuff of dreams, depending on your perspective). And the Daleks are each every bit as unstoppable as the lone one that we encountered in Rob Shearman’s episode, and so with half a million of them on the rampage humanity is ill-equipped to resist. Jack’s brave volunteers; Roderick, the winning contestant on The Weakest Link, and the rest of his cowardly cohorts; and even lovely Lynda are all decimated without the Daleks so much as breaking an oily sweat. Lynda’s grizzly death is particularly harrowing, as we see three Daleks hover up in front of the observation deck’s window, the lights on their domes flashing silently as they blow a hole in the screen, leaving Lynda to explosively decompress.
I never thought trying to lip-read (light-read?) could be so disturbing. Doubtless the most horrific scene in the episode.
My one and only niggle with last week’s episode was a purely semantic one - it was entitled Bad Wolf, yet it didn’t really bring us much closer to understanding the significance of the phrase. This week though, Davies had no choice but to reveal all, and the truth is far more complicated than I think anyone could have guessed.
Dejectedly sat in an old playground with Mickey, Rose sees the huge spray-painted words Bad Wolf on the ground. She looks behind her, and they are also graffitied on the wall. They are everywhere she goes – not following the Doctor, following her. Finally, she realises that Bad Wolf is not an ominous warning - it’s a message. A link between her and the Doctor.
As I had suspected, the heart of the TARDIS that we saw exposed in Boom Town plays a crucial part here. Rose reasons that if she can rip it open she can ‘talk’ to the TARDIS and make it take her back to the year 200,100. Mickey tries to persuade her to stay and she
flatly refuses, telling him “…there’s nothing left for me here”, but he still helps her despite
this inconsiderate behaviour towards him (and her Mother, for that matter). And it is these two ordinary people who help Rose to save the world as Jackie borrows a pick-up truck (from ‘Rodrigo’, who owes her a favour. Never mind why...) which Mickey then uses to rip open the TARDIS console. It’s slightly disappointing that the TARDIS console is capable
of being ripped open by brute force, but suppose it has a certain poetry to it.
Rose then looks into the heart of the TARDIS and it looks into her, dematerialising on her command and setting a course straight back to the future. As soon as I saw Rose look into the heart of the TARDIS I suddenly got the whole Bad Wolf thing. Rose was the Bad Wolf
all along. She took the words Bad Wolf and used the powers lent to her by the TARDIS to scatter them throughout time and space, back along the path that she had already walked down with the Doctor. Bad Wolf was a message to herself; a message to let her know that she could go back and save the Doctor.
“Yeah. I kinda figured that...”
By this point, as I watched the episode live at my Uncle Mick’s, I wasn’t just on the edge of my seat - I was falling off it. Things certainly looked bleak as the final two human technicians were killed and Jack frantically screamed “Last man standing!” into his communicator, all the while the Emperor Dalek goading the Doctor - “finish that thing and kill mankind!”
Jack’s death really took me by surprise, particularly after Davies’ earlier assurances that we have not having seen the last of the swaggering Captain. Yet, with a defiant “yeah. I kinda figured that...” Jack’s body was engulfed in that eerie blue / green Dalek death ray and his skeleton burned. After that, all bets were off.
“If I am God, the creator of all things, then what does that make you, Doctor? Coward or killer?”
The ninth Doctor’s final scenes are a thing of beauty. In the same way that the third Doctor’s undoing cleverly passed comment on the flaws of the incarnation, the ninth’s does the same. After potentially committing genocide twice over in the Time War, Rose came along and healed the Doctor. Whilst he showed her the delights of time and space, she gave him his - for want of a better word - humanity back. And so when faced with that same decision again, to either wipe out the Daleks, taking an innocent race with them, or - for better or for worse - to let both species endure, this time he chooses the latter.
“Coward. Any day... Am I becoming one of your angels?”
For a moment I thought that the Doctor was actually going to be exterminated by the Daleks; a fitting end, I even thought to myself. But as he said “maybe it’s time”, effectively inviting the cleansing fires of regeneration, the TARDIS materialised and out stepped Rose, swathed in golden light.
“I want you safe. My Doctor. Protected from the false God.”
Deus ex machina the story’s resolution may be (quite literally ‘god from the machine’ in this case), but it really couldn’t have been any more affecting. With the whole of the Time Vortex running through her head and the power of life and death in her hands, Rose reduces the Dalek Emperor and his surviving fleet of Daleks to dust, finally bringing the Last Great Time War to a close.
I love how Rose has come from being just a normal, 21st century girl to the Doctor’s equal. There is something really romantic about her sharing his burden; her being able to under-stand this strange and unique gift that the Time Lords have. And there is also something tremendously sad about her not wanting to let go of it. The Doctor pleads with Rose to let
go of her power, but she is becoming seduced by it – she even brings Jack back to life
(and so we haven’t seen the last of Captain Jack after all....)
“The sun and the moon. The day and night. But why do they hurt?”
And then it happened. “That’s what I see. All the time. And doesn’t it drive you mad?” the Doctor says, holding out his hand to the frightened Time Goddess. “Come here. I think you
need a Doctor”. I wanted to stand up and cheer as he kissed her - pardon me, I mean as
he ‘sucked the time vortex out of her’ - irreversibly damaging every cell in his body in the process. Now that truly was a fitting end; sacrificing his live to save the woman that made him the Doctor again.
The final scene of the episode is unique so far as regenerations go as it is as celebratory
as it is sad. Irrepressible, the Doctor jabbers on about wanting to take Rose to the planet Barcelona where dogs have no noses, but not being able to in his current form. Somewhat understandably, Rose is a little bemused by this - particularly so, as she is just recovering from her own ordeal - as I’m sure were many young viewers. Those of you who wanted to see Paul McGann back for a quick regeneration at the start of the series, can you now see why it couldn’t happen? To a new, spoiler-free, viewer the regeneration would have come
as a complete surprise; all that magic would have been as new, making a far better climax
to the season than it would have a bookend.
And although the ninth Doctor’s upbeat goodbye was not as moving as the fifth’s (my all time favourite) or even perhaps the fourth’s, it still put all the others to shame and Eccleston really had me choking on the tears with his “…not with this daft old face…” line.
“You were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic… And d'you know what? So was I!”
The act of regeneration itself was explosive; such a release in so many different ways, and I think that he production team encapsulated this wonderfully in the violent and vertical nature of the transformation. But when the - surprisingly English-sounding - tenth Doctor first drew breath, what did my young cousins have to say amount the smiley-newcomer? “I don’t like him!”
Eccleston will certainly prove a hard act to follow, and David Tennant probably has the most difficult job to do of any incoming Doctor since Patrick Troughton entered the fray back way in 1966.
“Hello. Oh, new teeth; that’s weird. Okay, so where was I? Oh that’s right - Barcelona!”
All told then, as a season finale The Parting of the Ways ticks all the boxes, delivering on all fronts and going above and beyond even the most optimistic fan’s hopes. Eccleston went, just like he came, with a grin on his face, and now Russell T Davies and his steadfast crew must tackle the daunting task of trying to sell us another new Doctor; effectively another new show. Still, as Captain Jack might say: “never doubted him, never will”.
And so ends one of the shortest but most intense eras of Doctor Who; an era that will no doubt be talked about - and, indeed, raved about - for a great many years to come.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
When is now? The “present” events depicted in this episode take place between Boom Town (autumn 2006) and The Christmas Invasion (Christmas 2006).
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