New Series Review #12: Bad Wolf Review

“I moisturise”

Ok… I normally start these reviews off with what I consider to be dialogue triumphs form the episode. However should I do that, then anyone who hasn’t seen Bad Wolf is going to get a bit of a spoiler. Which is something that I don’t want. Suffice to say, there was very little in the way of dialogue failures in this episode, and those lines which could have been better came from the guest television personalities (remember that phrase? We had it before the word “celebrity” got bandied about everyday…), so we’ll let them off.

Bad Wolf is of course – according to fan lore at the moment – the episode in the series when all of the loose ends are tied up. The identity of Bad Wolf will be revealed and the Doctor will no doubt be put in a situation which leads to his regeneration next week. This though is all conjecture, as few people actually know what will happen next week. What we do know is what a fantastic roller coaster we all experienced watching Bad Wolf.

The whole invasion of reality television as part of Doctor Who is on the whole well handled. This isn’t Doctor Who up for eviction, the Doctor becoming a real part of our lives; it isn’t a dumbing down of Doctor Who. Doctor Who embracing these reality formats is Doctor Who telling us that there are other things going on. Things that are hiding in shadows, always out of sight, pulling strings and shaping events. Reality television here is interpreted as a diversion, slight of hand, while the real power establishes itself. And yes, this is a kid’s show.

From the arrival on the Game Station (previously Platform 5 in The Long Game), the travellers are put to the ultimate test – compete, play to win, or die. While they all realise they are out of place, only the Doctor recalls how they came to be taken from the TARDIS. Encountering “Lynda with a Y”, he takes her with him as he sweeps out of the Big Brother House – one of 60 – in order to search for Rose. Captain Jack isn’t on the Doctor’s list of people to rescue…

The Controller of the Game Station is a pitiful cadaver of human existence. She has been bred in order to control the games, which all run through her. Her role seems important – surely she is behind the mystery, perhaps even behind the whole BAD WOLF meme? But no, she is dispatched of by the Doctor’s hidden enemies who fear him…

Of course, this episode is a parallel of the whole series – something has been planned, hinted at, of which neither we nor the Doctor and Rose have been aware of or able to fathom out. The Daleks have survived the Time War, and only the Doctor can save humanity from almost half a million Daleks. The realisation, the moment of truth in this episode, leads the viewer in to a false sense – here are the Daleks, here comes the theme tune. But no. Clever use of reflection on the Dalek craft and the Dalek eyestalk POV shot as we discover that while Rose may not be dead, she is in mortal danger, leads us to believe the Daleks’ discovery will lead us into the preview of next week. Instead we get a defiant Doctor, a true hero promising to rescue Rose from the Dalek fleet, save the Earth and destroy every last Dalek.

Christopher Eccleston’s acting ability has never been in question. However, while some questioned his choice of roles in the past, many were baffled by his accepting the lead role in Doctor Who. He has been nothing short of brilliant as the series build momentum, and is the template for future Doctors. His impact on the role has been remarkable, and David Tennant truly has a job as large as Pat Troughton’s in 1966 in taking over the lead part. The Doctor’s reaction to the apparent death of Rose was the saddest moment on television this year.

Billie Piper was not the focal point of the episode this week – the Doctor’s discovery of the games and the Controller’s purpose for bringing him to the Game Station was far too important. However her performance on “The Weakest Link” was what you would expect from a 19 year old from 2005 lost in 200,100. The Anne Droid, meanwhile, was pretty fearsome. Trinny and Susannah of “What Not To Wear”, meanwhile, appeared to have been superseded by digital versions from the PlayMobil factory. Again, Captain Jack is used for comic effect – but can he be hiding a deeper secret?

The supporting cast did their jobs – support. The Doctor, Rose, Jack and the Daleks were the stars of this episode. While perhaps overplaying their parts (Fitch in “The Weakest Link”, the entire “Big Brother” house), they serve their purpose of ensuring the emotional focus lies entirely on the TARDIS crew.

When next we meet the Ninth Doctor, it may be for the last time. I said some weeks ago how The Doctor Dances had to match The Empty Child and have a good resolution to the cliffhanger. The same goes here. I don’t think I’m going to be disappointed by The Parting of the Ways – just very sorry to see a wonderful series come to an end.


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