Ratings News

Excellent news on the ratings front – the lowest key episode of the current run has amassed 7.11m viewers, which represents a 36.9% share, according to the overnight figures. Again, this confirms Doctor Who’s importance after 11 weeks of ratings-busting performance for the BBC – it would be very good to see the final two episodes get the ratings up to 10 million!

Incoming Doctor and rising light David Tennant has been interviewed by The Scotsman in light of his award for best male actor at the Critics Awards for Theatre of Scotland. The award for his appearance in “Look Back in Anger” at The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

Doctor Who website Eye of Horus has pictures of the Character Options range of toys scheduled for release in time for Christmas 2005.

The following article is a very interesting commentary from The Daily Telegraph on the Bad Wolf thread of the series, and is well worth a read. However, the online version of The Daily Telegraph requires registration. While this is recommended, we’ve provided the article below for further scrutiny…

Old Europe is collapsing. The Japanese are drilling a tunnel to the centre of the Earth. Scientists have produced what looks like an accurate computer-generated model of how the universe came into existence. The Hitchens brothers have even been persuaded to talk to each other.

Yet all I can think about is one thing: bad wolf. “Bad what?” you say. You obviously haven’t been watching Dr Who. “Bad wolf” is the mysterious phrase that, utterly unexplained and barely noticed (until fans started to discuss theories on the internet in the past week or so), has been threaded through every episode of the series.

When a Victorian parlour maid looks into Rose’s mind, she sees “the big bad wolf”; the curiously named Moxx of Balhoon fears “the classic bad-wolf scenario”; a crazed collector of alien artefacts flies a helicopter with the call-sign “Bad Wolf One”. Bad Wolf slips past as the graffito on a 1980s poster and the ident on a TV channel hundreds of years into the future. It is sprayed on the Tardis with white spray paint; it appears, as the German “Schlecter Wolf”, on a V2 missile in the Blitz.

Only in Saturday’s episode did the characters finally realise something was going on. The dodgy nuclear power plant with which a public-spirited alien fiend intended to melt Cardiff was called “Blaidd Drwg”. Bad Wolf. A chill descended. Were Rose and the Doctor somehow being stalked through space and time by these two words? “Probably just coincidence,” shrugged the Doctor.

The bad wolf has the same formal position in Dr Who as “WASTE” in The Crying of Lot 49, or “the Entertainment” in Infinite Jest, or the little comet motif that makes its way through David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Philip Hensher recently discussed in these pages the way writers like Mitchell tie discrete stories into bigger formal structures. In Dr Who something similar is happening. These self-contained episodes are, we have suddenly been allowed to realise, part of a larger narrative, building to a bigger mystery.

Why is this so exciting? In part, I think it’s because the phrase – with its menacing and strange fairy-tale resonance – is a fabulous narrative hook. It also draws viewers – especially internet-prone Dr Who fans – into active participation in the puzzle. The theories proliferate online. Is the bad wolf the Tardis? Is it the Doctor himself (with his “big ears” and “big eyes”)? Or is it – my money’s on this – something to do with the Doctor’s arch-enemy, the Master?

Its strange subliminal spread also has implications for how you think about Dr Who’s universe. More than its predecessors, this series is preoccupied with what time travel might mean to the traveller. T S Eliot’s line that

if “all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable”

addressed a theological problem. Dr Who hints at the same thing as a sentimental problem. It is obsessed with second chances – with Rose and her father; with the evil alien zapped back into an egg; and with the Doctor’s exhausted, exultant cry as the effects of an alien virus are undone and its victims made whole: just for once, just this once, everybody lives.

Bad wolf is, ultimately, proof that the writers of Dr Who have really thought about what they are doing; have worked to give a real, satisfying and complex shape to Saturday-night schlock. They’re ambitious. As Clive James once remarked: good schlock is always better than bad art.

The new Dr Who – ahead of any possible expectations – is a triumph. Funny, scary, moving, silly and above all really, really well crafted, it is as good a piece of popular entertainment as television has lately produced. It serves – and for this we must surely thank it – as a standing rebuke to the notion that the unplanned formats of reality TV and docudrama are the way forward.

And in further news, The Sun has announced that the Cybermen are to return in the next series. Fingers on the pulse lads, fingers on the pulse…


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