"I'm going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet. And then I'm going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I'm going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!" "But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan." "Yeah. And doesn't that scare you to death."
IN THIS ONE... The Daleks produce some lethal reality TV.
REVIEW: This episode is a massive FAKE-OUT. Everything about it is designed to make you think you're watching one thing, when you're actually watching another. That's the point of the otherwise kinda pointless reality TV thing, turning Part 1 of the finale into a silly one-off episode in which, as per usual, RTD pushes some modern phenomenon to extremes. Though there's a human computer slaved to the station (see Remembrance of the Daleks), the whole set-up is unlike anything the Daleks would usually come up with to keep the surprise (if you haven't watched the previews, that is). Rose's death? Fake-out. The Daleks as Bad Wolf? (Or alternately, the Controller sending that message through time?) Fake-out. This being an episode about a world the Doctor made with his interference? Fake-out. Teasing Lynda with a Y as a new companion? Fake-out. (I wonder what this sweet girl from a world of sociopaths would have been like week to week, but I don't wonder TOO much.) The episode piles on surprise after surprise, and can be respected for it, even after all the surprises have been spoiled by time. There are certainly worse ambitions.
Doctor Who's done reality shows before, most obviously in Vengeance on Varos. It just didn't have license to emulate real shows, nor did those shows exist, exactly. We have three heroes, so get three shows of different types - the immersive eliminator competition, the high stakes game show with cruelty thrown in, and the make-over show. I understand all the androids are voiced by the actor hosts of those shows, but only Anne Robinson was ever exported with her program over here, so while we get a Big Brother etc. over here (or two, since there's now a Canadian version as well), there's no recognition factor for us (nor for the funky music). Each sequence has something going for it - the Doctor in Big Brother provides the episode's amusing teaser; Rose on The Weakest Link features almost-Doctor Paterson Joseph and the first ever mention of Torchwood (plus her "death"); and Jack revels in getting a make-over before things turn awry and he literally pulls a laser gun out of his ass - but are ultimately thin set pieces that tell us the same things three times over. As for all the games we're missing, as described by Lynda, that's some of the worst dialog the new series has ever broadcast. I mean, if Lynda takes these shows for granted, why is she explaining their awful puns to the Doctor?
The episode takes a sharp turn when Rose is disintegrated, even if she isn't, really. For once, Murray Gold is drowning out the action with his music on purpose, sound dropping out as the stunned Doctor appears to give up. His outrage and anger carry the show's energy the rest of the way. If most of Bad Wolf reads like fluff, the last few minutes are anything but. We learn Rose is alive and that the Controller has betrayed her masters, the Daleks, half a million of them hiding in hundreds of ships on the edge of the Solar System, by bringing the Doctor back to Satellite 5*. So that's cool. But then the Doctor has his little talk with them and says "no" (recalling what he said about Britain during WWII) and scares the Daleks into a preemptive strike through the sheer threat of his improvisational skills! One of the the ninth Doctor's very best moments, definitely one for the F*** Yeah! column. It's one man alone with no plan against half a million of those things we were re-introduced to in "Dalek", one example of which was capable of laying waste to the planet Earth. And THEY'RE the ones panicking. That's one hell of a set-up for a season finale.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - The last few minutes are a definite High, but most of Bad Wolf is merely amusing, cameo-filled fluff buying time and throwing red herrings around so you can't see the cliffhanger coming.
*Technical aside: The episode begins with "what has gone before" followed by a card reading "100 years later" (from the flashback, clearly) that reveals to all but the densest viewers that this episode will take place on Satellite 5, which spoils its actual reveal. You can have the reveal for those who skip the flashback, but then the 100 years later doesn't make sense. You can't have both! Frustrating.