Doctor Who #723: The Parting of the Ways

"It was a better life. And I don't mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don't matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know he showed you too. That you don't just give up. You don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can't--"
TECHNICAL SPECS: First aired Jun.18 2005.

IN THIS ONE... Rose becomes the Bad Wolf and wipes the Daleks out of reality. Oh, and the ninth Doctor regenerates.

This finale is cool... It pulls out all the stops and so we get big and small acts of bravery, and both the Daleks and the heroes dishing out moments of super-cool badassery. The Daleks screaming at Rose to "Predict!" and then that she has predicted correctly when she shouts about their missiles about to kill the Doctor. The TARDIS flying at the mother ship, taking missiles and putting up a force field so the Doctor can just swan in. The giant Dalek Emperor design. The Daleks recoiling when the Doctor shouts at them. "The Oncoming Storm" (fans of the novels, unite!). Anne Droid vs. the Daleks. In space, no one can hear you shout "Exterminate!". Jack's defiance as he is gunned down (a surprise, though RTD's killed a lot of good characters up until now). The Bad Wolf stuff. God vs. God when the Bad Wolf shows up. All the kissing (well, I'm sure the shippers cheered). And of course, our re-introduction to regeneration complete with the most dramatic effects yet, AND Tennant finds new teeth in his mouth. Bam. We certainly get a lot of bang for our buck, and a couple of cheesier RTD moments too ("you need a Doctor", Barcelona and the noseless dogs), in the mad dash to Eccleston's end.

It's emotional... And though a Dalek armada attacking is certainly epic in scope, it's the small personal moments that make this episode as good as it is. Some moments are very small, and often overlooked. Rose giving Lynda the evil eye, or the Doctor resting his head against the doors of the TARDIS before making his choice, for example, but they're still resonant. When the Doctor realizes Rose didn't even think of leaving this point in history, he swells with pride and dread both, knowing the only way to keep his promise to Jackie is to trick Rose into the TARDIS and sending it off to the present day. And she's overwhelmed by having been left behind (her selfish side), her companions likely going to their deaths, and most of all, her inability to return to a normal life (Sarah Jane hasn't yet shown her how you can make a difference here on Earth). Personally, I start to lose it during the Doctor's holographic message, when it startles her AND the audience by turning to camera/her POV and telling her to live a fantastic life. It's this Doctor's message to her, to everyone, and it's been his ethos throughout Series 1. YOU are the hero, embrace it and fulfill your potential. He's only helping us there. It just gets more powerful from there. Unable to accept the situation, Rose gives an impassioned speech to Jackie and Mickey, their talk of cole slaw and pizza giving her system too great a shock. Jackie doesn't want a great big world, and can't understand much outside her little bubble. Just like Mickey, her world is Rose, and it's changed too much to bear. Rose chooses to tell her mother she met her dad in the past, and that she was the blond girl with Pete when he died, and Jackie rejects the idea. It's another attack on her world view. But it frees her. When she returns, it's as part of the team. For Mickey, freedom comes from Rose telling him point blank, with that trademark cruelty of hers, that there's nothing for her in 2006 London. Mickey's got his own brand of bravery, and accepting this blow, and going right to work helping Rose get back to the future, is perhaps the bravest thing he's ever done. Back in the year 200,100, the Doctor finds he can't pull the switch, he can't commit a second double-genocide. The Time War's come home to roost, and with Rose out of danger, it seems he's ready to give in to the death wish that made him so reckless when we met him 12 episodes ago. And of course, there's his death and regeneration, played the way he lived, with a smile on his face, hiding the pain underneath. I love, love, love that the Doctor takes a moment to admit he was a fantastic Doctor, a nice gift from Davies to Eccleston, and I wholeheartedly agree. So sad we couldn't get more out of him. I can't quite muster any feelings about the era's natives who get massacred in the episode, however. The station techs get a little moment that harks to the power of the mundane explored in Father's Day, but it's nothing original. I thought I'd care more for Lynda, but no. And Paterson Joseph lost my vote to become the 11th Doctor long before he was ever considered by being Roderick here, screaming about his money as the Daleks bear down.

It's the big pay-off... That most of us accepted this timey-wimey, weird-ass answer to what the Bad Wolf was is an achievement in and of itself. Classic fans wanted it to be Fenric, but I remember thinking they were deluding themselves if they thought the new series would pull out a reference the new audience would have no context for at this crucial juncture. The show itself seemed to point to the Daleks. The clue was in Boom Town of all places, and Rose uses the pre-established power of the Heart of the TARDIS to become open a literal deus ex machina and give herself the powers of the vortex. She ends the Time War by destroying the Emperor and his new Daleks, resurrects Jack (sorry Lynda and co.), and writes Bad Wolf all over the Doctor's time line, in the past and as we'll see, in his future as well. What ELSE did the Bad Wolf do? That's something we'll be talking about under Theories over the course of the next three seasons (and possibly more). It's an insane premise that works because RTD has seeded the preceding episodes well, but questions do linger. Is the Bad Wolf just Rose with power, or is it a composite creature? Is it the TARDIS itself (as in The Doctor's Wife, certainly it has a much of a claim to the phrase "my Doctor"), or does the vortex have its own consciousness, the "Time" the 7th Doctor became protector of in Cartmell mythology? Was there a "Bad Wolf" creature used as a weapon in the Time War? The Emperor Dalek recognizes it as "The Abomination", so have they met before? Is that the glammed-up, post-Call Girl Billie Piper that appears in the Day of the Doctor trailer? Or might the Doctor himself have become the Bad Wolf himself, perhaps to end the Time War the first time, at the cost of his 8th self? Is that why he says he can see all the possibilities like Rose can? Could it even be the origin of some of the abilities he's shown as Doc9 and never before nor after, like the "narrow it down" sequence in World War Three, or his seeming to "update" information not long after arriving in a corrupted timeline? Or are those just things Time Lords can usually do (sensing fixed points and so on), and it's a red herring? I'm sorry to be using the Review to ask so many questions that might otherwise be found under Theories, but that's part of the magic of this episode. It makes you go "of course!" AND open up a dozen can of worms at the same time. It won't be ignored.

THEORIES: So between this episode and "Dalek", there are two Dalek survivors of the Time War with the exact same story, i.e. that they fell, burning, through time. Coincidence? Or the same individual? One theory I've heard floated is that the "Metaltron" that bonded with Rose didn't self-destruct at the end of "Dalek", but rather instigated some kind of emergency temporal shift, found himself in the future, christened himself Emperor and started producing Daleks bred from human stock (unlike the Emperor, these have humanish faces; we see one when Jack explodes one with the tailoring gun). Possible? It would give better justification for not killing Rose (the plan wasn't to lure the Doctor because they started panicking when he exposed them), and his bond with a human might have inspired the idea for the human Daleks. It might also explain why humanity is basically watching the same shows we are almost 200 centuries later. The Dalek absorbed the entire Internet, remember? (This is the most damning evidence.) And, it would create an even more interesting symmetry between the Emperor and the Bad Wolf, two gods linked through vortex energy. After all, there's no reason this has to be the same Dalek Emperor the Doctor faced during the Time War, no more than it being the same Emperor that blew up in The Evil of the Daleks.

REWATCHABILITY: High - A hugely successful season finale, with plenty of cool stuff, emotional highs and big ideas. Eccleston couldn't have gotten a better send-off.


Anonymous said...

Fans are a fairweather lot, and it's fashionable these days to talk smack about RTD. I call bullshit, and this episode is proof positive that RTD knows what he's doing. I will grant you he was given to certain themes that didn't much work for me, but as the guy who brought "Doctor Who" back (very successfully I might add), he's allowed to make some calls that I wouldn't. And you know, maybe it's my taste that's off.

... Except for his thing for farting space monsters, that one's totally him and not me.

S said...

Wasn't the ending of "Dalek" changed by RTD in some way? I seem to recall reading that as evidence of a connection between that Dalek and the Emperor, but now I can't seem to find that anywhere.

Anyway, speaking of what fans were hoping the Bad Wolf might be - I remember the line said by a mysterious voice at the end of the trailer: "They survived through ME", convinced a lot of people that Adam would be back here as the big villain behind the Daleks.

LiamKav said...

A list of the various crazy theories held by fans over the years would stretch around the world twice. I'm pretty sure that an apparently innocent character is predicted to be Davros/Susan/The Rani at least once a year.

I think this might also be the beginning of RTD's Doctor-As-Christ metaphors, with his regeneration pose. While I got annoyed at some of the later stuff (such as the Tenth Doctor being carried by angels), here it works really well. In face, I think they do an amazing job of both making us think the Ninth Doctor was amazing (sorry, fantastic) and also hitting us with some real Tennant-charm straight out of the gate.

stan m.d. said...

Thanks for your "It's emotional..." paragraph! I forgot about the holograph and how strong it was when I first saw it. You had me tearing up again, all these years later!

CiB said...

The regeneration annoyed the heck out of me, as all new Who ones do. This is supposed to be a traumatic event, and most times in the past the Doctor was unconscious for a while afterwards. How physically traumatic is it if he just keeps standing and doesn't even fall down? Less so than getting really drunk.

Having said that, episodes good. I think the problem RTD had was that his finales (especially) were all based around "The Moment"- and the plot, characetrs, etc were all secondary to that. Everything is building up to The Moment- here thats the regeneration and it works. Later on his moments are less impressive and some of them had me thinking "but thats ridiculous", and the Doctor had to act like this ridiculous thing was valid, which just makes him look stupid (the one thing the Doctor, as an intelligent hero, should never look)

Siskoid said...

S: I don't know about the end of Dalek being changed, don't remember seeing or reading anything about that.

Liam: If you watch the sequence, he doesn't hold his arms out in a cross-like configuration, they're sort of down at his sides, at a slight angle. He makes an arrow head. So if it started here, it's pretty subtle.

Stan: Free of charge. It's all part of the service here.

CiB: Well, the Doctor soon falls down and spends most of the next story in a coma. I don't think it HAS to be traumatic, because 1) some regenerations weren't even in the classic era, and 2) the Doctor always mentions it when it's "gone wrong" (which with him is most of the time) as if it's irregular.


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