The final two editions of the first new Doctor Who series contain all of this remake's weakest elements. Dang.
Part One: Bad Wolf
The start of this silly penultimate episode was very good. For some reason, Flatmate Dave thought the recap on the start was a preview, so as usual he muted the sound while I looked away. This was a tremendous benefit to the opening. The Doctor had amnesia. He didn't know where or when he was, or how he had got there... and neither did I! That made it quite claustrophobic and sinister. He was trapped in a house. As he looks back and forth between the huge furniture, his housemates, and the door to the diary-room, the hilarious truth dawns – yes, he’s locked in the Big Brother house!
As well as making me laugh, this was also brilliantly sinister. He was imprisoned in an apparently innocent-looking house, with no idea what was waiting for him outside (or even what time-period he was in), no idea whether he could trust his companions, and forced to play a mind-game with his unseen environment-controlling captors in order to escape. And he didn't even remember who he was. This was a great, promising, fun start to a story that sadly never was.
Meanwhile Rose finds herself standing in a semi-circle with 8 other people answering questions on general knowledge, and voting the other contestants off.
Again, it just sort of gradually dawns on you that she’s a contestant on The Weakest Link, and indeed it’s mined for all the comedy potential that’s there. The set, the music, the camera-angles – everything was perfect! It was just like watching the real show. I even found myself rooting for contestants. It's just a shame they’d gone and downgraded the picture to look like more like a drama, and less like a gameshow.
Meanwhile Captain Jack, who so far has served no purpose in any of his episodes, wakes up in What Not To Wear, and as usual his scenes appear to have been grafted into the script at a very late stage. He neither learns anything for us, nor progresses the story. Even the joke of his being in a TV show has already been done twice by the Doctor and Rose. As if to further highlight his misplacement, he then gets stripped of his clothes and delivers a few nude jokes.
In fact, they’re all prisoners of a TV station in the year 200,100AD. No-one notices that this station is making shows from 198,100 years ago though. Neither does anyone notice that their robot presenters both look and sound ancient even by today’s standards. (2 hours earlier I was in a car listening to a far superior-sounding GPS tracking system) Maybe these were some sort of “retro” versions.
I must say though that it was refreshing that they unashamedly went for shows that actually exist, instead of renaming them People House and Who's The Weakest? or something. I've long maintained that The Weakest Link's overly-dramatic synth music is extremely Doctor Who-ish anyway, so to hear it actually getting used on the soundtrack of a real Doctor Who episode was great, or maybe it just seemed like a throwback to the 80s.
Anyway, the stakes are higher in the future - contestants who lose now get instantly disintegrated. Who wants to see people die so quickly? Not much understanding of what fuels ratings there.
Rose loses the head-to-head round and gets killed, until the disintegrator-ray is revealed to actually be a teleporter. At the end of the episode she wakes up again to find she has in fact been transported onto a Dalek saucer, which nicely retained the same sound-effect as in the original series. Unnicely they have still not got back any of the orignal actors to perform their voices, again preferring to use spin-off actor Nicholas Briggs. I’m sure there’s a good reason.
Fortunately Rose is not in any danger from the Daleks, because she learnt a few weeks ago that she can defeat them just by touching them. Unfortunately for Rose, she doesn’t remember this, and neither does the Doctor.
Next week? I anticipate a completely unneccesary "sacrifice" to save Rose by the Doctor, and an appearance by Davros, played by Nicholas Briggs.
Part Two: The Parting Of The Ways
For a change, the TARDIS flies through space. Literally. Getting shot at. Oh alright, I'll accept that that's somehow a better, safer way of transporting to the Dalek ship than by the usual method.
After their triumphant return from the dead, the Daleks' cold logical threat is significantly lessened by their now being only mad fools.
They think the Emporer Dalek is God, and that the Doctor will recognise this, so they're really not very clever any more. With no cleverness of course there’s no real threat, and these Daleks, as we shall see, are quite unbelievably stupid. (mind you, so are all the other characters in this series)
The Emporer Dalek by the way, is played by Nicholas Briggs, (close enough?) and must surely have been written as Davros, you know their creator, the one who gave them life, the oldest member of their race.
Finally Captain Jack gets something to do – fighting the Daleks to slow them down.
The Doctor sends Rose off in the pre-programmed TARDIS for her safety. This was quite a touching scene, something this series does much better than any previous one.
As she lands, a recording of the Doctor tells Rose to go and lead a good life, and that the TARDIS must never fall into anyone's hands, so…leave it on the street corner??? Until it gets…what did he say? Buried???
Despite the Doctor's assertion to the contrary, he's never made any promise to take care of Rose.
Mickey hears the TARDIS' engine from… how far away? Handy he was there at the time.
Most stupid thing the Daleks have ever done: Sending their entire fleet in in one go. I ask you.
Swarms of Daleks descend on the Earth of the future. On the space-station, Lynda reels off the Daleks' destruction of entire continents, which we see destroyed on her scanner screen. Fortunately, there is a simple, tried and tested solution to this disaster. Let's just forget this ever happened, Marge. I'm serious. Let’s just leave the Earth that way.
Simultaneously, the Daleks also invade the space-station – why not just blast that to bits too? You know – like they just did Earth’s continents? Jack has the answer:
"We've now got a forcefield so they can't blast us out of the sky, but that doesn't stop the Daleks from physically invading."
It's not much of a forcefield, is it?
So instead the Daleks force the airlock and use the corridors.
I liked the Dalek silently saying "EXTERMINATE" outside the window in the vacuum of space.
Having punctured the hull, the Daleks continue to invade the station, but without the vacuum of space preceding them everywhere.
The Daleks battle the robot of Anne Robinson. Anne Droid has obviously been re-equipped with a gun then, not merely a teleporter anymore. Just think, they could have been zapping all these Daleks, and actually been transporting them all back to their ship. D'oh!
Meanwhile back in the present day, Rose, Mickey and Jackie are eating chips, metaphorically meaning that they, and we, lead valueless lives. From memory:
Mickey: "Have you seen that new pizza place on the main road?"
Jackie: "What does it sell?"
Mickey: "It sells pizza."
Good line, making its point well.
Rose insists that she can't go back to this life again. Can't really blame her there, but I think the Doctor had a better idea when he told her to lead a good life. Surely the message here needed to be that her present-day life on Earth had been enriched by her travels? You know, something we could have taken into our own lives to make them better?
Nah, she just wants to get away from our rubbish life on Earth.
Back on the space-station, the Doctor has a great choice to make – kill everyone on Earth or let the Daleks win. It's like the nuclear retaliation choice. When asked whether he is a killer or a coward, he has a great line "A coward." For those 2 words, like when he said "Nice ears" in episode one, for one brief moment I recognised the Doctor again.
I actually thought he was lying, and was disappointed when it turned out he wasn't. A far better dilemma surely was the danger that, if he killed everyone on Earth and all the Daleks and himself, then there may still be some more Daleks hiding elsewhere, and then they really would have finally won. But neither the Doctor, nor the Daleks, nor apparently the writer thought of that. The worst thing about missing this point, is that it'll be the first thing they think of when they do the next Dalek story. Which proves how obvious it is.
Then, as in Boom Town, everyone is saved by the TARDIS containing the power of God. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. After the Daleks were portrayed as mad for thinking their Emporer Dalek was God, The Doctor and Rose are portrayed as the exact opposite for acting like their TARDIS is. It doesn't flaw every single previous episode back to 1963, and it doesn't make a mockery of all future episodes either. And stone me, the whole of this series now makes perfect sense, Brain. Ah, no, wait a minute…
Rose, back on the space-station, has absorbed the TARDIS’ power, and is now effectively God. She can see everything that has ever happened, everything that is ever going to happen, and everything that ever can happen. She can do anything. She can… well, hang on a second, what would YOU do?
Heal the sick? Revive a dead race? Cure cancer? Get rich quick?
Or would you pick two random words that scare you and send them back in time to tell yourself to do something that you’ve already done anyway?
And when sending this message, would you send it once – clearly - or would you hide it many times in the background of your life, sometimes revealing it to people who are not even you?
Yes, picking a random sign on the wall, Rose sends her younger self the words “bad wolf”.
Hence part one gives us a painful series of flashbacks, labouring the point that the words “bad wolf” have appeared in the background of several earlier episodes this season. (they were scrawled in illegible grafitti, said by a pilot she didn’t meet, mentioned in passing by an alien while she was out of the room, that sort of thing)
Even though they showed us some clips, I still don't fully believe they were ever in the earlier episodes. This writing on this series has repeatedly failed to adhere to itself, so its words now have no currency. Did they specially film these clips? I've got no reason to believe they didn't.
Finally, what was the phrase “bad wolf” supposed to mean? Believe it or not, Rose intended them to be understood as meaning “Use the TARDIS to return to the space-station.” Maybe she should have actually said that, instead of just scaring herself silly, and just plain wasting everyone else's time.
This is exactly why such a great idea as having sinister words following time-travellers around never got me going – I never expected a satisfactory explanation for it from this team. That said, I actually didn't expect one this poor either. Even the line about the words being spread throughout time and space is nonsense because every episode has been set on or just next to Earth. I'm sorry, but this doesn't work on any level at all for me.
Next, with all this god-like power at her disposal, Rose destroys the nearest Daleks, and their spaceships, but apparently leaves the ravaged Earth to its destruction.
With limitless power, Rose also still leaves her dad dead, along with everyone else apart from Jack. He’s the one person she revives, somewhere out of sight.
The Doctor kisses Rose (ya-a-a-a-wn), the excuse being because he had to draw the god-like power out of her and breathe it back into the TARDIS again. (riiiiiiight)
The Doctor, in his brief moment of almighty power, doesn't remember to save his dead people – the ones who so plague his conscience.
Rose doesn’t remember what happened while she was God.
Neither of them remember that Captain Jack even exists. Without even checking if he’s alive or dead, they just leave in the TARDIS. (poor Jack is therefore now alone on a space-station full of corpses)
Then suddenly, without any warning, the Doctor says that he's dying. Why? Because no-one can absorb the TARDIS' god-like power and live. So Rose, who contained it for far longer than he did, must be dying too. Yes, she must. He just said so. Oh, what’s the use, I give up.
In summary, this script resolves everything by having everyone except the regular cast die.
I really wanted to like this series. Everything about it is fine, except for the frangible writing.
I wish the production team success, but it really doesn’t matter how big your budget is, how sexy your actors, how flashy your effects or how proud your publicity.
Without the first thing - a workable story to follow - there’s simply nothing for any of the above to stick to.