Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways *****

A stunning season finale sees the return of the Daleks and the early exit of Christopher Eccleston – but why did he leave so soon?

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Doctor Who story guide
Patrick Mulkern
Patrick Mulkern
Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways *****

Story 166  

Series 1 – Episodes 12 & 13

“Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I” – the Doctor

Storyline
The Doctor suddenly finds himself in the Big Brother house, while Rose and Jack arrive in robotic versions of Weakest Link and What Not to Wear. They’ve all been transmatted to Satellite Five, 100 years after the Doctor’s previous visit. It is now a Game Station, run by the Bad Wolf Corporation, which suppresses the human empire with a deadly diet of TV shows. The Controller has brought the Doctor here in secret because she knows he is feared by her mysterious masters – the Daleks.

The Time Lord discovers that the Emperor Dalek survived the Time War – and has been “harvesting the waste of humanity” to create an invasion fleet. Half a million Daleks are lying in wait in space. As they launch an attack on Earth, the Doctor and Jack help to defend Satellite Five.

The Time Lord sends Rose home in the Tardis but, with Jackie and Mickey’s help, she manages to get back. Having absorbed time-vortex energy from the Tardis, Rose becomes the all-powerful “Bad Wolf”: she atomises the Dalek fleet and resurrects Jack, who has been exterminated. To save Rose’s life, the Doctor draws the energy from her with a kiss, which triggers another regeneration…

First UK transmissions
Saturday 11 June 2005
Saturday 18 June 2005

Production
Location: February 2005 at Severn Square, Cardiff; NCLA, Newport; Enfys Television Studio, Cardiff. March 2005 at Loudoun Square, Cardiff
Studio: February–April 2005 at Unit Q2, Newport.

Cast
Doctor Who – Christopher Eccleston
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Captain Jack Harkness – John Barrowman
Jackie Tyler – Camille Coduri
Mickey Smith – Noel Clarke
Lynda – Jo Joyner
Voice of Anne Droid – Anne Robinson
Voice of Davinadroid – Davina McCall
Voice of Trin-E – Trinny Woodall
Voice of Zu-Zana – Susannah Constantine
Strood – Jamie Bradley
Crosbie – Abi Eniola
Rodrick – Paterson Joseph
Floor manager – Jenna Russell
Male programmer – Jo Stone-Fewings
Female programmer – Nisha Nayar
Agorax – Dominic Burgess
Fitch – Karren Winchester
Colleen – Kate Loustau
Broff – Sebastian Armesto
Controller – Martha Cope
Security guard – Sam Callis
Androids – Alan Ruscoe, Paul Kasey
Dalek operators – Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg, David Hankinson
Dalek voice – Nicholas Briggs
Doctor Who – David Tennant

Crew
Writer – Russell T Davies
Director – Joe Ahearne
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“You have got to be kidding!” says the Doctor, summoned by Davinadroid to the Big Brother Diary Room on Channel 44,000 in the year 200,100 – it’s a sentiment that sums up this 2005 finale. Think big. Think bold. Think fantastic! For the very first time, Doctor Who achieves a perfect blend of big screen and small screen.

I absolutely adore Bad/Parting (as I’m calling this two-parter to save time). I admire its scope and ambition as much as Russell T Davies’s cheekiness in crossing over Doctor Who – which, remember, at scripting stage had yet to be restored to greatness – with the major TV shows of the day. And why shouldn’t he? After all, Dalek serials were comfortably embracing popular culture way back in 1965, so why not in 2005?

This was when Big Brother was still huge. And here Paul Oakenfold’s pulse-racing theme (the best thing about BB) fits perfectly. It accentuates the underlying nastiness of the Channel 4 show, just as the inherent cruelty of Weakest Link and What Not to Wear is elevated to a new and deadly level.

For viewers at large Bad/Parting is inventive, gripping entertainment; for fans, it delivers what they’ve longed for: legions of Daleks at their most impressive, stunning composite images that bring to life the scale of the 1960s Dalek comic strips… The return of the Emperor Dalek, giving chills that reach right back to 1967… The Doctor and his companions are at their most courageous and potent… There are meaningful sacrifices… And, for the first time, Doctor Who has a proper, exhilarating season finale. Mr Executive Producer, you’re spoiling us!

Bad/Parting offers a glut of treats and surprises. Of course, the biggest should have been the regeneration. In the event, everyone knew it was coming even before the season started. But how would he go? Extermination? No. The Doctor would die as a direct result of kissing Rose – a loving, life-saving kiss that absorbs the time-vortex energy burning within her and leads to his own demise. And he exits smiling. The tradition of the Time Lord flaking out on the floor is over. This is regeneration erect – with arms outstretched in crucifixion pose. A blaze of golden energy. A resurrection.

What makes Bad/Parting stand out are the bold strokes and little touches that catch you off guard. Rose becomes the Weakest Link and is disintegrated by the Anne Droid. Can she really be dead? The devastated Doctor believes so. And then there’s the weird, wired-in wraith-like Controller (a steal from Minority Report) who harps on about “My Masters”, a subtle but tingling build to the reintroduction of the Daleks. Remember, when episode 12 aired, few people knew they were about to return.

Viewers were teased a few episodes earlier by a lone Dalek survivor, so who doesn’t get a surge of excitement at the first glimpse of their control room here? It is empty but the soundtrack throbs with the instantly recognisable Dalek control-room effect created by Brian Hodgson in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop 42 years earlier. And then there’s a frisson as a familiar, knobbled outline of a Dalek edges across a mottled reflective surface.

The Doctor is on top form, barracking the Daleks, announcing he’ll rescue Rose from their clutches and then does so by materialising the Tardis around her. There’s a first. Later he tricks Rose and sends her home. He’s prepared to surrender his Tardis to save her. How many other companions would he have done that for? He’s also recorded a farewell hologram, which, delightfully and unexpectedly, turns to face her (and us).

Captain Jack also enjoys an extraordinary exit. He kisses Rose and the Doctor on the lips; it’s intended as a tender goodbye but still seems daring for teatime telly. Jack is doomed to die, and gets a great death – extermination! But lo, he too is resurrected. It’s strange looking back now, realising how much happened subsequently to the poor captain who could never die.

But my favourite surprise is the demise of Lynda with a Y. Jo Joyner (who one year later joined EastEnders as Tanya Branning) is completely endearing. “Dead sweet,” the Doctor calls her – more than a hint at the fate in store. The Daleks are cutting through a door to get at her, a task that traditionally takes ages and allows bags of time for rescue – but suddenly a trio of Daleks appear at the window, elevating in space. The leader’s lights flash four times – an unheard but obvious “Ex-ter-mi-nate!” The glass shatters and poor Lynda is a goner.

It is such rule-flouting imagination – and no-expense-spared attitude – that elevates Bad/Parting to a classic.

(Adapted from an article first published in Doctor Who Magazine in 2009, with kind permission.)

***

So farewell, so soon, to yet another Doctor. In 2005, it was unfathomable that the BBC cast Christopher Eccleston in the lead, then let him to escape after just one series. While his is certainly not the shortest-lived incarnation (Paul McGann and John Hurt vie for that position), it’s a shame he didn’t make more.

Eccleston’s clout as an actor gave the relaunch of the series the credibility it needed and there’s no doubting the gravitas he lent to the role. That said, I was never convinced that Eccleston – unlike all his predecessors – fully understood the programme or the character of the Doctor.

So why did he leave? It’s plain that the full story behind his departure has yet to surface. In 2005, rumours were rife of behind-the-scenes friction and five years later, in June 2010, Eccleston finally confirmed in Radio Times: “The BBC released a statement saying I was tired and scared of being typecast. I challenged that… They handled it very badly but they issued an apology so I dropped it.”

He continued: “I decided after my experience on the first series that I didn’t want to do any more. I didn’t enjoy the environment and the culture that we, the cast and crew, had to work in. I wasn’t comfortable. I thought, ‘If I stay in this job, I’m going to have to blind myself to certain things that I thought were wrong.’ ”

He concluded on a positive note: “The most important thing is that I did it, not that I left. It kind of broke the mould and it helped to reinvent it. I’m very proud of it.” But, at the time of writing in 2013, his pride in the part evidently wasn’t strong enough to compel him to commit to the 50th anniversary special. 

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