Ok everyone, sorry for the delay in this. Life stuff has been happening. Onwards to the second to last story of series one!
Bad Wolf is many things. Its a satire on modern day telly (well, of its time anyway), a commentary on the Doctor’s existance, the penultimate episode of the series where all the various plot threads of the series are meant to come together AND the 9th Doctor’s last story before he regenerates. It manages to balance all these elements quite well to create a riveting 40 minuets of telly that leaves you wondering just what the hell the Doctor is going to do.
So, the episode picks up not long after the events of the last episode, though none of the members of the Tardis quite know how they got to where they are. The Doctor is an a Big Brother game, Rose is at the mercy of the AnneDroid (see what they did there?)in The Weakest Link and Jack is menaced by Trinny and Suzanne robots. At first they all play along rather jovially until the truth comes out. Unlike our versions of these shows, the winner only gets one prize: to be allowed to live.
The Doctor has a hankering he isn’t meant to die being known as a Z list celebrity so starts breaking things to get himself evicted. As always hes right and the disintigration beam refuses to fire, letting the Doctor sonic himself and his newly acquired companion Lynda to freedom by *gasp!* opening a locked door! Jack meanwhile pulls a gun from somewhere and zaps the robots that were going to mix his body with a dogs head.
With Jack and the Doctor outside of the games, they team up to try and find Rose before its too late, whilst realising they are about 100 years into the future of the Earth the doctor visited in The Long Game. As they race to find her it seems she isn’t blessed with the plot immunity that the men of this episode are, as shes trapped in her Weakest Link game, the AnneDroid killing anyone who tries to escape. She only survived this long because one of the contestants has been voting to keep her in so they can win the last round easily. Human cruelty and and greed is alive and well in the future it seems.
They get slightly lost though and stop in a room with a view overlooking Earth. Whilst they wrestle with getting a map out of the computer terminal the Doctor asks Lynda just how the world changed in less than 100 years from his last visit when he had set everything right. It turns out he hadn’t and his actions indirectly caused this. By shutting down Satalite 5, he caused the worlds economy to collapse overnight, before plunging the world into an age of darkness, until the BadWolf corportaion stepped in started running the gamestation as one big death show, trasmatting particpants away so they can become “willing” participants to entertain the population of Earth.Its a truly terrifying moment and touches on themes of this series, that the Doctor doesn’t know best. Ecclestons face as he realises just what hes done, backed up by swelling music is a great moment.
Its not just the Doctor who has realised something is up though. Some of staff of the Gamestation have noticed there are people inside the games that shouldn’t be and take it to ‘The Controller’. A sort of nightmarish human/machine hybrid jacked into and controlling most of the actions of the satellite, she pretty impervious to anyones questions though, insisting they return to their stations to prepare for an incoming solar flare that will knock out transmissions temporarily.
Through all this, time is slowly ticking down for Rose. Shes into the final round and as you would expect from someone with no knowledge of the future, she doesn’t do well. The scenes slowly builds in terror with the inevitability of the her death coming closer yet we all know the Doctor will come in time to save her. And here he is, coming through the door, all will be well!
…except that doesn’t happen this time. To stop the AnneDroid killing the Doctor, Rose throws herself in from of its killer beam. Jack reacts with typical anger, but the Doctors face…well…that says it all.
Look, just watch the scene here.
To make up for the naughty crime you just committed, promise me you will buy some Doctor Who DVD’s ok? Promise me.
Its worth it just to be able to see the stellar piece of acting Eccleston performs, the Doctor not quite able to believe whats happened and for once, just speechless. Hes not only broken a promise to keep Rose safe, but his actions have killed someone he cares quite a lot about.
The next scene has a very sombre feel to it. After an episode full of music, the silence is haunting as the Doctor and his companions are readied by security to be shipped of to prison for life. There seems to be no fight left in the Doctor. Suddenly the scenes changes though as he comes to his senses. He and Jack fight their way through security as if its not there and armed to kill head for the top floor to finally get some answers.
It almost seems as if he will go through with it as well, until he tosses the gun to the staff. It seems he isn’t angry enough to resort to pointless killing yet, but all sense of a jovial mood is gone. The Doctor is barely keeping his rage in check, but hes focusing it to find out whats been happening on Satellite 5 and why there have been so many pointless deaths.
Jack starts searching and soon finds the Tardis. This normally happy moment is cut by a shot of Rose’s jacket. Still, checking the Tardis computer he soon sees why they were separated from it. As a living machine it figured out the disintegration beams were in fact transmats, meaning Rose is alive!
At this point the solar flares kick in, leaving the Controller to impart the necessary cryptic clues about who us behind this all, and give the Doctor their co-ordinates in space, even at the cost of her life. Turning off most of the power, which has been used to hide them, the camera pans back to show…
The Daleks open communication with the Doctor and demand he stand down, only to receive one of the strongest speeches of Nu Who
The Doctor: No
Dalek: What is the meaning of this negative?
The Doctor: It means no.
Dalek: But she (Rose) will be destroyed.
The Doctor: No! Because this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to rescue her. 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 I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek OUT OF THE SKY!
Dalek: But you have no weapons! No plan!
The Doctor: Yeah, and doesn’t that scare you to death? Rose- I’m coming to get you.
and with that, we head into the next episode ‘A Parting of the Ways’.
Bad Wolf is a brilliant episode. The pacing is almost breakneck, juggling 4 simultaneous stories very well and slowly building up the tension, until it pulls the incredibly ballsy move of killing a companion and Rose Tyler at that. Up until that point she had mostly been the audience surrogate that grew alongside the character herself as she explored the ‘Who universe, so to see her killed so callously was quite a shock.
Even the weakest parts of the episode, the costumes and the game shows it parodies- which are almost instantly dated, were okish and the episode made the smart move of not making them the real focus, getting them out of the way for the more interesting parts of the show. The episode works mostly due to some great acting from Eccleston and Murry Gold’s score, which though bombastic, is used well to slowly ramp up the tension. I will touch upon the themes of the episode after I’ve reviewed the next one, as I feel some parts rely on the knowledge that comes in it.
Make no mistake though, this is a pretty grim and dark episode. It has its light touches, but even they seem to be undercut by a darker or more sadistic sense of humor, such as the Trinny and Suzanne robots and their mutterings.
As it leads into a an arc episode and a regeneration, its a must watch anyway, but I would watch it even if that were not the case. The first season has quite a lot of highs and lows, but this is up there with the best of them. The who team seemed to pull together on this one and everything just clicks to create a riveting set 45 minuets. Even though I’ve seen it already, I want to watch the next episode again!
So see you next week for more Waiting for the Doctor.