Separated and with no TARDIS, the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Jack have to fight for their lives on the Game Station, but a far more dangerous threat is lurking, just out of sight. The Doctor realises that the entire human race has been blinded to the threat on its doorstep, and Armageddon is fast approaching.
As we advance towards the finale of the first series of the revival, Doctor Who does something that we don’t really see enough of – the Doctor brought face to face with the consequences of his actions. I have it on good authority that it happens in The Ark but I’m going to hold my hands up here and admit that I haven’t seen that story yet. Usually the audience are left to accept that the impact of the Doctor is always positive on these situations, however, his meddling does not work out here.
Okay. Defabricator. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Am I naked in front of millions of viewers?
Ladies, your viewing figures just went up!Captain Jack Harkness and Trine-E and Zu-Zanna
I am not going to beat around the bush here – I love Bad Wolf. Combined with The Parting of the Ways it makes, in my opinion, the best series finale in Russell T Davies’ era as show runner. But I feel that I must pick a slight flaw in it, which is a bit of a problem with this era in general – the obsession with contemporary pop culture. Here it is represented by the game shows that the Doctor, Jack and Rose find themselves in – Big Brother, The Weakest Link and What Not To Wear. Of this trio, Big Brother had the longest run, on British screens at least, finally coming to an end in 2018, but arguably it was a programme at its height of its significance in 2005. The main issue with this is that makes the episode feel dated and some elements, like the Anne Droid’s cutting remarks towards Rose’s employment status or Davina McCall doing the voiceover for the Big Brother house, which would hit sentimental moments for somebody my age would probably bewilder someone ten years younger than me. That being said, the idea of game shows with a lethal edge is quite a dark and twisted idea that I really like and I can understand why Davies and the production team wanted to rely on shows on television at the time rather than making three up out of nowhere. The sets, whether they be the darkness shrouded Weakest Link, the sterile and surgical feeling What Not To Wear or the uncanny nature of home with the Big Brother house, are creepy and effective settings for this story. Of the three, the What Not To Wear segments are weakest, and it is a relief to see Jack escape this quite quickly, although there are some great lines here. The Weakest Link probably works the rest of the three – Anne Robinson was renowned at the time for being an ‘Ice Queen’ so the transition to being a emotionless android doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch. While both this and Big Brother twist concepts of being the weakest link or being evicted add a sinister undertone when death is thrown into the equation.
The view of the future is depicted as rather bleak and the direction and production does a good join of showing this. Space Station 5 is grimy and dirty, not the bastion of the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire as it should be and feels dated, whilst the set designs, especially those of the Weakest Link and the areas controlling the Station are quite grungy. Russell T Davies paints a picture of a human race forced to participate in lethal gameshows or stay indoors and watch them as firstly the licence fee is a legal requirement, and secondly, pollution has progressed to the point where the population of Earth have to be told when it is safe to breathe outside, due to the Great Atlantic Smog Storm. The idea of the Controller being manipulated from the age of 5 by the Daleks is one that is suitably creepy as well. On top of that, as opposed to the usual fame a modern reality contestant may expect, in the future the prize for winning Big Brother is simply that they get to live. Of course and potentially unsurprisingly, it is eventually revealed that the Daleks are behind this subjugation of the human race. Joe Ahearne does a decent job in referencing their presence before we see this reborn Dalek Empire at full strength, through the shot through the Dalek eyestalk and later showing them only in reflection before they exterminate the Controller. When that full reveal comes, it is effectively dealt with and the Daleks feel like a real threat again, in no small part as the series has shown us just how dangerous one single Dalek can be.
The central cast put in strong performances here, especially Christopher Eccleston who is in top form here. His reaction to Rose’s “death” at the hands of the Anne Droid is some really powerful acting. The fact that the Doctor doesn’t say anything in the immediate aftermath is really powerful. He is superb in this episode in general, and the speech leading into the cliffhanger is a perfect example of this. Billie Piper is good here too as Rose, not taking her situation in the Weakest Link too seriously, realising that she will not be able to answer the majority of the questions she is asked. Her joy when she is able to answer some questions is palpable and quite contagious, and when is exterminated by the Anne Droid, it still hits home as a bit of a shock. Part of this may be down to the performance of Jo Joyner, who the Doctor meets in the Big Brother house and seems to be a feasible new companion for the Doctor, making Rose’s death seem all the more plausible. Lynda as a character meets a lot of the traditional companion marks and Joyner makes the character likeable enough that the prospect of having her as a companion is an intriguing ‘what if?’. It’s also interesting to see how far Jack has come in terms of his character development over the last few episodes and see how much more of a team player he is now – he is happy in his position as the Doctor’s muscle. John Barrowman is great, whether it is in the more comedic scenes or the more serious ones and he is probably this episode’s MVP.
Verdict: Bad Wolf sets up one of the best finales in the revived show, with good performances from the central cast and a good story. It is slightly let down by the fact it does feel a bit dated through the shows featured. 9/10
Cast: Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), Jo Joyner (Lynda), Jamie Bradley (Strood), Abi Eniola (Crosbie), Davina McCall (Voice of Davinadroid), Patterson Joseph (Rodrick), Jenna Russell (Floor Manager), Anne Robinson (Voice of Anne Droid), Trinny Woodall (Voice of Trine-E), Susannah Constantine (Voice of Zu-Zana), Jo Stone Fewings (Male Programmer), Nisha Nayar (Female Programmer), Dominic Burgess (Agorax), Karren Winchester (Fitch), Kate Loustau (Colleen), Sebastien Armesto (Broff), Martha Cope (Controller), Sam Callis (Security Guard), Alan Ruscoe and Paul Kasey (Androids), Barnaby Edwards, Nicholas Pegg and David Hankinson (Dalek Operators) & Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Daleks).
Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Joe Ahearne
Behind the Scenes
- A working title was Gameshow World. It was one of the last stories of Series One to have it’s title confirmed, originally being billed as The Parting of the Ways, Part One.
- The first mention of the Torchwood Institute, which would be the arc for Series Two, before becoming a spin-off show starring John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness.
- It was originally intended for the episode to include a shot of Jack’s naked buttocks, but the BBC’s editorial policy department vetoed the shot, which was the only objection that they had in the entirety of Series One.
- Nisha Naya was one of the uncredited Red Kang extras in Paradise Towers, making her the second actor to appear in both the classic and revived series. She also voiced Zanzibar Hashtag in Harvest of the Sycorax, the Seventh Doctor story on Classic Doctors, New Monsters Volume 1.
- Paterson Joseph was heavily linked with the role of the Eleventh Doctor after the departure of David Tennant. Joseph also appeared in the Big Finish story Earth Aid.
- Jenna Russell voiced Porcelain Polly and Missus in the Big Finish Jago and Litefoot story Encore for the Scorchies and as one of several Scorchies in The Wax Princess.
- Jo Stone-Fewings went onto appear in the Big Finish story Hounded in The Churchill Years: Volume One.
- Sebastian Armesto appeared in Grand Theft Cosmos and Donna Noble: Kidnapped!
- Martha Cope has appeared in The Nowhere Place, Bedtime Story and The Sons of Kaldor.
- Anne Robinson was invited to voice the Anne Droid with the expectation that she would decline. The production team had hired an impressionist, before Robinson accepted the invitation.
This is a tough one. I think the moment where the Doctor, Jack and Lynda break out of their incarceration before going up to Floor 500 just shades it.
We have your associate. You will be obey or she will be exterminated.
I said “no”.
What is the meaning of this negative?
It means no.
But she will be destroyed!
No! ‘Cos this is what I’m going to do: I’m gonna rescue her! I’m gonna 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 gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
But you have no weapons! No defences! No plan!
Yeah! And doesn’t that just scare you to death? Rose?
I’m coming to get you.Dalek, the Ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler
Previous Ninth Doctor review: Boom Town
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