Crimson Eleven Delight Petrichor

Learning life lessons from the Doctor

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Welcome to my weblog about Doctor Who, where (almost) every post is devoted to analysing one episode in depth!

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Series 1 summary

Before I start, a quick reminder that this is the last biweekly installment of my weblog as promised almost half a year ago. From now on, I will publish here much less frequently unless I manage to gain some support. If you want to be able to read articles about the episodes from Series 2 (and possibly other series, too) earlier, you can help make it happen!

So, as promised in the beginning, here is my summary of Series 1. Since I analyzed every episode rather thoroughly, I won’t repeat myself – the purpose of this summary is to say something about Series 1 as a whole. And since I was rather serious in many of my articles, I’m going to have a bit of fun here – how about some Series 1 “top five” lists? I don’t think we necessarily should categorize and rank everything, especially when it comes to art – but I like making these lists, even if they are not meaningful in any serious way. Note that in many cases the order on the lists is a bit arbitrary, and on another day my lists could look differently.

Let’s start, though, with exploring the series’ main theme. I’m not entirely sure it even has one – we humans are good in seeing patterns even when they’re not there. But you know what? I don’t care. I am pretty sure my interpretations of many an episode were wildly different than what the writers intended, and that’s ok – so why not interpret the series as a whole in my own way?

Overcoming the grief

There were many themes present in more than one or even two episodes. Rose’s compassion, the Doctor respect for life are the first ones to come to my mind. But we’ll see the former in Series 2 and the latter in all subsequent series, so they don’t seem to be exclusive to Series 1. Let’s look instead at something that seems unique to it. In the second episode we learn early on that the Doctor lost his folk and a bit later that he actually caused their demise. This must have been a severe trauma, and we can see a whole range of responses. The further in the series we get, the more we can see the Doctor coming to terms with his situation. During most of Rose, he is a detached cynic; in The end of the world, he switches between a sad clown and a ruthless executioner. In The unquiet dead he meets Dickens, which is definitely a moment of joy, and learns about the Gelth, which is fantastic for him, and starts to soften – for example, it’s one of the first times he shows how he cares for Rose. In Aliens of London and World War III he’s back to being a bitter cynic and risks losing Rose again, only to be further traumatized in Dalek. Then he needs to deal with Rose being (very shortly) attached to Adam in The long game. In Father’s Day he fights with Rose and fails to save the humanity because of her stupid mistake. In The empty child his Rose falls for another man (again), but we see him genuinely happy for the first time in The Doctor dances and later again in Boom town (though that episode is a bumpy ride for him because of all the Blon’s taunting). Then he sees Rose killed (for all he knows) in Bad Wolf and learns (again) that he didn’t kill the Daleks after all.

Now that I made that short trip through all the episodes, I’m wondering where he draws his strength from – between short moments of pure happiness (mostly in the second half of the Series) he has a lot to deal with… Does it make his calm acceptance of his fate in The parting of the ways (twice, in fact – first he assumes the Daleks will kill him for real and then he is aware of the approaching regeneration) less plausible? That is a difficult question. On the one hand, he is dying knowing that he sacrificed his life for someone he loved – one of the best deaths a man could possibly have. What’s more, he must have known – even seen – how Rose is a better person than when he first met her, so his “you were fantastic, absolutely fantastic!” is spot on. On the other hand, what reasons did he have for the second part, “so was I”? I can see three explanations, and I’m torn between two of them. The first one is simple – it is Christopher Eccleston who says it to Billie Piper, not the Doctor who says it to Rose. Eccleston knew he was leaving Doctor Who forever (well, it turned out he came back much later for some audio stories, but I guess he couldn’t have known that at the time), and I think we can all agree that he was fantastic (even if he’s not everybody’s favorite Doctor). Now, that was the Doylist answer – and what about a Watsonian one? A pessimistic explanation is that it was just an act to keep Rose’s spirits up, and he didn’t really believe in what he was saying. That is a sad possibility. The more optimistic one is being loved by Rose helped him see himself for what he truly was – flawed for sure, but doing his best to love others, which is one of the most fundamental things. This might be one of the most important lessons from The parting of the ways (and the whole series) – being loved is what drives our efforts to change for the better, and of course our awareness and openness to God’s love towards ourselves is the most powerful factor of all.

Ok, enough serious seriousness for now – let’s now have a bit of fun with a few top (more or less) five lists! As I said, don’t treat them too seriously, but feel free to argue with me over email if your choices are different. Note also that one of the aspects I take into consideration is how the given moment is underrated, so I might value some scene a bit more even if it is not so much scary, funny or whatever list I am compiling, but not talked about enough in my opinion.

Five scariest moments

How about starting with top five most scary and/or creepy moments of Series 1? Doctor Who is famous for making kids hide under the sofa, and that fame is well deserved. Here is my personal and subjective list, starting with number five to build just a bit of suspence;-).

For number five I decided to go with the scene when Rose wakes up in the mortuary near the beginning of The unquiet dead. It may be obvious that the Doctor would save her, but it is still quite horrifying to see the dead-looking eyes of Mr Redpath and his grandmother. Interestingly enough, we are very soon tricked into believing the story of poor Gelth just looking to survive…

My number four is one of the first scenes of Rose, when the Autons start to move and soon chase Rose in the basement. It is a fantastic opening, and seeing the first “dummy” slightly turn its head, hearing it creak, and then see more and more of them coming for Rose is one of the most creepy scenes in the first episode – and the first series indeed.

Number three for me is the very short moment of The parting of the ways when the Daleks start to pour from their saucers and surround the Game Station. It was established seven episodes earlier that one Dalek can wreak havoc on a massive scale, and here we have thousands of them – how not to be scared?

For number two I decided to go with another Dalek moment, this time from their eponymous episode. The angry pepper pot confronts a flight of stairs, gets mocked by Adam and promptly elevates. This basically gives the impression that it is basically invincible. I think what sold this scene to me was the calmness of its voice when it uttered the word “elevate” combined with the slowness of its ascent – the effect was not just “oh my, we will all die”, but “oh my, we will all die slowly while being terrorized and methodically killed by this horrible creature”.

Before I get to my number one (which by now is probably not difficult to guess anyway…), let me list three honorable mentions. Raffalo being sucked in into the ventilation shaft, even if 100% expected, was still pretty frightening for me, probably because of the claustrophobic feeling and the creepiness of the robot spiders.

However silly the Slitheen were, the whole sequence of Sip Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen hunting Jackie down in her flat was another moment I found terrifying. Here she was, with someone who she believed was there to ensure her safety, and who turned out to be the exact person who was the most dangerous to her. Oversized farting alien or not, he was truly frightening.

For the last honorable mention, let me choose the Dalek killing Simmons using his infamous toilet plunger. It was the first person in New Who to be killed by a Dalek, and while he wasn’t exterminated in a typical fasion, his death was gruesome even if expected.

And this way, we got to my number one. Quite obviously it is the moment when Doctor Constantine grew his gas mask and became yet another soldier in the army of the Empty Child. Big kudos to the special effects team for making a totally expected scene nightmare-inducing anyway!

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Are you my mummy?

Five most awesome moments

Even though the Ninth Doctor is pretty low-key, he still has his moments of awesomeness – not to mention Rose and other people. Here are my five (9 with honorable mentions) moments of awesomeness in Series 1.

For the fifth one I went with captain Jack Harkness. Whatever I say about him, no list of awesome moments could be complete without him. My pick is his exclamation in Bad Wolf: “Doctor, Rose is still alive!”. (And I would say that he should share the prize with the T.A.R.D.I.S. – in his own words, “the T.A.R.D.I.S. worked it out”!)

The fourth one is from the Doctor, only a few minutes later. His whole exchange with the Daleks is absolutely fantastic, from his “no”, to the “doesn’t that scare you to death” taunt, to the final “Rose? I’m coming to get you!”.

The third one is slightly cheesy, but I still find it pretty awesome. And that is the famous “Everybody lives!” from The Doctor dances. I honestly don’t know what else to say – it’s pretty obvious that this should make the list.

For the second one I went with one of my favorite speeches of the Doctor (and by that I don’t mean the Ninth Doctor, but the Doctor in general!) – the “Earth revolving” speech from Rose. The whole scene is very impressive (moreso when you notice that most of their chat is one long camera shot!), but the final answer to Rose’s question – “Really, though, Doctor. Tell me, who are you?” – is great. The writing, the delivery, and then the Doctor just walks to the T.A.R.D.I.S. parked in the background while his theme is playing. The whole scene gives me goosebumps!

Before I reveal my choice for the first place (which might be surprising), four honorable mentions. Three of them are different people saving the Doctor (and a lot of other people): Rose defating the Nestene Consciousness, Charles Dickens using gas to drive the Gelth out, and Jackie lending Rose and Mickey the big yellow truck with which they opened the T.A.R.D.I.S. console. The fourth one is the Doctor – this time not saving anyone, but bragging to Rose about the “red bicycle when [she was] twelve”. Well, I could count it in the “everybody lives” scene, but it’s a cute little moment which I feel deserves a separate mention.

This way we made it to my number one most awesome moment in Series 1. Let me repeat the disclaimer – I am aware that this may not be objectively number one, but I have a feeling that it is really good and very underrated, which boosts it on my list. So, here it is. When the Doctor and Rose hide in the T.A.R.D.I.S. from the ridiculous plastic Mickey, and Rose is afraid that he will follow them inside, the Doctor calmly states: “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried.” The slightly menacing way he says it – and the idea itself – are great, especially that this is the first episode, and for many viewers the first time they learn what the T.A.R.D.I.S. is. So, top of my list!

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The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried

Five most heart-breaking moments

Doctor Who wouldn’t be Doctor Who if it weren’t breaking the viewers’ hearts time and again. We Whovians all appreciate a good laugh, but we appreciate a good cry even more. And Series 1 is no exception. Finding five heart-breaking moment in it is easy; ranking them is not, so let me remind you that the order I chose is not the only possible one.

With that said, let’s get to it. My number five is Mickey talking with Rose in The parting of the ways, and specifically Rose telling him that “there's nothing left [for her] here.” We already established that Rose treated Mickey in a very unfair way, but that particular moment was the pinnacle of it, and Mickey’s sad reaction made me decide that this should make my list.

Number four is something we all knew would make it, too – the Doctor’s regeneration scene. It doesn’t need any explanation apart from the obvious question – why this isn’t number one? Well, just wait and see! Again, it’s been almost 20 years now since it first aired, and people are still talking about it – so the next three entries on my list will be the ones not talked about that often. Still, this is definitely a phenomenal scene, and I had to put it here.

Number three I already mentioned when discussing Father’s Day – the short exchange when Rose apologizes for saving her dad’s life of all things is truly heartbreaking for me. I won’t repeat myself, so go on and reread that post. I’ll wait!

Ok, now that you have difficulties reading because of tears in your eyes, I’ll mention another underrated Rose moment which is actually one of my favorite scenes in Series 1. It’s The parting of the ways again, and this time this is Rose talking with Jackie. When I first watched it, I gasped when Rose let it slip that she and the Doctor visited Pete on the day he died. It was totally unexpected, almost easy to miss and I think it was also a turning point in the difficult relation between Jackie and the Doctor. So, easily in my top five.

And of course now it’s time for a few honorable mentions. The Doctor almost turning into a Dalek – brandishing a big gun and threatening to shoot it, and Rose asking the poignant question, “What […] are you changing into?”, definitely deserved to be here. The ending of The end of the world, when the Doctor muses about how Earth will be gone one day, and tells Rose that his planet is gone, is probably not one of the top five, but surely one of the top ten, so here it is. Another moment which I wanted to touch on is the Doctor’s desperate question to the anonymous U.N.I.T. soldier who killed the poor pig in Aliens of London, “what did you do that for? It was scared!” He just realized what the creature was, he wanted to help it, and it got killed right before his eyes… And for the last honorable mention I chose the Doctor quietly asking Nancy, “who did you lose?” in The empty child.

So, have you already guessed my number one? It may come as a surprise for you, but I decided to go with another Nancy moment – the scene when she pleads with the soldier guarding her to let her free. I already discussed how her “Please, let me go. It’s too late for you. I’m sorry, but please let me go” was touching, but let me mention one thing that only occurred to me right now. Learning that you are about to die is not an easy experience, but telling someone that is not simple either. It must have been difficult for Nancy, too, to break that news to the poor guy… This scene is heartbreaking for me even though I know that “everybody lives!” in the end.

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It’s too late for you. I’m sorry, but please let me go.

Five funniest moments

So, we had our cry, let’s move on and laugh for a while. Despite all the sadness, all the grimness and all the horror we meet during Series 1, there are also many, many truly funny moments – so many that it’s difficult to only choose five of them! (In fact, after I wrote my list down and started to actually write this a few days later, I added someting to the list and rearranged a few other items….) But let’s do it anyway.

Number five is the Doctor’s comeback to Rose asking to take Adam with them. It cracks me up every single time. “Adam was saying that all his life he wanted to see the stars” – it’s so poetic, and we almost expect the Doctor to take him into the T.A.R.D.I.S. and show him the wonders of the universe. And what we get instead? “Tell him to go and stand outside, then!” It’s brilliant and to the point.

My number four is the Doctor ordering Jackie about in Father’s Day. “Jackie Tyler, do as I say – go and check the doors!”, followed by “I should have done that ages ago”, is hilarious.

For number three I selected another of the Doctor’s wisecracks. In Rose, when asked about his Northern accent, he just looks offended and replies, “lots of planets have a north!” The sheer absurdity of that answer, and the deadpan way he delivers it, are enough to secure the place on this list, and in fact I can easily imagine someone putting it higher.

Number two is Nancy once again. (I really like Nancy, she’s one of my favorite characters in Series 1, even if she is a thief!) It might be the only time she was genuinely laughing (well, smiling at least), but when the Doctor explains to her that “[his] nose has special powers” (after she expresses her astonishment that he was able to follow her), she asks him if his ears have special powers, too. And even if it’s not the best joke in the world, her mischievous little smile when she says that makes the scene very funny for me.

Before I get to my favorite funny moment of Series 1, let me just list my honorable mentions. There are as many as eight of them this time, and I have a feeling I could double that number without much difficulty. So, let’s make it quick.

The Doctor getting into the room full of U.N.I.T. soldiers and quickly ordering them – “Defence plan delta, come on! Move, move!” – and the soldiers instantly obeying him – is one of my candidates. Another one is Rose reacting to a compliment by her father: “I know what you’re saying, and we’re not going there. At no point are we going anywhere near there. You aren’t even aware that there exists. I don’t even want to think about there, and believe me, neither do you”. Yet another one is Charles Dickens warming up to the Doctor after hearing that he is “his number one fan”. The Doctor assessing various weapons when preparing to fight the lone Dalek (“Broken. Broken. Hair dryer.”) is also a very fun moment. And of course Jackie Tyler just had to have more than one entry on the “funniest moments” list. After the incident on the Powell Estate, the Doctor comments: “Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone's mother” – and his slightly offended tone is hysterical (as is Rose’s reaction to his words). And younger Jackie learning that Rose is Pete’s daughter, not yet understanding that it’s the Rose, and asking Pete “How many are there? Do you call them all Rose?” is yet another funny piece of dialog. The last one is the famous “– My mother’s cooking. – Good. Put her on a slow heat and let her simmer.” exchange from World War III.

Ok, with that out of the way, here is my number one funniest scene of Series 1. Also in World War III, when the Doctor gives Rose, Harriet Jones and the Slitheen a history lesson about 10 Downing Street, concluded with “Three inches of steel lining every single wall. They'll never get in”. Rose then asks, “and how do we get out?”, to which the Doctor grins like an idiot and utters one syllable: “Ah.” No matter how many times I see this scene, I laugh every single time.

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– And how do we get out?
– Ah.

Five most heartwarming moments

We did scary, we did tear-inducing, and we did funny. Now it’s time for heartwarming moments of Series 1. We all need some comforting now and then, and Doctor Who delivers on that front, too. Here are my top five most heartwarming moments of Series 1.

So, my number five is a very short and easy to miss scene in The end of the world when the Doctor gets back after saving Platform One. The first thing he does is to go to the trees and tell them about Jabe’s death, and then gives them a hug. That short hug is truly touching, and since it’s the Doctor comforting people, it made this list.

Number four is Nancy finally telling the Empty Child that she is his mummy. I don’t know what else to say – the only thing that might raise a brow is, why number four and not higher on the list? Well, we’ll see in a minute.

My number three is another gesture of compassion from the Doctor. Near the beginning of Father’s Day, when Rose is about to witness her father’s death, he silently takes her by the hand. No unnecessary words, he just lets her know that he is there for her.

Number two is another moment from The Doctor dances. When Rose and Nancy talk while cutting the wires, Nancy has no trouble believing in time travel, but cannot believe that there is any future in which Rose is not German… And then Rose tells her this: “Nancy, the Germans don't come here. They don’t win. Don’t tell anyone I told you so, but you know what? You win.” I love that moment!

And now the time for the honorable mentions. Dickens regaining his happiness and will to live at the end of The unquiet dead is one of them. Another is the Doctor berating Cathica in The long game – he has this to say about Rose: “Now, Rose. Look at Rose. Rose is asking the right kind of question.” Not very heartwarming for Cathica, sure, but definitely healthy for Rose’s self-esteem. And finally, when the T.A.R.D.I.S. team saved captain Jack near the end of The Doctor dances, the Doctor says this: “Close the door, will you? Your ship’s about to blow up. There’s going to be a draught.” This could as well make the “funny” list, but saving someone from certain death is definitely also heartwarming.

So, number one. For this one I decided to apply once again the “underrated” clause. Even if this moment is not the most heartwarming one in the Series, my impression is that nobody ever mentions that in online discussions. Hence, here is my shout-out to the Doctor and Rose making up after their fight in Father’s Day. (I have nothing more to say about it than what I said back then, so just go and reread that post to have more context.)

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I forgive you

Five best musical pieces

Ok, so we’re almost done with this list of lists. The last three are going to be much shorter. For this one, I’m not knowledgeable enough about music to make a lot of meaningful comments about it, so let me just list my five (six with one honorable mention) favorite pieces of music from Series 1 (with links to YouTube so that you’ll be able to listen to them in case you don’t remember which one is which), and the last two lists don’t need much justification, either, after all I wrote about Series 1. Let’s first get to my favorite five musical pieces from the soundtrack of Series 1.

Number 5 is Hologram, from The parting of the ways. Beautiful music for a beautiful scene. My number 4 is Father’s day, a haunting piece which apparently wasn’t used in any other episode. Number 3 is Rose’s theme – even if Rose is not my favorite companion, her theme is really great. My number 2 is Boom town suite – another case of a few motives used only in one particular episode to great effect.

For the only honorable mention I chose Clockwork T.A.R.D.I.S., an upbeat piece which is used in The end of the world (and currently in my phone as the ringtone) to convey the sense of surprise and adventure.

And quite expectedly, my number one is obviously The Doctor's theme, which will stay with us until at least Series 4 (and will even return sometimes later). It’s beautiful, it’s mysterious, it’s alien in a sense – it’s a perfect theme for the protagonist of our beloved show.

Three best companion looks

If I count correctly, once per series () the companion dons a period outfit. And even with more contemporary attire, the costume designers work very hard to make sure the companion (and other characters) look good. Let’s appreciate their work by listing my top three best companion looks.

Number three was a bit difficult for me to decide, but I finally went with how Rose looked in Aliens of London and World War III. Number two, on the other hand, was easy – The unquiet dead and the beautiful period dress. And number one is even easier – the beautiful braids Rose has in Boom town are impossible to beat.

Best three stories

And for the last list, let me tell you which three episodes are my favorite ones from Series 1. While selecting them was rather easy for me, ranking them was much more difficult, and on any other day I could completely change the order – all three are very solid episodes with a lot of strong parts.

After a while of thinking, I decided that Boom town is my number three. It doesn’t have fast-paced action like many others, it is definitely a budget-saving episode of Series 1, but it has a message I like (overall at least), a very good mix of sad and funny parts, and beautiful music. If not for the slightly disappointing resolution and Rose being so terrible to Mickey, it might as well be the first one on this list.

For number two, I went with Father’s Day. I like more emotional episodes, and Father’s Day gives me almost a perfect mix of emotions – a bit of laugh, a bit more sadness, but after all a (sort-of) happy ending. (.) I already shared my reservations about Pete’s way to resolve the situation, but after all I decided that I’m ok with it.

And my number one is (obviously) The end of the world. I think many people do not like it very much, but for some reason I cannot exactly pinpoint I love that episode. (I had a temptation to treat Rose – which probably deserves an honorable mention – and The end of the world as a two-parter, but it would be cheating, wouldn’t it?)

Outro

So, that’s it for Series 1. Thank you for reading this, and expect a break now. I hope to be back with a post on The Christmas invasion in about a month or two. Stay tuned!

The parting of the ways

– Have you tried that new pizza place down Minto Road?
– What’s it selling?
– Pizza.

So, after almost half a year we got to the end of Series 1. Before we proceed with discussing The parting of the ways, let me remind you that if you want me to continue this weblog, you can support me in a few ways. Since the support I got until now is sadly minimal, the current plan is to summarize Series 1 and then slow down to about one post per every four weeks. Of course, if enough people (and that really does not mean hundreds of people, just a few dozen would be absolutely perfect!) decide that my weblog is worth a bit of their money, I will increase the frequency again.

The parting of the ways. Where to start? It seems that the focus of this episode is on Rose and on the Daleks, and how both relate to the Doctor. Let’s begin with some minor themes and make our way to the more important ones.

Lynda with a Y (and Rodrick)

I hinted last time that Lynda’s chances were slim, and of course she died in this episode. I feel sorry both for her (obviously) and for the Doctor (who promised her he will get her out of the whole situation). Notice, however, how her death was different than Rodrick’s. The latter one was a jerk. Let’s be fair – he was trying to survive, and he was in a position where his survival meant death of everyone else involved, so I don’t dare blame him for his “tactical voting” in The weakest link. He could be a hero, sacrificing his own life voluntarily for someone else (like one of my favorite saints), but I can see how you could argue that him voting for others was not partaking in murder, but just trying to survive. (Personally, I am not sure either way.) The problem is that apparently his motivations were not crystal clear – when he was about to be ex-ter-mi-nated, he didn’t shout that he should survive, but that he should be rich.

The most interesting thing about Rodrick is something else, though. Even directly confronted by the deadly pepper pots he exclaimed, “you don’t exist!”. It seemed so stupid – but at the same time people do deny obvious reality staring them right in the face often enough…

Coming back to Lynda, the moment when the Daleks killed all the people on Floor 1 was heartbreaking for her, and also for me – not only was she terrified, she couldn’t stand hearing their screams, so she turned off the comm device to cut off the sound. And not very long after that she saw three Daleks slently floating behind the window – and then their lights silently flashed in the rhythm of their favorite word, and a few seconds later she was dead… The Doctor, hearing her scream, was visibly devastated.

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“Extermynate” with a “Y”

Also, don’t forget that she volunteered – twice, in fact. She ran out of the Big Brother house with the Doctor of her own will (he did persuade her, but didn’t drag her with him or anything like that!), and then she could have stayed on Floor 1 when Jack recruited people to mount the defences – but didn’t. So, poor Lynda with a Y…

And finally let’s notice how everyone remembers her as “Lynda with a Y”, not “Lynda Moss”. That’s how she introduced herself, and that’s what the Doctor called her. It is a testament to how names are important for people – after all, they are how people can be identified. Having a unique name somehow seems to convey the fact that you are a unique person, and when there are more people with similar names, people may perceive it as a risk of confusing the persons. Every time the Doctor and his companions care about names of people they meet, I hear a distant echo of Isaiah 43:1b (which I already mentioned). Basically, they imitate God, and in a good way.

Rose and Mickey

The parting of the ways is the episode when Rose and Mickey finally, well, part ways. Still, the way Rose basically dumped Mickey was plain terrible, telling him bluntly that’s “there's nothing left [for her] here”. And I’m wondering why that made Mickey change his mind about helping her… Was that because he decided that Rose is no longer “his”, but – still caring for her – he wanted to help her? Or was it a “revenge” for dumping him, because he was sure she was going to die if she comes back to the Doctor? I would really like it to be the former, but people being people – that is, complicated beings with complicated motives – I suspect it could have been a mixture of the two, even if Mickey himself did not realize that (which is a possibility). Sorry if you’re a fan of Mickey – I quite like him too, but this probably wasn’t his best moment…

Mickey was also wrong, I think, in one other moment. When Rose asks him, “how do I forget [the Doctor]?”, his answer is simple – “You've got to start living your own life”. Even if Rose decided to stay – which she could do, and it would be hard to blame her for that – she would probably never forget the Doctor, and that’s good. One of the show’s premises is how meeting the Doctor and becoming his companion – even for a short time – changes people for the better. I am sure that even if Rose didn’t come back to Game Station, she would still remember the Doctor and had a good life. (Of course, there are people who are resistant to change and even though they travel with the Doctor for some time, they don’t become better – and then there are also people who are so awesome that even meeting the Doctor can’t make them more awesome.)

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Saving the universe with a big yellow truck

Bad Wolf

Rose as Bad Wolf is a strange person. She has god-like powers over the physical world, apparently including the past, the present and the future. On the other hand, she is confused and doesn’t really know what she is doing. Contrast this with the Dalek Emperor, which is the exact opposite: his actual power is not really greater than of an ordinary Dalek, but his ego and self-confidence are of the size of a galaxy.

One moment about Bad Wolf which I find quite touching is when she revives Jack. This shows how she deeply cared about him – not in the sense of “romantic” love (eros), but in the sense of friendship (philia). Many people are of the opinion that philia between a man and a woman is impossible, and the RTD apparently disagrees – and I have to say I’m with him here. (Well, the attitude of Jack towards Rose seems to be something else than a pure friendship, but my headcannon is that all the flirting and kissing is just Jack’s warped sense of humor.)

Also, the Doctor’s reaction – “But this is wrong! You can't control life and death” – is a very interesting moment. You could interpret it in a number of ways. Is it a statement in favor of not prolonging the life of a terminally ill person “artificially”, using life support and similar techniques? Is it a statement against cloning humans? Against IVF? There are numerous ways to understand this, and I quite like this fact. When I rewatch this episode with my kids, I will definitely use this little piece of dialog to kickstart a very interesting and useful discussion!

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The eyes are not the windows of the soul. They are the doors. Beware what may enter there –

Rose and the Doctor

And we are slowly getting to the main topics of The parting of the ways. The first one is the relationship between Rose and the Doctor. There is so much here I don’t even know where to start! Well, let’s start with the most important observation.

The whole Series 1 shows us an ordinary girl slowly transforming into someone much better. This might be the main message of the whole Nine/Rose arc: being loved by someone helps you become a better person. Of course, it’s ultimately about accepting God and His unconditional love towards you, loving Him back as well as we humans can. It has been said many times that the Doctor is as close to a God-like figure as you can get in the Whoniverse, and while he is obviously a very flawed person (in many ways!), a few traits of him shine all the time: his love for every living person, his respect towards them, his willingness to sacrifice himself for others (even if it sometimes takes on less-than-ideal forms). So, we can see how the Doctor’s love for Rose helps her improve as a human being.

In The parting of the ways in particular we can see Rose becoming very Doctor-ish, in both very major and very minor ways. Her kicking the T.A.R.D.I.S. console is hilarious, but it’s exactly the thing the Doctor could do. She doesn’t suggest running away in the T.A.R.D.I.S., which the Doctor points out. And most importantly, she goes out her way to save the Doctor (and Jack, and other people on Earth). She points that out during the discussion between Jackie, Mickey and her – when something bad happens, you don’t just run away, “you don't just give up, you don’t just let things happen – you make a stand”.

And on the other hand we have the Doctor and his behavior towards Rose. When he decided to send her back home, he knew that she wouldn’t agree, so what did he do? He pretended that he had some brilliant idea… and tricked her into staying in the T.A.R.D.I.S. while he sent them to XXI-century Earth. And then his fake enthusiasm wore off withing a fraction of a second, and the only thing that left was a distant hint of a smile of a man who just saw his love for the last time, but at least saved her life… We have already touched the question whether it’s ok to lie for some greater good, and we have another variation on that theme now. Honestly, I cannot say whether the Doctor’s actions in that regard were acceptable. On the one hand, I’d be inclined to say that no, he shouldn’t have lied to Rose and deceive her in order to get her to safety. On the other hand, he was obviously under a lot of stress, he wanted to save the life of the woman he loved, and he probably could not think of any other way. If I were to give a verdict, I would say that while it was wrong for him to send Rose home in this way, he doesn’t bear the blame for it (or at least not in 100%) because of the very difficult circumstances.

Of course, any discussion of the dynamics between Rose and the Doctor in The parting of the ways would be incomplete without mentioning the hologram scene. It is one of the best moments in the episode, and by the way, the musical piece playing while the Doctor’s hologram delivers the message to Rose is phenomenal. The most striking aspect of that scene is how the Doctor – who must have recorded his message some time earlier – calmly accepts his death. First of all, he “hopes it’s a good death”. Well, getting killed while saving the humanity is certainly a good death, and Rose had every reason to think that this is exactly what was going to happen to the Doctor (he conveniently didn’t mention the “killing the whole population of Earth in the process” part). He asks Rose to “have a fantastic life”, which is also great. It doesn’t mean forgetting him – quite the opposite – but it also implies not mourning for the rest of her life, but moving on and living a good life, presumably full of both good deeds and joy. And in one of the most awesome moments of the episode, the Doctor’s hologram – speaking into the void space in front of him – turns his face right at Rose. I like to think that the Doctor knew Rose so well at this point that he even knew the little quirks of her behavior – like where she would probably be standing while listening to him.

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Have a fantastic life!

Finally, the scene that has to be mentioned is the Doctor’s farewell to Rose. It’s close to impossible to say anything about it that hadn’t been already said – after all, it’s one of the most famous scenes in the whole of New Who. In the unlikely case you didn’t know or realize that, when the Doctor says, “Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I” – it seems it is really Christopher Eccleston speaking to Billie Piper, knowing that it’s his farewell to the show. (Fortunately, after many years, Eccleston agreed to record some audio stories. I haven’t listened to them (yet?), but I will probably do that at some point.) Of course, these words work great in character, too – it is also the Doctor making a huge step in the process of dealing with his Time War trauma.

The Time War again

Speaking of the Time War – it looks like the Dalek Emperor quite enjoys the fact that the Doctor found himself in a situation of choice between killing innocent people together with his enemies or letting said enemies go. This is a bit odd – the Daleks are supposed to have one goal, exterminating every life form except themselves, and here the Emperor seems to accept his own impending death because he knows that the Doctor will suffer. On the other hand, the Emperor is crazy even by Dalek standards, so there’s that.

That said, let’s concentrate on the Doctor himself. It was heartbreaking to hear him say, “I almost thought it was worth it. Now it turns out they died for nothing” – it suggests that he spent the last years trying to unsuccessfully convince himself that he did the right thing during the Time War… He is so traumatized that he doesn’t even seem to care that he sent poor Lynda to certain death. And of course, when he is talking with the Daleks, his anger is terrifying – and the Daleks are properly scared of him!

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So if anybody's going to shut up, it's you!

I also love the moment – very easy to miss – when the Daleks notice the T.A.R.D.I.S. materializing, and probably think that it is some kind of a trick on the part of the Doctor. Their reaction is very symptomatic: “You will not escape!”. It is a perfect example of a known phenomenon: evil cannot comprehend good. Escaping – and leaving the Earth’s population to certain doom – is one of the last things the Doctor would do. (Remember what the Doctor told van Statten when he pointed out that the Doctor survived the Time War? He said, “not by choice”. He is definitely not the type to save his own life by escaping and leave others to die.)

The final exchange between the Doctor and the Dalek Emperor (“hail the Doctor, the Great Exterminator!”) is also a good reminder that taunting the Doctor is never a good idea. Granted, it was Rose, not the Doctor who saved the day, but still. As Twelfth Doctor will put it one day, “when you’re winning, and I’m in the room, you’re missing something”… ;-)

In the previous section I mentioned how the Doctor is dealing with his past. An important milestone leading to him facing his regeneration so peacefully was when he decided that no, he wouldn’t launch the Delta Wave – he preferred to be called a coward than to be a killer (again). A few minutes earlier he’d told Jack: “Do you see, Jack? That’s the decision I’ve got to make for every living thing. Die as a human or live as a Dalek”. Did he decide that it’s better to live as a Dalek? Or did he just decide that he should not kill everyone on Earth? I suppose the latter…

The Daleks and the humanity

Let me briefly mention something more about the Dalek Emperor. In his delusions, he considers himself to be God, but here is a question – what made him so crazy? When the Emperor first talked with Rose, Jack and the Doctor, Rose noticed – with disgust! – that these Daleks, produced from human cells, are “half-human”. (By the way, remembering her reaction to the idea of the Gelth using human bodies as vessels for their gaseous forms, I have to say that she is consistent in her view that human body – even a dead one – deserves respect. And that is true of every human being – calling any person, even the “prisoners, refugees, dispossessed” “the waste of humanity” is deeply offensive!) I think the Doctor is right when he says that the Daleks – being obsessed about purity of their species – must have been mad that their bodies were built from human ones.

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That makes them… half human

Other tidbits

There is a lot of minor details I like in The parting of the ways, and I’d like to very briefly mention at least a few of them.

When Jack tried to find volunteers (and largely failed), he says this: “And if you hear fighting up above, if you hear us dying, then tell me that the Daleks aren’t real. Don’t make a sound”. It is great, because it means that he didn’t want to just use them as bait or something – he genuinely cared for them and tried to save them!

On the other hand, the woman programmer (the one Davitch Pavale was flirting with) blurts this: “There weren’t enough shuttles anyway, or I wouldn’t be here”. There are many sad moments in The parting of the ways, but this is one of the sadder ones. Why? Unlike Jack, she apparently didn’t care about other people, and only stayed because she could not escape. Good thing that at least she tried to fight…

While the scene when thousands of Daleks pour our of their saucers and assault the Game Station is breathtaking visually, the moment when Bad Wolf blocks the Dalek ray with her hand and makes the ray “shrink” is so incredibly cheesy that it almost makes me laugh. This is not criticism, mind you – the cheap special effects are an important part of the charm of Doctor Who!

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Special effects, level Doctor Who

You might wonder why the Doctor went out of his way to save Rose, but then just left Jack on the Game Station. . Notice also that after leaving Jack, the Doctor starts the T.A.R.D.I.S. and we can see that the tome vortex is blue. This means they are travelling backwards in time (it is red when the T.A.R.D.I.S. moves forward), so we can assume the Doctor wants to bring Rose home!

And one more thing. Given that I’m writing this in the beginning of 2024 – almost two decades after The parting of the ways was filmed and broadcast – seeing David Tennant so young is almost cute.

Last but not least

In today’s last section I’d like to mention two things. First of all, the scene when Rose tells her mother that she witnessed her father’s death is in my opinion vastly underrated. It is one of the most touching moments of Series 1. And I love how they showed Jackie’s reaction to Rose’s confession. At first she was angry. Why? I think she didn’t want to change her opinion of the Doctor, she didn’t want to stop hating him – and she was honest enough that after she learned what Rose told her, she could no longer hate the man who made it possible for her beloved daughter to meet her dad. Then, she decided that she’d allow Rose to go back to help the Doctor, even if she could die in the process. Maybe that was the moment when she accepted the fact that Rose is an adult person who should be allowed to decide about her own life…?

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A girl, a blonde girl. She held his hand. You saw her from a distance, Mum. You saw her! Think about it. That was me!

The last thing I wanted to point out is this. When I first watched The parting of the ways, I was a bit angry about one apparent inconsistency. In Rose, the Doctor boasts about the T.A.R.D.I.S.: “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried.” Of course, the door is the door, and the console is the console, but how on Earth could Rose and Mickey tear the T.A.R.D.I.S. console – Time Lord super-advanced technology – open with a mere XXI-century Earth truck? Then it dawned on me – T.A.R.D.I.S. is a sentient being, and it wouldn’t be possible if she didn’t let them. Yes, she obeyed her Doctor when he ordered her to bring Rose to safety, but then she obeyed Rose when she wanted to save the Doctor!

Bad Wolf

– Oh, no one’s ever told me that before. Am I sweet? Really?
– Yeah. Dead sweet.

Before we start, please take a short break and look at the “Supporting the author” page. Gondor calls for aid! Will you answer? If you like this weblog and want it to continue, please consider one of the ways to help. I am very close to finishing Series 1 and deciding what to do next, and I won’t lie to you – I counted on more support than what I got so far, which is (almost) zero.

And now let’s get back to the regular program.

I think that Bad Wolf is not one of these episodes which “start with an earthquake and work up to a climax”. It starts really slowly (at least for me) and only gets to speed at the very end. It’s the first half of a two-parter, so it is somewhat justified, but it still leaves me wanting just a bit more.

That does not mean I don’t like it. It’s still pretty good, and there’s definitely quite a few things it does well. Still, no really many life lessons here. Jack is (sort of) back to being a jerk (even if a funny one), Rose does almost nothing except being zapped, Lynda with a Y is sweet, but not much more, and the Doctor – well, the Doctor is the Doctor, as once put it. But you know what? Not everything has to be a life lesson. Some things can be just fun and not much more. So, let’s see what funny (or just interesting) things we have in Bad Wolf, and what kind of reflections can be triggered by it.

The Controller

I don’t have much to say about the Controller besides the fact that the poor woman had a horrible life. As usual, the way to show how disrespected someone is, the writers decided to explicitly tell us that she doesn’t even have a name. Well, it’s even worse than that. When asked about her name, Davitch Pavale (who, by the way, is introduced using his full name) says that “she was installed when she was five years old”. I don’t know about you, but in my culture a child gets a name way before reaching five years. And imagine what a five-year-old kid might think and feel being “installed” in a big computer and only allowed to work for the Bad Wolf Corporation? Or rather, don’t imagine this, I don’t really want you to have nightmares like this…

Apparently, the only joy she had in all these years was when she finally defied her “masters”. The moment when she exclaims “you can kill me, for I have brought your destruction” with visible satisfaction gives me shivers. I already mentioned that killing in self-defence is something that is widely considered acceptable (and rightly so), but this is a wholly another level. Shouldn’t self-defence be but a sad reality and not a pleasure? I would say yes in general, but there’s an important distinction to be made here. Satisfaction from killing is one thing, but satisfaction from the fact that someone is no longer suffering is another one. And I am fully willing to give the Controller the benefit of the doubt and accept that she was not ecstatic because of the killing itself, but because she managed to bring an end to humanity’s suffering.

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Neither the first nor the last person to sacrifice her life in Doctor Who. Interestingly, the Controller was not inspired by the Doctor – quite the opposite, she knew about him and consciously brought him to help.

Daleks

Of course, the antagonists deserve at least a short mention here, mainly because of some clever foreshadowing. For most people, the revelation of “the masters’” identity was a genuine shock. That does not mean that there were no hints! Some of them were pretty obvious, but also pretty close in time to the actual reveal. Some were a bit more subtle – for example, if you look closely at Trine-E and Zu-Zana, they move in a very Dalek-like fashion. But the best one was there right in the beginning of the episode. When the Doctor lands in Big Brother, the decor on the walls consists very clearly of rows of Daleks bumps! (Here’s a fun fact. While writing this post, I showed those to my daughter who watched Bad Wolf with me some two years ago, and she told me that she noticed them then but just dismissed the thought of the Daleks being the villains!)

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Previously, one Dalek terrified a small army. This doesn’t look good…

Lynda with a Y

Well, what can I say? As I mentioned in the intro, Lynda (with a Y!) is sweet, and the Doctor (and the audience, I guess) would love her to become a companion. What I liked best about her character was probably one moment. At some point she asks, “Who are you though, Doctor, really?” – and it perfectly mirrors Rose’s “Really, though, Doctor. Tell me, who are you?” from Rose. A subtle but very nice call-back. Also, the exchange after that moment:

– It doesn't matter.
– Well, it does to me. I've just put my life in your hands.

is a very nice reminder (for the Doctor, not for the audience) that he really shouldn’t think that “the entire world revolves around him”.

Finally, her flirting with the Doctor (“– So, I could come with you? – Maybe you could. – I wouldn't get in the way. – I wouldn't mind if you did.”) and then with Jack (– I was just saying hello! – For you, that's flirting. – I'm not complaining.) was sweet.

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She’s sweet.

Jack Harkness

As for Jack, let’s recall to the old rule that if you can’t say something nice about someone, just be quiet instead, and make the paragraph about him really short. I really didn’t like Jack in this episode. For starters, the whole “defabricator” scene was more embarassing than funny. Then, he acted completely out of his character when he said “Well, ladies, the pleasure was all mine. Which is the only thing that matters in the end” – I mean, it would be in character three episodes ago, but he was supposed to undergo some growth in the meantime and not be back to his selfish jerk persona. And finally, I found his flirting with everyone he meets much less funny than (apparently) intended.

Does that mean that I hated everything about Jack in Bad Wolf? No, it’s not that bad. One scene I really liked was when the Doctor just says “let’s do it”, and he and Jack quickly overwhelm the guards. I loved how they knew each other well enough not to need any more coordination.

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The Doctor gets numb, but Jack gets furious when Rose is shot – one of the few moments in this episode when he is not a jerk

Rose

Rose was also clearly not at her best here. Her constant nervous laughter during the “Weakest Link” was understandable but annoying. And I hated the fact that she didn’t stop playing nor protested when she found out what happens with people who lose – she only started protesting when her life was on the line. I don’t blame her – she was under enormous stress etc. – but I felt it was very inconsistent with how she usually acted.

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Look ma, I’m on tv, it’s so much fun!

The shows

And finally, the shows themselves. I think they were one of the reasons Bad Wolf didn’t work very well for me. When I watched it, I knew about Big Brother, though I’ve never watched a single episode, and I had no idea that shows like The weakest link and What not to wear even existed. I can only assume they were instantly recognizable for British viewers at the time, and the fact that the real hosts voiced the robots running them in the episode must have been a very cool thing and an important part of the appeal of Bad Wolf.

One thing that probably deserves a mention here is the prize people got for winning the shows. When the Doctor asks about it, Lynda tells him what the prize is – the winners “get to live”. Not only is this unusually kind on the part of the Daleks, but it’s also a nice reminder that life is a gift everyone of us should be thankful for!

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“She’s been evicted from life”, the most cheesy line of the most cheesy episode of Series 1

Other tidbits

As usual, there were lots of nice details in the episode that may not be important or deep, but I liked them anyway. For example, during The weakest link, the Face of Boe (as well as the ) gets a mention. Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger apparently became the president of the U.S.A. (which, frankly, is hilarious). When Lynda asks the Doctor how he can be 100 years old and look that good, he answers that he moisturizes. The confusion of the contestants on The weakest link when they have no idea how to answer the questions – did you know that it was genuine, because the questions were intentionally mixed up so that they didn’t get the ones they had in the script? The bit when the Doctor first brandishes a huge gun and then casually tosses it to Pavale (who is not even strong enough to be able to keep it for more than a few seconds) is both a reminder of the Doctor’s “no gun” policy and how he feels completely in control and is not afraid of being shot at all. The fact that when Jack finds the T.A.R.D.I.S., we can see him opening it with a key – which means that the Doctor must have trusted him enough to give it to him. The reaction of the Doctor to the “Nuremberg defense” (“we’re just doing our jobs”) invoked by the woman in charge of the shows. I loved it when the Controller said that her “masters” “monitor transmissions but they don't watch the programmes” – apparently, even Daleks have some stanards and do not watch Big Brother! ;-) The Doctor’s laughter when Jack finds out that Rose was not killed. The first time in Doctor Who when the “deadlock seal” was mentioned. And of course the whole scene with the Daleks. Even though I’ve seen it countless times, the Doctor’s grin and tone when he reacts to the Dalek telling him “I will talk to the Doctor” were priceless.

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– I will talk to the Doctor.
– Oh, will you? That’s nice. Hello!

Last but not least

One more thing that stood out for me in this episode is when the Doctor realizes that the dire situation of the humanity is the consequence of his actions a hundred years ago. I can hear a distant echo of Blon Fel-Fotch’s words that he’s “always moving on because [he] dare[s] not look back”. This time the Doctor was forced to look back, and he didn’t like what he saw… This raises a tough question: how often him saving the day results in some unfortunate outcomes? He doesn’t really know, and in fact neither do we…

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Oh, my, I made this world…

This scene, however, has also a positive side, which is probably the most important (for me) piece of wisdom I take away from the whole episode. We never know all the results of our actions, but that is not something we need to take into account when solving moral dilemmas. Of course, certain implications are more or less obvious. If you drink and drive, you can – and should – expect very bad things to happen, and therefore it is morally wrong to drink and drive. But what if you save a drowning kid and then, ten years later, that kid grows up to be a serial killer? Are you partially responsible for his murders? My common sense says no, and I think common sense is right. The reason is obvious – you couldn’t have known that.

Still, there are cases which are not clear-cut, where you actually can know that something wrong may – or even will – result from your action. Here’s one of my favorite examples. Imagine you live in a country whose government does immoral things. (Admittedly, not a very far-fetched hypothesis – but let’s assume they are really bad things, like killing innocent people.) This means that when you pay your taxes, you are in fact financing evil deeds. Imagine that you can avoid paying some tax. Should you? May you? It is definitely not an easy question. I don’t have an answer I’d be fully satisfied with, but here’s my tentative one I hope is correct. First of all, you don’t commit wrong if you pay. It’s like when you buy bread. What if the baker is spending the money he earns from you on evil things? Are you morally required not to buy from him? It may be a good thing to buy somewhere else, but I’m not sure it’s something anyone is required to do, at least not usually. (On the other hand, when the baker advertises his business using the fact that he donates some percentage of his earnings to an organization promoting some evil agenda, I would strongly advise to find another one. But what to do if most bakers in your town do the same? Sadly, situations not unlike this can be pretty real nowadays…)

On the other hand, if it is not our duty to avoid paying the tax, is it our right? (Of course, I’m only interested in “duties” and “rights” in the moral, not legal sense.) Again, I would hesitate before saying “yes”. One problem I have with saying that is that it is a slippery slope. What if the government is mostly ok but sometimes does wrong things, or does slightly wrong things, or sometimes does slightly wrong things? Where to draw the limit? The temptation to move the goalposts so that you not paying becomes acceptable may be too strong, and if not paying taxes becomes a common stance, we can end up in anarchy. I would definitely suggest that any moral justification for not paying taxes should be something really, really strong and extraordinary, best consulted with someone who does not have any interest in answering the issue this or that way. (And of course, the taxes being too high is generally not a satisfying justification, unless they are high enough that survival becomes a problem – much like the situation we discussed a few weeks ago.)

What are your thoughts about it? Am I right? Am I wrong? Why? Let me know, and see you in two weeks!