The parting of the ways
– Have you tried that new pizza place down Minto Road?
– What’s it selling?
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.
“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.)
Saving the universe with a big yellow truck
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!
The eyes are not the windows of the soul. They are the doors. Beware what may enter there – spoiler for series 5author of the “definitive work on the Weeping Angels, a madman
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.
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!
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.
That makes them… half human
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!
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. spoiler for series 3Well, we’ll get the answer in Utopia. 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 spoiler for series 4Adipose-level 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…?
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!