New Who Finales in Perspective: Series 1
Connor Johnston begins a new series looking back over all the New Who finales, starting with Series 1.
” Someone’s been playing a long game, controlling the human race from behind the scenes for generations. “
With the sad realisation that another brilliant series has come and gone we are all of a sudden left at a loss. Without any new Doctor Who episodes to sink our teeth into until at least Christmas how on earth are we going to satisfy our Who-mongous appetites? By reminiscing, remembering and appreciating all that the past has to offer! This week, in the cool down from the stunning Series 8 finale, we have decided to write a collection of ‘In Perspectives’ for the concluding episodes from all 8 series before you yourselves have the opportunity to vote in an incredibly challenging poll for your own favourite! We begin today with the first Series Finale of the 21st Century: The epically twisted, morally challenging, Doctor regenerating 2 parter: “Bad Wolf” and “The Parting of the Ways” which first debuted a decade a ago… in 2005.
Right off the bat, the 2 parter is bold – innovative – solid drama, full of heart and pain, life and death as well as serving to be the instigator of the running expectation that series finales fall into a league of their own when it comes to assessing quality. There’s a certain essence, a special aura that is instilled unconsciously whenever a concluding chapter rolls around… and it’s with great pride I say that it’s definitely been a trend Doctor Who has stayed true to for almost 10 years now.
The premise of the first half is hysterically sinister. How far would the human race take the already brain cell-murdering idea of reality TV? How long until it’s our actual lives we gamble with for the entertainment of others? How long until we accepted something so far fetched and unthinkable to us living in the 21st Century as the new norm? The winning ingredient to this finale is it’s amazing range in both tone and themes – jumping from a romp to heavy bleak character development story effortlessly. It’s here RTD has definitely proven his exceptional ability to achieve the variety that is so central to Doctor Who’s continued success. “Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways” is his clear message to the world: “We’re back, we’ve succeeded, and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon! Doctor Who is here to stay…. And here’s why:”
“Then prove yourself, Doctor. What are you, coward or killer?… Coward. Any day.”
Being Chris’ last chance to woo us as the Doctor (not that we needed it given the excellence of the first series) there is no secret that this 2 parter had a fairly important role to deliver incredible justice to his incarnation. The 2-parter is a roller-coaster ride for the Doctor emotionally – from being subtly amused in the Big Brother house to leaping immediately into action at the first sign of something sinister occurring behind the scenes. When disaster strikes and Rose is appeared to be lost, he is broken – when all appears well his joy in infectious. The two-parter tests the Doctor like never before, pushed into a corner and forced to make an impossible choice between the torture and enslaving of millions at the hand of the Daleks, or mass genocide at his own. It’s a choice that rings incredibly familiar of the Time War – and the recognition of this in the Doctor’s actions is unmistakable. Yet in the end, the Doctor proved himself better than the Daleks. He took the higher moral path. It may not have been the most effective solution. It may even have been the cowardly option (certainly from the viewpoint of the Daleks). But it was the right decision. The death of mankind is too high a price to pay.
“No, I didn’t mean that. But it was. It was a better life. And I don’t mean all the travelling and seeing aliens and spaceships and things. That don’t matter. The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know he showed you too. That you don’t just give up. You don’t just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what’s right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can’t”
The Series 1 finale is without a doubt in my mind Rose Tyler’s (and by default Billie Piper’s) finest moment in Doctor Who without question. In “The Parting of the Ways” we see Rose’s spirits fail to falter, never giving up in returning to help the Doctor. It’s here, in a character defining scene, we see the real transition Rose has undertaken. Rose returns, now with the power of the Bad Wolf – and Billie’s presence is unbelievably sensational. This of course leads to a touching scene between her and the Doctor that impacts him quite personally; When Rose says she can feel the universe itself, the Doctor is no longer alone, yet he must take that all away just to save her life – ultimately sacrificing his own.
Jack also shows an insane amount of development from the selfish criminal we first met back in “The Empty Child.” His speeches were heroic and his death fearless. When he says to the Doctor “I was much better off as a coward,” we instinctively know it’s not true. Jack was never a coward. He just never had a cause. Until he met the Doctor and Rose and learned a new way to live. Finally, a quick mention to the outstanding guest cast, particularly Lynda with a Y who frontlines the list of “should have been” companions (that has recently just recruited Osgood) through her memorably “sweet” performance.
“I reached into the dirt and made new life. I am the God of all Daleks!
I will never, NEVER, EVER, EVER forgive the team at Cardiff for ruining what could have been one of, if not the definite, greatest enemy reveal of Doctor Who history by putting the Daleks in the next time trailer after “Boom Town”. Unlike this year’s epic Cybermen face off – there was no location filming, no set photos of the Daleks… so why not indulge us in a bit of a shock? Personal publicity vendettas aside (I’m coming to get you Phil Collinson!), the two parter stands as quite possibly the most deserving plot of New Who to deal with such iconic villains. It does them justice by giving their role threatening authority; exploiting their sick, twisted ethics and more then anything attributing them with a substantially evil death toll. “The Parting of the Ways” takes the idea of the Daleks becoming obsessed with racial purity to the point of self-destruction from “Remembrance of the Daleks”, but develops it further, setting up the paradox that to survive, the Daleks must use human tissue, but, in doing so, must accept that they themselves are partly human. This conflict drives them insane, forcing them to turn to faith to justify themselves. The Emperor Dalek, surviving against the odds and recreating the Dalek race, comes to think of itself as a god, strengthened by the Daleks’ adoration.
“You are live on channel forty four thousand. Please do not swear.
The production value of this two parter, unlike most of its preceding episodes, has withstood the tests of time and still is today regarded in the highest of esteems. Director Joe Ahearne heads the crew and marked his fourth fifth edition to the show’s history after just as successfully directing “Dalek”, “Father’s Day” and “Boom Town” earlier in the series. His style is fresh and unflinching – particularly in scenes where intensity and emotion are high (i.e.: any of the many, many death scenes) and gets his cues chillingly spot on with each of the Dalek reveals. Murray Gold is one of the most gifted artists of our generation – there is absolutely no disputing that; and his contributions to this finale are no exception to that description. In an episode where so much of the tone is dependent on the music, tracks like “The Doctor’s Theme” which captures the beauty, terror and pain of the Doctor effortlessly; and “Rose in Peril” which scares through its quirkiness really standout… without forgetting of course the incredibly moving piece suitably titled “Hologram” and epic nature that is “Rose defeats the Daleks”.
And now to an area of production that hardly ever gets as much recognition that it deserves: Set Design. It amazes me that after almost 10 years I can still repeatedly rewatch this episode and find new little Easter eggs in the set like Dalek inspired paintings in the “Big Brother” house or Dalek “Eggs” in the diary room that hint at the main villains throughout the first half of the serial. It just goes to show the amazing investment put in by the entire team to create some incredible television in every possible platform, and particularly highlights Edward Thomas as one of the most attentive designers in the industry.
“Rose, before I go, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And do you know what? So was I.”
The ‘Bad Wolf’ deus ex machina conclusion is one I always tend to enjoy better than my memory would like to think. In the moment and intensity of the episode it just works. It’s positively magnificent, epic and moving – as well as making for a beautiful double act by Chris and Billie. While at the time the payoff to an arc of “Bad Wolf here, Bad Wolf there, Everywhere a Bad Wolf” over time I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is: an incredibly clever and straight to the point resolution to a simple, yet exhilarating arc.
You’ll notice I’ve tried my very hardest not to mention much about the Ninth Doctor’s regeneration – purely for the fact that this two parter is so much more than a regeneration piece; it’s a character defining episode: not just for this incarnation but for the history of the Doctor. Chris Eccleston’s legacy was without a doubt incredibly short – but also incredibly memorable, and will not be easily forgotten. The most tragic thing about his final scene has to be the circumstances in which his regeneration occurred. The whole series we’ve felt for this lonely Doctor – alone in the universe, alone in his species, alone in all of time and space. Suddenly there’s another person, another mind that can see what the Doctor sees and relate to him.
ROSE: I can see everything. All that is, all that was, all that ever could be.
DOCTOR: That’s what I see. All the time. And doesn’t it drive you mad?
ROSE: My head.
DOCTOR: Come here.
ROSE: It’s killing me
DOCTOR: I think you need a Doctor.
How heartbreaking it must have been for the Doctor to have to give that up. Alone once more – and of course there are consequences to absorbing the entire time vortex. It’s a beautiful and triumphant end to not only a stunning series, but also a stunning Doctor. Absolutely fantastic!
The episodes have been rated throughout the series of articles according to the following criteria:
- Episode Score: How would the episode be scored as a story on its own, your bog standard episode rating.
- Finale Rating: A Finale is more than just a story and as such has many other things expected of it, how well does the episode cover these necessities?
- Monster Score: The Finale is the best place to show just how threatening an enemy can be. How well are the monsters utilised by the finales, and how difficult are they to overcome?
- Arc Resolution: Story Arcs from throughout the series come to a head it the final episode is this done well or does it leave a bitter taste in your mouth?
- Character Development: We’ve come to associate finales with wonderful character moments for both the Doctor and his companions. How much does the narrative add to the already established characters?
The following ratings were achieved by taking a sample of ten people and getting them to rate the finales by each of the five criteria assigning a rating out of ten to each. This allowed us to come up with an average for each of the categories and then an average score for the episode. Whilst ten is quite a small sample size, regression to the mean was beginning to show. The results for this finale are as follows:
- Episode Score – 9.60/10
- Finale Rating – 9.60/10
- Monster Score – 9.45/10
- Arc Resolution – 9.15/10
- Character Development – 9.20/10
This gives the episode an average score of: 9.40/10
Join us tomorrow for Series 2!