Much of this series has been better than I remember it from the first time around. However, with Bad Wolf, this is not the case. It is exactly as bad as I remember it. Perhaps worse in some ways, as the Big Brother / Weakest Link game show stuff is no longer current or modern, so these scenes have dated. It’s hard to imagine a future where they’re inexplicably brought back along with android versions of hosts who were briefly popular.
Speaking of androids, ‘Anne Droid’ is a terrible pun. Much of the humour misses the mark here, particularly Jack Harkness standing around in the buff, literally pulling a gun out of his arse. It tries to be satirical about reality TV (ha-ha, contestants are killed!) but it’s really broad satire with none of the bite. I dare say it was done better in the Colin Baker story, Vengeance on Varos. What I will say in its favour is that the comical game shows set certain expectations which are then blasted away when the Daleks turn up, and you realise that this is not such a daft throwaway story after all. That is at least an effective twist (or would have been at the time, assuming you didn’t watch the preview).
The Parting of the Ways is an improvement in that it ditches most of the game show stuff and focuses on a siege against the Dalek invasion. However, as is so often the case, a lone Dalek is more threatening than an army of them. They’ve been overused already within the first season! How do you deal with a threat this big? You have to invent a weapon that’s even bigger. The deus ex machina involves Rose becoming an all-powerful god (the Bad Wolf) and literally thinking the Daleks out of existence. Every single one, wiped out, erased, and Captain Jack brought back to life (but nobody else who died, oddly). One has to wonder, if Tardis hearts have the ability to do that, even at the expense of a life, why didn’t the Time Lords use this power before? I really hate that sort of thing; it’s a thoroughly unsatisfying ending.
The “Bad Wolf” foreshadowing throughout this series has been more subtle than, say, massive cracks appearing at the end of every episode, but the message it was supposed to convey is… questionable. If you had total control over time and space and could send messages back through time to your past self, why would you choose a message that merely describes what you will temporarily call yourself in the future? It’s not instructional or useful. I guess the fact that it worked anyway means that she knew it would work, which is why she did it… a self-fulfilling prophecy? You could go a bit mad trying to wrap your head around it. Once again, I have to feel sorry for Mickey, who Rose treats very badly in this episode. He needs to let her go, for both their sakes.
But it’s the ninth Doctor’s time to go now. Draining the vortex energy from Rose (with a kiss, *roll eyes*) is too much for his cells to take and he dies, forcing a spectacular regeneration… and a confused companion. I suppose I should comment generally on Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, which I enjoyed more this time around. What I didn’t like so much was how weirdly unpredictable he could be, but I think that impression was formed from this episode, which demonstrates what I mean. When he’s talking to the Daleks and their emperor, he goes from cheery smiles to angry shouting at the drop of a hat. It’s sort of what he does in the Dalek episode, but more ‘zany’ this time and makes him come across as unhinged.
On the whole, however, it’s clear to me now that this style of Doctor is based on past performances from several different actors. Eccleston’s portrayal is more cheery in general, but I get the sense that it’s a cover for the feelings of guilt he has over what he’s done in the past. He’s often frustrated with humans (“another stupid ape!”) but at the same time utterly fascinated by them and admires their tenacity. He can be fierce and threatening, but when it comes down to it, he will not kill or become another monster himself. He’s clearly incredibly clever but likes to have fun and thrives on sharing that fun with others. More than any of the other Doctors, I suppose, he is a lonely wanderer.
It’s a shame Christopher Eccleston didn’t want to come back, even for the anniversary, but he had his chance to shine and now it’s time for David Tennant to give us a different interpretation.
As for my favourite ninth Doctor episodes, I would have to go with The End of the World, Dalek and The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances… which were pretty much my faves the first time around too. However, this series is very inter-connected, with references to all past episodes sprinkled throughout (the Cardiff rift, Rose’s dad, the Face of Boe, Satellite Five, Slitheen, etc.). It’s not so easy to exclude a poor episode without missing something important. Well played, Russell T. Well played.