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Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Doctor Who: Bad Wolf
"The Dalek strategem nears completition. The fleet is almost ready. You will not intervene!"
"And why is that?"
"We have your associate. You will obey or she will be exterminated!"
(dramatic pause as music swells and builds)
"Explain yourself!"
"I said, no..."
"What is the meaning of this negative?"
"It means no!"
"But she will be destroyed!"
"NO! Cause this is what I'm gonna to do. I'm gonna rescue her. I'm gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet and then I'm gonna save the Earth and then just to finish I'm gonna wipe EVERY LAST STINKING Dalek out of the sky!"
"But you have no weapons, no defenses, no plan!"
"Yeah and doesn't that scare you death! Rose..."
"Yes Doctor?"
"I'm coming to get you!"
Dalek, The Doctor, Rose, Bad Wolf

It only took until the penultimate episode of the new season of Doctor Who to get the cliffhanger that every Doctor Who fan has been waiting for and anticipating since it was announced the series was coming back and it would feature the Daleks--the one with the Daleks running about, shouting "Exterminate!" It's a standard Who cliffhanger for just about any story featuring the Doctor's arch nemesises. And it's been 12 episodes in coming.

Was it worth it?

Yes. As a good friend in college used to say, "Oh my, my...oh hell yes!"

At last the wonders of modern special effects technology are put to their best use as we get the Dalek cliffhanger we've always wanted. Not just four to six Daleks in a room shouting "Exterminate" but instead a massive space-ship full of the metallic monsters, shouting their catch phrase, getting ready to attack Satellite Five and open hostilities with the Doctor. And then the stinger hits and we realize that we now have to wait seven long days for the pay-off. Seven long days for the ultimate battle between the Daleks and the Doctor.

It was five minutes or so of specutacular, fist-punching-the-air Doctor Who. It may be the best five minutes the series has seen so far. And if the final episode of the season lives up to the promise of the last five minutes of "Bad Wolf", we may be looking at another instant classic from the new Doctor Who.

But beyond those five minutes of down to the tips of your toes thrilling, was the rest of "Bad Wolf" worth the effort? Yes and no. Since the previews and the press gave away that the Daleks are behind the reality show nightmare on Satellite Five, it wasn't so much a matter of wondering who was behind it, but as to when the big reveal might take place. But I will say this--I was never bored with the surreal nature of the reality shows gone wrong that we found the Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack involved in this week. The tension that once you're elminated, you die was nicely done.

Also, seeing the Doctor's actions not produce the consequences he intended worked well. Turns out the Doctor's assistance in shutting down the Satellite Five newsfeed at the end of "The Long Game" only created a vaccum the people of Earth wanted and needed filled. So, they created these reality shows in which contestants fought for the ultimate prize--to continue to live. Doctor Who has done some shows that are rather surreal in the past--"Web Planet", "Greatest Show in the Galaxy", "Mind Robber"--and all have worked fairly well. And the rather surreal premise holds up farily well here for the length that it's on-screen. (I'm not sure having the actual voice of Anne Robinson a the evil android version of herself on The Weakest Link segments was all that necessary, but it was kind of fun).

Watching this episode, I slowly started to realize who much I'm going to miss Eccleston as Doctor. His work here is nothing short of superb. His reaction at finding out that Rose has been killed was perfect--the slow burn and then over the top anger that was replaced by child-like joy at finding out that Rose was still alive all worked. And his work in the final scene as he tells the Daleks "no" and that he won't surrender to them or be pushed aside and then tells Rose he's coming to rescue her. Eccleston shines in the story and it's a real shame that his time as the Doctor is coming to a close. He's stepped up and owned this role ever since "Dalek" and his continues to do wonders with it here.

If there was one thing that frustrated me about "Bad Wolf" it was the lack of promised answers. All season, we've had an arc building and it seemed as if the first half of "Bad Wolf" was bringing those threads together into a tapestry. We still don't know the identity of "bad wolf" though we do know that the phrase is following the Doctor through time. We do get some idea of why the stories this year have been centered on Earth as opposed to the rest of the universe. We also get to see the results of the Doctor's actions in "The Long Game." Certainly "Bad Wolf" helped to give a bit more credibility and importance to the events of "The Long Game" but I'm not sure if it was enough to redeem the episode as a whole. I have a feeling I am going to have to rewatch the season again to make that call.

But then again, this is not the season finale, but rather the lead-up to it. So, there could be answers right around the corner for us. I will implore Davies to not drag out the Bad Wolf thing more than one season. It's been interesting but it could easily become an albatross around the series neck should it be drawn out too much longer. It's been fun to watch and speculate, but I really would like some answers in "The Parting of Ways."

And just like last week, I am counting days until I see it. And just like "Bad Wolf" I have a feeling that at the end of story, I will be going--no, that wasn't just 42 minutes! It only felt like five.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/15/2005 11:27:00 AM | |
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