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Thursday, June 23, 2005
Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

The Doctor regenerates

"You know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The on-coming storm..."
--The Doctor

It's interesting that in 40 plus years of Doctor Who, before "The Parting of the Ways" the Doctor's greatest enemies had yet to feature in a final story of a Doctor's era. Yes, they've cropped up to kick-off an era ("Power of the Daleks" but it took until the series' 27th season before they could usher out an era for the good Doctor.

And just as quickly as it began, the Eccleston era of Doctor Who is over.

And while "The Parting of the Ways" is certainly not up there with "The Caves of Androzani" as perfect stories to end an era on, it's no where nearly as abysmal at "Planet of the Spiders." For the end of an era and a season, it did pretty much all it needed to do. Certainly, I went into "The Parting of the Ways" hoping for another out and out instant classic like we got with "Dalek" but we didn't get it.

Instead, what we got was a story that while it competently wrapped up all the season's on-going storylines, delivered on the promise of "Bad Wolf" and generated some excitement for the next season, still suffered from the same thing that every Russell K. Davies story has suffered from this year--an overall lack of pacing. As much as I understand why we had scenes with Jackie and Mickey, it felt like there was too much built around the trio of Jackie, Rose and Mickey trying to pry open the heart of the TARDIS so Rose could go back and save the Doctor and the world. One scene of this might have been good, but the constant cutting back to it while the Daleks were invading the station and Earth and the Doctor worked on his final solution to stop them got a bit old quickly. I was far more compelled by the discussion of the Daleks levelling Australia than I was in seeing Mickey drive a tow truck and tear up his car.

That said, I did like most of the rest of what we got here. I think the previews sold this episode as being something different that it turned out to be. I expected more of a raging battle with the Daleks--a drawn out battle along the lines of what we saw in "Revelation of the Daleks." Instead, Russell Davies pulled a fast one on us--giving us a glimpse of the battle scenes in the preview while masking the fact that the end of the Eccelston era would be one in the mold of the traditional Doctor Who stories of yesteryear. Instead of blowing the budget on huge battle sequences, we got a story that examined fundamentallly who the Doctor is and what he stands for. The Doctor's building of an ultimate weapon that will wipe out the Dalek fleet and as a side effect take out most of humanity as well as nicely done. And for a long while, I fully thought the Doctor would use it--his justification that humanity had colonies in the solar system and would survive was a nice twist. And based on what we've seen of the 9th Doctor this year as a character ruled by his passions at times--the death of Cassandra being one and his outrage that Rose was killed last week being another--I felt for a long time like he would use the weapon.

But in the end, the Doctor hopes there must be a better way rather than sacrificing himself and the innocents on Earth to defeat the evil. Indeed, I wonder if the Dalek's admonition from "Dalek" crossed his mind as he considered enabling the weapon..."You would make an excellent Dalek, Doctor." It ranks right up there with the classic, "Do I have the right?" scene from "Genesis of the Daleks" as a defining moment in Doctor Who.

Interesting that a defining moment of a Doctor would come in his final few minutes on screen.

Thankfully, the series had a third option--one that we hadn't considered. And that was that Bad Wolf wasn't an evil thing, but was instead a warning. We find out the identity of Bad Wolf in the story. Turns out it's Rose, who absorbs the energy from the heart of the TARDIS, returns to save the Doctor (after he sends her away to save her life) and wipes out the Dalek fleet. Having seen the revelation of who Bad Wolf is, I now want to go back and examine if the series sets this revelation up well enough over the course of the 13 episodes this year. Right now, I feel like it did, but it could fall apart under closer scrutiny. Also, I have to admit, I found the glowing Rose full of power a bit derivative of Buffy's season six Dark Willow (which was derivative of the X-Men Dark Phoenix plotline). But that's probably my bias as a Buffy fan clouding things there.

I do admit I found the Bill and Ted nature of Rose creating herself as Bad Wolf by sending messages to herself back in time a bit much.

Ironically enough, I didn't mind as much the get out of death free card that she played for Captain Jack. Of course, that is because it sets up his return next year and he's gonna be pretty upset at being left behind I imagine.

Also, I have to say that we'd better get some consequences to what Rose did next year. In the course of the story, the Doctor sends her out of harm's way and she ignores him. Also, she pretty much throws in Mickey and her mother's faces that her life on Earth is empty and meaningless. It does set up that she can't just go back to her normal life at the end of her time in the TARDIS since she has burned so many bridges. Finally, even though right away she can't remember what she did as Bad Wolf, she should at some point. Or have someone else remind her of what she's done...and see how that affects her.

But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. But it's a good feeling--knowing we have at least two more years of new Doctor Who to look forward to. A new Doctor is installed and we've got the excitement of seeing where David Tennant will take this role. Eccleston has revived it and now Tennant has to run with it. I know I'm along for the ride.

I enjoyed this season and I can't wait for more new Doctor Who next year. It's going to be a long wait for the Christmas special.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/23/2005 10:35:00 AM | |
Best regards from NY!
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