Doctor Who Discussions: Season 1 – Bad Wolf

Featuring the Anne Droid.

Bad Wolf
Bad Wolf

If the Bad Wolf is in charge of this quiz, then maybe I’m not here by mistake. Someone’s been planning this.

I have so many notes from re-watching Bad Wolf that I almost don’t know where to start in talking about it. This Season 1 finale is, I think, really one of the very best finales of New Who. It brings together so many storylines, so many character beats. So many seeds planted over the past eleven episodes are flowering. Russell T Davies is always a man with a plan, and a tight hold on the reigns, and Bad Wolf/The Parting Of Ways is a truly excellent example of his work in action.

Right, I have to start somewhere. First, a brief rundown of the episode. The Doctor wakes up in the Big Brother house, complete with music and Davina McCall’s voice to really set the scene. To anyone watching this in 2005, it would have been instantly recognisable. Kids watching Doctor Who for the first time now are missing out on the jarring cognitive dissonance of the moment when the music starts playing, and that’s a shame.

Anyway, we soon learn the Doctor is trapped in the house, and that Rose and Jack are elsewhere on the station; Rose in The Weakest Link with the Anne Droid (the best joke of the season apart from when Cassandra plays Toxic on the jukebox) and Jack with Trinny and Susannah robots – another reference that kids are going to have no idea about. They soon learn that the games are deadly, being controlled by an unseen force. Rose is disintegrated, the Doctor and Jack make it to the control room, and then – joy of joys, Rose is alive. But she’s also on a Dalek ship because, in a twist that was fresh in Season 1, the Daleks are the ones controlling the games.

I said that this finale is an excellent example of RTD’s work in action, so maybe let’s talk about that a bit. This episode ties in so directly with The Long Game (the worst episode of the season) that there’s a recap of that story at the start of Bad Wolf. Who knew that such an incidental episode would hold the seeds of the finale? From the humblest beginnings, I guess.

In The Long Game, the Doctor shut down Satellite One, cut the rolling news channels that were broadcasting non-stop on Planet Earth. Then he skipped off, and now, in Bad Wolf, we are experiencing the direct consequences of that. The Doctor rarely goes back to a place after he’s done his thing – always moving on, solving the next problem. But here, he is forced to face the results of his actions. One hundred years after he shut down the news, this is what he helped to create. And he is horrified by it.

Nine has, of course, been learning a lot of lessons since the Time War. We’ve been through them all with him, and watched him become a better person as he starts to accept that he cannot change the things he has done. So it is interesting here, as Lynda-With-A-Y explains the state Earth is in, to watch him realise that this is his fault. Like the explosive finale of the Time War, what happened here was because of him. The Nine of earlier in the season would probably have railed against this. He might even have run away. But he doesn’t do that now. He cares more about people; he immediately likes Lynda-With-A-Y and cares about what she says. And when the Daleks appear at the end of the episode, Christopher Eccleston makes one excellent acting choice as the Doctor experiences a moment of true fear, and then he hits the ground running.

As a little sidenote, if we’re praising RTD’s writing, I’d like to comment on how he has a magical ability to create characters who are so instantly endearing. Lynda-With-A-Y is incidental, in the grand scheme of Doctor Who. But in this episode, in her moments with the Doctor, we really care about her. RTD masters the art of the sketch, and in the careful choice of small details – like how she is Lynda with a Y, not an I – he makes them real. It’s a true skill, and not one that every writer has.

Before we hit The Parting Of Ways, and I get all emotional, I want to also make a brief comment on Nine and Captain Jack. I forgot, truth be told, how great they are together. I understand why Jack will be so desperate to get back to the Doctor, and why Ten will ultimately be such a disappointment to him. Nine and Jack just work; at times it’s as though they are reading each other’s minds. Jack is very capable and can be trusted to get on with anything the Doctor needs him to do. Emotionally, he’s the sun to the Doctor’s moon; when Rose is apparently killed, the Doctor is silent in his grief, but Jack is screaming in the background, so full of rage. The editing implies, of course, that Jack here is the Doctor’s inner voice unrestrained. So of course, it makes sense that the two of them will be parted at the end of the next episode. Together, they are too powerful; problems would be too easy to solve. But Nine and Jack are, I think, one of the greatest partnerships in New Who, and – at the risk of going back to Classic Who for comparison – remind me a bit of the First Doctor and Ian, only less antagonistic more quickly.

So, next time will be The Parting Of Ways – and time to say goodbye to Christopher Eccleston.

READ NEXT: Doctor Who Discussions: Season 1 – Boom Town

Some of the coverage you find on Cultured Vultures contains affiliate links, which provide us with small commissions based on purchases made from visiting our site. We cover gaming news, movie reviews, wrestling and much more.