Friday, June 09, 2006

Exit Stage So Very Right

The Doctor: You know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The Oncoming Storm.

Surely there isn’t a wasted minute in “The Parting of the Ways”, Christopher Eccleston’s final stand as Doctor Who. Nor are there any missed opportunities at exploring the full range of emotions the season has been building toward. Action, suspense and Daleks? Yup, it’s all there. Maybe most remarkable is how all of these aspects gel together flawlessly.

The Doctor: That’s right! I sang a song and the Daleks ran away!

The sheer number of Daleks on display, and the sequences in space with the Dalek army swarming on Earth and the Game Station, are a fanboy’s wet dream. The last time this many Daleks were seen at once on Doctor Who was in the Patrick Troughton era, but that was in the 60s and they were a bunch of toy models, shot on a tiny set.

That story, “The Evil of the Daleks”, seems to be the direct inspiration for much of “The Parting”: It was the first and only appearance of the Emperor Dalek, who reappears here, and it also concerned the Daleks being corrupted by the “human factor” - that concept is given a fresh spin by Russell T Davies. Unfortunately, “Evil” is one of the classic stories that was scrapped by the BBC – only episode two still exists. I saw it for the first time recently when the “Lost in Time” DVD set was released and found it a heartbreaking viewing because it was outstanding 60s Who and yet I know I’ll likely never get to see the other six episodes that comprise the story.

Rose: That’s how good the Doctor is!

The Dalek factor aside, the highlights of the episode begin with the Doctor tricking Rose into going back to her time period on Earth. The hologram scene that follows is pure, magical magnificence. A shimmering image of the Doctor turns, looks directly at Rose and says, “Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose - have a fantastic life.” This goosebump-inducing moment must rank in the Top Five moments in the whole of Doctor Who. Rose’s reaction to realizing what he’s done to (for?) her – “You can’t do this to me. You can’t! Take me back…take me back!!” – reduces me to tears. Her subsequent scenes back in her own time with Jackie and Mickey pack equally strong punches - most notably when the trio sit in the café and Rose gives the “He showed me a better way of living your life” speech, and then later on in the TARDIS when Rose reveals to Jackie that she met her father and was with him when he died.

The Emperor Dalek: Then prove yourself, Doctor. What are you - coward or killer?

When the Doctor builds the Delta Wave, a device that will kill all life in its path, and it comes down to fuck or walk…he chooses to walk. This is certainly a noteworthy decision, as the events that add up to a saved day were outside his sphere of knowledge. He was willing to sacrifice humanity to the Daleks rather than destroy everything outright. It was a choice he'd made once before – and it led to him mistakenly believing he'd ended the Time War. It was a choice/mistake he wasn’t prepared to make a second time. Godlike though the Doctor may often appear, it’s a bizarre twist that brings his best friend to him, in a form that itself is godlike in both appearance and ability.

Rose: I looked into the TARDIS and the TARDIS looked into me…I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself.

Deus Ex Machina? Perhaps. Perhaps the Bad Wolf revelation is even the ultimate execution of the phrase. Does Rose’s “absorption of the time vortex” or her “looking into the heart of the TARDIS” make any sense? It does if you buy into a mythology that’s clearly a creation of the fantastic and you don’t dissect it too much. There’s something about the operatic way the whole thing is handled that makes any possible lack of logic ultimately forgivable.

One thing I’ve always wondered - did Rose bring everyone on the Game Station back to life, or just Captain Jack? It’s hard to believe she was feeling selective at the moment, and yet it’s equally difficult to believe she’d have brought Lynda with a Y back to life. (Catfight & ~snicker~!!!) Speaking of Jack, his goodbye kissing of both Rose and the Doctor near the beginning of the story, and his feeling that he was "much better off as a coward” is a beautifully executed moment. Back when I wrote an entire entry on Jack, this scene was hugely influential in my overall opinion of his character.

The Doctor: Before I go, I just want to tell you…you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic! And do you know what? So was I.

Regeneration. What can be said? Most notably – in the history of the series – this is the first time the Doctor has regenerated standing up. Usually he’s laying on the ground, next to death. I think I read somewhere that Davies very much wanted to do the first “vertical” regeneration. Well, he did and afterwards you got your first look at the 10th Doctor – David Tennant.

The Doctor: New teeth. That's weird. So where was I? Oh, that's right - Barcelona!