Nu-View #17: The End of Our Beginning

Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways (Series One, Eps. 12-13; 2005)
Viewed 20 Mar 2014

Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: Boom Town (Nine, Rose)
Succeeding Story: The Christmas Invasion (Ten, Rose)

    The Doctor plops himself down into a big, red comfy chair in the Diary Room, looks straight at the camera, and declares in disbelief, "You have got to be kidding!" Oh, Doctor... How could you predict my reaction to this past weekend so perfectly?

    As the Ladies sit down together to watch the final two episodes of Nine's all-too-short tenure, I'm finally happy and relaxed. I've spent a frantic week preparing to put our house back on the market, and it's finally wrapped up; the listing will go live the next day. The only downer is knowing we're saying goodbye (again) to the Doctor who started my love affair with this whole crazy show.

    We're all ready for a good time. As the TARDIS crew each settle into the games in which they've been inserted, the quips fly around the room. Trin-E and Zu-Zana use the defabricator on Jack, who then assures them, "Ladies, your viewing figures just went up."

    jA's eyes sparkle. "I'd like to be watching that channel!"

    Over with the Anne Droid, Rose's competitor Rodrick (played by Paterson Joseph, an actor whose name has popped up now and again in "who could be the next Doctor" lists) explains the most basic rules of the Game Station to her. "It's play—or die."

    "Sounds like it's play and die," corrects jE.

    When the tension rises, though, we fall mostly silent. I can't help but admire RTD's skill with a slow burn. He knows how to reveal each plot point, little by little until the audience comes to the obvious conclusion just as we're meant to. The story is lent even more gravitas by Eccleston's masterful performance. He is powerful here, a man visibly damaged by his recent history.

    The cliffhanger draws near, and the Dalek fleet is revealed in all its horrible glory. Part of me dies a little; the 50th has cheapened Nine's pain. I push the thought aside, and revel in his strength instead.

    There must be strength buried in me somewhere, too. Starting with one daughter overnight Thursday, and moving to the rest of us Saturday night, the whole family succumbed to a stomach virus. Despite that, we vacated the premises—clean and tidy—for several realty showings on Sunday. I'd thought I'd be in good shape once those were out of the way, but I spent Monday playing catch-up from the time lost to illness over the weekend, and then Tuesday sneaked up on me.

    Appointments had piled up, some moved from illness, and others real estate-related. It wasn't till halfway through the day that I realized I not only had two major deadlines looming for my speculative fiction-writing persona, but I'd utterly forgotten that it was Tuesday—my blog post was meant to go live the following morning. Faced with an impossible task, I took inspiration from the Doctor and winged it.

    As the second half of the two-parter gets under way, the situation turns grim. Though he's snatched Rose from the Daleks' clutches, his ancient enemies are still coming to destroy humanity and the Doctor's plan won't work—at least not in time. Showing shades of Seven's manipulative genius, Nine tricks Rose into the TARDIS and sends her home, where there's "nothing left for [her]" (poor Mickey).

    Back with her mum and her erstwhile boyfriend, Rose tries to explain why she can't just go back to the daily grind. "What do I do?" she whines. "Get up, catch the bus, go to work, come back home, eat chips, and go to bed?"

    "That's what the rest of us do," replies Mickey, as jE echoes in unison, "That's what most of us do." I love and hate Rose for that bit. She can't relate to us regular schlubs any more (I have every sympathy for Mickey in that scene), but I learned to love the Doctor because I lived vicariously through her. She can't go back to a mundane life, and neither can I.

    Back on the Game Station née Satellite Five, the Dalek Emperor has admitted that the words Bad Wolf "are not part of my design," to the Doctor's consternation. "Well, then," huffs jE, "I guess you're not the god of everything, are you?"

    Meanwhile, the Dalek invasion continues. When they reach Floor 495, the Anne Droid blasts several Daleks into oblivion with the same death ray she used on all the failed Weakest Link competitors. "Doesn't that just transport them back to their ship, though?" an astute jA asks. (See, we pay attention to the plot, too.) "Better there than here," counters jE.

    Despite a heroic effort, the last defenders of humanity are dying like flies. Even our hero Capt. Jack Harkness can't slow the Daleks for the life of him. "Concentrate on the eyestalk, dude. C'mon!" jE shakes her head in disgust. "He's the one who can aim; the other people I can kinda believe couldn't hit an eyestalk." In the end, he's just another pest to be exterminated until the Bad Wolf herself makes an appearance.

    I know the story well enough I can pull myself back from it if I try, and that analytical part of my brain is surprised to remember just how much it "gets" me. From that detached viewpoint, I can see how RTD was practicing some of the same emotional manipulation Moffat revels in—yet it doesn't feel like I'm being manipulated. Instead, it feels like the loss of a loved one—which, when you get right down to it, is exactly what a regeneration story is.

    General reactions:

    • jA - "I really miss that dynamic. That's what got me into Doctor Who."
    • jE - "It's a little predictable, but the story goes somewhere, and the characters' relationship really adds something."
    • mrfranklin - Nine was my first Doctor. I can't help but compare everything else to this series.

    I admitted defeat on Tuesday. My brain was utterly fried, and had I pushed through, what you've been reading would have been even less cogent. Sadly, today's off-normal-schedule activities were equally taxing, so I'm over half a day late in the end. In an awesome coincidence, though, it was nine years ago today that we first met Nine and Rose—a fact I wouldn't have known if I'd posted on time. So despite my headlong rush toward blogging disaster, there's a little fortuitous nugget right at the end. Much like these episodes.

    Verdict: Thumbs up

    Looking ahead: The Christmas Invasion

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