‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 9.4
In a very unexpected turn the Doctor finds himself facing up to the ‘victim’ of his defence of the Earth. Earlier in the season the Doctor and Rose prevented a coup of the British government by the Slitheen, a family of alien gangsters. While the Doctor, Rose and Capt. Jack meet up with Mickey in Cardiff they find out that one of the Slitheen, Margaret, not only survived but still holds a position in government. She uses her job to set up a nuclear power plant that in reality will cause a meltdown that will allow her to escape Earth. The Time Travellers (plus Mickey) corner her and take her prisoner with the intention of returning her to Raxacoricofallapatorius to be put on trail.
Unfortunately things are not that cut and dry. While the TARDIS recharges Margaret challenges her captors on the ethics of what they intend to do, knowing that putting her on trail will lead to a death sentence. Eventually the Doctor tries to prove her wrong by taking dinner with her. Naturally it’s all part of a scheme to make her escape, but that’s not the selling point of the episode. Margaret is surprisingly well developed after being a pretty generic baddie on her first outing. We see genuine grief over the death of her brothers and yearn to return home. This is juxtaposed by her relenting nastiness, never passing up the chance to take a shot at the Doctor. Their banter is the high point of the episode, and one of Christopher Eccelson’s best scenes during his tenure.
Although the conclusion to the episode is not quite as satisfying as it could’ve been, skirting around making a clear decision for the Doctor. Rose and Mickey try and work through their now strained relationship but without any real finality to it. The episode has to be watched for the interaction between the Doctor and Margaret, but by the closing credit’s they’re back to their usual adventures.
Rose, Capt. Jack and the Doctor are somewhat unexpectedly teleported out of the TARDIS, something that requires a substantial amount of power, and find themselves participating in reality television. The Doctor joins the housemates of Big Brother, Rose is competing on The Weakest Link and Capt. Jack is on a make-over program. Before long it becomes clear that things are more sinister than they appear with contestants being disintegrated if they lose. Fortunately Capt. Jack has a trick up his, um, ass and they soon break out.
The travellers are shocked to learn that they’ve found themselves once more on Satellite 5, but their actions in freeing the human race have been undone and the population is in thrall of the blood sports being broadcast. Before they can free Rose from The Weakest Link, however, she is disintegrated. Determined to get to bottom of things the Doctor goes on the offensive. What is revealed is that one of his oldest foes are the ones pulling the strings.
From the outset this is a pretty silly concept, and for the first act this is the case. The android controlled Weakest Link is downright goofy and it’s only Jack’s interactions with the make over robots that are genuinely entertaining. When the threat of being killed is introduced the gearshift is more effective than expected. On its own it’s not a standout episode, but what it builds up to is worthwhile.
The Parting of the Ways
Upon discovering the Satellite 5 is under control of the Daleks, and the ‘disintegrated’ contestants of the game shows, including Rose, have actually been teleported to their movie ship. Although the Daleks were seemingly destroyed during the Time War the remains of the survivors, the wounded Dalek Emperor, managed to escape. From his crippled escape ship the Emperor had rebuild the Dalek race by splicing them with human DNA. The new Daleks, aware that they are impure genetic material, are filled with a self-loathing that spurs them on to act in a more vicious manner. The Emperor has refashioned himself as a God to this new race and drives them forward to enslave and destroy the inferior races.
With the travellers greatly outnumbered by a powerful enemy and only a reluctant few to back them things look pretty grim. Capt. Jack prepares to make a final stand while the Doctor and Rose attempt to find a solution. At the 11th hour the Doctor tricks Rose into taking the TARDIS and returning to her own time and safety. Unwilling to stand by she solves the ‘Bad Wolf’ message that has followed her since meeting the Doctor and attempts to return to him. She eventually accesses the core of the TARDIS, linked directly to the time vortex and becomes a god-like being. At the end of it all the Doctor absorbs the time energy from her, causing him to regenerate into the Tenth Doctor.
Much of the audience found Rose to be grating during her early episodes, constantly getting herself trapped and in need of rescuing. The character really redeems herself in this finale to the first season with Billie Piper putting in a solid performance and selling the desperation that she feels when left behind. The final message left by the Doctor for Rose and Jack’s fall pulls no punches, and the writers do their best tug the heartstrings of the viewers. In the final scene Rose’s confusion and fear for the Doctor, seemingly on death’s door, is an intense moment that finishes perfectly with the appearance of this oddball: