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Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways (2005)

So, 13/13: the end of what should be referred to as Season One of a show distinct from Doctor Who (1963-89) - interestingly connected to the blip of Doctor Who (1996), with maybe some filling-in to follow. It has to divide in two, when the Doctor packs Rose off in the TARDIS to contemporary Earth as he engages in what he recognises is a suicide mission against the Daleks in the future, twiddling with a gadget which will not only wipe out the menace but also all life on Earth and in its environs, reasoning that human colonies are out there and he'll be saving them and all other life the Daleks are liable to exterminate. It's a good, knotty problem and satisfyingly ups the stakes in a series where the entire fate of humanity tends to be in balance rather too often - don't you miss the days when sometimes, the Doctor just had to worry about a cave tribe whose fire had gone out? - but the split doesn't quite cut it as drama. Half the show is gosh-wow sci-fi stuff, with a nonsense macguffin but amazingly wonderful business - it's not Davros, but a reborn Dalek Emperor (cf: The Evil of the Daleks) behind the scheme, and he has been turning mutant humans into his new horde. We finally get scenes we've been wanting to see ever since the Dalek annuals of the '60s of entire armies of the bastards trundling into space in formation, launching a mass attack on the space station (yes, it's that old favourite 'besieged base' set-up), exterminating nasty and nice, comical and serious characters with true mercilessness.

Davies is good at taking hackneyed situations (how many times have we seen Daleks rolling through warehouses or factories skirmishing with dwindling bands of humans whose guns don't work on them?) and personalising them - a tiny, comic moment between two characters who immediately get killed, a wonderful death for perhaps-introduced-in-a-feint-as-a-replacement-companion Lynda (Jo Joyner, who also gets a nice, wordless moment as Rose eyes her with scepticism, perhaps recognising that the Doctor is preparing to move on) as she defends a staunch doorway only for Daleks to rise outside the picture window and blast their way in. But, back in 200?, Rose and her dependant characters, boyfriend and Mum, are tinkering with the TARDIS in the hope that prising open the control panel will instil a deus ex machina effect that transforms Rose into a superbeing (she's the Bad Wolf, which is a bit of a cheat since she's 'good') and whisks her back to the future in time to wish the Daleks out of existence and at least bring life back to just-killed Jack (who then gets stranded) and perhaps everyone else (it's not clear).

Again, a huge, mind-expanding effect - and this angle goes a bit Silver Surfer/Marvel Comics - is anchored by relationship business, as the Doctor has to take on all this cosmic time-space energy (with a kiss - not a first, since omnisexual Jack kissed him and Rose goodbye earlier) and save the girl from being torn apart, though it naturally brings on a regeneration, an aspect of Time Lord biology he hasn't told Rose about but which now seems to have been built into the design ('Eccleston to quit' headlines notwithstanding) from the outset. It's less elaborately done than several previous changes of lead, with David Tennant picking up almost in mid-sentence after the change, pausing only to note the odd effect of having different teeth, and leaves a bit up in the air the question of just how same or different one Doctor is from the next.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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