Ah, and so we reach the end of Series One of New Who with the first two-parter finale. Again, and I know I keep repeating this, but back in high school I thought this two-parter was the height of high stakes, emotional drama and I always had fond memories of the overall Series as a result. But did it hold up? Rose, The Doctor and Captain Jack find themselves on a familiar space station and find out all is not what it seems with the twist return of an old foe.
Ben: And we begin this week’s episode with a good old recap, albeit of one of the worst episodes of the season.
Maureen: I know right? My first response was, ‘oh yes, that recap of the God-awful episode we shall not speak the name of… how interesting… said no one ever.’ For those wanting less vague episode put-downs, Rose and The Doctor find themselves back on Satellite Five, first featured in The Long Game.
Ben: The Long Game recap ends rather ominously, showing The Doctor being told he needs to stay behind to help explain what happened, which is a thing he does not do.
Maureen: That bugged you didn’t it, Ben? Thankfully, this episode addresses The Doctor’s fatal error in The Long Game.
Ben: Yep. More on this later. Anyway, moving on to the episode proper, the Doctor has somehow gone and got himself teleported into a Big Brother house 100 years after the events of Satellite Five. This can’t be good…
Maureen: Before Ben and I get started on Rose and Captain Jack, I want to just jump in and note that Lynda is the same kind of companion who never was as Suki, except with more naivety. I kind of liked the parallel. She’s a right Doctor fan-girl, maybe even crushing on him. And I love that she asks The Doctor what outside viewers think of her and his invented response is she’s sweet, but sweet doesn’t win reality shows. Damn straight. Too bad The Doctor doesn’t yet know the extent of how messed up these games are…
Ben: In terms of Rose and Jack, I don’t have much to say about them this week, as they didn’t really do much of substance! For me, Rose’s most memorable moment was the excellent pun made about the Anne-droid. Oh, and her bit of foreshadowing ‘Bad Wolf’. Her ‘death’ at the hands of the Anne-droid seriously raises the stakes and gives The Doctor something to ‘Be Sad TM’ about. And when it turns out she’s alive it’s a bit of a good news bad news situation, as she’s found herself on the deck of a Dalek ship. This has come to be a bit of a trope with Rose, as she constantly finds herself in need of rescue by the Doctor. I much prefer the episodes where she gets to be more than a damsel in distress.
Maureen: I’m starting to think that perhaps Rose wasn’t written for people our age, Ben. I know for a fact she was my favourite of RTD’s companions in high school, so maybe she’s relatable for teens, but grows frustrating beyond that? I’ve also had a hard time warming to her this series.
Poor Rose gets the short end of the stick this episode. She gets stuck playing The Weakest Link without understanding the stakes when she votes someone off the game. Her reward? Watching that person disintegrated before her very eyes. And then she loses out and gets disintegrated herself, only to find herself trapped on a Dalek ship. ‘We have your associate.’ Not a good day for Rose.
Ben: Much like Rose, Jack doesn’t do a great deal of substance this episode. He stands around mostly naked, poses in some outfits, then pulls a gun out of his butt. Much like The Doctor he gets to do some good emotional acting once Rose ‘dies’, but other than discovering the secondary transmat system, he mostly just flirts with everyone he comes into contact with.
Maureen: Harsh Ben. He might not do much, but he’s Captain Jack. He can get naked all he likes.
Jack: Ladies, your viewing figures just went up.
Ok, ok, so maybe it was a little gratuitous BUT I DON’T CARE.
Also, I enjoyed Jack coming on to the admin guy at the most inopportune moment. As The Doctor points out, there’s a time and a place!
Ben: The first half of this episode was Doctor heavy, but also pretty meaningless as it’s just him escaping from the Big Brother house and doing some general Doctor investigating. It was nice to see the Doctor facing the consequences of his “save the day then gotta dash” approach, as he discovers he’s responsible for the 100 Years of Hell, as Lynda put it. When all the news stations went down there was nothing to fill the void. Of course, this could have been avoided by having, you know, more than one place broadcasting the news, but what can you do.
Maureen: Maybe RTD just painted our current reality, don’t you think? Media concentration in the hands of one company is a problem in both Australia and the UK. I find that when RTD does dystopian social commentary, he does tend to lay it on a bit thick, and that was definitely the case this episode, but it’s still food for thought in your tea-time television viewing. It is a chilling moment when Lynda tells The Doctor that there are hundreds of violent and deathly games playing at once and that people watch them all day every day.
Nine: And you watch this stuff?
Lynda: Everyone does.
We also see The Doctor get angry multiple times. First, when he finds the station staff:
Female Programmer: If you’re not holding us hostage, then open the door and let us out. The staff are terrified!
The Doctor: That’s the same staff who execute hundreds of contestants every day?
Female Programmer: That’s not our fault. We’re just doing our jobs.
The Doctor: And with that sentence, you just lost the right to even talk to me. Now back off!
And then later, when The Doctor sees Rose’s jacket in the TARDIS and knows The Daleks have her followed by this exchange with The Daleks:
The Doctor: *No*! ‘Cause this is what I’m gonna do – I’m gonna rescue her! I’m gonna save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m gonna save the Earth, and *then* – just to finish you off – I’m gonna wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!
Dalek: But you have no weapons, no defences, no *plan*!
The Doctor: Yeah, and doesn’t that scare you to death?
I don’t know about everyone else, but Nine always was a frighteningly angry and unstable Doctor. It’s part of his appeal for me.
Ben: Mmm, I agree. The best Doctor moment for me was his final defiance of the Daleks, refusing to back down, to give up, and declaring he’s coming to rescue Rose. Nothing like a defiant Doctor facing down certain defeat to put the fear in his enemies.
The Alien of the Week
Ben: The Daleks are back! Although they didn’t really do much this episode, the build up to the reveal was pretty well done thanks to the Controller – a Tilda Swinton/Samantha MoretonMinority Report inspired character if ever I saw one. And talk about a long game! From what the nameless Controller was saying the Daleks have had this plan in the works for hundreds of years, biding their time and building their forces. We’ll have to wait until the second episode to see if it was worth it, and perhaps find out what they’re doing with all the humans that have been transmitting to them over the past century or so.
Maureen: That reveal confused me. Maybe I just need a re-watch but I’m not sure if the inference is that the gap The Doctor left behind in the last 100 years was the point The Daleks showed up or if they had been the financiers behind The Jagrafess and Simon Pegg in The Long Game and took The Doctor leaving a vacuum as the excuse to get more blatant with their plans or something else altogether. Please answer in the comments if you know the answer 🙂
Ben: I’m really not sure what they were thinking with this episode, I guess the heavy-handed commentary about reality/game shows would have been a bit more relevant when this episode first aired? I mean, the killing of the contestants (or as Lynda with a Y puts it, being evicted from life) is a bit much. But the result is they spend so much time on the game shows all the real plot this episode has is crammed into the final 5 minutes.
Maureen: Yes, I had the same issue as you. At the time I first saw the episode, the reveal was shocking and the games depicted more contemporary. Now that I know the twist, it feels a bit like a one trick pony and the games shown have become obsolete.
Ben: Furthermore, I’m not a fan of two-parter stories like this when the first episode is spent setting up the second episode. And frustratingly, we’ve already had a perfect example of how to do a two parter this season with The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, so we know that Doctor Who is capable of so much more as a show. I’m giving this episode a 3/10.
Maureen: Wow Ben, we need to stop scoring so similarly. It’s getting creepy. I hovered between a 2 and a 3 but decided to land on 3/10 inky stars as the twist ending genuinely is amazing the first time around.
Next week I am so, so excited for the grand finale. I know I loved it back in the day.