The Parting of the Ways
The Doctor: This is Emergency Programme One. Rose, now listen; this is important. If this message is activated, then it can only mean one thing.
Production Code: 1.13.
Doctor Who Season: S27 (Ep13).
Story Number: 166b.
A fitting finale to a great season as it weaves the themes and plot-threads of the past twelve weeks to a magnificent end…
The Doctor’s stated mission at the cliffhanger-end of last week is resolved fairly quickly, with some spectacular scenes: the TARDIS steaming towards the central Dalek saucer; the TARDIS enveloping a Dalek and Rose, with the Dalek dispatched in the Classic style, its broken shell a grotesque totem in the TARDIS as the trio plan their next move. Jack’s all out of firepower now, but at least they still have the forcefield which allows them to emerge from the TARDIS onto the Saucer’s interior. (The curving lines of the corridors of the ship seem to recall the designs of the Skaro corridors of The Daleks.)
The reveal of the god of all Daleks is similarly spectacular – “THEY SURVIVED THROUGH ME” – and the Daleks’ master plan is revealed too: they have been feeding humanity a diet of horrific junk food TV for a hundred years all the better to cultivate what they can, to create more Daleks (it seems they’ve actually been behind the scenes for hundreds of years so that at least means the Doctor only added to the mess with The Long Game rather than creating it from scratch).
It’s only appropriate (as the Doctor’s opposite number in this final showdown) that the Dalek Emperor has declared himself a god – it’s a position the Doctor has found himself in this season too, though reluctantly. “Don’t worship me. I’d make a very bad god” he tells Margaret Slitheen in Boom Town, though Margaret makes a good case for him actually being one already. This clash of gods, a War in Heaven over the Earth has its footsoldiers on either side.
The Doctor’s lieutenant (well, Captain) goes off on his mission to try and lead the remaining humans of the station in a last stand against the Daleks. Rewatching this in 2011 it’s startling to think that it will be quite some time before the Doctor and Captain Jack meet again – it’s one season of Torchwood and one-and-three-quarters Doctor Who seasons away.
Once Rose has been tricked (tricked in a nice way) by the Doctor into leaving this battle for the safety of 21st Century Earth the episode divides into two parallel narratives – one with Rose struggling to get back to the Doctor; one in the mold of a suspenseful John Carpenter siege movie such Assault on Precinct 13 but with Daleks instead. (It doesn’t seem adequate to describe this as a simple traditional Doctor Who base-under-siege as that doesn’t convey the new cinematic aspect of it all.) During that TARDIS trip there’s one of the greatest scenes of the season – “Emergency Programme One” is activated with a spectral recording of the Doctor saying goodbye to Rose. The way that he looks toward her (and the camera) saying “Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life” as the sound-mix at that moments rings clear for his voice – an amazing moment.
The Daleks slowly advance across the station after boarding it. The audience already know from watching the story Dalek this season just how “ultimate” these are as the Doctor’s foes – and there are thousands of them this time. One of the Daleks sailing through space even does a little “midsection spin” like the Dalek of the earlier story to remind us these are the slick new Daleks.
It’s a Sawardian bloodbath as the Daleks advance from their entry at floor 494 towards the top of the station at 500 where the Doctor is trying to fix up a gadget to save the day. It’s all a bit James Cameron’s “Aliens” with people desperately loosing off rounds of gunfire as the monsters implacably advance.
Instead of concentrating on the main mission some Daleks descend to exterminate the people of level 000 because, well, that’s what Daleks do.
The narrative switches from this drama to Rose and Jackie arguing in the TARDIS. The events of Father’s Day are referred to by Rose, an emotional scene, with Rose revealing she was the figure who was there to comfort her dying father, thanks to the Doctor. This convinces Jackie – she understands that the Doctor for Rose is an important part of her life.
Meanwhile (or hundreds of thousand of years later depending on how you look at it – though and earlier scene with Jackie Rose and Mickey convinces that this is happening RIGHT NOW) the Daleks continue their inexorable rise through the levels of the station. Lynda-with-a-Y is the next character to go. A Dalek in the bleak silence of space mouths (well, flashes with its headlights) the syllables of “EX-TER-MI-NATE”.
As the Emperor taunts and explains over the comlink between spacecraft – the activation of the this type of hurriedly-crafted Delta Wave would mean the destruction of a world as well as the Daleks. The Doctor’s faced with replicating the actions that preceded this season of Doctor Who though offscreen (setting up the new status quo for the programme), the destruction of a planet the Doctor loves for the sake of destroying the Daleks. This time though, he can’t go through with it.
Jack’s band of resistance falls next, and even, startlingly, Jack, as the Daleks prepare to rise to stop the Doctor’s “Delta Wave”. The Daleks reach the Doctor.
As the TARDIS materialises and the doors swing open the mystery of what “Bad Wolf” is – solved.
“I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words… I scatter them in time and space. A message to lead myself here.”
“I want you safe, my Doctor. Protected from the false God.”
Imbued with the power of the god-stuff that flowed from the TARDIS, Rose is more than a match for the god of Daleks. (I like to think it’s half Rose and half the TARDIS saying “I want you safe, my Doctor.”) It’s a resolution to the season, that makes sense, thematically, with its pondering of gods and the limits of what the Doctor can do, could do, shouldn’t do. This aspect of the TARDIS hasn’t come out of nowhere either, having been established in Boom Town.
“But this is wrong! You can’t control life and death!” – the Doctor with a kiss removes the god-stuff from Rose (but not before she’s bestowed life back to Jack so he can start the spin-off Torchwood).
Absorbing the god-stuff if only for a moment means a regeneration. The goodbye from Nine is very moving – “Before I go, I just wanna tell you, you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. And d’y know what? … So was I!” The audience can surely only agree. What a fantastic season of Doctor Who. After introducing the Doctor, the idea of a companion, the TARDIS, the Daleks, for a new generation in spectacular style, it does seem right in one way that the “change of face” for the character should be established in this first season too.
Rating: 5/5 (for this part of the story, previous ep 5/5)
and for the whole story, 5/5.