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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Nyq Only
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:43 am

    I didn't like the suicide theme in the RTD era but in this series it led sensibly to the season final.


  2. Mike
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:49 am

    This is probably the best argument I've seen for why Rose was such an important part of Doctor Who. And by 'this', I mean the argument that you've developed since 'Rose' which beautifully concludes here with 'The Doctor and Rose Tyler. The biggest show on television.'

    Now, I want to go back and rewatch these again. I've always loved this first series because it is where Doctor Who started for me, and I suppose to some extent, where I always want it to be – exciting, challenging, entertaining. It was the perfect birthday present – an introduction to a bizarre world that I've been reluctant to abandon since.

    Brilliant post, sir.


  3. David Anderson
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:51 am

    One of the points you've been making throughout this blog is whatever Doctor Who's space of its own is, a bloody sci-fi war is not it. Whenever Doctor Who has gone wrong it's been in part because it's been misconstrued in that way. If subtracting Rose leaves behind merely another bloody sci-fi epic as the essence of Doctor Who, that's either because it's a misreading of what Doctor Who is, or else adding Rose has dangerously damaged the essence of the show.


  4. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:55 am

    Will you please, please, please use either quotation marks or italics around the titles of episodes.

    Don't care which. I'd personally use quotation marks as the episodes are sub-works within the general work that is the programme, but whichever you prefer.

    It's been annoying for years but it's downright unforgivable when you have an episode which shares its name with a character.


  5. Seth Aaron Hershman
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:33 am

    "The narrative collapse is the default position of the Davies era in season finales, but in future stories will assume its traditional structure as a whirling kaleidoscope of story elements."

    Well, that's a nice way of saying that any semblance of internal logic flies out the window once Davies realizes he hasn't got an ending.


  6. J Mairs
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:36 am

    Oh Jeez…

    If this is your idea of a series finale, I'm beginning to dread (in a "the Daleks in Bad Wolf" way!) reading the Moffat Era!


  7. Phil
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:25 am

    "We should deal with the Doctor’s choice at the end – “coward, any time.” It is unambiguously the wrong call on his part"

    I disagree with this pretty comprehensively. The choice isn't framed as something awful but necessary, where the Doctor abdicates his responsibilities. It's "coward or killer". And yeah, that's a question that's unavoidably weighted towards killer being the right choice. Who'd be a coward?

    Except that the challenge is posed by the Dalek Emperor, a thing that only values killers, that turns people into monsters and is explicitly trying to do the same to the Doctor. And the Doctor rejects it. "Coward, any day," he says. Bravely. He wouldn't make a good Dalek after all.

    And for that one moment of grace, he is rewarded. Rose comes back to him, the Daleks are defeated, and the Doctor becomes a new man.


  8. Lewis Christian
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:33 am


    The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon/The Wedding of River Song is going to be one hell of a post :p


  9. Lewis Christian
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:35 am

    I adore this finale. It's up there as one of the best, before Everything And The Kitchen Sink became the norm.


  10. aralias
    June 3, 2013 @ 3:23 am

    Totally agreed (and well expressed comment), although I'm interested to see it read as 'unambiguously wrong'. Very interesting article in general.

    But if we are supposed to see the Doctor's decision here as him losing what makes him the Doctor/the hero of this story then I don't know what 'Dalek' was about.


  11. elvwood
    June 3, 2013 @ 3:39 am

    While I wouldn't go so far as "downright unforgivable", it is something that would significantly improve this post in particular, and the blog in general. Especially since I doubt this will be the last time you mention Rose. (That last sentence, of course, is deliberately ambiguous, to press home the point.)


  12. dm
    June 3, 2013 @ 3:58 am

    I had the same thought when I read that bit. Saward tried to do "Bloody Sci Fi War", and the killer reality shows are right up his alley as well. Maybe it's just more of Davies's love for literally every part of the classic series shining through. It certainly redeems the Saward approach quite brilliantly, by injecting it with a better sense of how to write characters and structure a story coherently.

    I recall Davies saying something about this being the sort of big space opera that you always imagined those sixties episodes were as a kid, but they never actually were.


  13. EclecticDave
    June 3, 2013 @ 4:20 am

    Yeah, I definitely read it this way too – we are clearly intended to believe that "coward" is the correct choice here – while the Doctor can fail to save people, he cannot intentionally kill innocent people, even if it is to save even more innocent people in the long run – there always has to be a better way.

    That said, I do agree that it is not at all clear in the narrative that a "better way" is in any way forthcoming, the Doctor clearly does not know of Rose's imminent arrival, and he does appear to be about to be executed (and it's implied that regeneration won't fix things, presumably because the Daleks will do what River did in the Impossible Astronaut).

    Maybe we are meant to conclude that the Doctor simply has faith that if he sticks to his principles that an alternative will present itself in the nick of time – however that isn't at all how Eccleston plays the scene, he plays it as if he is proud to die a coward rather than live as a killer which is all well and good, but it doesn't help solve humanity's Dalek problem does it?


  14. Ross
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:03 am

    There is a very beautiful sense in which Bad Wolf invites the middle class straight white cisgendered fanboys to spend three quarters of an hour patting themselves on the back for how much better they are in their taste for not enjoying the shameful spectacle of reality television murdering people for the enjoyment of the audience. And then Parting of the Ways starts up and says "Now, sit back and watch the spectacle of us murdering people for your enjoyment for three quarters of an hour"


  15. jane
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:18 am

    The lack of quotes or italics creates ambiguity. Ambiguity is good — especially if the sentence works with both meanings. It creates multiple pathways in the mind, like audio adventures and a book line running side-by-side.


  16. jane
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:20 am

    Just imagine The Name of the Doctor. Yowzah.


  17. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:26 am

    Ambiguity is not in itself good. It is a tool, the correct use of which is good.

    This is not the correct use, as I would have hoped someone with academic training would know (has, I wonder, he tried handing in a thesis like this?).


  18. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:28 am

    'Live as a killer' isn't an option: the delta wave will wipe out all life on Satellite Five, including the Doctor. That's why he sent Rose away, so she would be safe.

    The Doctor knows he is going to die: his only choice is whether to die as a coward or die as a killer, and yes, the narrative presents his choice of keeping clean hands regardless of the consequences as the right one.


  19. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:30 am

    It's virtue ethics versus utilitarianism, and the Doctor comes down firmly on the side of the former.

    The eucatastrophe of Rose!Tardis reappearing and destroying the Daleks is the culmination and schwerpunkt of a mass of moral decisions made throughout the series by the Doctor, Rose, Pete and finally Jackie. In all these cases, the moral decisions arise from the virtues of the characters, not from a utilitarian calculation. (Compare the reasoning about self-sacrifice of both Pete and the Doctor in "Father's Day" to that expressed by Spock in "The Wrath of Khan".)

    How this translates to "unambiguously the wrong call on his part" beats me.


  20. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:32 am

    I imagine our gracious host finds the ambiguity enjoyable, whether correct or not.

    I doubt he's handed in a thesis like the entries for The Three Doctors or Logopolis either.


  21. jane
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:39 am

    Yup, and it's definitely a recapitulation of the Doctor's choice in the Time War; once again, we have a situation that's a metaphor for something else in the characters' psychology. That said, the Doctor had to say "yes" in the first case to get to a point where he could say "no" in the second; without the weight of the Time War on his shoulders, I think he would have pressed the button. I mean, we kind of know now that he's the sort of man to push buttons, right?

    Oh, and the moment of grace! Okay, so, what is it with "giving up" and grace? The Doctor concedes, and Rose comes to save him. Now, flashforward to Curse of the Black Spot: Amy gives up on Rory, and just then grace arrives. Vastra challenges the Doctor about "you never give up" at the end of A Good Man Goes to War, and it's exactly then River brings the moment of grace.

    True story: I was at ritual one night with a hundred other people, at a clearing nestled in the woods out under the stars, waiting for others to gather after breaking out into small groups. And I was tired, so tired — we'd been out here almost a week — and I just didn't want to sing and dance around that bonfire, and I remember the moment: I gave up. I would just go through the motions, if that; no, I'd take a seat on the periphery of the circle and just watch.

    It was then I felt like I'd been taken over by some "other" force. "The Goddess," they'd call it, being Goddess worshippers. But suddenly I wasn't tired at all, and my body sang and dance of its own accord, without me really trying to do anything, and I don't think I danced longer or sang more sweetly before or since. Perhaps we were all possessed — this went on for a good hour.

    I haven't studied much theology, so I don't know, but in these moments of Doctor Who where grace comes after "giving up" it feels, well, right. Is that the nature of grace, that it only comes when striving has ceased — when "ego" has resigned?


  22. Wm Keith
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:50 am

    The preceding twelve episodes have built on the Doctor's passivity, so "I said 'No!'" at the end of "Bad Wolf" becomes the decisive act, the keystone of the entire season. The Doctor stops running. He's not suicidal. "Coward" has become a positive choice. The warrior has become a conchie.


  23. David Anderson
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:10 am

    I think the problem is that the script can't decide which way to have it, and therefore tries to have it and eat it. On the one hand, I think it's presented as the choice that's in accordance with the Doctor's moral principles; on the other hand, it means Jack et al died for nothing.
    (The logic of destroying the earth to destroy the daleks is pretty much, 'we had to destroy the village in order to save it'.)


  24. David Anderson
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:17 am

    Style guides vary. As a left-wing Anglophile, Phil will be following the Grauniad style guide which deprecates italics and quotes around titles as ugly.


  25. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:17 am

    Just imagine the 50th. We ain't seen nothing yet.


  26. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:19 am

    Well, more 'we had to destroy the village in order to save everything else.'

    It's the logic of quarantine: the Daleks are the infection and they have taken hold on Earth, so even those on Earth who are still healthy must be sacrificed to save the rest of the Empire.

    That's the choice the Doctor refuses to make.


  27. David Ainsworth
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:23 am

    I'd go so far as to say there's an innate tension here, one this blog-post wants to duck in order to make its left-column point about Doctor Who and television more generally. Because the Doctor Who without Rose that Parting of the Ways offers up isn't the essence of what Doctor Who is. It's the essence of "Doctor Who," Doctor Who transformed into another product of Gamestation, the Doctor Who that fans who know all about the Dalek comic strips always dreamed about. (Or it's Terry Nation-Who, the Doctor Who and the Daleks version that strips away the Doctor's fundamental character by making him human.)

    And it's brutal. As or more brutal than the "reality" shows we've just been seeing and judging in Bad Wolf. Without Rose, without "Rose," the Doctor just might make a good dalek. And that makes this finale a way for Davies to comment on the choices he made in the new series set against all the imagined series floating around during the wilderness years.

    Everything Rose represents offers a chance to save the narrative, the characterization, the heart and soul of the series. The Doctor himself is more expendable, because his renewal relies upon Rose.

    The tension arises in that the series in part embraces the televisual world and glories in the show's power to encompass it, but at the same time, these episodes configure Doctor Who's history as a history of combat against the sort of brutal exploitation that Vengeance on Varos critiques/depicts. Compassion set against sadistic cruelty, transgression and transcendence set against conventional narrative "realism," hope against cynicism.

    Because ultimately, among the things Rose represents, she's us. Rose is us, saving the show, rejecting the imagined fictions of "Doctor Who" and snogging the actual thing. Rose's choice. Our choice.


  28. David Anderson
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:27 am

    The story doesn't really resolve its narrative collapses.
    Consider: the Doctor says that he's created the world of Bad Wolf by taking down the world of the Long Game and then just leaving without staying around to help fix things. That's a narrative collapse: it's a moral challenge to the narrative structure of Doctor Who. And then at the end of Parting of the Ways, the Doctor just leaves without staying around to help fix things. The narrative collapse has been invoked for an emotional beat and then shooed off out of the way unresolved.

    Likewise, it's one thing for the Doctor to send Rose out of the way to safety and Rose to try to come back. And it's then satisfying if Rose brings back the solution to the dalek invasion from East Powell Street. What's not satisfying is if the solution is the TARDIS so that we're just taken back to a place where we could have been twenty minutes earlier had the Doctor thought of it.


  29. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:34 am

    "Jack et al died for nothing" – in a consequentialist worldview, perhaps.

    But from a virtue ethics point of view, they went down fighting as a result of a virtue that they had, a virtue that was encouraged/inculcated by the Doctor.

    And there wasn't a "not dying" option for them (not while the Doctor was pursuing his improvised explosive device, anyway). They could die as snivelling pricks like Roderick, or die fighting evil.

    The exception is Jack, who still has his vortex manipulator at this point (if I recall correctly). He could have buggered off at any time, but chose to stand with the rest of them. An even greater degree of virtue, after greater influence from the Doctor. Is this why he, uniquely, gets brought back to life?


  30. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    we're just taken back to a place where we could have been twenty minutes earlier had the Doctor thought of it

    In a sense, though, that's the point: the Doctor couldn't think of it, because he thinks of the TARDIS in a certain way and the idea of deliberately exposing its power source would never occur to him. It takes Rose and her ability to come at the problem from another angle to come up with the solution, and it takes him sending her away to put her in a position where she has to approach the TARDIS in that way.

    The solution isn't 'the TARDIS', it's the idea of opening the console, and nobody would have had that idea if Rose hadn't been sent away.

    That's what's supposed to be the point, anyway.


  31. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    Where would the Doctor have got a tow-truck from at short notice?


  32. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:55 am

    Actually, it's mainly that all other formatting like paragraph and font goes pear-shaped if I don't dump an entry into plain text format before pasting it into Blogger. Which loses the italics. If you'll note the off-day posts, which I generally write in Blogger instead of in a word processor, italicize titles. My master copies of everything post-Survival have italicizes titles. (Prior to that I didn't save the drafts and copy from the blog to a word processor for the book, which means I have to italicize manually while editing. Which is a pain. But not as much of one as trying to force an entry's font to behave with Blogger's half-assed editing interface.)


  33. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:57 am

    Maybe it comes from how your personal code of Ethics developed. To me, the idea that the integrity of my moral code is more important than the lives of everything in the Galaxy is about as repugnant as it gets. The Doctor cannot make the choice the live as a murderer of his adopted home. He's already destroyed Gallifrey and who knows how many worlds during the Time War. Even so…if he falters on Satellite 5, then the entirety of the Universe falls to Daleks. He has no way to know that Rose will return, no moment of grace is coming. Here he decides he cannot live with making the hard choices to save all of creation if it costs the lives of the people on the stationand the Earth. That is a failure. To choose to let Trillions of years of history be snuffed out under the heel of a Dalek boot because he cannot bear it is the very definition of a moral failing. It's not destroying a village in order to save it: It's destroying a housing block to save the world.


  34. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:01 am

    Ah, the problem is technology. Say no more. We'd all be much better off without it.


  35. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:13 am

    Speaking as someone who's only alive because of modern technology, I'll respectfully disagree with your off handed comment.


  36. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:17 am

    "Keep buggering on," That's about the only bit of the real Churchill that made it into Victory of the Daleks.

    Alan Clark, military historian, Conservative MP, and shit, advocated that Churchill should have made peace with Nazi Germany. Given the course of the Second World War, this might well have saved lives. If so, would it have been the right thing to do?

    Many moral philosophers are in love with toy dilemmas, usually involving levers and railway carriages. These aren't useless – they can illuminate moral intuitions – but the moral dilemmas we face in real life are never so clear cut. We always have to act on imperfect information about the consequences of our actions. There's a strong argument that, rather than attempt to sift unknowable probabilities about nth-order consequences of our actions, it's better to cultivate our personal virtue and just keep buggering on.


  37. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:25 am

    Well, okay then. Not all technology.

    Just the internet.


  38. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:29 am

    Sympathetic as I am to virtue ethics (and I feel I have to point out that the virtue ethics approach to moral dilemmas is a lot more subtle than Dr Coleman is making out (indeed, I would say it is the most subtle and most accurate to the human condition of all the three main ethical approaches), and a lot has been written on, say, the virtues of the pre-Normandy bombings of towns along the French coast) it must nonetheless be pointed out that the Doctor's dilemma in the episode has far more in common with one of those levery carriagey puzzles than it does with anything anybody might face in real life.


  39. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:32 am

    The trouble is, this isn't real life. This is fiction, and the Doctor's choice is a toy dilemma.

    As set up, Earth is doomed either way, and the only real choice is whether the Daleks are going to spread through the galaxy and destroy everything else. Which makes the Doctor's choice terribly unsatisfying as a moral stand, and unsatisfying in a way that I cannot help but feel is deliberate, given how meticulous a balancing act the story engages in and what other things are unambiguously deliberate in Davies's work.


  40. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:46 am

    I'll give you that one.


  41. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:49 am

    Well, it's more that Big Sci-Fi War is what an awkwardly large number of people think Doctor Who is and has to be. This is on one level the fulfillment of years of desire in the form of seeing the Big Epic War – it's what was frustrated with The Ancestor Cell and, ultimately, Zagreus, and what a large chunk of people thought they wanted as soon as the phrase "Time War" came up.

    Have there in the past been other Doctor Whos that didn't need Rose? Absolutely. But in 2005 Rose was necessary to hedge against the descent into the epic that Doctor Who faced. Which is part of why I'm splitting the books here and not at Rose – because this is where the last major chain of the wilderness years is thrown off. This is where the idea that Doctor Who is supposed to be Star Wars finally gets explored and rejected for a reason other than "the effects aren't good enough."

    And Rose is, in practice, the means by which Davies rescues the show from that dead end.


  42. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    I dunno, I don't think you established whether or not Lynda was a fundamental force within the narrative or not.

    “Bad Wolf” was bait for cult television fans, and its emergence in the mainstream culture was in some ways a more definitive confirmation of Doctor Who’s arrival in that mainstream than the ratings themselves.

    I'd also argue that a significant chunk of techniques which appeal to viewers operating in the so-called "cult" mode were absorbed into mainstream shows; things like Arc Words, which specifically reward looking for recurring details, were a significant part of the steam behind shows like Lost and Heroes.

    the Black Eyed Peas also chart, the latter with “Don’t Phunk With My Heart.”

    Man did that bit of tee-hee bowdlerization annoy me back in the day.

    But theres a subtlety here that is easy to overlook. Rose in fact denies that she’s better, and says instead that the Doctor’s life is better.

    This is something that a lot of critics of Rose as a character overlook – there's an arrogance around her, but it's based not in being better than you, but in doing something better than what you're doing. (This doesn't stop it from getting insufferable sometimes, mind you…)


  43. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    Something else… You know, I realized that The Muppets basically uses the same bring-the-franchise-back techniques that Doctor Who does over this season. It's a big-budget theatrical movie, but it grounds itself in the history of the franchise specifically as a TV show, and the big climax involves channeling the popular culture around it.


  44. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:09 am

    I would say that Rose is a part of What Makes Doctor Who Good, and Big Pointless Space War is a version of Bad Doctor Who. Neither needs to represent all of Good or Bad to be a good tension.


  45. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    Nope, Internet's also great and awesome.


  46. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    I gotta agree that it feels like the narrative is presenting the Doctor's choice is right, but I can't say that I think the narrative's earned it.


  47. Matthew Celestis
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    I remember watching Parting of the Ways. I had skipped the series after Rose and then Parting of the Ways happened to be on. I thought it was really great, with all the saucers and the Dalek Emperor. It didn't quite get me watching the next series, but I did watch The Christmas Invasion.


  48. tantalus1970
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:26 am

    I've always liked Rob Shearman's comment that the ending of 'Bad Wolf' is a cliffhanger for the Daleks. Their biggest and most hated enemy has suddenly appeared out of nowhere and announced that he's going to destroy them; and they have no idea what to do.


  49. BerserkRL
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:36 am

    They could die as snivelling pricks like Roderick

    I resent that …


  50. BerserkRL
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:40 am

    the idea that the integrity of my moral code is more important than the lives of everything in the Galaxy is about as repugnant as it gets

    Well, then it's a repugnant attitude we can only wish there were more of. Caring about integrity more than consequences tends to have … better consequences.


  51. Alan
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:59 am

    My objection to "coward, any day" is that he makes that moral choice after the Daleks have removed the "lady or the tiger" scenario that made it a moral choice in the first place. It seems obvious that the damage inflicted by the Daleks even before the Delta Wave generator was completed represented an extinction level event. Entire continents were instantly deforming as a result of the Dalek barrage. If I'd been one of the handful of survivors of that attack, I'd have rather died instantly from the DW generator (especially if I'd known that it would also kill the creatures that exterminated most of my world) than die a slow lingering death due to starvation and exposure … which is what likely happened to every survivor left after Rose wiped out the Daleks and she and the Doctor left without looking back. I suppose I should also say that I was a bit annoyed by the cop-out of Rose saying "I bring life" for a cute guy she wanted to snog but not bothering to undue the massive damage to Planet Earth.


  52. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    Man did that bit of tee-hee bowdlerization annoy me back in the day.

    Even with the Spoonerism?


  53. Alan
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    Two random comments:

    1. For all its strengths, Parting of the Ways starts the regrettable trend for RTD finales in which the characters find themselves in impossible circumstances and then survive because one of the characters improbably gets god-like superpowers in the last twenty minutes. The RTD exception to the rule is Doomsday, where the Doctors escapes the impossible circumstances with a bit of technobabble involving a giant-ass magnet and "void stuff" which is only visible with 3D glasses. Whether this is preferable to the standard Moffat resolution — i.e. the finale involves all of reality disintegrating in some fashion and that allows the Doctor to work magic via paradoxes — is a question for another day.

    2. Considering the class implications of this episode so eloquently discussed by Phillip, what is the significance of the fact that our working class Londoner heroine with the chav accent achieves what is functionally godhood … and it causes her to start speaking in Received Pronunciation.


  54. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:30 am

    The internet is great and terrible…a form of enlightenment for humanity. A Qlippothic reflection of humanity that reflects us at our best and worst. While it gives us places like this…4Chan and Something Awful are here as well.


  55. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Are you a big fan of RTD Seth?


  56. elvwood
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    Well, if you can judge a post by the quality of the debate it sparks, this is a humdinger – loads of good points coming from all directions.

    (Of course, even if you can't, it's still a humdinger. Though I wish you'd used the word "sweet" for Lynda-with-a-Y rather than "nice".)


  57. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 9:53 am

    BerserkRL: With the scale of the quandary here, I don't think it's possibly an attitude we need more of. I don't want people who believe that their morals of the moment are more important than the lives and history of trillions of years. The Doctor has not shied away from killing when he has needed to before. Like Tennent's meaningless protest that he doesn't carry a gun…this is an affectation of the moment, when the Doctor's resolve falters and fails.

    Real life calls for a more nuanced moral code. But it's hard for me to say that the history of creation is less important than my morals.


  58. Chris
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    In one sense the Doctor makes the right choice: if he had chosen the killer option, he would have died and that would be the end of the show. The Doctor is genre-savvy enough to avoid that narrative collapse.

    The other sense in which the audience is encouraged to accept his choice as correct is the parallel with Boom Town. There he also has to make a decision and all the way through he argues for the killer option. But for all the way he seems to win the debate with Margaret, the audience has to be thinking, "Surely we're not going to see the Doctor hand her over to certain death?" And of course in the end he doesn't because the Tardis takes the decision away from him. Two episodes later, the Doctor gets to make the decision this time, without any real hope he can change his mind at the last moment, and he chooses not to be a killer. Is the audience really supposed to be disagreeing with him this time?


  59. Nyq Only
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:12 am

    Chav accent to RP is Pokemon-style evolution. More alarmingly the Doctor then also changes accent from kitchen-sink North to Estuary English.


  60. Matthew Blanchette
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:53 am

    Wouldn't it have been hilarious if Nine, once he'd absorbed the energy of the time vortex, started speaking in RP, and kept doing so after his regeneration?

    Well, maybe not hilarious, but…


  61. Jack Graham
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    I can't agree with Phil's assertion that the Doctor's decision is unambiguously wrong, but I do agree with him that it is deliberately unsatisfactory… but in a way that leaves the field open for something less perfect and more human.

    I think we have to remember that this episode (indeed, this whole season) was planned and written during the highpoint and decline of the 'War on Terror'; particularly, in the wake of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the public 'debate' in the run up to the invasion.

    The Emperor's moral challenge to the Doctor seems deliberately disingenuous, with the Doctor's answer deliberately facetious. He's using the Emperor's word to express a sensibility that the Emperor doesn't intend. The thing is: the Emperor thinks that he's Saddam. Will the Doctor, the Great Satan, decide to attack him or slink away, a coward? But the Emperor is actually Bush/Blair (religiously-inflected market-fundamentalism). He, not the Doctor, is the aggressive imperialist at the head of a massive military/media machine. Of course, it's worrying that, by this reading, the moral decision NOT to invade Iraq is equated with allowing unrestrained evil and suffering to reign unchecked… but then that's the Bush/Blair reading!

    What what's really being set up here is the Doctor's decision to leave it to Rose. Of course, he doesn't know she's coming back all godly to smash the imperialists… but she is. By narrative logic (i.e. the same logic that makes the Bush/Blair/Dalek moral reading into the operative one) she HAS to be. And the Doctor's accidental decision to leave the job for Rose not only signals a moral failure on his part (in a way that Phil brilliantly describes) but also a moral triumph. He steps aside for humanity, for Stop the Dalek War (or, by extension, Occupy Tardis, or the East Powell Estate Spring). The humans must save themselves, from one working class girl up. She gets imbued with extra narrative power (direct from the show itself, from the Tardis time rotor – the motor that drives the entire series) that allows her to reframe the debate.

    It's not perfect as an analogy, of course… Rose has to achieve temporary godhead rather than just be herself… but then this very trangression is later repudiated by her loss of control and the need for her to sacrifice her divinity, just as Chris Eccleston also had to do in 'The Second Coming'!


  62. Matthew Blanchette
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Isn't it obvious? πŸ˜›


  63. encyclops
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:19 am

    Could you help me understand why that hypothetical hypocrisy would be specific to "middle class straight white cisgendered fanboys"?

    I'm also interested in the question of whether watching something horrible being depicted necessarily equates to "enjoying" it, but that one's probably a lot bigger and even less rewarding. I went to see Battle Royale (for the first time!) recently and I was the only one in the theater not laughing.


  64. encyclops
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:25 am

    It's an interesting parallel, because I really disliked that movie. I felt the Muppets were a lot more entertaining when people's reaction to them tended to be "who are these annoying creatures who just popped in out of nowhere and will ultimately save my bacon whether I like them or not?" rather than "oh my god you were the most awesome thing ever in my childhood and I'd give my left eyeball for a single moment in your presence."

    Which is exactly, EXACTLY the problem I had with the new series for the longest time, until I finally managed to look past the Doctor worship and stop expecting stories that were satisfying in themselves and just enjoy everything else that was going on.


  65. Froborr
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:35 am

    This is brilliant, and given how much I uncritically, overweeningly love that movie, I necessarily also love this comment.


  66. J Mairs
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:53 am

    He has a time machine. "Short notice" isn't a problem. ;P


  67. Froborr
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    Unless I'm much mistaken, Nine is the second of only two incarnations of the Doctor (Three being the first) to die in triumph. That is, the Doctor has regenerated as a consequence of what he did to win, before, but the regeneration itself has usually been played as a failure.

    Here, after an entire season of doubt, of guilt, of "coward every time" and "you would make a good Dalek," he dies admitting that he was fantastic. He won; in the moment of regeneration he defeated the real Big Bad of the season, his own survivor guilt and exhaustion, to the point that he admitted being unable to see the wonders of the universe anymore. (Which, now that I'm typing this, I realize is YET ANOTHER way New Who was influenced by Buffy–compare the ending of "The Gift.")

    Best regeneration ever.


    Ever since learning that the Toclafane were the original planned Big Bads of the season, I've been pondering what this episode would have looked like. My theory (which also assumes that Eccleston wasn't originally supposed to leave at the end of the season): This episode would reveal the Toclafane are the future of humanity, and their attack on Earth would not be with the intent of slaughtering the humans but of converting them into Toclafane, closing a time loop. (Which is why the Time Lords never figured out where they came from; they are an ontological paradox that has no origin.)

    The Doctor sends Rose back in the TARDIS as in the episode we saw, and her conversations with Jackie and Mickey about "a better way" are the same, as is the battle on the station.

    But then Lynda unlocks the Archive, which has been sealed since the station was built. Inside? The TARDIS. As a holographic, elderly Rose appears and narrates/flashes back, we learn Rose played the REAL Long Game, founding the Bad Wolf Corporation to quietly prepare for and avert the future she saw, to give humanity that better way represented by the Doctor–learning to use the TARDIS in a limited way, to record this message and to scatter Bad Wolf as a message to herself, an ontological paradox to fight the ontological paradox of the Toclafane.

    The rebellion to which Suki (and, it's now revealed, Lynda) belonged? Part of the plan. The Bad Wolf Corporation even put itself in a position to win the contract to build the station, just so they could hide the TARDIS on it.

    Why? Because there's one last gift from Rose inside–a Delta Wave refiner. Toclafane go boom, timeloop that created them in the first place is (apparently?) broken, and the Doctor and his new companion Lynda set off again, though not without some sadness at the loss of Jack and Rose.

    Dunno if this would have actually been as good as what we got. Probably not, but still better than the actual use of the Toclafane.


  68. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

    Once you land you're a part of events. The Doctor is linked to events on the game station. As we see with Rose, things are happening in relative time.


  69. Abigail Brady
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

    Where would the Doctor have got a tow-truck from at short notice?

    TARDIS garage, obviously. (Same place he keeps the scooters.)


  70. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

    Well I was hoping to spring a little conversation from my pithy response.


  71. Daibhid C
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    My take on it: "coward" is the wrong choice. "Killer" would also have been the wrong choice. The Doctor, when he's at his best and has a companion to show off to, would look at a binary choice like that and say "Not playing. I'm gonna do something else you haven't even thought of." As, in fact, Rose does.

    The Doctor loses his control over the narrative, and needs Rose to save him, when he accepts the Emperor's version of reality. After that, the only thing left for him to decide is how he loses.


  72. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:20 pm

    Daibhid C: Hm, yes, good point.


  73. Daibhid C
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

    There's one character in the movie who acts like that, and he's a Muppet himself so I'm not sure he counts. Even Gary is only going along with it because it's important to Walter. All the other human characters are "Oh, yeah, the Muppets. Is it the seventies again or something?" (My favourite example being when Whoopi Goldberg, who has a longer history with the Muppets than some of the puppeteers, seems to be totally uninterested in what this telethon is even about.)


  74. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

    Nah, it's just terrible.


  75. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    But didn't you know? Only the most privileged can ever be jerks about their personal taste!

    And I'm not really a fan of anything that presents something to me and then berates me for enjoying it. It always seems like cheating, like my decision to enjoy it is more responsible for its existence than the creator's decision to create it. (Of course, I don't think that's what's happening in Parting of the Ways either.)


  76. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Which is that?


  77. Theonlyspiral
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

    The internet gives us a 6 Minute Supercut of people responding to last night's Game of Thrones. It gives us Tardis Eruditorum and other wondrous things. The internet doesn't take away anything from the pile of bad things in the world, but it does add things to our good pile.


  78. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

    Oh, yes, very good.


  79. Nick Smale
    June 3, 2013 @ 1:54 pm

    I guess it's appropriate that Big Brother, a show named after a character in a science fiction novel, should itself become the subject of science fiction. (And to "Bad Wolf" add Charlie Brooker's "Dead Set", where a group of Big Brother housemates are kept ignorant of a zombie apocalypse in the world outside, until the zombies invade the house itself.)

    The Doctor's journey in "Bad Wolf" takes his from being a housemate to taking the role of Davina herself, sitting in a TV control room observing a group of (Dalek) housemates on a TV screen. The episode climaxes with the Doctor speaking Davina's eviction night catchphrase: "Rose Tyler, I'm coming to get you".


  80. Anton B
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

    Are there any clues anywhere ('The Writer's Tale' maybe?)as to what the finale would have been if Eccleston had stayed on?


  81. encyclops
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:17 pm

    Maybe I'm forgetting that because I'm wishing too fervently that Walter's story and the attendant nostalgia hadn't been so central to the plot. Come to think of it, that's sort of the problem with the new Star Trek movies, too, especially this most recent one.

    Maybe if I watched The Muppets again I'd get something different out of it. A revisit is certainly helping me with the RTD era. I'm two seasons ahead of Dr. Sandifer but he's gaining on me.


  82. George Potter
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    "And of course in the end he doesn't because the Tardis takes the decision away from him."

    Just as, in my opinion, the TARDIS does here as well. I've always felt that the idea that the console opened just because they found a big enough truck is faintly ridiculous. It opened because Rose and those who loved her kept trying. Rose, in my reading, didn't really do anything but give the TARDIS an avatar.


  83. encyclops
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

    I'm curious, too (I've started The Writer's Tale but I have a long way to go), though I'd imagine any old deus ex machina that sucks the time energy back into the TARDIS would do, and the rest is unchanged (but not improved).


  84. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

    The choice is obviously set up as one of those lever/carriage dilemmas, and explicity characterised as such by the Dalek Emperor. But then the question shifts – and it's actually the Dalek Emperor who does it. He sets out the dilemma – and as described it's ludicrously one-sided. From a consequentialist point of view, there is no way you can justify any action other than setting off the bomb. To that extent, Phil is quite right.

    But then the Emperor asks the wrong question. The question in all these toy dilemmas is "what will you do?" But the question the Emperor asks is "What are you?" That's what shifts the ground to virtue ethics (and yes, SK, there's a lot more to a moral philosophy stretching back millennia than is likely to be made manifest in the comments section of even the most erudite Doctor Who blog). And that's where the Doctor rejects the implied premises of the dilemma. And right enough, it's from outwith those premises that salvation comes.

    To me, the most interesting thing about it is that it's the Emperor Dalek who nudges him towards this. What is the Emperor playing at in that line of dialogue? Does he know that opening the door to a different way of considering the question is the best way to dissuade the Doctor from detonating the bomb?


  85. Iain Coleman
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:49 pm


    My apologies. If it's any consolation, I've found that sharing a surname with Doctor Who's female lead has made some recent headlines quite startling.


  86. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 3, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

    The more I think about it, the more I find myself unable to get around my reading of the Doctor's "coward, any day" statement as the moment where this incarnation gives up on being the Doctor. Because, of course, it tacitly evokes an older and more fundamental declaration that he is neither cruel nor cowardly. By choosing "coward" as the word that he'll allow himself to be described by he is, in a very real sense, forsaking part of his identity.


  87. Lewis Christian
    June 3, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    I'm not sure if this is just Fan Myth, but I once read had he stayed on, Rose would've lost the time vortex energy somehow and Series 2 would revolve around the Doctor looking for a cure for her… and, in the end, regenerating of a broken heart!

    Now I've written that out, yeah, it definitely has to be fan myth.



  88. Josiah Rowe
    June 3, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    Without Rose, it seems, he’s unable to be a hero anymore.

    This, of course, echoes the line from Love and War in which the Doctor is equated to Puff the Magic Dragon, unable to be brave without Little Jackie Paper. But, as Phil pointed out in his Love and War essay (which I've just reached in my slow journey through the archives), elides the fact that it makes the Doctor a dragon.

    Here, the Doctor seems to forsake his dragonhood until Rose/the TARDIS/the Bad Wolf shows up and reminds him what dragons do: they burn shit down.


  89. Josiah Rowe
    June 3, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    I'm not sure it was as developed as that. I do recall that the alternative season ender would have had the Doctor remove the vortex energy from Rose, to no apparent ill effect to either of them… until the camera panned to the TARDIS console display, which would have had a scan of Rose with the text "Life form dying".


  90. Bennett
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

    Bravo on the choice of format for this blog (and for executing it so well). It really lends…momentum to that final paragraph which pulled off the hitherto unthinkable feat of making me smile with the sentence "The Doctor and Rose Tyler".

    This is not entirely fair – as revisiting Eccleston's time has made me realise that I really did like Rose Tyler. Unfortunately soon after this episode (I'd say after Christmas) she changes into something else. It may have been intentional (almost certainly judging by that marvellous scene in Army of Ghosts where Jackie calls her out on it) but that doesn't mean I have to like it. And do not get me started on the Familar Looking Blonde Woman With a Gun from Series 4 that people persist in calling Rose. (Of course, I'm looking forward to having both of these moves redeemed in future essays)


  91. ferret
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:27 pm

    Sounds like Mr Sandifers take (which I love) on one of 'The War Machines' cliffhangers:

    "the Doctor… stares down an oncoming War Machine in a monster's eye shot that serves as the episode three cliffhanger. This is a cliffhanger in the classic Doctor Who style. The tension is not "How is the Doctor going to survive facing down this awful machine," but "Oh man, what's he going to do to the machine?" The anticipation is not based on the Doctor being in danger, but on not getting to see him kick the machine's ass."

    That paragraph alone made me want to go out and buy the DVD.


  92. ferret
    June 3, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

    I'd say Queen Victoria calls them out on it too – in almost a reverse of Ecclestone, Tennant's Doctor at this stage seems incapable of taking life seriously: there's little emotional concern from either of them that people have been horribly slaughtered by the werewolf, families destroyed – they're just ho-ho-hoing that Queen Eliziabeth II might also start a bloody rampage through the staff of buckingham palace.

    To some degree I started to feel distanced from Doctor Who at this point – if The Doctor and Rose couldn't get emotionally invested, how could I?

    Pity this didn't pay off more – Queen Vic warns them they'll get their comeuppance if they don't start taking things seriously, and although her creation of the Torchwood Institute does lead to the Doctor and Rose being separated, it's not in consequence of their failing to stop larking about. If they'd heeded her warning, I don't see that 'Army of Ghosts/Doomsday' would have played out differently… although maybe Mr Sandifer will get me to see things differently when the time comes.


  93. Ross
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:09 pm

    Just as, in my opinion, the TARDIS does here as well. I've always felt that the idea that the console opened just because they found a big enough truck is faintly ridiculous. It opened because Rose and those who loved her kept trying

    If you watch VERY closely, it certainly does look like the tow chain goes slack a fraction of a second before the console latch springs open.


  94. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

    It takes some things away from the bad pile! Including much of the ability to hide those things.


  95. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

    Just as, in my opinion, the TARDIS does here as well. I've always felt that the idea that the console opened just because they found a big enough truck is faintly ridiculous. It opened because Rose and those who loved her kept trying. Rose, in my reading, didn't really do anything but give the TARDIS an avatar.

    Oooooooooh, yes. Very appropriate.

    Here, the Doctor seems to forsake his dragonhood until Rose/the TARDIS/the Bad Wolf shows up and reminds him what dragons do: they burn shit down.

    It actually reminds me of Father's Day in that respect: If the Doctor cannot be a dragon, other, bigger, less merciful dragons will come. (And it looks forward to Human Nature in that.)


  96. Scott
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:18 pm

    That's kind of my problem with that interpretation of 'Army of Ghosts/Doomsday' as well; it's not impossible to draw the lines that link up creating Torchwood to the Doctor and Rose being split, but that's something the reader has to do by themselves; the show never makes it clear that this is something they should be learning a lesson from. The Doctor's sort of confronted with the fact that Torchwood is his fault, but they're never really confronted with the possibility that because of their earlier flippancy what happens to him and Rose is their fault. As I've said before, the producers kind of what to have their cake and eat it to, in that they seem to want to deconstruct the Doctor and Rose but at the same time they want everyone to think of them as the bestest Doctor/companion team ever, so they chicken out a little bit when it comes to the crunch time.

    As Bennet says, this comes through the entire season. The production team seem to want us to disapprove of the Doctor and Rose's growing flippancy and arrogance, but they also want us to be convinced of how genuinely great they are as well, which makes it inconsistent and a bit half-hearted (and even a bit mixed up at times; there seems to be a few moments through Season Two where the writers seem to want us to applaud the Doctor and Rose for being utterly insufferable and then turn around and demand we condemn them when they're actually do the right thing).

    Like you, though, I'm open to being persuaded otherwise.


  97. David Ainsworth
    June 3, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

    And not to anticipate future episodes, but by reconfiguring himself as a coward, the Doctor shifts the field of combat, too. He's not the same person who ended the Time War, and his courage gets reconfigured from the one who rigs up a device that exterminates people to the one who sacrifices his own life for another. That sacrifice goes all the way down. He then pours himself out into the TARDIS, is emptied of divinity and turns into Ten, who will be repeatedly configured as a Christ figure…


  98. jane
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:06 pm

    I find it interesting how the Daleks have established a narrative of monotheism, invoking the language JudeoChristicIslam. The ultimate patriarchs are defeated by the Divine Feminine (not the Doctor) and I think it's absolutely splendid. The Goddess comes out of her box and invokes the power of narrative:

    "I create myself. I take the words, I scatter them in time and space, a message to lead myself here."

    For her Ascension, Rose creates a marriage of narratives, the narratives of Doctor Who (in the form of the TARDIS) and of Soaps, herself an East Powell Street irregular. But what this yields is decidedly mystical: "Everything dies," but she "brings life." She communes with Sun and Moon, Day and Night, invoking a union of opposites. She can see all that was, all that is, all that ever will be. The resolution of the story shifts from a "reasoned" moral debate (on false terms, as Daibhid points out) to a decidedly emotional revelation of identity. This is actually the wheelhouse of Myth: the stories we tell for thousands of years are primarily about who we are, which is an internal question, even if they're periodically re-coded for current material/historical purposes.

    And such is the power of her narrative mastery that the Doctor becomes a character in a soap opera, kissing the girl in an act of self-sacrifice that transforms him into a smart-talking Casanova, the perfect "doctor." (Yes, there's a reason why so many soaps take place in hospitals.)


  99. jane
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:10 pm

    The Doctor and Rose can be genuinely great, the bestest ever, even as their flaws of arrogance and flippancy are exposed. These are not mutually exclusive conditions; indeed, such finely drawn failings are part of what make them so memorable.


  100. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

    It's interesting, because Walter is absolutely crucial to getting Kermit back into the story… and then seems kinda superfluous thereafter.

    I'm reminded of a comment my girlfriend made, where his real talent shouldn't have been whistling – it should have been organizing people. It would both have reflected what he'd been doing in the first place and made him an actual heir to Kermit.


  101. Ununnilium
    June 3, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

    The Doctor and Rose can be genuinely great, the bestest ever, even as their flaws of arrogance and flippancy are exposed. These are not mutually exclusive conditions; indeed, such finely drawn failings are part of what make them so memorable.


    (And wasn't this sorta-kinda what the little we got of the Third Doctor's arc was trying to be?)


  102. Arkadin
    June 3, 2013 @ 8:11 pm

    Reading this latest set of posts made me wonder if we're done with Lawrence Miles after all. I had thoughts, but they got ungodly long and I made it a separate post. I had to write it somewhat hastily to get it out in time where it could be sorta relevant, so I'm not sure it's coherent, but there you go.


  103. Scott
    June 3, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    "The Doctor and Rose can be genuinely great, the bestest ever, even as their flaws of arrogance and flippancy are exposed. These are not mutually exclusive conditions; indeed, such finely drawn failings are part of what make them so memorable."

    Absolutely true. This does not mean, however, that it cannot also be annoying, inconsistent and poorly-handled.

    (I would also personally argue that there's a line between 'finely-drawn balance between greatness and flaws' and 'wanting your cake and eating it too', and that Season Two wobbles a bit on either side of the line when it comes to the Doctor and Rose, but I suspect that this is something of a 'to-each-their-own' situation.)


  104. Scott
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:00 pm



  105. Scott
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:04 pm

    SK, I presume you are aware of the irony of your appearing on the internet in order to decry it, and so I need not point it out?

    [/sideshow bob]


  106. SK
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:38 pm

    And yet apparently you did anyway. I think that says more about you than me.


  107. Wm Keith
    June 3, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

    Rather than forsaking his identity, this choice between two false alternatives is the point at which the Ninth Doctor finally becomes Doctor Who. What he gives up is only the bravado. What he accepts is that he is, in fact, Fantastic. His next act – his only act – is an act of healing, and he revels in it. "What you need is a Doctor".


  108. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 12:15 am

    I took the line "coward any time" to be a reaffirmation and a reminder of the Doctor's anti-heroic nature. A clue for new viewers that this protagonist is neither the square- jawed fighter or mystic wise man of Star Wars style hard Sci-Fi but a man of complexity and secrets. A master of the Land of Fiction whose motivation is escape, a protagonist whose narrative is constantly collapsing, a man whose catch-phrase, indeed the first words we heard him utter way back in 'Rose' is "RUN!"


  109. Nyq Only
    June 4, 2013 @ 12:31 am

    Well when he shared a flat with Obi Wan Kenobi and the Sheriff of Nottingham, he spoke with a Scottish accent…


  110. Jack Graham
    June 4, 2013 @ 12:33 am

    When he calls himself a coward he is embracing his role as the Doctor, not forsaking it. To be precise, he's embracing one version of who/what the Doctor is (man of peace, non-aggressor) at the expense of another version (the hero, the guy who gets his hands dirty, the crusader). The whole season (in which the Doctor is repeatedly rather passive and allows others to sort things out for him) is him working through which version he is in the wake of the huge act of violence he's implied to have committed at the end of the Time War (Wilderness Years). He's taking on the word "coward" as a badge of honour, thus repudiating the Emperor's neocon logic (i.e. don't commit act of genocide = you're a coward). By the terms of the actual dilemma facing him, he's not right to do that in any real-world ethical sense… except in so far as he cedes the field to the far-more human logic of Rose, which then manages a magical ethical clean-sweep. His decision to embrace the role of 'coward' allows him to remain the non-heroic, non-violent version of the Doctor… and his connection with Rose allows him to win anyway. Handy. Deliberately unsatisfying. But also very politically charged in 2005.


  111. Spacewarp
    June 4, 2013 @ 12:43 am

    Ah yes, according to wikipedia's entry on POTW this scene was actually filmed, but was solely to be shown at press conferences as a "false" ending to hide the regeneration. But it was of course never needed since the press blew the regen wide open way before.


  112. Spacewarp
    June 4, 2013 @ 1:06 am

    Although "Doctor and Rose heading for a fall" is kind of seeded early on in Series 2, you're all right that it doesn't quite pay off, and it also doesn't remain to the fore through much of the season. There's a couple of little pointers, like the Beast telling Rose she's going to die, the whole of School Reunion, and Jackie's little bitch about and old Rose wandering around an alien marketplace, but all in all it isn't a coherent thread.

    Ok there's the "Torchwood" arc, but then is that really an arc?

    It gets created in "Tooth & Claw" but then we don't see it until "Army of Ghosts". There's mentions of it (the team in the Impossible Planet are from it) but I feel they're just lines dropped in to make viewers prick up their ears. The "Cocky Rose & Doctor" arc doesn't impinge on any of the stories other than "Tooth & Claw" where they annoy Victoria with their flippancy. We don't see anything bad occur because the Doctor and Rose aren't taking things seriously.

    If you look at the season as individual stories by different writers, then there's no coherent thread linking them other than "the Doctor and Rose arrive and stuff happens". I can imagine RTD looking at the season as he's building it, and attempting to shoe-horn a couple of arcs in. Unfortunately neither of them can do much other than just wave their hands and say "Hi, we're still here!" every other episode or two. They can't affect the stories, because the stories weren't written with them in mind, other than "Tooth & Claw", which completely revolves around both of them.

    So we get this huge exciting amount of foreshadowing in the second story…and then nothing else other than the odd hint.

    It might have been possible to tone down all the "Doctor and Rose being Unsufferable" stuff, but unfortunately as written, T&C pretty much depends on it. Sadly none of the other ostories do, so the whole thing appears to go nowhere. Which is a shame, because when Rose is written as getting too big for her boots, it works really well. "The Idiot's Lantern" is a good example of a story in Series 2 that you can hang this plot off, but sadly it's not made enough of in the episode itself.


  113. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 1:56 am

    This is the single most boring conversation ever to take place on my blog, just so you all know.


  114. David Anderson
    June 4, 2013 @ 2:56 am

    All Doctor Who is haunted by fans of the previous season. And I'm no exception: Davies isn't to my taste in a number of ways, but if I'm honest one of those ways is that I think he unfairly effaces Sylvester McCoy and Ace.
    Still using Rose to solve the problem sets us up for a narrative collapse when Billie Piper leaves the show. Davies negotiates that by making the show about the absence of Rose. But once that stopgap's worked through we've got the Doctor Who and Rose show with no Rose, and a lot of fans really do not like that.


  115. Scott
    June 4, 2013 @ 2:58 am

    "And yet apparently you did anyway. I think that says more about you than me."

    I would hope it would merely suggest I have some mild appreciation for Simpsons references (and what, it must be said, a little bit of irony). Since judging from your rather grim response I appear to have somehow offended you, which was not my intention, my apologies.

    "This is the single most boring conversation ever to take place on my blog, just so you all know."

    It's what I'm here for.


  116. SK
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:13 am


    It's all right, I'm sure the internet is just a passing fad anyway.


  117. Froborr
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:50 am

    Why do my comments keep disappearing?


  118. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:52 am

    A couple got spamtrapped for some reason. I've liberated them.


  119. Froborr
    June 4, 2013 @ 4:59 am



  120. Anton B
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:13 am

    Thanks.Be nice to see that fake ending perhaps as a DVD extra.


  121. David Anderson
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:40 am

    That was a bit of a tangent. What I was actually thinking is that positioning big epic dalek war as what Rose is needed to save the show from, is a bit too complicit with the point of view that says big epic dalek war is what Doctor Who was always really about before Davies came along. The two between them squeeze out any third interpretation.


  122. Ross
    June 4, 2013 @ 5:44 am

    I think it's less that it's complicit in the view that Big Epic Dalek War is "what Doctor Who was always really about" so much as "What (a powerful faction of) people keep trying to force Doctor Who to be about."


  123. jane
    June 4, 2013 @ 6:12 am

    The other arc of Series 2 (especially its back-end) is the Doctoring of Rose. She assumes more and more agency, doing Doctorish things to address the problems at hand: taking charge at the Satan Pit, figuring out the resolution to the Isolus, using psychic paper and a doctor's lab coat to infiltrate Torchwood.


  124. Theonlyspiral
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:26 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.


  125. Ununnilium
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:28 am

    They're v. good thoughts!


  126. Theonlyspiral
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:33 am

    This conversation is the most boring ever on your blog? Challenge Accepted!


  127. Froborr
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:55 am

    Um, I thought I said? Three and Nine.

    For the record, the other three categories of regeneration I see are "diabolus ex machina" (Six, Seven, Ten), "death as punishment" (Two), and "dies as a consequence of winning, but the death itself is played as a loss" (One, Four, Five).


  128. Froborr
    June 4, 2013 @ 7:56 am

    I've heard the fake ending was intentionally junked, not just because it was no longer necessary, but because it was appallingly terrible. That may just be fanlore, however.


  129. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 4, 2013 @ 8:00 am

    Surely Ten is "death as punishment" as well.


  130. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:09 am

    I'm not opposed to a character based on the idea of rescuing the Doctor from his psychological trauma after the Time War, or for that matter with the idea of the companion as the Doctor's 'morality chain', the thing that keeps him connected with humanity (well, 'sentiency', really) and reins in his excesses. Sarah Jane is often noted for this in the Tom Baker years, with Romana I as well, and even Romana II having her occasional moments; Louise Jameson fulfilled a similar role on the meta level.* Donna, after a horrible introduction in Runaway Bride, turned into my favorite Davies companion while doing the same.

    The problem I have is with the execution. First, Rose was treated not as the completely reasonable 'person who helped the Doctor get through a very bad patch', but as 'person the Doctor's life comes to center around.' This is a Very Bad thing just from a pragmatic meta POV, as David points out; companions don't stick around forever, sooner or later a new one has to join the show, and treating the outgoing one as Most Special Evar makes it rather hard to continue on with the new one.

    However, the real problem I have with it is from a storytelling POV. It's not hard to argue that Rose is privileged over the other characters in the narrative; indeed, several of her supporters have made similar arguments. But without getting into the term that upsets some people, it really grates on me to see the narrative fawning over her. It was extraordinarily irritating to see her getting forgiven with no lasting consequences for the events of Father's Day, or the way she treats Mickey. Or the way they react to her apparent loss in this story, as if Rose's loss was the only one that mattered, without regard to the others 'killed' in the game.

    *(And this brings up an interesting digression… Baker's arguably worst moments of going off the range were in Season 17, where Romana II was much friendlier on-screen and Lalla Ward was romantically involved with Baker off-screen. Tennant was the first Doctor to rival Baker's popularity. Is a strong, independent companion needed to rein in highly popular Doctors?)


  131. Froborr
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:41 am

    I don't read it that way. Two dies and regenerates because he was judged–by actual entities that exist within the context of the show–and found wanting. That's punishment.

    Ten has no such entities; his death is neither brought down by a judging entity nor a logical consequence of his misdeeds. It's not caused by his hubris in "Waters of Mars,"destruction of the Time Lords in the Time War, or general arrogance and callousness throughout his run; it's just kind of tacked on without any necessary connection to the rest of the plot, more or less the definition of ex machina.

    I mean, yes, it's the logical conclusion to the elegiac tone of the episodes leading up to it, but being thematically appropriate does not rule something out from being ex machina.


  132. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    I like that idea… I also think it would have helped me deal with the thing I found most annoying about the movie, Walter's OTT fanboyism, by finding a positive way to grow and use it, turn it from something vaguely annoying and embarrassing into something great and worthy of respect.

    The movie's core message of optimism and repudiation of cynicism – that people can still find joy and wonder in something like the Muppets – resonated like a bell with me. Sort of like the same way people could still find joy in Doctor Who at a time when the media was being taken over by X-Files, anti-heroes, and the like…


  133. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 9:44 am

    Oh, yes. I absolutely love the video confrontation at the end of the episode, the Doctor refusing to play by the usual hostage rules, and the way the Daleks are set off their game for once.


  134. Theonlyspiral
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:05 am

    I misread and thought you meant there were two others as well.


  135. encyclops
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:11 am

    I'll second Ununnilium on that! Thanks for the heads up.


  136. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:14 am

    Agreed with Alan's comment #1; RTD's finales pretty much rely on setting up a situation that's impossible to solve via 'fair' methods shown in the episode, then pulling a deus-ex-machina out of nowhere (leaving aside the less polite term) to save the day. And the D.E.M. was a big complaint from an online group of friends right after this episode came out. (All but a couple of us were fans brought in by the new series.)

    That said, the D.E.M. bothered me much less here than it did in other episodes. While the actual resolution of Time Vortex Rose came out of nowhere, it's something that was built towards through the episode and something the characters had to work for. And the way she gave it her all to contact the Heart of the Tardis made it much more satisfying.


  137. Matthew Blanchette
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    Killing Rose off after one season as part of an inevitable time loop? Moffat would be proud. πŸ˜€


  138. Matthew Blanchette
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:34 am

    Exactly; we don't need Rose. RTD may have had, but we never really did.


  139. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    Absolutely true. This does not mean, however, that it cannot also be annoying, inconsistent and poorly-handled.


    It gets back to what I said when this first came up – it may well be a masterful job of characterization and story structure, but that means squat if it's telling a story that I don't enjoy watching with characters I don't like. I can appreciate it sometimes from an abstract aesthetic view, respecting the technical construction, but it won't draw me emotionally; the exact opposite.


  140. Travis Butler
    June 4, 2013 @ 11:17 am

    A few general thoughts not covered above, for Bad Wolf…

    When I re-watch this episode, I generally skip ahead to where Jack and the Doctor break out of the world of their shows and into the larger world of Satellite Five; that's when I can start enjoying things. And it really gets good at the point where the Doctor confronts the Satellite Five staff.

    "But… I've got your gun." "Okay, so shoot me. Why can't she answer?"

    "And with that sentence, you just lost the right to even talk to me. Now back off!"

    The Controller herself was wonderful, in the way she was portrayed and the actions she took. "Oh, my masters… You can kill me, for I have brought your destruction!"

    The Dalek fleet reveal struck all the right chords for me, and I can still get a shiver from it when I watch in the right mood.

    And as I said, the video confrontation with the Daleks was sublime. The way the Doctor was visibly channeling his fear into cheeky bravado. ("Oh, will you? That's nice. Hello!") The refusal to play the typical hostage game. Then the way he channels the same anger he showed in Dalek, only this time apparently justified. And the way he makes the Daleks react in uncertainty and fear – "But you have no weapons, no defences, no plan!" "Yeah, and doesn't that scare you to death?" Brilliant


  141. Charles Knight
    June 4, 2013 @ 11:22 am

    The problem with "most special evah!" is that we have now done it three times with three female companions over a relatively short period – it makes the Doctor look a bit… I'm not sure what word I am looking for but it's not good.


  142. landru
    June 10, 2013 @ 9:49 am

    Excellent work. I remember reading about "Bad Wolf" and the "Big Brother" stuff and thinking "oh no …" But, of course, it completely worked. From the very minute he sits in that chair and says "You have got to be kidding" it hits the ground running.

    I agree with almost everything you've said here. The sad thing about the mega-amped up super season finales and the narrative collapse is how future seasons become burdened by them. Season 3 really fell apart at the end (the Doctor is "Tinkerbell")

    However, and I think you've made the argument well, the season had a structure.


  143. Tommy
    June 18, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    "On the one hand this is sweepingly epic – a proper season finale of the sort that Doctor Who has never had before (and I include wilderness years equivalents like The Ancestor Cell). "

    I'd say the final chapter of Dalek Empire II- Dalek War qualified with glowing colours there, back in 2003.


  144. William Silvia
    June 30, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    I'm actually quite sad at this article. It's not that I like it. It's that if anywhere in this series is the time to talk about how Rose is the Doctor's savior, and how she plays a role in the Doctor's narrative beyond that of any companion by being his link to life (which can be used to astounding metaphorical success with the concepts you've established here) it's Parting of the Ways. The Doctor died, psychologically, then he met Rose, then she saved him, all in that order. Parting of the Ways is entirely symbolic of this, and destroys the metaphors by making it all physical. By sacrificing this regeneration for the sake of Rose, the Doctor becomes a whole person again.


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