Doctor Who Bad Wolf

Whenever you go asking devotees what’s so interesting about Doctor Who, they usually say something about its freedom to any story imaginable. Of course, more often, Doctor Who can do “any story imaginable as long as there’s some scientists stuck in a base, or an alien invasion of earth, or a monster stalking an isolated group of people.” Which is fine. It’s a genre show, you expect your traditional genre plots. I don’t go watching Stargate expecting them suddenly to do a spoof of Big Brother. I’m delighted however, to say that that’s what I watch Who for. More than any writer this season, Russell T. Davies seems to be aware that this series really is free to do anything it damn well wants; just like it’s itinerant central character. Even ‘Boom Town’ had a certain feeling of crazy uncertainty to it, but this time, there’s a good episode going with it.

The human race. Brainless sheep, being fed on a diet of — mind you, have they still got that program where three people have to live with a bear? — The Doctor

‘Bad Wolf’ begins with the Doctor and his companions stuck in various futuristic recreations of reality and game shows: the Doctor is stuck in the Big Brother house, Jack is in What Not to Wear1, and Rose is competing in The Weakest Link. Things seem amusing at first — there’s some good jokes, and Eccleston slumping in the chair, looking ‘Big Brother’ in the face and saying “You’ve got to be joking” is an instantly classic moment. However things soon get tense, especially for Rose, who hasn’t got a Sonic Screwdriver, or any cunningly disguised weapons.

This episode manages to hit all the different shades of awesome. It has a few drawbacks: the Weakest Link segments might put you on the edge of your seat with tension, but they might also really bore someone who doesn’t really get into quiz games. I was wandering either way with these scenes. And…

Nope, there are no more drawbacks. The rest of the episode is magnificent. Drama, satire, excitement, death, hope, manipulation, shock, anger, triumph, joy… Some stories earlier in the season felt a little bit light and padded out. ‘Bad Wolf’ is stocked to the gills. Amazing stories such as that of the controller are packed into a tiny amount of time, and yet resonate wonderfully. The Doctor is pushed further than he has ever been this season, and responds beautifully — Eccleston is simply amazing here. We get some more of Jack in action, where he shows just how much fun it is to have a capable companion walking around.

Above all, this story is about winding up to a magnificent cliffhanger and the season finale. It does this perfectly. Even though the rest of the episode is good, the last five minutes are amazing. It’s almost the end of Doctor Who’s first season in 15 years. I could never have hoped it would reach heights like these.2

  1. It’s a British makeover show, apparently.
  2. Yes, I know, this is a rather gushy review. But dammit, I loved this episode. I’ll try to be more balanced with ‘The Parting of the Ways’, I promise.3
  3. Incidentally, this is the first review to have gotten an awesome big picture on the front page. It beat out the Stargate SG-1 season nine premiere by virtue of it’s awesome looking fleet. Here’s hoping everything we review has a shot as cool as this.
2 comments posted — most recent by Tom on 21/08/05