Now it’s time for the the final bow. The Ninth, while short, was certainly a worthy beginning to the Revival Era of Doctor Who. I don’t really want it to end, even if I know that what is to come later is just as fantastic, if not better. I’ve grown so attached yet again to Eccleston and his performance.
But a story is only as good as it’s ending. No matter how much the Doctor himself may hate them, they are a necessity. And Doctor Who, in terms of their farewell to leads, has almost always managed to satisfy.
Most of the time, at least. But we’re not talking about the Capaldi era yet.
Episode 11: Boom Town
Directed By: Joe Ahearne
Written By: Russell T. Davies
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, William Thomas, and more
Release Date: June 4th, 2005
Run Time: 43 Minutes
Oh my fucking god, I completely forgot about this episode! Now I’m just confused! I mean, of all the stories from earlier in the season to follow up on, why the Slytheen?! Why this character?! Who on the team thought that these were the guys that needed to come back?!
Honestly, I’m not much a fan of the episode. Mainly because it lacks in any subtlety. Whereas some of Doctor Who’s best stories gradually build up to the reveal with mystery, this one blows it all immediately. Hell, we already know what the villain is plotting, at least for the most part, before the opening credits even role!
Worse yet, the villain is a carry over from an earlier story. No, not one of the more interesting ones. If you read my review of the first Slytheen story, then you know that I can only see a ball of missed potential when I see those characters. And here is no different. If anything, it’s worse, since there’s only one of them.
Credit where it’s due though. They do try to give this character an extra bit of depth. After the deaths of her family members, the final member of the Slytheen has found a much stronger respect for love and family. She even shows mercy to a potential threat to her plan upon learning she has a family. This is an excellent evolution of the character, and it gives us one of the first (though first will still go to the Empty Child) morally ambiguous aliens in the series.
But if there’s one thing this episode does incredibly well. The dialogue. This episode has some of the most witty and fun dialogue in the whole season. Especially between Jack and… anyone. Seriously, I cannot express how much I love this character. Seeing more of him, especially here, is an absolute treat. Though the Doctor has some strong exchanges here and there.
The visuals are also pretty nice. The lighting is starting to get better, and the cinematography is as solid as ever. Plus, this story has some solid visual comedy that makes it a lot more entertaining to watch.
But that’s about all I can say about this episode that I liked. All in all, it feels like a tremendous waste of time. You could skip this one, and all you’d miss is the setup for the finale and a minor reference in season three. Even at it’s best, it’s dreadfully boring. You wouldn’t miss a whole lot if you skipped it. Which, honestly, when we’re this close to the finale…
I can’t blame you for doing.
Episode 12: Bad Wolf/ Episode 13: The Parting of the Ways
Directed By: Joe Ahearne
Written By: Russel T. Davies, Terry Nation
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, John Barrowman, and more.
Release Dates: June 11th/18th, 2005
Run Times: 42/45 Minutes
Now it’s time for the curtain. A statement that is almost literal.
In this episode, the Doctor, Rose and Jack all find themselves separated on a familiar ship, forced to play in absurd sci-fi game shows or perish. But the Doctor quickly gains more than he bargained for, as he discovers his oldest and deadliest enemies are behind everything: the Daleks. Can the Doctor defeat his oldest enemies and save the Earth? Or will this be the Doctor and Rose’s final journey together?
Going back to these episodes is kind of rough, to be honest. It feels like they had an entirely different story planned, then scrambled to change it so Christopher Eccleston’s final story could be more high stakes and dramatic. “We can’t have his last story be a death game-show!” said the writers. “Quick, throw the Daleks in there! We can make an excuse to make it sense! We can make people believe that the Daleks would host a game show of death, right?! Daleks would manipulate people instead of just slaughtering them! That’s what they do!”
No. The answer to that question is no. We do not believe that. They do not do that.
It’s also a tonal mess. When you get a scene with the Doctor and Rose, it’s very dark and tense. But then you get a scene starring Jack, and it becomes a comedy. It does fix this issue later, as soon as everyone breaks out and the Daleks get involved, but we’re way too far in by this point. Luckily, only part one of the story has this issue.
The second episode, ‘The Parting of the Ways‘, is certainly a step upwards. Once the story is focused entirely on the Daleks, everything goes incredibly smoothly. The tension ramps up perfectly as the Daleks slaughter everyone in their way, and the Doctor rapidly runs out of options. Meanwhile, Rose struggles to get off of Earth and go to save the Doctor. It’s all super engaging, dark, and builds up perfectly to the Ninth Doctor’s Regeneration.
Plus, it’s always a treat to hear the Dalek’s theme again.
We have to talk about the Bad Wolf scene. Rose’s triumph over both Time and the Daleks. Everything here is pitch perfect: the music, the dialogue, the cinematography, everything goes towards making a dramatic, touching and emotional ending. All culminating in the Doctor and Rose’s first kiss. It’s all just so damn incredible, even today! Hell, the even the special effects haven’t aged that poorly! They’re easily the best in the season!
And of course: the Regeneration scene. These may have become mundane, especially to fans who had seen the Classic series. But when I was a small child, watching this show for the first time, my mind was on the brink of total collapse. Much like as the very first Regeneration all those years ago was to everyone.
This is also the only Regeneration in the Revival Era that doesn’t result in a catastrophic crash of the TARDIS, nor a complete remodel of the console. It’s not grand; it focuses entirely on delivering an emotional farewell to this iteration of the character. It’s not as tear jerking as the ones that would come later, but it does the job brilliantly. As Christopher Eccleston’s final performance as the Doctor, it serves as a pitch perfect farewell.
God, I’m going to miss him. Then again, of course, we also have the introduction of the fan favorite: David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. But we’ll get to him at a later season.
Admittedly, I found myself checking out pretty hard in the end here. Yes, there are plenty of aspects to adore. Eccleston’s farewell, Rose’s triumph, the music, and the visuals are just a few examples. Unfortunately, there are just as many issues that make them hard to sit through. ‘Boom Town‘ is boring, ‘Bad Wolf‘ makes no sense and meanders for far too long, and ‘The Parting of the Ways‘ is dragged down by both of them. If this weren’t at the end of the season, I might have struggled to get through the rest.
Luckily though, it is the end of the season. Now we can move on to some of the strongest episodes! ‘The Christmas Invasion‘, ‘School Reunion‘, ‘The Rise of the Cybermen‘ and ‘The Age of Steel‘, and of course: ‘Doomsday‘ are all waiting for us. We’ve got David Tennant’s performance to look forward to, the return of more classic monsters, and a few new ones to review and critique! Holy shit, I’m so excited!
But first, we’re going to take a little break from our adventures through time and space. After all, there are so many other TV shows to talk about! If I only talked about Doctor Who, then I’d need to rename this particular slot. Wouldn’t exactly be ‘TV Thursday’ if I only talked about one show, would it?
Though it will prove more challenging than I first thought. Returning to the early days of New Who hit me straight in the nostalgia! I want nothing more than to continue until we get to the rougher episodes (looking at you, seasons 8, 9, the finale of 10, and 11). But we do have to keep things fresh.
All in all? This was a pretty good season. It has some great episodes, and some admittedly rough ones. It’s not the best, and it’s far from the worst. As an introductory season to the new series, it is nearly perfect. And the show is only going up from here!
For now though, I must do as so many other of the Doctor’s companions have done. For the moment, I must say farewell. I’ll be back, make no mistake. But I need to live a few other lives first.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find a suitable show. An endeavor that will likely take me all week. If not longer. But I can trim the time if I skip the sleeping part of the day.
Don’t be like me, kids.