Wednesday, May 21, 2008

view from the panopticon- parting of the ways

6-11-06 “The Parting of the Ways”

“It means I’m gonna change, and I’m not going to see you again.” --The Doctor, to Rose

Wow. What else is there to say for this episode? It’s quite a bit different than I imagined it, even having been fed clandestine clips for months. It was an emotional roller coaster in every way, and now it really is over—I don’t just mean the season, I mean the Ninth Doctor. That makes me very sad. This episode wasn’t perfect—I have a few bones to pick with the writer, besides the more blatant fact that he tugs us as the audience around on a very tight leash, putting us through emotional hardship—but it was an experience never to be forgotten.

Last episode, we left Rose on board the Dalek ship. The Doctor had vowed to go and get her and to save the world. Well, first part of that: he and Jack get into the TARDIS and race off to find Rose. The Daleks want her to “predict his actions.” She can’t—who can?—and wouldn’t tell them if she could. Meanwhile, Jack says, “The extrapolator’s working—try saying that when you’re drunk.” Apparently this is a force field that keeps the TARDIS from being destroyed, no matter what. (Perhaps that’s what kept the TARDIS intact in “Timelash.”) So the Doctor pulls a neat trick, materializing the TARDIS around Rose to protect her, and Jack picks off the random Dalek at the same time. The Doctor and Rose hug. “I told you I’d come and get you.” She asks if he’s all right and cutely starts fussing at his clothes. “Don’t I get a hug?” Jack asks. Rose demurs, and Jack says that he means from the Doctor. Jack—he really has a crush on the Doctor, doesn’t he? He’s not the only one.

Outside on the Dalek ship, we get a bit of explanation—we all thought the Daleks were destroyed, but by some means that aren’t clear to me, they weren’t. They “went off to fight a bigger war,” the Doctor explains, meaning the Time War we hear so much about. In destroying the Daleks then, the Time Lords were destroyed as well. Angsty!Doctor says, “I almost thought it was worth it,” because they got rid of the Daleks. But they didn’t. Poor Doctor. Then he says something like, “Nul point!” and I cringe because of his bad French accent. Eeek. He confronts the Daleks and notes that he was called in their folklore the “Oncoming Storm,” which is just on this side of being cheesy. He also suggests that the only emotions the Daleks still retain is fear (wait, I thought it was hate?).

Their leader? It’s the Dalek Emperor who’s survived—and not Davros, or at least we don’t know yet—and he/it’s got a bit of a complex. Its casing has also been dispensed with, I assume to give us more of a visual reference since they seem to enjoy that on the new show (and the previews misled me! bah!). The Doctor and the Dalek Emperor chat. “Do not interrupt!” the Daleks chatter. “If there’s one thing I can do, it’s talk,” the Doctor says, wonderfully. It’s strangely appropriate that I just saw “Revelation of the Daleks,” where Davros wanted to use geniuses to make into Daleks, discarding the other humans—here it’s reversed, with the Emperor Dalek recycling, Frankenstein-like, the bodies of unwanted individuals. So they’re, as Rose points out, “half human.” This is “blasphemy” according to the Emperor Dalek, and the Doctor notes that the Daleks have never talked about blasphemy before. The Emperor Dalek thinks it’s God. Oh dear. Yet, when the Doctor says, “you hate your own existence,” I can’t help thinking he means himself as well.

Jack, Rose, and the Doctor go back into the TARDIS. The force field around it is nifty, but when did they acquire that? They head back to Satellite Five/the Gamestation, the Doctor has a rather touching moment with his head against the doors of the TARDIS; I wonder if it’s here he realizes it’s the end? Back on the station, he concocts a Delta wave—as Jack explains it (he’s so good to have around to explain things) it “barbecues” people’s heads. The invasion force of Daleks is coming, and I wonder, not for the first time, why the Daleks decide they want to start destruction with Earth. I’m not shooting holes in it just for fun this time, I sincerely want to know.

The Doctor’s going to work on this Delta wave thing, Jack and the other broadcasting people are going to go downstairs to rally the troops, and Rose is going to stay and help the Doctor. Lynda goes out to help as well, and it’s fairly transparent that she’s crushing on the Doctor when she thanks him. What did I tell you? Me, all the way. “I guess this is goodbye,” Jack says, giving Rose a kiss. (She enjoys it.) “I wish I’d never met you,” Jack says to the Doctor. Because of the Doctor, he’s no longer a “coward.” He gives the Doctor a kiss. (I was spoiled on this particular moment eons ago, but I still love it. Jack can kiss anyone he likes. Doctor Who as a show has a same-sex kiss. Wonderful. McGann-kiss-critics, eat your hearts out.) “See you in hell,” Jack says, and it’s stunning.

In a scene I’ve had spoiled for me even longer, Jack tells the non-in-games people on the Gamestation the situation. Rodrick who, for some reason, has been earmarked as a jerk, tells everyone that Daleks don’t exist. No one volunteers to help Jack except the Floor 500 people and the director person from The Weakest Link. “If you hear us dying . . .” Jack says, “stay quiet.” Meanwhile, Rose asks why they can’t go back in time and prevent all of this from happening. “We could leave,” the Doctor points out to her. She’s not down with that. He knows. “But you could ask. Never even occurred to you, did it?” There, ladies and gentleman, why Rose is the companion and others, like Adam, are not. And this is why the Doctor loves her. He comes up with a plan. “If I’m clever—and I’m more than clever, I’m brilliant . . .” he can rig something up. Rose, eager to help, goes into the TARDIS, which the Doctor sends away. It’s very, very sad. Awww, man.

Inside the TARDIS, a recording of the Doctor comes on; apparently it’s Emergency Protocol #1 (smart Doctor, making protocols now). If Rose is hearing it—and it’s meant just for Rose, which is sweet—the Doctor’s gotten himself into a situation where he doesn’t want the TARDIS to fall into enemy hands. It’s more than likely that he’ll die. “But that’s okay,” he says. As for her, “I promised to look after you.” He’s returning her home, and he wants her to forget about him and to “let the TARDIS die” (was there ever a sadder phrase?!). “If you want to remember me,” he says, “have a good life . . . have a fantastic life.” For once, the music in this show works. It’s moving. I start to cry.

Rose has materialized at home. Mickey comes running down the street—I don’t like the new haircut—and says, “Only one thing that makes a noise like that . . .” Rose is standing outside, upset. Back on the Gamestation, the Doctor keeps working. Jack wants to know where Rose is, and I wonder if he feels at all betrayed that the Doctor chose to save Rose and not him. I wouldn’t put it past him. I wouldn’t put it past any of us. The Emperor Dalek points out that the Delta wave is not going to distinguish between Dalek and human—it’s going to destroy every living thing in the vicinity. Crap. Jack thinks so too, in more colorful terms surely. “By your hand,” goads the Emperor Dalek. The Doctor points out that there are human colonies elsewhere—“the human race would survive in some form.” The Doctor has a very difficult choice to make—“die as a human or live as a Dalek.” Jack, wonderful Jack, though, is with him all the way: “Never doubted him, never will.” The Emperor Dalek, however, won’t own up to Bad Wolf.

I can’t imagine what Rose must be feeling. This next scene shows probably Billie Piper’s best acting all season, and she hasn’t been a sloucher. She’s at a chip shop with her mom and Mickey. Jackie points out that what’s happening will happen in the future. No, “it’s now,” as Rose says. “What do I do?” She has to do “what the rest of us do.” “It was a better life,” Rose insists. Mickey, surely still nettled from “Boom Town,” asks if she’s insinuating she’s better than the rest of them. No, but the Doctor showed her a better way of life—not the traveling so much, but just the way he lived—“you don’t just give up.” “How do I forget him?” she asks. Mickey wants her to settle down and have a normal life, “the sort of life you could have with me.” She can’t handle that and runs out.

Meanwhile, the Daleks have reached the station. They don’t even have to come in regular doors, they just float through space. Geez, special effects people, stop showing off. There’s a limit to CGI, even on Doctor Who. Outside the TARDIS, Rose sees “BAD WOLF” chalked on the ground. “It’s just a word,” Mickey insists—two, actually, dear—but Rose won’t have it. It’s too coincidental for her. It’s V from V for Vendetta who doesn’t believe in coincidences, but I don’t think one should in the Doctor Who universe either. She runs off toward the TARDIS with the intent to open “the heart of the TARDIS” as we saw (lamely, in my opinion) in “Boom Town.” There’s “nothing left for her” without the Doctor—she wants to go back and save him, even at the cost of her life. But it’s Mickey who’s the most noble here, because he loves Rose so much that he’s going to help her, even if she’s going to leave him. I have to say I think Mickey here is Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings and Rose is his Frodo. Sam, in his way, is perhaps the most courageous of the characters in that book, through love for his friend. Frodo will be transformed, in a way that will make him unable to connect with the rest of his world, but Sam is humble, home-loving, and ultimately very brave because he willingly gives that up to help Frodo. Does that make the Doctor Gandalf in that comparison? I haven’t figured that part out yet.

On the satellite, the bullets aren’t working (just ask the Brigadier) against the Daleks. The Anne-droid blasts a couple of them, but they destroy her in time. The Daleks then head downward, where the cowardly humans are waiting quietly—lambs to the slaughter. Now, I have to think that the only reason Davies included the section where Jack tried to get volunteers is to show that cowards perish—and look foolish doing it. Brave people, like Jack for example . . . well, we’ll see about that later. Rose is trying to open the TARDIS using Mickey’s car and a cable. It’s not working. Jackie wants her to give up. “I can’t give up—Dad wouldn’t give up,” Rose says. Jackie says Rose doesn’t even know her father. Rose brings up “Father’s Day” in all its glory—“remember, when Dad died, there was someone with him . . . that was me.” Jackie’s not having it. Meanwhile, it’s the Emperor Dalek’s idea of “perfection”—everyone’s dying.

We hail back to classic Who with an exchange between what’s-his-face, that guy Jack was interested in, and the woman the Doctor told to shut up. “I’m only here because of you,” the guy says to the woman. Well, that’s nice, but you’re both about to die. Jackie comes to the rescue with the big yellow truck I’ve been hearing about all season—“I’m not having you give up.” Mickey revs up the big yellow truck. Go, Mickey! Jack and the others make their stand, but even with Jack’s advice to hit the eyestalk, it’s not really working. They get one Dalek to go “my vision is impaired! I cannot see!” but that’s about it before everyone goes. Lynda goes with a whisper, as I knew she would, which is equally why I compared myself to her. I wouldn’t be one of the immortals. Jack’s the self-admitted “last man standing,” and he’s defiant up until the end. Yay, Jack.

It works—the top is pulled off of the console, and Rose gazes right into the “heart of the TARDIS.” Oh, please. I disliked this plot device in “Boom Town,” and now we’re reviving it? Don’t tell me that’s Bad Wolf—this incredibly mysterious phenomenon I’d been hearing about all season, that I thought was a product of the ether or something even bigger, and it’s the heart of the TARDIS? Oy. The Doctor’s just got the Delta thing to work when the Daleks arrive. Will he be a “coward or a killer?” For reasons I don’t fully understand, other than a good stalling device to allow Rose aka “Bad Wolf” to arrive on the scene, the Doctor decides to be a coward—though I guess it’s in line with the Tom Baker-do-I-murder-the-Daleks-or-not? moment.

Rose’s eyes are all gold-glowy. The Doctor is shocked, shocked and amazed. Rose explains what she did. “No one’s meant to see that!” the Doctor cries. She wards off an attack from the Daleks quite easily. The Doctor is at her feet. “I am the Bad Wolf—I make myself,” she says. She’s the one who littered the universe with clues to the Bad Wolf. She begins destroying all the Daleks—though how, I’m not quite sure. “I can see the whole of space and time,” she says. “Everything must come to dust . . . everything must die.” And the Daleks go, all of them (though I wouldn’t swear to it that they’re all gone). Talk about deus ex machina. With that accomplished, the Doctor urges her to “just let go” (“so let go . . . yeah, let go / just get in / it’s so amazing here / it’s all right / ‘cause there’s beauty in the breakdown”). But she doesn’t really want to give up that knowledge, that power (and I’m sure Billie Piper enjoys getting to act like a possessed megalomaniac prophet, too): “I bring life.” Jack is brought back to life—what are we, back in the TV movie? “This is wrong,” says the Doctor.

I admit I copped a look at this scene ages ago, because I’m a romantic sucker. At the time, I thought the music was incredibly silly—taking itself way too seriously. But at this point, it seems to work with the episode. Rose has got a smashing headache from seeing the sun, the moon, the stars, what was, what is, all that could be . . . “That’s what I see all the time!” the Doctor exclaims, getting to his feet. “Doesn’t it drive you mad?” Rose will die if she keeps this up—she’s already in a lot of pain. “C’mere,” says the Doctor, “I think you need a Doctor.” (This line, when I saw the scene before, also struck me as incredibly cheesy. I’m okay with it now.) And it’s THE kiss, yes, THE kiss. But I’ll say more about that later. The Bad Wolf theme plays as the glowy-gold stuff transfers from Rose to the Doctor. She collapses, insensibly, and he absorbs it, cradling her. Jack runs along as the TARDIS dematerializes, looking quite hurt that he’s been left behind. Aw, but he gets his own show.

Rose wakes up in the TARDIS, apparently with no memory of what happened once she looked into the heart of the TARDIS. She heard singing, though . . . “I sang a song and then the Daleks ran away,” the Doctor says, hilariously. He tells her he wanted to take her to Barcelona, the planet not the city, and she’s like, what’s with the past tense? “I was going to take you to a lot of places.” Why can’t they go see them, Rose wants to know. “Maybe you will, maybe I will,” he says. But it won’t be him. It won’t ever be the same. He mentions the neat little trick the Time Lords have, and tells her goodbye, for all intents and purposes. She’s confused and sad. “Before I go, I want to tell you,” he says, “that you were fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.” And Christopher Eccleston’s last words as the Ninth Doctor: “And you know what, so was I.” Rose gives a tiny smile. I cry for real. The regeneration is rather pretty, as they go, and at the end of it, David Tennant appears. His first line is about his teeth. Oh dear. Hardly an auspicious beginning.

As I hinted, I’m disappointed that the great mystery of the season was so . . . let’s-throw-this-in-and-fix-everything-because-I’m-Russell-T.-Davies-and-I-say-so. I know that’s not quite fair, because this was an arc that was woven throughout the season, but still . . . I don’t know what I was expecting, but not that. Had I not already seen some of the scenes from this episode, I think I would have been confused and distraught by the reliance on this fix-all. I have no problem with the TARDIS being a mysterious, very powerful force that loves the Doctor and loves the universe and can use that love to achieve extraordinary results—but this just seemed too easy. The rest of the episode was so relentlessly grim, it was almost painful. Plus, I guess I had figured that the episode wouldn’t move quite as fast as it did after Rose became Bad Wolf—I thought there would be a bit more time between THE kiss and the regeneration. I don’t know why that bothers me, but it does.

I’m glad Jack’s not dead, but I’m sad we didn’t get to see more of him. I imagine, with some decent writing, Torchwood will be charming, but even Jack’s not the same without the Doctor. I’m glad that the producers and writers made room for all kinds of adventures between “The Doctor Dances” and “Bad Wolf”—I’ll definitely devour the new books, and I’ve already developed some favorite fan fictions featuring the Doctor/Jack/Rose team. As for THE kiss . . . I remember the policeman in “Aliens of London” asking the Doctor if his relationship with Rose was sexual, which they both vehemently denied. The romantic/fan fic writer in me would love to disagree, but we’re not going there right now. I just bring up the example because neither Jackie nor Mickey make any assumptions (at least out loud) when they help Rose open up the heart of the TARDIS. Mickey doesn’t jealously say, “So, you love the Doctor more than me? You love him more than your own life?” Nothing about love is said, and yet it’s all about love. I have to say, in forty-plus years of Doctor Who, if there’s one constant about the Doctor, it’s his love for the universe. He doesn’t want to rule it, like megalomaniacs, he doesn’t want to destroy it. He wants it to continue being the wonderful place it is. Just as he tells Rose to live a fantastic life.

Though time mechanics make my head hurt, one has to consider what I said about coincidences earlier. If there aren’t any, there was a reason the Doctor ran into Rose in “Rose.” There was a reason she went with him. On one hand, it seems obvious that the Doctor had to pick up Rose, because she would later save his life. On the other, there must be a reason that Rose was allowed to open the heart of the TARDIS in the first place. Do you see what I’m saying? Rose had to be with the Doctor to save his life, but to save his life, she had to be Rose—and for that reason, there’s hope for the rest of us, even those of us who are Lyndas. I used to ask myself what it was about Heathcliff and Cathy that made them love each other, or what it was about Christine that Erik the Phantom of the Opera loved. I don’t know, just as I don’t know what it is about Rose that gave her the ability to become the Bad Wolf and save the Doctor. Was it her innocence, in episodes like “The End of the World,” or her misplaced compassion, in episodes like “The Unquiet Dead” or “Dalek”? Was it her determination, or her ability to commit mistakes and then learn from them, as in “Father’s Day”? Was it her nettling but endearing insistence on flirting with the Doctor, as in “The Doctor Dances”? I’m sure it was all these things—but they are, above all, human qualities. So when the Doctor saved Rose because he loves her, and Rose saved the Doctor twice over with her love, I don’t necessarily mean the romantic kind of love, though I think that could be part of it. When she saves him twice over, she saves him physically from the Daleks, but she also saves him from the tragedy of this regeneration—his loneliness, despair, and guilt. I’m probably pushing it here, but it’s a bit like Christine (“Christine”=Christian, “Christ”=savior) saving Erik the Phantom. In any case, the Doctor may not have kissed Rose because he felt romantically compelled to, but perhaps because it was the only way to stopping her from being Bad Wolf—she doesn’t seem to remember the kiss at all, and it’s been hinted to me that Ten may not share Nine’s inclinations for Rose anyway—but he does love her, and she loves him. It’s that existential love that the Doctor has had from the beginning, and it rocks my world. PS I tend to allow for the possibility of some romance in it all, otherwise why would Davies have them kiss on the lips? Why the trinity of kisses in one episode?

I will miss Nine a lot. I remember feeling vaguely sad but also reassured at the end of “Logopolis,” but this was different. I will really miss him. Which is ridiculous, isn’t it, since this is a TV show, and the Doctor is a fictional character. I don’t know why I’m so invested in this show. I’ve tried to figure it out, and I can’t. I’ve done quite a lot of work, figuring out the links between me and Phantom in an attempt to understand why I love that so much, but not so much with Doctor Who yet. Probably the element of escapism is a big one for me. But I’m sure it’s also the character. In Comic Relief’s parody/tribute to Doctor Who, “Curse of Fatal Death” by (ding!) Steven Moffat, the Doctor’s “fiancée” says, “You can’t die! You’re too . . . you’re too good!” Maybe that’s why I love the Doctor so much, his goodness, that existential love I was just blathering about. The fiancée later says, “Maybe the universe itself can’t bear to be without the Doctor.” He is that important. I’m not going to say Nine is my favorite Doctor now, because I have a hard time picking favorites in the first place, and in the second, it’s too early to tell. I’m probably not even giving Ten a proper chance. It’s not my fault they made Nine so damn appealing and, dare I say, sexy. In any case, I’m now going to watch the “Goodbye My Lover” video on Youtube and bawl.

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