I’m having difficulty coming up with things to say about the latest Doctor Who. I suspect I may end up repeating myself. Saying “oh, my God, it’s so good! It’s so good!” gets repetative after a while. So I’ll start by saying how phenomenally ticked I am at the CBC and the BBC for spoiling the fact that the Daleks were involved.
It may be unrealistic to expect to go through this day and age, with the Internet, with fan groups, the rumour mill, etc, and not be spoiled, but I would have at least given the BBC some credit for trying to hide the Daleks if they’d actually, you know, tried to hide the Daleks. If I’d managed to go into the episode unspoiled, the first shot, of the Dalek appearing in reflection in the wall behind the Controller, would have hit with the force of a body blow. As it was, I had to content myself with appreciating the directoral stylings of Joe Ahearn.
But, as you might guess, that was my only quibble, and as that wasn’t exactly Russell T. Davies’ fault, that means that Bad Wolf was darn near perfect for me. I could quibble over the slight disjointed nature of the program, switching as it did between the comedy of the Doctor and company struggling to come to terms with the reality show spoofs they found themselves in, and the action inherent in the Daleks’ appearance. Bad Wolf didn’t quite gel because one part, the reality show part, knocked down the fourth wall, while the Dalek part built it back up again.
The episode holds itself together on Joe Ahearn’s direction and by the stellar acting of all the regulars (which is becoming repetitive to say). The scene where the Doctor thinks that Rose has been killed hits with the force of a body blow, even if you know that Billie Piper has been signed up to appear throughout the second season. It just doesn’t matter: the Doctor believes Rose is dead, and it nearly destroys him. Christopher Eccleston makes that plain.
And Captain Jack Harkness has way too much fun in this storyline, flirting with everything that moves (including if it’s made with metal), facing certain danger with aplomb (and concealing a compact laser so well, it can’t be found even after he’s stripped naked) but he’s proving to be a stalwart member of the TARDIS crew. It’s little touches that John Barrowman brings to the role, from his coming to attention when the Doctor tells him to be serious, to his look of sorrow when he sees (the presumably late) Rose’s jacket in the TARDis.
Bad Wolf is not the best episode of this season, but it’s high up in a crowded list of contenders. Had we been truly unspoiled for the Daleks’ appearance, we’d be shouting about the storyline. As it stands, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances remains slightly more satisfying, if only by a hair.