Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Finish High: The Ninth Doctor Goes Out With A Bang In “The Parting Of The Ways!”

The Good: Wonderful acting, Great moments of character, Good tone, Decent effects, Cool villain moments
The Bad: None, really.
The Basics: Peaking with Rose reaching her heroic destiny (for now), “The Parting Of The Ways” sees the Ninth Doctor squaring off against the ultimate Dalek fleet!

Season finales have a big place in my heart and for the new Doctor Who, the “first” season finale – the finale that saw the climax of the character journey for the Ninth Doctor – created a standard that was hard to top. “The Parting Of The Ways” did exactly what a great season finale ought to do, which was bring the season together and conclude it in an engaging way that made the viewer want more. Taking obscure elements like the extrapolator acquired in “Boom Town” (reviewed here!), “The Parting Of The Ways” picks up immediately after “Bad Wolf” (reviewed here!) and it becomes one of the most memorable season finales in science fiction history.

Watching and rewatching “The Parting Of The Ways” made me realize that there are incredibly few amazing season finales that actually feature truly grand battles. Even Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s “A Call To Arms” (reviewed here!) was much more about the build-up to invasion than it was about a tremendous battle. “The Parting Of The Ways” is similar, though it does contain an incredible battle. But, like other impressive conflict shows, “The Parting Of The Ways” features an important ethical dilemma and has some surprises that are chilling time and time again. That makes the episode far more than just a conclusion to one season and a tease for the next; “The Parting Of The Ways” is an incredible hour of television that makes a larger statement . . . and it is a compelling one.

Opening with the Ninth Doctor rescuing Rose by transporting the TARDIS onto the Dalek mothership, The Doctor learns that the Daleks managed to survive the Great Time War through the intervention of the Dalek Emperor. The Dalek Emperor managed to harvest the dregs and lost members of humanity for their genetic material to create the new race of Daleks. The Doctor reasons that the Daleks (now made of pulped human DNA) loathe their own impurity and that makes them more dangerous than the Daleks ever were before. Returning to Satellite Five, The Doctor realizes that he can destroy the Dalek fleet using a Delta Wave . . . but it will take him days to build the weapon and the fleet is only twenty-two minutes away. After Harkness sets up a shield that will protect Satellite Five from the Dalek ships (and force them into making an assault by invading the satellite), he leaves The Doctor and Rose to rally the humans below Level 500 to try to hold off the impending Dalek invasion.

As the Delta Wave generator nears completion, The Doctor tricks Rose into getting into the TARDIS and he sends her back to her native time period. The Dalek Emperor, who has minted himself as the god of all Daleks, reveals that he knows The Doctor’s plan and is surprised when Harkness backs The Doctor’s plan to destroy the Dalek fleet even if it means wiping out all life on Earth (as the Delta Wave can be executed, but not sufficiently targeted in time). As Satellite Five is invaded by the Daleks and the humans who are willing to fight in the bleak future make a last stand, 200,000 years in the past, Rose Tyler unravels the mystery of Bad Wolf and works to make direct contact with the TARDIS to save humanity on her own terms.

“The Parting Of The Ways” is one of those amazing episodes of television that grows on the viewer with each viewing. Conflicts or concepts that do not quite gel in the first viewing are better explained through seeing the show multiple times. Chief among these is Rose Tyler’s Bad Wolf leap. When Rose Tyler looks into the heart of the TARDIS, so many things that were unresolved or minimally explained can be justified. In simpler terms, any issue one might have with the way Rose Tyler reasons out how the Bad Wolf graffiti is a message that she should go back to the future can easily be justified or explained away through the temporal influence that give her: at the moment Rose has the epiphany, the Bad Wolf is giving her the specific epiphany she needs. It’s pretty cool when the effects precede the cause, but “The Parting Of The Ways” does that very well.

The episode also does a decent job of continuing both the love between the Ninth Doctor and his dalliance with Lynda, who was introduced in the prior episode. Lynda drew The Doctor’s eye and even though “The Parting Of The Ways” has some of the purest moments of emotional connection between Rose Tyler and The Doctor, The Doctor still seems willing to run off with Lynda.

What sells all of the undertones (more than a soundtrack that builds to an emotional crescendo throughout the episode) is the episode’s climax and the performances in it. When The Doctor must choose between being coward or killer as he is set up to be the great exterminator in the wake of the Daleks decimating Earth, Christopher Eccleston gives his most impressive and deep performance as The Ninth Doctor. Eccleston goes through virtually every emotion in his performance in the last ten minutes of the episode and he is masterful in doing so.

In a similar fashion, Billie Piper connects with Eccleston like a complete professional. Her role in “The Parting Of The Ways” is easy to empathize with and she gets through some of the philosophical technobabble exceptionally well. The connection between Piper and Eccleston is amazing onscreen in “The Parting Of The Ways” and the episode manages to be big and intimate at the same time. The episode cements the Ninth Doctor as one of science fiction’s greatest, most complicated, intriguing heroes. That makes “The Parting Of The Ways” essential viewing for fans of science fiction or just great television.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sole season with the Ninth Doctor here!

For other season finales, be sure to visit my reviews of:
“The Beginning Of The End” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Learning Curve” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Gethsemane” - The X-Files


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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