Thoughts on Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

Don't help me, Rose Kenobi. There is no hope.

My journey through Season One of Doctor Who concludes with my review of The Parting of the Ways. As an added bonus, it means my full ranking list for all the episodes of the season is complete!

So, to be clear, I actually watched The Parting of the Ways directly after finishing watching Bad Wolf. I jotted down my in-the-moment thoughts, as is my style… and then I needed to sleep.

Too many days of Sydney’s frankly awful air quality has done a number on my lungs and head, so the more formal writeup had to wait. But before we get into that, time for some spoiler space.

And as our subject today is Daleks, but Star Wars is in the cinema, this seems appropriate. Beyond this video lurks spoilers for a season finale aired 14 years ago. If you haven’t watched it… oh, look, you probably have, right? But tradition is tradition. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Now, I’m notably not a big fan of binge watching, but for this particular story it makes quite a lot of sense, because it’s either a two-parter or a three-parter if you take Boomtown as leading into it. Maybe it’s a 13-parter, what with the whole Bad Wolf season arc?

The Daleks want Rose to predict The Doctor’s actions. Which she doesn’t want to do.

“You know the Doctor. You understand him. You will predict his actions.
I don’t know! And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you.
Predict! Predict! Predict!”

Next thing you know, they’ll be asking Rose for next week’s Powerball numbers.

Although she’s pretty sure that the Tardis has no defences. It kinda does, Rose. You’re just not paying attention (again).

Rose and a Dalek get transported into the TARDIS, and Jack kills the Dalek. So much for the whole “no guns work in the TARDIS” state of grace. That thing was always shaky, mind.

A big spooky deep voice advises the Daleks to have patience. Well, the 3 of them guarding the TARDIS anyway.

The Doctor talks Time War, and once again I’m reminded what a loss it was that Christopher Eccleston didn’t do multiple seasons. He’s really broken up about the Time Lords being sacrificed “for nothing”.

The Tardis has a force field to protect The Doctor when he walks out.

“Do you know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek Homeworld? The Oncoming Storm.”

This is only because Daleks aren’t allowed to swear. If I were a Dalek, I’m pretty sure I’d be letting the expletives fly the moment I heard the Tardis materialising, because Dalek mortality rates go way UP when he’s around.

Also, why not namedrop Skaro here? Oh… right. You blew it up, you genocidal maniac. And I’m not talking Daleks here!

Of course, we’re meant to think that the deep voice is Davros, but it’s not. It’s Barry White. Or The Emperor Dalek. Maybe he’s made of bits of Barry White?

The Emperor Dalek is an impressive build, if a bit massively impractical. Mind you, he'd make great calamari.
The Emperor Dalek is an impressive build, if a bit massively impractical. Mind you, he’d make great calamari.

The other big reveal here is the whole “I made new Daleks from Human DNA” bit.

Now, there’s some really interesting storytelling here, because if the “new” Who Daleks are built on human DNA — even if its’ been sifted down to 1 cell in a billion — then classic Daleks would view them as abominations. Also, Rose’s call that they’re “half human” is way off, mathematically speaking.

The Dalek emperor is a God. I wonder if there’s splinter cells of Dalek theology around that? I mean, Daleks are very evangelical, spreading the faith, but do they sing at Dalek Church? Take part in Dalek communion? I have SO MANY QUESTIONS… which will never be answered.

Also… seems to me like the Daleks could have invaded Earth at ANY time in the last 100 years. Sure, Dalek Invasions of Earth haven’t always gone well, but still why did they wait? I get why they need to now, what with Dalek mortality about to rise — the Doctor is here, and he’s not the oncoming storm for nothing — but what if they had decided to do so last Tuesday?

The Doctor’s genocidal plan is just a bit out of character, so Christopher’s gone manic, to convey the reality of the danger.

Sweet Lynda gives the Doctor thanks. She’s so, so very doomed. Poor, sweet Lynda. I don’t think that’s a spoiler, is it?

Mind you, Linda with an I got evicted/transmatted, so she’s presumably a Dalek now. Maybe Lynda is still one of the lucky ones.

“Wish I’d never met you, Doctor. I was much better off as a coward.”

Jack takes this seriously — the first thing he’s ever taken seriously, really — and it gives it solid and real stakes.

Roderick doesn’t believe in Daleks. Clearly, he’s got a picture of a chicken to protect him.

“If you hear us fighting upstairs — if you hear us dying — then tell me the Daleks aren’t real.”

Great speech Jack, but how do they do that IF YOU’RE DYING?

Jack's not a deep thinker.
Jack’s not a deep thinker.

Rose asks the obvious “why can’t you go back a week and warn them” question. The Doctor rebuffs with a fixed timeline response, which works well enough for this story.

The Delta wave won’t build in time. And the Doctor realises this, but uses some Tardis time trickery to get Rose into the Tardis.

It’s a trick, of course, and again the body language says it all. Also, the sonic is used to start the Tardis up. He must have a Stattenheim remote control built into that thing. Nice! He’d always wanted one.

The Tardis goes hurtling back through time, and The Doctor’s “If you’re watching this I’m dead” video. Makes me wonder when he had time to record it. Also why he’s chosen Star Wars hologram blue for this.

Don't help me, Rose Kenobi. There is no hope.
Don’t help me, Rose Kenobi. There is no hope.

Rose is back in Cardiff London. And she’s not at all happy about this.

Hey, it’s Mickey!

“I knew it! I was all the way down Clifton Parade, I heard the engines, I knew there was only one thing that makes a sound like that.”

Yeah, all the merchandise that the BBC was selling at the time. Oh, and also the Tardis.

OK, I’m confused here. The Emperor butts in on Jack and The Doctor’s discussion… by some means. Obviously, a wizard did it.

Still, the hook that the Delta wave would wipe everyone out is a nice one. It somewhat sidesteps the issue inherent in this, which I mentioned in my writeup of Dalek. One Dalek can be a big threat, but at half a million they lose some of that inherent menace, because after a while adding more Daleks does nothing to change the problem. Switching the focus back to a choice of the Doctor’s removes some of this problem… but not all of it.

“I did nothing” says the Emperor when asked about the Bad Wolf signs through time.

Jackie!

I missed Jackie SO MUCH. Even when she is babbling about “those little tubs of coleslaw”.

“Like you said, 200,000 years, it’s way off!”

You tell her, Jackie.

Hundreds of CGI Daleks, effects that haven’t aged well. But it was always thus with Doctor Who.

Rose spots Bad Wolf in chalk on the ground, writ VERY large. Must have taken the effects department quite some time. And it’s all through the graffiti as well.

“It’s a link between me and the Doctor. It means I can get back!”

Well, actually Rose, it’s just words and in some ways technobabble… but I’ll take it.

The Boomtown opening up of the Tardis makes more sense now, because that’s what Rose is going to do.

The Daleks lurking through the station work well, again because they’re basically just two or three Daleks. SO much more menacing that way. With Daleks, less is most definitely much, much more.

One of the first humans to die is the show runner for The Weakest Link. So she’s not exactly an “innocent” party in all of this.

Mickey’s rusty Mini can’t open up the Tardis console. But it can make a lot of tire smoke.

The Anne Droid blasts 3 Daleks — but didn’t she only have a transmat beam? Who tooled her up?

The Daleks are heading down to kill a few spare humans. There’s probably something devotional in all this, given they are highly religious Daleks. Killing lesser lifeforms is essentially confession for them, I guess.

Poor sweet Lynda watches as everyone on floor zero is killed. Poor, poor sweet Lynda.

Rose reveals to Jackie that she was with Pete Tyler when he died. A great, if slightly soap operatic scene that energises Jackie into action.

The Daleks are bombing earth. I’m not exactly sure why. Isn’t the point an invasion? Aren’t they all couch potatoes terrified of being beamed into the Big Brother houses? Wouldn’t they just be surrendering en masse and lining up for the Dalek vats anyway?

Australasia is… gone. I guess we had it coming.

An energised Jackie is an effective Jackie. Because she returns with… well, with something I’ve been waiting all season to embed:

Jackie got the truck from “Rodrigo — he owes me a favour. Never mind why.”

Oh, I think we know why, Jackie. I won’t judge.

Guns vs Daleks only ever ends one way. What you need is a nice baseball bat.


This lady would know what to do. I’m still gutted this isn’t a precursor to a guest appearance next to Jodie Whittaker. How good would that be?

Lynda has a problem. The Daleks have found her.

The Daleks have a special weapons Dalek. Well, a special welding Dalek anyway. It’s slowly making its way in to Lynda. This won’t end well.

And then in a great moment, Lynda turns around, and sees floating Daleks out the window. A flash of lights, a scream… and poor Lynda is no more. The Doctor’s promise wasn’t met with Lynda. I’m going to miss her.

I like the yellow truck, but why are they pulling it with such a small chain? That’d be the point of failure, I’m guessing, not a high technology, super durable time machine!

The Tardis opens, and Rose can’t help but take a peek. Which you probably shouldn’t do. And now I have an earworm…

The Daleks are just stalking Captain Jack. They could kill him at any time.

And then… well… they do.

Great job surviving, Jack.
Great job surviving, Jack.

The Delta wave is ready… and the Daleks arrive. Many, many Daleks.

The Doctor is not a killer… but he’s not a coward either. Which is mostly in character. I mean, it’s not Tom Baker’s famous Genesis of The Daleks speech, to be sure. But still.

And now, the Rose Ex Machina.

She can stop Dalek beams with her palm — years before Kylo Ren did similar, Star Wars fans — and while the eyeball vortex effect in her eyes is a pretty simple one, it’s once again very effective. Very good job here from Billie Piper who has shifted effortlessly from Rose from London to Rose-The-All-Powerful, possessor of the Time Vortex.

Rose ashes all the Daleks, and declares that the Time War ends. You’d think she’d know more about what actually happened there… but no… I shouldn’t. Spoilers, and all that.

Rose resurrects Captain Jack.

BUT WHAT ABOUT LYNDA, ROSE? WHAT ABOUT LYNDA???

Damn you, Rose Tyler. Lynda’s still dead, isn’t she?

Rose has a headache. And she needs — and of course the line is — “I think you need a Doctor”.

And then they kiss, a contentious moment in Doctor Who fandom. I for one don’t have a huge problem with it.

The Doctor effectively vapes out the time vortex. Remember kids, toking up on the Time Vortex isn’t good for you, even if you are a Time Lord.

Captain Jack is abandoned on Satellite 5… and I’m pretty sure he’s the only one alive there.

Because LYNDA IS STILL DEAD. Damn you, Rose. No, I’m not going to let this go.

Billie is back to regular Rose mode, and it’s a lovely bit of acting work. It’s also Christopher’s last ever Doctor Who scene — presumably forever — and I’m going to embed it here, because it’s still one of my favourite New Who regeneration scenes ever. They got rather overblown after this…

Hey, it’s that guy from Jessica Jones! (I kid, I kid…)

Closing thoughts

The Parting of the Ways is a rollercoaster ride, and in all sorts of ways the template that every other season finale that follows builds upon.

And it’s rather good, even if it does have more than a few plot holes, some special effects that haven’t aged superbly well and of course THE FACT THAT THAT BITCH ROSE LEFT LYNDA DEAD WHEN SHE COULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

Ahem.

It’s good though. But how good?

It’s time to rank ALL of season one of Doctor Who!

  1. Dalek
  2. The Doctor Dances
  3. The Empty Child
  4. The Parting of the Ways
  5. Father’s Day
  6. Rose
  7. Bad Wolf
  8. Boomtown
  9. The Long Game
  10. The Unquiet Dead
  11. The End of the World
  12. Aliens of London
  13. World War 3

This was a very tough call to make, and in my head I’ve bounced around all kinds of orders for where The Parting of the Ways should sit. It hasn’t dated to the same extent as Bad Wolf, so it’s better than it.

It’s where it sits between Father’s Day and Rose that gave me the most grief, and really they’re very close in my estimation for entirely different reasons. Rose gives us the new series — but also burping bins. Father’s Day gives us true drama and some nice time travel twists — but also dodgy effects and a just a touch of the old soap opera treatment.

The Parting of the Ways has both of that, but it also throws in a regeneration into the mix, which automatically gives it more gravitas. It’s also quite fun to watch, because much of what was set up in earlier episodes, from the opening of the Tardis to Rose’ home life, to poor stupid Mickey, excellently unsubtle Jackie and of course the whole “Bad Wolf” idea pays off. It’s an easy recommendation to rewatch, even if you only have time for one Doctor Who episode… after you’ve checked out Dalek and The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances.

And now, we really should have a moment’s silence for poor, sweet Lynda. It’s what she would have wanted.

Images: BBC

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

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