Going out in a blaze of glory.
Following on a century after the adventure on Satellite Five, the Doctor finds himself falling out of a transmat and into a house. Specifically, the Big Brother house on Channel 44000. The Doctor is not amused. Elsewhere, Rose wakes up in a dark studio and is helped to her feet just in time to compete on The Weakest Link. Finally, Captain Jack wakes up on a table where two androids give him a wardrobe makeover in the vein of What Not to Wear.
The Doctor starts looking for a way out of the house, making friends with a fellow resident named Lynda. He remembers that they had just left Raxacoricofallapatorius and then visited Kyoto, Japan in 1336. Their transit was intercepted by a transmat beam, but no ordinary transmat could penetrate the the TARDIS. The Doctor faces the camera and vows to get out, find his companions, and then find those responsible.
Rose plays The Weakest Link – we get a reference to something called Torchwood – and is observed by the engineers in the control room. She realizes that they’re not playing a game when Fitch, the weakest link in the round, is disintegrated. Another player tries to run, but the rules are “play or die,” so the runner is vaporized. A similar fate plays out in the Big Brother house as one of the housemates is evicted by disintegration. The Doctor is immediately motivated by this twist and disables the camera.
Oh, and Jack? He avoids a literal face change by producing a blaster (from where, you don’t want to know) and destroying the androids.
Rose finds out that the company running the games is the Bad Wolf Corporation, and she connects the dots over her adventures with the Doctor: Gwyneth told her about it in Cardiff 1869; it was the call sign for Henry van Statten‘s helicopter; it was the nuclear power plant project on the Cardiff Rift; it was tagged on the TARDIS in 2006; and it was a news channel on Satellite Five in the 2001st century.
Meanwhile, the Doctor forces his eviction from the house, but the disintegration is overridden. He uses his sonic screwdriver to open the door and rescues Lynda from her captivity. He discovers that they are back on Satellite Five, and as he and Lynda look for a way out, she reveals who is in charge. The Bad Wolf logo gives the Doctor pause. He gets it too.
The programmers reveal the security problem to a woman hardwired to the system, but the Controller dismisses them before alerting them to an incoming solar flare.
Jack builds a gun out of the robots and their defabricator beam and goes in search of the Doctor. The Doctor, to his horror, realizes that when he shut down the satellite before, the human race stopped instead of building the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Jack reunites with the Doctor as Rose fights for her life in the last round of the game. As Rose loses the game and faces disintegration, the Doctor breaks in, but he is too late to stop Rose from being vaporized. The enraged Doctor, Lynda, and Jack are arrested by station security, but quickly escape and make their way to Floor 500 with a lot of firepower.
Jack seals the doors as the Doctor interrogates the programmers (after tossing them his gun). The TARDIS is located nearby, and Jack finds something startling within. The Controller calls for the Doctor, revealing that the solar flare is blocking her masters from reading her mind. The masters have been hiding in the shadows and shaping the Earth for centuries. They also fear the Doctor.
The flare passes, the Controller resumes her trance, and Jack reveals that the disintegrator beam is really a transmat. The Controller is transmatted away, landing in the same place as Rose. Rose is chased by a familiar visage and the Controller is exterminated. The Doctor traces the signal to a fleet of saucers.
The masters are the Daleks. There are half a million in the fleet, and they have survived the Time War.
The Daleks open a channel to the Doctor, demanding his surrender in exchange for Rose’s life. The Doctor defiantly counters: Without a plan, he promises to save Rose Tyler and eliminate the Daleks. The Daleks respond by declaring war on the Doctor.
And here we go.
The Daleks demand that Rose predict the Doctor’s actions, but she refuses. They open fire on the TARDIS but the Doctor materializes it around Rose and her Dalek guard. Jack makes short work of the Dalek and the Doctor sets to analyzing the remains. He explains the Time War to Jack – “I thought that was a legend!” – and then confronts the Daleks under the protection of a force field. He discovers that the Daleks survived thanks to the Emperor Dalek and a crippled starship that tumbled through time in the war’s aftermath. The Daleks know the Doctor as The Oncoming Storm, and they fear him, but the Emperor Dalek explains how he rebuilt the Daleks out of the corpses of humanity. These Daleks are of mixed DNA, but the Emperor considers them pure.
These Daleks are more of a cult than an empire, driven mad by their own flesh. The stink of their humanity. The hate of their own existence.
The travelers retreat to the TARDIS and the Doctor takes them back to the satellite. Once there, he begins his defense of the planet below. As the fleet advances on Earth, the Doctor begins to rewire the satellite – a giant transmitter – so he can broadcast a delta wave. You know, something that tends to barbecue any brains in its way. That would normally take three days, but he has to get it done in twenty-two minutes.
As Rose helps the Doctor, Jack rallies the remaining programmers and citizens to defend the satellite. A select few join the captain’s cause while the rest are warned to stay quiet and remain below Floor 494. Rose and the Doctor also have a fantastic discussion on the morality and the nature of time travel, one that inspires the Doctor to cross his own timeline in order to speed up the process. It ends up being a trick though, as the Doctor remotely sends the TARDIS and Rose away to protect her.
A holographic message informs her that he’s fulfilling his promise to keep her safe. It will take her home and then die on a street corner. Before the message fades, it tells her to have a fantastic life. The TARDIS lands and Mickey finds Rose, wrapping her in his arms in consolation.
The Doctor continues to work, but the Emperor reveals that the delta wave cannot be refined in time to prevent it from killing everything in Earth’s orbit. The Doctor has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He confronts the Emperor about the Bad Wolf message, but the Dalek knows nothing about it. Something else is driving events.
Back in her century, Rose doesn’t know how to go on, even with Mickey and Jackie trying to console her. Near the TARDIS, she finds the words Bad Wolf written everywhere, and she assumes that it’s a link back to the Doctor. She and Mickey enter the time capsule and Rose decides to communicate with the heart of the TARDIS. Her efforts to open the console fail, and Jackie tries to help her move on, but Rose reveals the truth about her father’s death. The revelation spurs Jackie to borrow a tow truck to provide enough force.
In the future, the Daleks arrive at Earth and begin their assault on the satellite. The defenders make a valiant effort, including using the Anne Droid from The Weakest Link, but the Daleks make short work of them. They massacre the gathered citizens in the floors below the defenders, and they decimate the Earth’s surface. Jack’s last line of defense makes some headway, but the Daleks find Lynda from her position as defense coordinator. Soon enough, Jack is the last man standing between the Daleks and the Doctor, but then he is exterminated as well.
The tow truck gambit works and Rose is exposed to the heart of the TARDIS. The time capsule propels itself forward in time as Rose absorbs the energy in the console. On the satellite, the Doctor finishes his work, but he cannot push the button despite his bluster. He cannot commit another mass genocide. As he faces his execution, the TARDIS materializes and reveals a super-powered Rose.
She looked into the TARDIS. The TARDIS looked into her. She is the Bad Wolf. She created her own message throughout time and space. She can see all of it at once.
With her power, she turns the Daleks to dust. All of them. Once the threat is removed, she restores Jack to life, but refuses the Doctor’s request to relinquish her powers. When the pain becomes too much, the Doctor kisses her and absorbs the power. The Doctor returns the energy to the TARDIS before leaving with Rose, stranding Jack on the satellite.
As the TARDIS flies through the vortex, the Doctor watches his hand glow and laments the adventures he meant to experience with Rose. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have time. He explains that this life is at an end. He is about to regenerate, but he won’t be the same afterward. He tells Rose that she was fantastic.
You know what? So was he.
And then he regenerates.
This is the big culmination of everything we have learned since Rose. The opening was deliberately confusing and a great introduction to the building tension leading to the big reveal at the end of Bad Wolf. The second half, Time War Round Two, was an impressive balance of the Ninth Doctor’s redemptive arc and the Tyler family drama.
This finale doesn’t let up for a second, but it still finds time for the character moments. At the risk of overplaying the meme, it was absolutely fantastic.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.