The Doctor awakens to find himself in the Big Brother house, in a future where reality television has become a law unto itself. His “house mates” can provide no clues as to how he has arrived here, or what happened to the TARDIS or his companions. Jack similarly awakens as a contestant in a makeover show whose robotic glamour experts seem to have fatal designs on his body. Rose finds herself in a similar predicament, playing a version of The Weakest Link where those eliminated from play are also summarily executed. The Doctor also learns that those evicted from the Big Brother house are done away with as well, and fights his way out of the house, discovering that it – and all the other games – are played out in enclosed studio environments aboard Satellite 5, a hundred years after his last visit. The Bad Wolf Corporation is behind the games, and the Doctor and Jack team up to save Rose from The Weakest Link’s “Anne Droid,” only to see the robotic host fire a beam of energy at Rose, leaving no trace. Furious, the Doctor and Jack fight their way to Floor 500, where the Doctor discovers three things. Rose is still alive and in the hands of Bad Wolf Corporation. The Bad Wolf Corporation is a front for the Daleks, who seem to have escaped the destruction of Gallifrey and now once again number in the millions. And the Daleks have Earth, and the Doctor, in their sights.
written by Russell T. Davies
directed by Joe Ahearne
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: John Barrowman (Captain Jack), Jo Joyner (Lynda), Jamie Bradley (Strood), Abi Enjola (Crosbie), Davina McCall (voice of Davina Droid), Paterson Joseph (Rodrick), Jenna Russell (Floor Manager), Anne Robinson (voice of Anne Droid), Trinny Woodall (voice of Trine-E), Susannah Constantine (voice of Zu-Zana), Jo Stone-Fewings (Male Programmer), Nisha Nayar (Female Programmer), Dominic Burgess (Agorax), Karen Winchester (Fitch), Kate Loustau (Colleen), Sebastian Armesto (Broff), Martha Cope (Controller), Sam Callis (Security Guard), Alan Ruscoe (Android), Paul Kasey (Android), Barnaby Edwards (Dalek operator), Nicholas Pegg (Dalek operator), David Hankinson (Dalek operator), Nicholas Briggs (Dalek voices)
Reviews by Philip R. Frey & Earl Green
LogBook entry by Earl Green
Philip’s Review: Oh, my my my my my. Where to begin with Bad Wolf?
First, I feel I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, since this episode is so heavily steeped in current UK pop culture it makes it hard to really grasp as an American. I mean, we have all the shows parodied here (or a variation thereof) but the mania over The Weakest Link has been over for years and Big Brother never really caught on here. But in the UK they are still powerful forces, so maybe there they still pack enough of a punch to justify using them like this. Of course, it will hopelessly date this episode down the road no matter where you’re from, so I don’t think it was a good idea from the get-go. I mean, I can almost buy the concept of intergalactic deadly game shows, but why they would be the exact same shows we have now when most will likely be forgotten in twenty years is beyond me. Perhaps making the parodies actual parodies (instead of just re-creating current shows, names and all) would have worked better. It would have allowed Davies to set his own rules and helped it feel more timeless. But he’s all about “the now”, so I don’t suppose that would have appealed to him.
Secondly, let’s look at the characters this week. The Doctor gets to come off the best this time, purely by default. Rose acts like a jerk on her game show (until she realizes that people will die, of course) and Captain Jack is apparently attempting to set a new high bar for the definition of “camp”. (Where’d you get that gun, indeed.) The Doctor, at least for once, is the smartest one, figuring out immediately that there cannot be anything normal about their situation and that being in it at all means there’s something terribly wrong.
Thirdly, the basic plot is more than a little disappointing given the build-up. If it hadn’t been completely given away in the previous week’s preview, it would still be all too easy to figure out who was behind it all. The scheme that the Daleks have been operating for the last few hundred years seems needlessly complicated, as well. That can’t be properly judged until next week, of course. Still, I can’t help but wonder what the endgame would have been if they hadn’t cleared the Daleks for use. Davies has said they had a really good new creation to take their place, so I can’t be sure if it would have been better or just more stuff like the Slitheen.
I would also like to call Davies out for naming this episode Bad Wolf and then not actually explaining what it means. The thing is, he already had a perfectly good name for this episode, but used it already for The Long Game (which, in its turn, doesn’t fit either).
And those poor Daleks, stuck living inside cartoon spaceships like that. I find it sad that supposedly state-of-the-art special effects can’t make a more convincing flying saucer for Doctor Who than the one that appears in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 A.D.
Despite all this, there is some decent drama in this one, including the apparent death of Rose and what looks like a proper Dalek story to come at last. Once the ridiculous game show stuff was passed, it actually held my interest enough that I’m curious as to how it all ends. Really, this is it. Doctor Who 2005 has one last chance to make it all worth my while. We’ll see.
Earl’s Review: The opening volley of a season-ending cliffhanger, Bad Wolf opens up very deceptively, with every indication that it’s going to put the not-dying-fast-enough “reality” TV phenomenon in its place, Time Lord-style. But wisely, Russell T. Davies realized that Doctor Who has already done this – way back in 1985’s Vengeance On Varos, long before unscripted television had become the all-pervading virus of the airwaves that it seemed to be in the early 2000s, and took a different course. So while there is some reality TV spoofing going on here – and well-observed parody at that, with Anne Robinson herself providing the voice of her robotic replacement – it’s a massive red herring.
The cast continues to impress, with John Barrowman really coming into his own here as the action hero of the piece. (He also gets one of the funniest lines I’ve heard in a modern TV show from any country recently, involving rising ratings. You’ll know it when you hear it.) The events of the story thunder along like a runaway train, and when Rose wakes up to the Dalek control room sound effect that has been in use since 1963, it’s both scary and a giddy thrill because there’s no lonely Dalek to be reasoned with, but the all-conquering swarms of Daleks that have been scaring kids behind furniture since the sixties. The promise of a showdown between Daleks and Doctor brought me a childlike chill. (Now, whether or not that promise was delivered in the next episode, you’ll just have to stick around and find out.)
Bad Wolf isn’t a great episode of Doctor Who, old or new. It’s not deep. It doesn’t have an airtight, tragic Shakespearean plot. But it is the sum of a great many entertaining parts, which add up to a fun episode.