Shiny Shelf


Doctor Who: The Parting of the Ways

By Eddie Robson on 21 June 2005

It’s all been a bit of a triumph, hasn’t it?

My main concern about the ‘Doctor Who’ comeback was whether it would be good. Sometimes, even with the best talent involved, a large-scale collaborative effort – which TV and film always are – can simply go wrong. It turns up on your screen and it just hasn’t come together. Some people were anxious that the new series might be great but the viewing public as a whole just wouldn’t go for it, with all the usual ‘people don’t like sci-fi’ arguments trotted out, but I was pretty sure that if ‘Doctor Who’ was good it would do well, because I like to think I’ve got a reasonable handle on how the property is viewed and I thought there were enough people out there who were fond of ‘Doctor Who’ and would watch it if it was done well.

I didn’t expect it to so emphatically trounce ITV in the ratings – that was a bonus. But what I really didn’t expect was for it to be loudly proclaimed as a standard-bearer for new British television. The early naysayers have vanished after it became clear that their views didn’t chime with the majority, and all that’s left are critics and industry commentators hailing it as one of the best British TV shows of the year, if not the best. It’s come along at a fantastic time for the BBC: just when audiences are at their most fragmented, along comes a show which everybody watches.

It’s also successfully bucked the trend for ‘reality’ TV, offering complete escapism and adventure and showing that those things can be done by a British broadcaster. I’d hoped that ‘Doctor Who’ would kick-start some kind of telefantasy revival, but as it’s turned out the implications are even broader than that. People are talking in terms of BAFTAs, which would have been a laughable concept during the show’s original run. In the new TV landscape, ‘Doctor Who’ is much more than the cosy schedule fixture it used to be.

The biggest challenge for next year isn’t so much to make sure the quality doesn’t drop – I think the production team is well capable of that, considering the progress made over the course of this season – but getting everybody this excited about it all over again. But I think they’ll do it, because they’ve got David Tennant. Eccleston has been great this year, but I think Tennant will be a more loveable Doctor and the programme’s spirit will only become stronger as a result. In fact, he seems to fit the role so beautifully, and clearly wanted it so much, that you suspect he’ll never shake it off. The glimpse of him in the role at the end of ‘The Parting of the Ways’, all too brief but very impressive, will be rewound and rewatched by fans many times in the next six months.

As for the finale itself – didn’t quite contain the vast plot twists we’d been led to believe, but still a storming episode with an awesome performance from Billie at the climax. It’s a real shame that the tabloids blew the big surprise of the season – the regeneration – in week one, as if you watch it and imagine you don’t know it’s coming you can see it would have been one of the greatest telly moments of all time. But never mind, eh? The Sun needs to boost its circulation somehow.

So, yes. A triumph, with hopefully more triumphs to follow.


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By Eddie Robson




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