"The Parting of the Ways" is the thirteenth episode of the revamped first series of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on 18 June 2005. It was the second episode of the two-part story that featured Christopher Eccleston making his last appearance as the Ninth Doctor and marks the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. This is also the last episode to feature Jack Harkness as a regular companion on Doctor Who. Jack would appear as a guest companion in the Series 3 finale "Utopia", "The Sound of Drums" and "Last of the Time Lords" and again in the Series 4 finale "The Stolen Earth" / "Journey's End". The first part, "Bad Wolf", was broadcast on 11 June.
The episode opens with the Daleks questioning Rose on what the Doctor will do next. The Doctor uses the extrapolator on the TARDIS to generate a protective shield around them as he materialises around Rose and a Dalek. Jack destroys the Dalek and they exit the TARDIS to speak to the Daleks. The Doctor is surprised to see the Dalek Emperor in command, and even more surprised when the Emperor describes himself as a god. The Emperor survived the Time War and escaped to Earth in a crippled ship, where he rebuilt the Dalek race by harvesting DNA material from selected humans that were transmatted to them by the Game Station. The Doctor observes that the Daleks have gained human traits and emotions from this process and have become deadlier than ever. The Doctor, Rose, and Jack use the TARDIS to return to the Game Station and prepare for an imminent attack.
Jack uses the extrapolator to shield the top six floors of the station and sets up defensive positions. The Doctor attempts to create a delta wave generator from the equipment on the Game Station. The delta wave will kill anything in its path, but needs time to charge up. The Doctor sends Rose into the TARDIS, and while she is inside he uses his sonic screwdriver to direct the TARDIS to return her to her home time. The Doctor appears to her via a holographic message and explains that he sent her home for her safety and to prevent the Daleks from getting the TARDIS. The Daleks begin to invade the Station, easily making it past the defences and killing everyone in their path. The Emperor contacts the Doctor and taunts him about the delta wave, revealing that he knows it will not only kill the Daleks but most of Earth as well. The Doctor tells him that humanity will survive in some form but that the Daleks cannot.
The TARDIS arrives back in London, and Mickey and Jackie are drawn to the noise of its engines. They rush to meet Rose, who is heartbroken at being sent away from the Doctor. Rose begins to notice the words "Bad Wolf" all around the area where the TARDIS has landed, and realises that it is a message rather than a warning. She enlists Mickey to help her try and open the Heart of the TARDIS, hoping the telepathic circuits will allow her to pilot the ship back to the Doctor. Rose tells Jackie that she met her late father Pete, and that she is the "young woman" who was with him when he died. Jackie decides to help by borrowing a large truck from a friend. With the truck pulling the panel on the console snaps open and Rose is bathed in the light of the TARDIS. The TARDIS doors slam on Mickey and Jackie as they try to enter, and it then dematerialises.
Back on the Game Station, the Daleks force their way to Floor 500, killing Jack and Lynda in the process. They file into the control room as the Doctor is about to fire the delta wave. The Emperor again taunts the Doctor, who cannot bring himself to kill so many innocent people just to destroy the Daleks. The Emperor declares the Doctor a coward and orders him to be exterminated, but before the Daleks can kill him, the TARDIS materialises. The TARDIS doors swing open and Rose appears, wrapped in the glow of the time vortex. She reveals that she is the Bad Wolf, and that she spreads the words throughout time and space as a message to lead her there. The Daleks attempt to exterminate Rose, but she easily stops them, disintegrating the Emperor and the entire fleet. The Doctor begs her to relinquish her new power, but instead she brings Jack back to life. As Rose begins to burn up from the power, the Doctor kisses her, taking the entire power of the vortex into his own body. He releases it back into the TARDIS and carries an unconscious Rose back inside. They leave in the TARDIS before a reanimated Jack can get back to them, trapping him on the Game Station.
Rose awakens on the TARDIS to find the Doctor in pain. He tells her that the act of absorbing the time vortex is destroying every cell in his body. Rose begins to panic as the Doctor tells her that he won't be seeing her again. After musing on what his next body will look like and telling Rose goodbye, he suddenly steps back and bursts with energy from the regeneration process as he begins to change. After a few seconds the energy dissipates, revealing the Tenth Doctor. The new Doctor briefly comments on his new teeth before offering to take Rose to the planet Barcelona.
Rose convinces Jackie to help her by describing the conclusion of "Father's Day". The Doctor claims that he is known in Dalek legend as "the Oncoming Storm", a title that first appeared in the Virgin New Adventures novel Love and War by Paul Cornell (who wrote the episode "Father's Day"). In the novel, the title was applied to the Doctor by the Draconians.
The idea that the TARDIS console directly harnesses the energies which drive the ship (the heart of the TARDIS) and is at least in some sense alive and self-aware dates back to The Edge of Destruction (1964). Rose claims that the TARDIS has no defences. However, earlier stories in the original series have established that the TARDIS is protected by a force field generator of considerable strength (The Armageddon Factor, 1979, among others). In addition, the TARDIS has a Hostile Action Displacement System (HADS), seen in The Krotons (1969), which teleports it away from potentially devastating attacks. Jack destroys the Dalek in the TARDIS with his one-shot weapon. In The Hand of Fear (1976) the Doctor claims that the inside of the TARDIS exists in a state of temporal grace which prevents weapons from being fired inside it, although the circuit was not working by the time of Earthshock (1982). In "Let's Kill Hitler" (2011), the Eleventh Doctor confirmed that he had been lying about the temporal grace.
The last Dalek story to feature an Emperor — who was the Daleks' creator, Davros — was Remembrance of the Daleks (1988). The Emperor in this episode represents a return to an earlier concept of the Daleks' leader, seen in The Evil of the Daleks (1967); whenever the Daleks had an on-screen leader in later appearances, it was a Dalek Supreme or Davros.
The Emperor Dalek's final words are "I cannot die!", the same words said by Davros at the conclusion of Resurrection of the Daleks (1984) when he is apparently dying from a virus. In Davros's case, he survived to return another day, but whether this Emperor does remains to be seen. He is mentioned later in "Doomsday" by Rose and the Doctor and again by the Cult of Skaro in "Daleks in Manhattan." He is also mentioned in "School Reunion" by Rose to Sarah Jane.
This episode was also mentioned in the Season 2 episode Age of Steel. At the end of the episode, Mickey Smith recalls to Jake Simmonds how he 'saved the universe with a big yellow truck'. This would refer to the rescue vehicle used to pull open the console of the TARDIS, allowing Rose take control of the TARDIS via telepathy.
This was the first episode in this series which was not given a press screening prior to the broadcast. Radio Times stated, "No preview tape was available for this episode." The episode was, however, screened for BAFTA on 15 June 2005.
According to Russell T Davies in Doctor Who Magazine, Jack was left behind because they wanted to explore the effects of the regeneration on Rose (noting that Jack would have taken the regeneration "in his stride"). Jack returned in the Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood, which began broadcast in October 2006. In an interview in Doctor Who Magazine, Russell T Davies stated that an alternate ending for this episode was written and filmed, with the intention that it would be shown to press previewers to hide the secret of the regeneration. This idea was abandoned when Eccleston's departure was revealed earlier than planned. The "false" ending would have featured similar dialogue to the televised final scene, but the TARDIS would have scanned Rose and the viewers would have seen the display read: "LIFEFORM DYING". Davies considered this scene inferior to the one actually shown, but suggested that it might be suitable as an extra on a DVD some day. On the DVD commentary, executive producer Julie Gardner and Billie Piper briefly discuss this ending, which Gardner describes as featuring Rose's death; unlike Davies, Gardner expresses doubts that it will be issued on DVD (it was not included in the Series 1 DVD set). David Tennant's portion of the regeneration scene was actually filmed much later than Eccleston's, and without the presence of Billie Piper. Tennant's segment was recorded with him speaking to a piece of sticky tape indicating Piper's eyeline and then edited into the broadcast version. It was recorded on 21 April 2005.
Eccleston's departure had been leaked early by the BBC on 30 March 2005, who claimed that he was scared of being typecast. On 4 April they admitted that this statement had been made without consulting the actor, and were forced to apologise. In 2010, Eccleston denied the typecast claim, explaining that he was not comfortable in the working environment. He later stated that he could not get along with some of the "senior people". According to the Sunday Mirror, an interview for BBC's Doctor Who website that was taken down after his departure was announced revealed that Eccleston had planned to stay for two or three more years. Tennant was offered to replace the role when he was watching a pre-transmission copy of Casanova with Davies and Gardner. Tennant initially believed the offer was a joke, but after he realised they were serious, he accepted the role and first appeared in the series finale "The Parting of the Ways". Tennant was announced as Eccleston's replacement on 16 April 2005.
"The Parting of the Ways" received overnight ratings of 6.2 million viewers, a 42% audience share and the most-watched programme of the night. When final consolidated ratings were calculated, figures rose to 6.91 million. The episode was broadcast in the United States on the Sci Fi Channel on 9 June 2006.
Digital Spy's Dek Hogan wrote that the finale was "something of an anti climax", with the Bad Wolf resolution being a "let down" and the regeneration "a bit rushed" and "lacking in the sort of emotional tension that has been one of this series hallmarks". SFX gave "The Parting of the Ways" a score of nine out of ten, calling the two-parter Davies' "finest work this season", especially praising the emotional moments. However, he felt that two aspects of "The Parting of the Ways" let the story down: the Bad Wolf resolution and the deus ex machina of Rose's transformation. Patrick Mulkern of Radio Times praised the episode, stating that it was "inventive, gripping entertainment" and that "for the first time, Doctor Who has a proper, exhilarating season finale." Alasdair Wilkins of io9 praised the "mad energy" of the two-parter but felt the Dalek plan was "convoluted and a whole bunch of seemingly important stuff ... is brushed aside in the rush to the Doctor's big moral dilemma". Wilkins also pointed out that the story had to deal with Eccleston's abrupt departure, and as a result there was little thematic build-up and the regeneration feels "bolted on to the rest of the story". Despite this, Wilkins ranked it the best regeneration and the third best regeneration story (as of 2010).