“I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words. I scatter them … in time, and space.”

badwolfWhen Doctor Who was brought back to the screens by Russell T Davies there was much excitement about the introduction of a running thread throughout the series. People began to spot that the phrase ‘Bad Wolf’ was appearing in each episode whether it be a graffiti  scrawled on the side of the TARDIS or the code name for Henry van Statten’s helicopter.

The big question was, what did it mean?

This proved to be such a success that the same tactic was repeated in the following seasons. Clues would be dropped that would ultimately be paid off in the final adventure, showing how everything was connected.

Even in the current regime the reoccurring cracks helped to create a sense of escalating tension. At the time of writing the current season of Dr Who is teasing us with numerous elements, including the Silence and the Patch wearing lady who keeps appearing to Amy.

Just how successful are these arcs? Do they improve the stories and are they even a necessary part of Dr Who?

The best bit of any cryptic plot arc is the anticipation. The weeks of speculating and sharing theories can never match the eventual revelation. The Bad Wolf plot arc suffers the most because of this.

Russell T Davies has admitted that when he first introduced Bad Wolf he had no idea what it was all going to mean. If you listen to the commentary on the dvd for ‘Parting of the Ways’ you can hear him struggle to explain it.

In short the words Bad Wolf kept appearing to the main characters because Time Rose used her TARDIS infused powers to send the name of the company who made the space station throughout time and space.

She did this because her past self would see those same words on her council estate and realise that they were linked to events on the space station, giving her the incentive to return to the Doctor and in doing become infused with time powers.

The problem is that Bad Wolf is essentially meaningless. If the company had been called ‘Paradise Reach’ those words would have appeared everywhere. Their only importance was in making Rose try to get back to the Doctor.

Since the words were sent by Time Rose she should know where her past self would see the words yet in many episodes Rose and Doctor are unaware of their presence. Examples include the words written on the side of the bomb in ‘The Doctor Dances’ or written on a poster in 1986 in ‘Father’s Day’.

Bad Wolf even appeared in an episode of Torchwood ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ where neither the Doctor or Rose were present and for them the threat had already passed. This occurrence makes it even clearer that the stated purpose of sending the words through time is dubious.

As a phrase ‘Bad Wolf’ is full of menace. During the build up there was much speculation of what the Bad Wolf was and were the frequent mentions of it a warning to the Doctor? Even the situations in which the words appeared seemed to have great meaning.

BwDuring ‘The End of the World’ the Moxx of Balhoon suggests that the situation on Platform One is a classic Bad Wolf scenario. Were the words ‘Bad Wolf’ just inserted over what he had originally said by Time Rose?

The Moxx could have been making a reference to what occurred on Satellite 5, since that would be in his past, but it is difficult to see the parallels. Could it instead refer to another significant event and if so what?

In ‘The Unquiet Dead’ Gwyneth looks into Roses’s mind and says ‘The things you’ve seen..the darkness….the Big Bad Wolf.”

In retrospect this could be Gwyneth catching a glimpse of Roses’s future. At the time it seemed to suggest that the Bad Wolf was linked to darkness, something which Rose had witnessed.

Even after the apparent meaning of the phrase has been resolved the next season again makes a link between the Bad Wolf and Rose. In ‘Tooth and Claw’ a real werewolf is on the loose (or he alien equivalent) and comments that there is something of the wolf about Rose.

What are we to make of this implication that Rose and Bad Wolf share a link, other than she was the one to send the words. Both suggest that Bad Wolf is a thing, an entity, rather than just a randomly chosen combination of words.

The wolf appears in many tales of folklore that are still with us today. In ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and ‘Three Little Pigs’ the wolf is a beast driven by hunger. It consumes all in its path.

In ‘Three Little Pigs’ houses straw and stick fall before the the wolf and in ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ it displays cunning, disguising itself as Riding Hood’s grandmother after he has swallowed her whole.

In the latter story even cutting open the wolf to free those he has consumed isn’t enough to kill it. Instead his body is filled with stone and when he goes to a well to drink he falls into the water and drowns.

Bad Wolf devours its enemy, is cunning and full of deceit. It can’t be killed, only trapped. Does such a being exist? One so terrible that it has permanently imprinted itself upon our consciousness?

Could the Bad Wolf be Fenric from ‘The Curse of Fenric’? It is entirely possible that he was not truly destroyed and the Time War allowed him once again to pit his wits against the Doctor. Is so then Rose might be one of his wolves, explaining the link that others sensed within her. A pawn that could be manoeuvred close to the Doctor and even gain the power of the TARDIS.

DoctorWho4x11TurnLeftmkv_002877119Such a theory is never likely to explore in the series but is an interesting idea that could be explored in your own Dr Who games, especially if  using the 9th Doctor and Rose.

Bad Wolf became a watch word for danger. Although it didn’t warn the Doctor and Rose what they were going to find on Satellite 5 it gained a new significance. When the words appeared everywhere in ‘Turn Left’ the Doctor knew that things were about to get apocalyptic.

It also left a legacy upon the series. People liked following the clues. It was a small background detail that could be introduced into a story without disrupting the plot. Those who liked to get involved could seek out the hidden phrase while casual viewers didn’t even notice that something was happening.

Unsurprisingly the plot arc returned time and time again, each season becoming something slightly different. Next time we’ll be looking at the introduction of Torchwood into the 2006 season.

This entry was posted in 9th Doctor, Bad Wolf, Rose. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to “I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself. I take the words. I scatter them … in time, and space.”

  1. dailypop says:

    As always I am impressed by your diligence and insight.

    It’s just a shame that RTD didn’t put the same amount of thought into his scripts.

  2. Tyler says:

    Bad Wolf even appeared in an episode of Torchwood ‘Captain Jack Harkness’ where neither the Doctor or Rose were present and for them the threat had already passed. This occurrence makes it even clearer that the stated purpose of sending the words through time is dubious.

    Part of my own rationalization of the inconsistencies of the Bad Wolf trope is Rose’s imprecision at using her crazy time vortex powers. She brought Jack back “wrong.” It could follow that sending a message to herself and the Doctor would be scattershot and highly variable in its targeting.

  3. Matt says:

    I understand that this article might be a little outdated now, but I feel compelled to give my two cents worth.

    Rose did exactly what she meant to do (if you take into account the Captain Jack/Face of Boe theory) If Jack becomes the face of Boe, then you can assume that Rose brought him back just enough to keep him living until he would warn The Doctor about The Master (You are not along – YANA) Which would mean that Rose saw everything the doctor was going to have to face (with the exception of SM’s series) and put things in place to warn The good Doc.

    She would have seen Jack working with the Doctor against the Master on the Valiant (remember the fact she could see all that is, all that was, all that could be and all that should never be) and would find a way to make sure that Jack would live long enough to warn the Doctor. She then saw the end of the universe at the hands of Davros and set up warnings for him (appearing in the TARDIS, leaving a picture of a blond girl and a wolf in Silence in the Library) which he missed so she plastered the warning everywhere so the doctor HAD to look.

    All the references (such as the werewolf in series 2) are referring to what she has been and the things she is not aware of doing – one thing to take into account is that she didn’t know what she had become.

    • etheruk1 says:

      Interesting idea. I hadn’t considered that she could see what was to occur rather than just her past actions. It does make more sense that Bad Wolf Rose was sending messages through time to warn of Davros, rather than the Rose that was trapped in an alternative dimension. After all, how would that Rose have the resources to track the Doctor through space and time?

      If she did make Jack immortal to help the Doctor she could have made things a bit easier for him than leaving him on the space station, jumping way into the past and then waiting for ages to meet up with the Doctor again.

      Now we’ve had ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ we could also interpet that scene as Rose being possessed by the TARDIS matrix. All her actions and words are actually those of the TARDIS. Rose doesn’t seem to remember anything about her time being the Bad Wolf.

      • Camille says:

        After TDW I believe that Rose was possessed by the TARDIS. I feel like both Rose and the TARDIS were alive in Rose’s body, which was why she was dying so much faster than Idris did (she died and then the TARDIS entered her body, allowing slower deterioration of Idris’s body). But I also think that there wasn’t a consensus for who was supposed to be in charge of the operation. In the urgency of the moment, they had the shared goal of saving The Doctor so the TARDIS entered Rose, but once that happened, sometimes Rose appeared to be trying to control the TARDIS’s powers and sometimes the TARDIS seemed to be in control of Rose’s body.

  4. Matt says:

    “If she did make Jack immortal to help the Doctor she could have made things a bit easier for him than leaving him on the space station, jumping way into the past and then waiting for ages to meet up with the Doctor again.”

    The fact that Jack was left on the space station was actually the Doctor’s doing – remember the utopia episode on season 3 – the Doctor admits that he ran away from him because he was a fact – a fixed point across time and space – it might have been Idris Rose/Bad wolf that brought him back but it was the Doctor being an idiot that left him to suffer.

    • Tyler says:

      However, it was the TARDIS who ran from Jack in Utopia. The Doctor seemingly had no control over the ship when it fled Cardiff.

  5. Matt says:

    “However, it was the TARDIS who ran from Jack in Utopia. The Doctor seemingly had no control over the ship when it fled Cardiff.”

    Again another good point – which I considered a while back – Sexy (TARDIS) and Rose joined together to create the Bad Wolf entity – neither of them could remember it… Sexy ran because Jack is ‘wrong’ But the Doctor ran away from him on the satelite for the same reason.

  6. Rents says:

    In folkloristics we have a theory that Little Red Riding Hood IS actually the Big Bad Wolf. Pretty much the same as the Snow White is actually a bad Queen – she has to be eventually, she has no other choice, otherwise she will end up like her mum, who “sits sewing at her window, she pricks her finger on her needle and three drops of blood fall on the snow that had fallen on her ebony window frame”. As you can see, she is pretty much a prisoner, the only freedom she sees is out the window and dangerous and far away. So the only way to have real power, is to be the BAD queen.

    As for Little Red Riding Hood – who just wants to have fun and goes anywhere without thinking (notice the similarity with Rose) – being a grandma and a wolf are just different stages of life and development. That is also supported by the diapositiv theory – when the wolf and the Little Red Riding Hood are behind the door, they repeat the exact same lines, although they haven’t heard them from each other. That means that they are actually the same person, just in one form the Little Red Riding Hood isn’t so young and innocent anymore (which the red colour is symbolizing as well), but has grown herself some teeth and claws. So it should hint that a LRRH (in our case, Rose) is actually much more powerful than she thinks, even if she becomes powerful with the help of others (the advice of her wise grandmother or TARDIS, the possesser of all knowledge). In the folklore, the wolf wasn’t powerful for a very long time, although he had the biggest freedom of them all, and the Rose also gains her “full throttle” for a short time.

    I don’t know if it gives much, but that’s what comparative analyse shows us. 😀

  7. dailypop says:

    >>LRRH (in our case, Rose)

    that’s the biggest leap in logic right there.

  8. Rents says:

    Well, I’m not saying that she IS Little Red Riding Hood, I’m just saying that she has many similar traits with her – she is young, naive, gets into adventure by accident, but is still willing to take the risk. But to be the LRRH, you have to be ready to be a grandmother one day, and by some theories, a wolf as well. That doesn’t have to apply for the movie though.

  9. Martha Jones says:

    !!!PLEASE LISTEN!!!
    Honestly, I don’t think the Bad Wolf was Rose at all. I think it was the T.A.R.D.I.S using Rose as a vessel to save the Doctor. After all, Idris, (A.K.A The T.A.R.D.I.S), referred to the Doctor as being HER doctor and so did the Bad Wolf. The reason Rose’s head was ‘killing her’ was because the T.A.R.D.I.S cannot be contained properly in a flesh body.

    P.S, I LOVE ROSE THOUGH!

  10. Alex V says:

    Happy I found this and love the responses as much as the post.

  11. Yeyeala says:

    “The problem is that Bad Wolf is essentially meaningless. If the company had been called ‘Paradise Reach’ those words would have appeared everywhere. Their only importance was in making Rose try to get back to the Doctor.”

    But bad wolf? That also refers to the beach (Dårlig ulv stranden) in Norway where the Doctor and Rose say their goodbyes before the rift closes between the worlds?

  12. Because today is “Bad Wolf Day” I was googling to ensure that I got the words correct when placing messages at work. I love your original theory and think it was spot on, considering the information you had at the time.

    Now I think we can all agree that “The Moment” as “the Bad Wolf” could be what all of the references are to (the darkness, something about the wolf in her, etc). That’s my theory anyway.

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