Bad Wolf Hunting

  • 15/05/05 updated to cover up to episode 8 (Father’s Day)
  • 18/05/05 updated to cover the first three Ninth Doctor novels
  • 28/05/05 updated to cover up to episode 10 (The Doctor Dances)
  • 08/06/05 updated to cover episode 11 (Boom Town)

Something that’s really setting the Doctor Who fan community alight are continued references, at roughly one per episode, to a “Bad Wolf”. Quite what these repeated comments are referring to is a complete mystery – albeit one that’s destined to become clear in the penultimate episode of the series, which it has now been announced is also called “Bad Wolf”.

So far, we’ve seen or heard the following:

  1. In Rose, the Nestene Consciousness quite clearly shrieks the words “Bad Wolf!” as the Tardis is revealed (the Doctor says it has recognised the Tardis as “superior technology”). (now discredited)
  2. In The End of the World, the Moxx of Balhoon mentions to the Face of Boe that they are facing “the Bad Wolf scenario”.
  3. In The Unquiet Dead, psychic scullery maid Gwyneth tells Rose that she’s seen the darkness in her mind – “the big bad wolf”.
  4. In Aliens of London, a young boy tags the Tardis with the words “BAD WOLF” in white paint.
  5. In World War Three, the American newsreader is identified as Mal Loup – at least, on the website version (requires RealPlayer). I can’t see such identification on the broadcast version.
  6. In Dalek, the call sign of Van Statten’s helicopter is identified as “Bad Wolf One”.
  7. In The Long Game, The Face of Boe announces his pregnancy on Bad Wolf TV (see More Bad Wolf sightings).
  8. In Father’s Day, the words “BAD WOLF” reappear in graffiti form – this time on a poster promoting a rave (Energize, to be held on 20 November 1987).
  9. In The Empty Child, there was nothing overt at all – although many people (including the myriad people who continually impress me with their theories in the comments to this post) have compared the Doctor and Nancy’s conversation in the railway yard to the “what a big nose you have” conversation wit the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.
  10. In The Doctor Dances, Captain Jack rides a WWII bomb, Doctor Strangelove-style, that has “Schlechter Wolf” (the first word’s obscured by his oh-so-manly-thigh – but confirmation arrive courtesy of Mickey and UNIT).
  11. In Boom Town, the nuclear power station planned for the centre of Cardiff is called “Drwg Blaidd” – Welsh for ‘bad wolf’. We have the first on-screen acknowledgement of the fact that those words have been following the Doctor and Rose around for some time. The Doctor laughs it off as “just coincidence” – but is it?

In addition, the supporting websites that the BBC has been creating to tie in with the series have added their own references. After the events of World War Three, Mickey (new webmaster of Who is Doctor Who?) tell us:

When he said goodbye, The Doctor gave me a disc. He said it contained a virus that would wipe him from the internet.

Thing is: I can’t bring myself to use it.

You see, he’s off, making another decision for us, all “I’m the big bad wolf and it’s way past your bedtime.” Well, I don’t think so. Not this time.

It’s enough for us all that I’ve got the virus. On CD. And I’m ready to use it. If he really is that dangerous. (link).

This week, the Geocomtex site, promoting the products and services of the company headed by Van Statten in Dalek, lists as one of its products:

  • Node Stabilised (Lupus and Nocens variants)

Of course, lupus is Latin for ‘wolf’ – and ‘nocens’, while more properly meaning ‘harmful’ or ‘injurious’, can also be translated as just plain ‘bad’.

The latest version of the main Doctor Who website, to support Saturday’s episode, The Long Game, includes in the bottom right-hand corner a picture of a wolf. Click on it, and the word badwolf appears many times over.

And now, with the publication of the first three in a (hopefully long) line of Ninth Doctor novels, the habit continues:

  • In The Clockwise Man, the Doctor is accused of turning up “like a bad wolf”.
  • In The Monsters Inside, Rose and her friend are trapped in a spaceship cockpit as the alien pilot bangs at the locked door, “like the big bad wolf”.
  • In Winner Takes All, Mickey’s front room is littered with video games, including one called Bad Wolf.

So who, or what, is the Bad Wolf? Haven’t got a diddly’s, to be honest. There’s much debate amongst fans old and new. Some think it’s the Doctor, some think Rose. Is it a foe that has been seen in the series so far, and is set to return in episode 12? And how does all this fit into the other story thread this series – that of the Time War that seems to have wiped out all Time Lords but the Doctor, and all Daleks but the one that was purchased by Van Statten?

The name “bad wolf” has proven to be a genius move. It evokes memories of the scariest fairy tales – the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing down the houses of the three Little Pigs; the wolf eating, and taking the place of, Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. Echoes of both of those stories can also be seen at various points in the series (Rose, when we first meet her, is wearing a red hooded top; the Slitheen decoy is a pig; Nancy’s deconstruction of Christopher Eccleston’s face is, besides being the right side of insulting to be funny, an echo of Little Red Riding Hood’s “what big eyes you have” conversation with the wolf (thanks, all our commenters!)).

I’m looking forward to finding out just where this is going. If I was to put my money on anything, though, it’d be that there are reasons that neither Rose nor the Doctor yet know of for the references continually cropping up: maybe the ‘huffing’ and ‘puffing’ of a third, as yet unnamed, enemy in the Time War (an enemy that has already caused the destruction of the Dalek and Time Lord houses) is causing ripples throughout space and time such that the phrase crops up subconsciously in myriad places.

Time, as they say, will tell.

Author: Scott Matthewman

Formerly Online Editor and Digital Project Manager for The Stage, creator of the award-winning The Gay Vote politics blog, now a full-time software developer specialising in Ruby, Objective-C and Swift, as well as a part-time critic for Musical Theatre Review, The Reviews Hub and others.