The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), Rose (Billie Piper), and Jack (John Barrowman) find themselves trapped on the far-future network Satellite Five. They awake, separated, with temporary amnesia, on lethal gameshows. On the Weakest Link and Big Brother, anyone voted off is disintegrated. On What Not to Wear, contestants undergo brutal cosmetic surgery.
The Doctor escapes Big Brother with a fellow contestant named Linda Moss (Jo Joyner), and Jack escapes What Not to Wear. It is the year 200,100 and the station is controlled by the Bad Wolf Corporation. It seems that 100 years before, after the Doctor brought down the Satellite Five News Network, humanity became confused and lost, and this is the result. They search for Rose and find her losing the last round of the Weakest Link. She is disintegrated by Anne Droid (Voice of Ann Robinson).
The others are arrested, but escape to Floor 500, where they meet the Cybernetic Controller (Martha Cope). Under the cover of a solar flare, she tells the Doctor that her masters cannot hear her. She hides them in a transmat device. Jack finds the TARDIS, where he learns that the victims are not disintegrated, but transmatted off the station. The Controller gives them directions but is transmatted to a spaceship and killed by her masters. Rose wakes up on a spaceship and sees a Dalek. The Doctor and Jack discover an entire fleet of Dalek ships. The Doctor vows to rescue Rose and wipe out the Daleks.
The robot emcees of the TV show parodies were voiced by the real hosts of the real shows. All the previous references to Bad Wolf appear in flashbacks. The deadlock seal cannot be broken by a sonic screwdriver. The pale androgynous Controller was inspired by Spielberg’s Minority Report. Nisha Nayar, who played the female Programmer, appeared as an anonymous Red Kang in the Seventh Doctor’s story Paradise Towers. The Face of Boe is the oldest inhabitant of the Isop Galaxy, in which may be found the planet Vorbis, visited by the First Doctor in the Web Planet story.
Jack’s naked butt was filmed, which I’m sure he loved, but the BBC censored the shot. The music playing when the Dalek Fleet appears is called What Is Happening? The episode was generally well received, particularly the powerful cliff-hanger conclusion, with the Doctor defying the Dalek Fleet. Personally, I’m a little tired of Television Satires, particularly the deadly game-show trope, as in The Running Man and Death Race, and which Doctor Who has been mining for decades. No matter how absurd and tasteless the satirist creates a bad-taste TV show, sooner or later the Japanese or the Americans create a real one just as awful. Entire Presidential Administrations have been modelled on reality television. But I must say that the Ninth Doctor raging against the entire Dalek Race made me sit up and take notice.