SPOILER ALERT! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Happy birthday to you, squashed tomatoes and stew, I saw a fat monkey, and I thought it was you. Turns out it WAS you, or rather it was Tom Baker. WTF?
Anyway today was a special day for Who-nerds. Is there a collective noun for them? Judging by the cinema screening I sat in, maybe it’s a ‘stench’? 50th birthday celebrations for Doctor Who culminated in a feature-length special, broadcast live in reportedly 94 countries, hopefully some of which were recording it in case someone tapes over the master copy. Much trumpeted, it was to bring together current Doctor Matt Smith, and predecessor David Tennant. However the previous series finale “The Name of the Doctor” left us with a bombshell – there was another Doctor.
Last week, a prequel mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor” caught fans by surprise, as Paul McGann – the Eighth Doctor who was only shown in a 1996 TV movie – regenerated into the hitherto-unknown Doctor played by William Hurt. With it, the wheels were set in motion for the 50th anniversary special to finally deal with the timey-wimey elephant in the room, the Time War.
Did this episode deal with it? I suppose it did, sort of. Well really it sort of de-railed the whole accepted chain of events since the show’s 2005 revival. I think. I’m not sure if it did, this new Doctor regenerated at the end (why?) with a convenient dose of amnesia (again, why?) tying up the loose ends without invalidating the last 7 years of adventures. But yeah… I’m not sure why, and it had a distinct whiff of timey-wimey get-out clauses.
In contrast to the ever-increasing cast reunions and budget blowouts that typified Russell T Davies’s series finales, this one felt quite introspective. Sure there were set-pieces and distractions – the helicopter at the start(?), in fact the whole business with the decidely Blackadder-esque Queen Elizabeth I and the Zygons felt like something thrown in so the kiddies had something to watch. Aside from the unnerving morph sequence, the Zygons were a bit “Sarah Jane Adventures” I think. But who doesn’t like a shape-shifter?
Though we did sort of get that cast reunion. SORT OF. The inevitable deus ex machina ending that seems to be the hallmark of the Moffatt era made ample use of stock footage, and even a fan-baiting scowl from forthcoming Doctor Peter Capaldi. That final scene, was that a dream sequence then? I’m sure we’ve all had dreams where we’ve gone to a waxwork museum, right? A bit clumsily done, but whatever, it’s the anniversary.
I loved that Tom Baker was in it … but how the hell are they supposed to explain that? He’s all old, and we’ve seen his Doctor from birth to death. I just don’t get how they could fit that in. Presumably they will (?) but if that’s the case, why didn’t you bring the other damn Doctors in, especially if they are seemingly making skits for the BBC in which they aren’t being hired for the anniversary special. ESPECIALLY since they were actually BEING used in the special! The mind boggles.
Anyway, sorry this sounds all very bad doesn’t it? I really enjoyed it – even despite my worries of my mum talking all over it made me book a seat in a later cinema screening, so I ended up seeing it twice in quick succession.
David and Matt were both great, and at some point the penny dropped that I’m going to be really sad to see Matt go. Time to buy some boxsets. Even John Hurt wasn’t the miserable bugger I thought he’d be, and despite his senior years he did manage to have the vulnerability that made me believe he was the younger of the three Doctors. There were some good laughs in there too – “What are you going to do, assemble a cabinet at them?!” – and plenty of self-effacing references in there.
Generally speaking I really liked it. Of course there are plenty of things I would have changed personally, but then maybe that’s just because I feel – now perhaps more than ever – that I have to hold Doctor Who up to higher standards than other shows. They seem to be doing something right at least, as it seems quite secure in its position as one of the BBC’s most valuable properties. I just wonder where 2014 is going to take it, but we have a month to wait before that Christmas Special, and its return trip to somewhere we weren’t expecting to return to for a while yet…