Tuesday, 19 November 2013

'The Night of the Doctor' - Thoughts and Feelings

Before we get down to the nitty gritty of this article, I must apologise that this is not a video. Now I am sure I will get around to making a video at some point, but at the moment my editing software is being reserved for animation work only. It has also come to my attention that I don't write enough articles for this blog anymore, so it might as well change this evening!

The rumours were running rampant. Everyone wanted to believe a video like this was coming, but 'wanted' is the operative word. Would they really get Paul McGann back to play the Doctor? After seventeen years? For a short? Doubtful. I wanted to believe too, but there was so much doubt kicking around Gallfreybase and the rest of the web that I finally decided "Nah. No chance". Then the synopsis for the special was released:

The Bringer of Darkness, the Oncoming Storm, the Doctor, the Warrior - A Time Lord! The 50th Anniversary features Matt Smith, David Tennant and a mysterious incarnation played by John Hurt. Only one appears in the mini episode, The Night of the Doctor. But which?

It was that 'But which?' that suddenly got me thinking about the possibilities of McGann. Could they be toying with us? Do they want us to think it's Hurt or Tennant or Smith, only to go "Ta da!" right in our faces? I wanted to believe so, but of course I had more doubt than anything else.

I screamed. Honestly. I yelped like a child on Christmas morning who got that present he always wanted. I was so hysterical that my mother wondered what the Hell was happening and told me to "Calm down! For God's sake, Matt! You'll give yourself a heart attack!" She couldn't understand the gravity of the situation. He was back. After 17 years, the Doctor that was supposed to be my Doctor (I was four when the TV Movie came out, and I can clearly remember watching it to this day) was back. Not on audio, but as a proper moving image as he always should have been.

He's back! And it's... yeah, you guys know the drill.
So was it any good? Well, yes! It was marvelous! It was the greatest 'What if?' we could have ever hoped to get! The Doctor’s first line: “I’m a Doctor. But probably not the one you were expecting” suitably channels George Lazenby at the start of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (“This never happened to the other fella”). The opening of the piece was cleverly set-up to make us think that this woman, Cass, whose ship was about to crash land, could be the Doctor’s future companion. It was also like McGann had never left. Just another day for the 8th Doctor during his tenure… the one we didn’t get. But it made us believe, just for that moment, that this is what we could have had. Seeing McGann in his new gear (more on that later) zipping about the place just felt right, and it would have made the wilderness years, well, a lot less of a wilderness!

But Cass is quick to turn on the Doctor. We’re treated to some delightful morsels about the Time War. The Doctor is a refugee; he wants no part in it. Makes sense. Cass however, seems terrified of him simply because he is a Time Lord, no better than a Dalek. Blimey, what have the Time Lords been up to? Clearly whatever the Time Lords and the Daleks are doing is devastating the universe on such an immeasurable scale that every species is feeling it. So she locks herself away and the ship goes kaboom! Doctor number 8 is killed on impact! Poor bugger. He’s only just come back and he’s practically dead before he hits the ground. But wait! Where have they landed? Karn! Jumping Jehoshaphat! And the Sisters of the Flame! Bugger me! It’s all going on in this story!

The Sisterhood’s new leader, Ohila (not to be confused with Ohica) tells the Doctor he’s been revived and only has four minutes to live, in which time he can choose a special version of their Elixir of Life that will make him regenerate into whatever body he needs for the current war situation. Why are they helping him? They know he’s the only fellow in the universe with the gonads big enough for ending the Time War, a war which not only threatens Karn but the entire universe (the Time Lord’s master plan was to wipe out everything as mentioned in The End of Time). Seeing as Karn is pretty much down the road from Gallifrey, relatively speaking, you can't blame them for not wanting a massive battlefield on their doorstep!

Faced with Cass’ corpse, the knowledge that the universe thinks he and his kind are a bunch of total shitheads, and that he’s got mere moments before he’s a goner, the Doctor chooses to become a warrior. No one wants his help anymore. The universe has ostracised him… much like the BBC had during the wilderness years, but perhaps I’m reading into that a bit too much. So he wishes to continue helping, but in a new way. We’re treated to a nice pun about John Hurt and then the Doctor rattles off some names… “Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly…” Bugger me sideways! Moff’s only gone and confirmed the canonicity of Big Finish! It really is all happening in this episode! Stupendous news! But oh Lord, I have so many stories to catch-up on! Bloody hell, that’s going to be hard work! Who’d have thought a couple of seconds of dialogue would increase the sales of so much merchandise?

So the Doctor downs the Sisterhood’s homebrew, and he’s gone… replaced with John Hurt... a young John Hurt from I, Claudius no less, lending to Moffat’s words that this new incarnation has been kicking around for some time when we meet him in The Day of the Doctor. So he goes off to kick some arse!

Looking like his old self again
And that was it. The 8th Doctor was gone as soon as he returned. Will he pop up in The Day of the Doctor? I’d like to think so. After all, it doesn’t make sense to let that nice new costume go to waste. And it was shot in the last two days of the shooting block for The Day of the Doctor, so who’s to say he didn’t record scenes with Hurt and co. before hand? Speaking of costume, how cool was that? A nice throwback to the TV Movie outfit but with a bit more edge. I approve wholeheartedly! Now I just want the toy… in 5” scale! Also, note the Sonic Screwdriver is exactly the same as the one in the Movie too. No Weta Workshop prop to be found here, which makes me come to one conclusion: the leather jacket/jeans/satchel job is not canon. Now before someone bites my head off crying “But it’s on the cover of Dark Eyes! It’s been established as canon!” let us think about the actual story rather than flimsy box art. Where in the audio adventure is it explained that the Doctor changes his clothes for what he is wearing on the box? Nowhere. Nick Briggs noted that the sounds used of the 8th Doctor moving features the sound of leather squeaking, but I’ve listened through that story twice and I cannot hear it for the life of me. In fact, the only reference to his costume I can recall is when they mention his poor velvet coat is covered in cack. Nothing is said about him getting a new Sonic Screwdriver or a satchel either. It makes more sense that if he was going to change his clothes he’d choose a similar wardrobe as seen in this short. Honestly, I prefer this. Three consecutive incarnations in leather? One was more than enough. Let the Doctors have their own individual style, please.

So overall I loved it. Every second. Not just McGann’s return, it was all brilliant. None of this wishy-washy crap we usually get for a mini-sode. This could have easily have been on TV. Which is the reason why this is so bitter sweet. It should have been on TV. It gave us a sense of what we didn’t get. Now I love the fact that Big Finish is canon, that’s amazing, but listening to the 8th Doctor’s adventures isn’t the same as watching him in this story. By now you’ve probably seen the petitions to make mini-seasons with the 8th Doctor to help fill in those blanks for us. I can only hope that the BBC wake up and smell the coffee and go “Good grief, what a jolly good idea! Think of all of that extra money we could make?” It doesn’t need to be long, but come on; McGann would do it in a heartbeat! We’d bite their hands off for it… 

So with this and the missing episode recovery, we're doing well for the 50th.



  1. I 100% agreed with everything you said!!

  2. I'm definitely hoping for some flashbacks to McGann interacting with the Time Lords or something, but I'm not expecting actual interaction with the other Doctors. Guess we'll see Saturday. :) Been meaning to one day enter the waters of Big Finish, and while I intended to regardless, that bit in the minisode certainly made it more necessary.

  3. Are you sure it's John Hurt from 'I, Claudius'? It looks more like 'Crime and Punishment' to me. I heard somewhere they blended the actor's face with a younger publicity image and I think that image might have been from 'Alien'. I'm probably wasting my time trying to find the source of the young War Doctor, but I like answers, dammit!