TV REVIEW: DOCTOR WHO ‘THE NIGHT OF THE DOCTOR’
THIS CONTAINS ALL THE SPOILERS SO WATCH IT FIRST
Written by: Steven Moffat
Directed by: John Hayes
Welcome back to canon Paul McGann. Everyone knew that there was going to be a couple of mini episodes of Doctor Who in the build up to the big 50th anniversary show but I don’t think anyone was quite expecting this. Well, some people probably were but they’re probably the type of person who loves saying “I told you so.”
We saw the beginning of the Eighth Doctor back in the TV movie in 1996 and now we’ve seen his demise. It really is amazing how they’ve managed to create what feels like a well realised universe for this version of the character who we have, in reality, seen so little.
This Doctor is on the edges of the Time War, refusing to fight but now not trusted by others as Time Lords now have a reputation as bad as the Daleks. If only you had sorted it at the Genesis, Doctor. That means he is unable to rescue potential companion Cass from a crashing space ship after answering her distress call. Instead her refusal and fear of him means the ship crashes, getting them both killed in the process.
The Doctor is always defined by his companions and it is powerful to see here that someone he tries to save looks upon him with disgust. Time Lords have become the scourge of the universe, responsible for the death of millions. In this world there is no place for The Doctor as we know him.
The Doctor’s death by spaceship doesn’t last long as he has crashed up on the planet of the Sisterhood of Karn last seen in the Fourth Doctor episode ‘The Brain of Morbius’.
They protect the Elixir of Life and the Sacred Flame (I assume those are pretty important to the universe) and offer the Doctor the chance to determine his next regeneration. He can’t be the Good Man any more and must go to war to save the universe. So he regenerates into a warrior Doctor, one who is willing to do the things that the others won’t, take the decisions that mean saving the universe. The Doctor as seen at the end of ‘The Name of the Doctor’ was old. Here as briefly glimpsed, he regenerates as a young man.
There’s also some very nice attention to detail as in a David Tennant style, the Doctor gets all sentimental about his companions before he regenerates and names them all. They seem to match the Big Finish audio companions and that’s pretty cool. It’ll drive people mad trying to reconcile it all but it’s a very nice touch.
There are all sorts of lovely touches as well. The crash site seems to feature columns from the TARDIS last seen in the TV movie, shame we never got to see inside. The Eighth Doctor’s outfit is similar enough to his movie outing to be recognisable but altogether cooler and more practical, perhaps even more war torn.
We now know where this War Doctor fits into continuity in more detail than we could possibly have imagined. That still means there’s one regeneration missing and given the age of the War Doctor as he appears in ‘The Day of the Doctor’ it would seem that’s not too far away.
Anything Steven Moffat has said about not making this about the fans is clearly nonsense. This is perhaps the most fannish thing ever, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a glorious, silly awesome crowd pleasing episode. The only sad thing is that it leaves you wanting to see even more of Paul McGann as the Doctor.
QUOTES: The Doctor: Charley, C’Rizz, Lucie, Tamsin Molly…friends companions I’ve known, I salute you
– The Doctor refers to companions from the Big Finish audio continuity bringing them into canon