Before I begin looking at this I just want to lay something down. Viewers of this special can be largely sorted into 2 camps; those who want to see a nod to the remaining living classic Doctors or those who don’t care aslong as the new series is served. Well I put myself into the former; – the classic fan.
So at the end of this, as a fan of the classic show – was I left satisfied with what was on offer tonight? Well, in a word – no!
Tom Baker aside, which was a nice touch and proved that the ‘old guy still got it’ – didn’t fulfill this. Leaving some dodgy stock footage of the rest of the other Doctor’s as they appeared in a Tardis each, to ‘hide’ Gallifrey from the Timewar ( really!). They did this much more effectively at the beginning of The Name Of The Doctor with Clara visiting all of the old incarnation’s, so tonights nod was……poor!
Which, whilst everyone post Tom Baker is still alive; its a real shame, as if they had been dead you would have thought – “if only they had been alive they could of taken part”. But problem was post Davidson – they aren’t!
Not for a minute am I suggesting that Colin Baker squeeze his ample frame back into the technicolour dreamcoat from hell, no sir! But they could of just had the three (or four of them) of them sitting on a park bench, maybe watching the Tardis land in Trafalgar square and say a really obvious Who line – “Who on earth was that?”. Etc.
Yes thats how other shows do it. It wouldn’t have been any more confusing to do this. I mean heck! They all wanted to be part of it. And bar Paul McGann’s 6 minute regeneration film – Night Of The Doctor – they were all surplus to requirements.
So what did that leave then? Well the more interesting Time War story was largely shelved in favour of some guff about the Zygons taking over Earth by hiding in 3D paintings. It felt like 2 half stories thrown together. Why did the Zygons need to be in it?
The Zygons SFX did look pretty good though. Reminiscent of the classic look sported in Terror Of The Zygons – 1975 but with a modern twist. The transformation scene with the alien spitting blood/goo was quite gruesome. But what was the point of 25 minutes taken up with them?
And when we did get to the Time War it was right at the end of the battle. A fight with a few daleks on a pile of rubble. The Timelord’s legendary last stand. Where was the C.G.I dogfight in space with thousands of Tardis’s against the Dalek ships?
Where was the Nightmare Child? The Skaro Degradations? The Army of Meanwhiles and Neverweres led by the Could’ve Been King? The Horde of Travesties? Or any of the other interesting titbits about the war covered in End Of Time – 2009 by Tennant in one of his final speeches. What a missed opportunity to have a massive ‘war’ episode.
So the John Hurt character – who has ‘unofficially’ or ‘officially’ (hard to tell!) regenerated from Paul Mcgann in Night Of The Doctor has been fighting the timewar for a millennia and is understandably knackered.
With Gallifrey about to fall under the dalek onslaught, JH decides to nick a Timelord doomsday device which will wipeout both sides – and end the war.
Which, in the past he did do – (hence the constant angsty moping by the Doctor’s in post 2005 series!).
But this time, Smith, alongside Tennant – turn up to stop JH from pressing the button. Initially offering to help him start the doomsday device – but then devising the ‘freeze Gallifrey’ plan instead.
Which unfortunately, was a massive cop out and about turn on the last 8 years of the Doctor acting like a mopey kid; due to being the last of his race.
And this is where the new series sits so uncomfortably with the old series. In that, Ecclestone was only brought in as a big name to reboot the show in 2005; when McGann would have been the better Doctor (hell! The guy lives and breathes the Who fan circut!).
So they had to go from McGann to Ecclestone somehow, and write in the Timewar which underpinned all of the new series – and give the Doctor his pathos for the modern series.
With Ecclestone’s problematic 50th anniversary non-appearance (he didn’t want to be in it!) they decided to go for an in-between character to fill the gap. And John Hurt’s ‘War Doctor’ was devised – as another big name guest star turn.
Wouldn’t it have been better to invite McGann back to be the John Hurt character? He really does shine in that 6 minute – Night Of episode and deserves a bigger crack of the Who whip.
It was good to have Tennant back though, as he showed once again what a good Doctor – he was. It reminded us of how much better the show was 5 years ago. But this in itself was problematic as it showed Smith up – as it was glaringly obvious Tennant is the better Doctor!
The humour at times, seemed wedged in with a crowbar. Why spend 5 minutes of the episode on a joke featuring Tennant castigating a rabbit? But the verbal sparring between Tennant and Smith was fun! (Sandshoes? LMAO!).
Unfortunately, I don’t believe history will be that kind to Smith’s doctor – in 20 years he won’t be no. 2 in the poll. 25 years ago McCoy was voted greatest Doctor. Now, he would do well to avoid last place. Time is fickle for a Timelord.
Back to the episode, also going – was an underused appearance by Billie Piper as the “Bad Wolf Girl” – a vision sent to guide the JH doctor – which no one else could see. Not even Tennant, who asked JH who the Bad Wolf Girl was that he kept mentioning? He didn’t get an answer though – and Tennant strangely never asked about it again.
A brief reunion with Rose would have been a nice send off for Tennant. Even Malcolm Tucker’s brief appearance as no.13 – was cheese factor 10.
They also went back to Coalhill school – (Granddaughter Susan’s school in the first episode – An Unearthly Child)as Clara was teaching there at the beginning.
Other touches included a UNIT girl scientist wearing a Tom Baker scarf amd Tennant repeating his “I don’t want to go!” line at the end. And a bunch of Gallifreyan art – bigger on the inside of the painting, etc?
By the way what is the deal with Clara? She acts half the time like she doesn’t care about anything, and emotionally on the level of a robot. She is never overwhelmed by anything, (not even the potential genocide of the human race!) – but she is just kind of – there; in the background, hanging around.
So tonight was a decidedly confusing, mis-mash of 2-3 different half baked stories with no cohesion and all style and no substance. If this was meant to celebrate and sign off the last 50 years – it failed.
Its other problem was – it was unlikely it was ever going to live upto the hype after a buildup of 6 months (or 50 years!) and on its own merits doesn’t stand up as anything more than a filler.
Moffat’s writing is like a calamatous mix of ideas and twists which bump along at breakneck speed – half of which you miss because your trying to concentrate on breathing aswell as watching.
What happened to the better idea of going into the Doctor’s timeline on Trenzalore, explored in The Name Of The Doctor? They could of then visited loads of classic scenes from episodes in the past 50 years? Digitised Matt Smith into a few old epi’s? It wouldn’t have looked great but would have been a nice tribute. This episode began like all of that business with the impossible girl hadn’t happened.
If I had paid £10 in the cinema to see this in 3D, I would probably have felt ripped off. “Think about the Children [of Gallifrey]” was the message from tonights episode. And the show clearly has children in mind with potboiling drivel like this – that looks pretty but has no point.
But what about when Malcolm Tucker takes over in the Tardis? Will Who go a bit darker? As the boring Matt Smith prat falls won’t wash with this new incarnation – they will have to change it. And christ! Not a moment too soon.
Again this is the view of a classic series fan who felt underserved tonight, if you only know the new series or are 7 years old – you will probably love it!
Did I mention it was nice to see Tom Baker again? Rant over.