The following review contains spoilers for the mini episode The Night of the Doctor.
“I’m the Doctor. But probably not the one you expected.”
You can certainly say that again.
I’ve been pretty on top of my game as far as spoilers go, but somehow McGann’s appearance in the mini episode The Night of the Doctor took me completely by surprise. I’ve heard many complaints from the fandom that the 50th anniversary is only featuring the two most recent Doctors and the new John Hurt Doctor, but now we have a bit of the 8th Doctor in our celebration. For those of you who are unaware, McGann played the Doctor in the 1996 movie and is featured in some non-TV canon materials (novels and audio dramas). His inclusion in the prequel has certainly seemed to ease some of the tension. Fans who had been upset over casting and the general direction of the 50th anniversary seemed to walk away from the mini episode satisfied with what they saw.
Of course there are many Doctors who came before McGann who have not been included, most notably Peter Davison who threatened to stage his own celebration with fellow Doctors Baker and McCoy if the BBC didn’t invite him back. The rumor is that he’s involved in some capacity, but probably not as an on screen part. They’ve kept a lid on the extent of his involvement, though, so there could very well be a surprise waiting for us on the 23rd much as there was with McGann and his part in the prequel. I wouldn’t count on it, though. Both Davidson and Steven Moffat have expressed doubts that any of the older Doctors would make an appearance mainly due to their obvious signs of aging. With the McGann surprise, though, anything can happen.
When McGann began to regenerate a small part of me hoped we’d get to see Eccleston again. Of course that doesn’t make sense in any context. Eccleston has stated pretty firmly that he wouldn’t return to Who, we’ve already been shown that the episode will feature John Hurt as the Doctor (now known to be called “The War Doctor”), and the ninth regeneration came at the end of the Time War, not the beginning. That didn’t stop me from loudly shouting “Eccleston?” at my computer monitor when McGann began to change. Sadly this highly illogical hope of mine turned out to not be accurate. Instead we got John Hurt preparing for the Time War. I’m still very conflicted over Hurt, but the regeneration was done well.
The content of the episode itself sets up a wonderfully interesting introduction to the 50th anniversary episode. The Doctor meets Cass, a young girl with the same bravery and determination that is often so pronounced in his chosen companions. Only this time the potential companion outright rejects the opportunity to travel with the Doctor. In fact, she seems disgusted by his entire species. To her the Time Lords are no better than the Daleks. When they crash the Doctor is confronted by the Sisterhood of Karn, which is another throwback to older episodes of Doctor Who. Though I haven’t seen the episodes that first introduce the sisterhood, I appreciate the throwback immensely. The sisterhood recruits the Doctor to stop the Time War. Though he’s reluctant, the very emotional trauma of losing a potential companion and the firm pleas from leader of the sisterhood convince him to finally enter the fray.
There are still some things about the anniversary special that concern me. I’m going to stubbornly refuse to renumber the Doctors. Eccleston is Nine, Tennant is Ten (or “Tennant Doctor”), and Smith will continue to be Eleven. Besides, clocks have been made featuring Capaldi as Twelve. You just can’t go back now. The lack of inclusion of other Doctors worries me, too, though I certainly understand that not everyone could have been involved. Many older Whovians feel left out of the celebration and that’s incredibly sad. Moffat’s general downfall in the quality of writing is a huge concern as well (don’t you think he looks tired?). Though I absolutely adore Matt Smith and all of the companions that have traveled along beside him, the stories he’s creating are beginning to crumble.
This little six minute video pleasantly surprised me and gave me some positive vibes heading into the big event. If the special itself can maintain this level of excitement and respect for Doctors past, all of my worrying may have been for naught. If it keeps this up it’ll be worthy of the importance that the airdate is bestowing upon the episode. This episode is going to be important regardless of content, but I want the content to deserve the weight that it’s being given sight unseen.
All images property of BBC
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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