Friday, November 15, 2013

Friends, Companions I've Known - Review of "The Night Of The Doctor"

I guess we've all had a day to process and come down off our adrenaline highs and knock out the spoiler cobwebs, so here is my review and analysis of "The Night of the Doctor." Spoilers ahead! (but if you still haven't seen it and you want to avoid being spoiled - take seven minutes out of your day to watch it now and then you won't have to worry about it!)

There is so, so much to take away from this little mini-episode, even from the get-go.  First of all, it was GENIUS to have the Doctor's voice heard before you actually saw him.  The Eighth Doctor has existed in audio format for so many years now and that's how most people know him - by his voice.  If we suddenly saw Paul McGann before he started speaking, it would take a moment to realize who it was (especially since he does look a bit different from his appearance in the TV Movie).  But by hearing his voice first, that was enough to remind us who this is and get the fannish-adrenaline-rush going into overdrive.

Next - the Doctor's looking for a companion! Seeing as this is a truncated storyline, everything (of necessity) must happen so fast. But it has no less impact than if there was a whole season for this storyline to play out. The Doctor immediately recognizes Cass as a prime candidate for Team TARDIS.  Cass stayed behind to teleport people off the crashing ship because they were all panicked and frightened.  Cass was likely the only one (or one of a very few) who kept her head long enough to stay at the controls and get everyone else to safety, risking her own life.  The Doctor only takes the very best - and Cass has immediately shown herself to be the very best.

I said this on Tumblr yesterday (inbetween fits of fangirl glee) - I had a hard time imagining the Eighth Doctor as the Doctor who fought in the Time War.  I don't know why that is, because I have no problem with the Fifth Doctor threatening Davros with a gun or the Seventh Doctor cruelly breaking Ace's faith in him in "The Curse of Fenric," - but Eight?  He's just not a soldier to me. To me, he's the one who would stay as far away from the fighting as possible.  And that theory (or belief - whatever) was validated when the Doctor insists that he isn't part of the Time War that has broken out and threatens to destroy the universe.  He wants to stay as far away as possible - but he also wants to help people affected by the horrors of the War.  Problem is - he's a Time Lord.  And Time Lord reputation is severely damaged in the eyes of others in the universe.

Cass doesn't see the TARDIS as a place of safety and refuge - she sees it as just another sign of the war.  It's never really said what kind of ship Cass was on or why it was crashing - but it could be possible that it was full of war refugees escaping a battle-ravaged planet.  She is angry that a Time Lord would dare land on her ship and try to take her into the Time War - even though that's the exact opposite of what the Doctor wants to do!  So angry, in fact, that she would gladly die if it meant taking one of those horrible Time Lords with her.  And, it speaks to the kind of Doctor Eight is, that he stays behind, trying to save the one person who wants to see him die.  It's a powerful moment - full of meaning and characterization and story in just a minute or two.

So, the ship crashes.  The Doctor is dead - but he's landed in the midst of the Sisterhood of Karn.  Now, I've only seen "The Brain of Morbius" once (but it seems I'm due for a revisit), so I'm a little shaky on the details of the Sisterhood.  But everything I need to know, I'm given in this episode.  The Sisterhood knows of Time Lord technology regarding regeneration.  And they have singled out the Doctor as probably the last Time Lord who isn't up to his eyeballs in Time War carnage and battle.  For some reason, they believe that he is the only one who can stop the war before it destroys the universe.  And he's probably been asked before to join the fighting, but he refuses every single time.  But those times, he wasn't dying AND he wasn't given the chance to choose the kind of regeneration he needs to be effective in the war.  And, likely, it's being faced with Cass's dead body that really changes his mind.  He had it in his head to save her, to take her away from the war, to travel in time and space just like he has with all his other companions (which is another reason to include their names - beyond just making Big Finish part of the canon.  Remind us of all those people he's come to love in this regeneration).  But that opportunity - and Cass's life - was stolen away because of the war.  And the Doctor is faced with the fact that he cannot be the Doctor anymore.  Not in the way he has been up to this point.  He can't hide away and let the universe sort itself out because the universe is falling apart.  The universe doesn't need the Doctor anymore - it needs a Warrior.

Thus, he chooses his new regeneration.  And the episode ends with a younger John Hurt reflected in the mirror.  Meaning that this War Doctor probably fought for years upon centuries before the events of "The Day of the Doctor."

Those are the major points I got out of this short episode.  But there is so much more - like the fact that Paul McGann is the best Doctor that never got a fair shake on TV.  To people who've never heard Big Finish, this is a major shock. There are still some who don't count the TV Movie because they hate it so much (and I, being a fan of the TV Movie, still don't get that but whatever) - but I saw more than one person on Twitter and elsewhere lamenting the fact that the Eighth Doctor didn't get a full series - and there were plenty of TV-only Whovians saying these things.  I sort of hope that the response to this mini-episode leads to possibly a spin-off series with the Eighth Doctor.  It doesn't have to supplant the main TV show - maybe just a miniseries in the vein of "Torchwood: Children of Earth" or "Miracle Day" where it's part of the overarching series, but it's also it's own story told over the course of 5-10 episodes and that's it.  If anything, "The Night of the Doctor" proves that there is more we could see from Paul McGann and there are people clamoring for it! (over one million YouTube views in one day?! You don't get that kind of response from something that nobody wants or cares about!)

Another thing - and this was pointed out to me on Tumblr yesterday, but it bears repeating (oh, does it bear repeating!) There has been a lot of complaining that the 50th Anniversary isn't so much a celebration of 50 years as it is a celebration of just the past eight years of New Who.  Doctor Who fandom, sadly, has divided itself into factions of Classic Who fans, New Who fans, Big Finish fans, Torchwood fans, Tennant fans, Matt Smith fans, Eccleston fans, Moffat fans, and RTD fans and probably others that I'm not aware of.  And, personally, I kind of hate that because I love all of Doctor Who (well, okay, I'm not huge into Torchwood, but I don't actively hate on the show or its fans).  But for seven glorious minutes, the entire fandom fell in love with the show again. There was no complaining or carping or kvetching (that's become my new favorite word, by the way) or divisions or factions - there was just celebrating.  There was no "My Doctor is better" or "This writer was better" or "I miss when so-and-so was on the show."  It was all "Isn't Doctor Who awesome?!" Now, if there was any complaining - it's that we wanted more Eighth Doctor, but it wasn't so much "complaining" as it was wishing for something good to come back. But my point stands - there is no Classic Who or New Who or Big Finish Who. There is just Doctor Who.

And it was Steven Moffat that made it all happen.

Oh man, "The Day of the Doctor" is going to be so cool!

Librarian in the TARDIS - Reviews of the Eighth Doctor -

Review 8.01 - Mostly Dead is Slightly Alive (TV: Doctor Who the Movie)
Review 8.02 - The Not-So-Dark-Mystery of Time and Space (Audio: Invaders from Mars)
Review 8.03 - "What Are You Going To Do Now?" "I'm Going to... Somewhere That Isn't Copyright Infringement!" (Prose: EarthWorld)

Here's an excellent interview with Steven Moffat about "The Night of the Doctor" - from which came a quote about Big Finish, which kind of makes me think that they may get the rights to do New Who stories eventually (fingers crossed!)

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