Spoilers : The Night of the Doctor

14 Nov

SPOILERS AHEAD

Well, as most of you will have picked up, I have more than a little affection for a television show that next week celebrates its 50th anniversary – Doctor Who. I’ve tried to unlike it more than once, but some supernatural force always brings me right back again and I become child-like in my mesmerism and sheer enjoyment for a programme that long ago stopped being the programme I grew up on. Heck, while I was growing up in the 80s and early 90s it was already vastly different from the show that I enjoyed on VHS tapes of Pertwee and Tom Baker. So when it has evolved I have simply accepted it – just the same way I accept that James Bond is able to pick his face off a rack as and when required (that is what he does, isn’t it?).

The ramping up of celebrations is bringing out a bit of the fan in all of us, though I still think that considering the birthday is on 23rd November that the celebrations should continue throughout 2014 as the real 50th YEAR (who celebrates their 50th birthday while they’re still only 49?). The return and release of 11 previously missing episodes of Patrick Troughton Who last month via iTunes was a genuine thrill for which I very happily paid the price.

This morning the BBC released a mini-episode prequel that very quickly establishes the context of the John Hurt Doctor that had folk in such a tizzy over at the end of the last series, and who is central to the 50th anniversary multi-Doctor story. And The Night of the Doctor doesn’t disappoint either because it looks like Stephen Moffat has been listening to the fan cries and kept up his rule of ‘Moffat lies’ and brought back another ‘classic’ Doctor in the form of the 8th – Paul McGann.

In just under 7 minutes at least part of the mystery of the Hurt Doctor is resolved, and fans get something we were denied when Russell T Davies relaunched the series in 2006 – the continuation of the McGann storyline which was abandoned in 1996 following the ill-fated Tv movie. Moffat quickly builds on our sketchy knowledge of the Time War, brings back some mythology from the Tom Baker era (which with the Zygons back for the 50th we know he’s doing then too), and gives a substantial and significant shout out to the McGann Big Finish audio productions which would bring them all into the ‘canon’ too. Well, except for Unbound which are meant to be counter-canon anyway.

Its a hell of a lot to do in such a short space of time, and Moffat proves that the show can still achieve reams when it wants. Moffat does these nods to the past well (remember Time Crash) and leaves the audience wanting more. I love that McGann has made a success of being an audio Doctor, much as Colin Baker has been able to rebuild his Doctor’s reputation in the format, but he is such an engaging and watchable actor that to be denied yet more screen time is a tragic shame.

Russell T Davies successfully made Doctor Who spin-offs a possibility with both The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood (and with Bob Baker also exploiting the possibilities of K-9 for Disney) and it is clear that there are two significant gaps which could be spun-off from the new Moffat tinkerings. Requests for a Time War series have been raised by fans ever since the introduction of Christopher Eccleston as the 9th Doctor, and now there are two possibilities – a prequel run with Paul McGann at the TARDIS’ helm, or a ‘War Doctor’ run with John Hurt (and one can only hope that they do exploit that in audio at some stage at least).

It is possible that a “Doctor Who: Time Wars” mini-series might be too confusing for more general audiences (why are there two Doctors on tv mummy?… Wait, are you my mummy?), most children will be familiar with the idea of different Doctors from tv re-runs and DVDs anyway (heck, I was able to accept it when I was a kid long before I saw a regeneration episode – we’re not as thick as folk sometimes think), and it would certainly be fascinating to have TWO Doctors in their 50s on television, but perhaps a better space would be for cinema – the long-rumoured movie development could continue the established franchise with a series of “Time War” movies (ie. with the bigger budget demanded by cinema) featuring either McGann or Hurt (at least one of each please).

We’re so used now to the flitting of timelines, and prequels and sequels being produced out of sequence (X-Men, Star Wars, Star Trek etc etc etc) that it shouldn’t be impossible. And both actors are accomplished in film. And while its unlikely that Eccleston will don the leather jacket again (unless both he and Moffat lied and the BBC has managed to keep a small return from him in the 50th a secret which IS possible) based on his previous comments, Eccleston too has shown his ability in cinema before.

A (fan) boy can dream, but dreams can also occasionally become reality as The Night of the Doctor has suggested. As fans, we have been truly spoiled in the last few months, but we’re clamouring for more because there has been a bit of a dearth of new ‘Nu’ Who this year. With Peter Capaldi waiting in the wings, come January 1st, 2014, we will have had new visual episodes from The First Doctor (via the Adventure In Time and Space docudrama airing next week), The Second Doctor (return of The Enemy of the World and most of The Web of Fear), The Eighth Doctor (the mini Night of the Doctor), The War Doctor and Tenth Doctor (Day of the Doctor), The Eleventh Doctor and the debut of the Twelth Doctor. That’s pretty good going by anyone’s expectations – 7 Doctors in one year. And sure by Christmas our beloved Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy will be entertaining the world in the second Hobbit film too.

The fans don’t really care that the classic Doctors are getting older and bigger, but in the anniversary year they do want to see the entire run embraced, and their own Doctor getting his moment. And we do love our multi-Doctor stories. Its like the old Universal monster movies – the more the merrier.

Please Mr Moffat…. please…

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