Earlier this afternoon, Twitter basically erupted in a massive burst of Whovian energy. Why? Well, if you haven’t already seen what all the fuss is about, check out this link and read onwards, faithful Girly and Boy Geeks.
Watched it… okay, now I’ll continue. I’m going to be cheesy and use the strapline from Paul McGann’s first television outing as the eighth incarnation and say “He’s Back And It’s About Time”. Yes, welcome back to Mr McGann who, thanks to the scripting assistance of Steven Moffat, begins to bridge the gap not only “The Name Of The Doctor” and the forthcoming “The Day Of The Doctor”, but also between where we left “Eight” in 1996 and the mythical Time War that has loomed large of the programme since 2005.
So, what do we get from this minisode. Well, following the pre-amble with the character of Cass, we are re-introduced to the eighth Doctor. Not looking like, or fully behaving like, his long-locked Byronesque incarnation of the TV movie or the more hardened leather jacket wearing interpretation that has been used to promote the “Dark Eyes” mini-series released by Big Finish productions. This Doctor is an interpretation that appears to tread a path between the two. Yes, this version has “Eight’s” humour, but it’s more spiky and sarcastic than McGann’s portrayal in the 1996 tele-movie as though he’s showing the beginnings of the damage and weariness of the Time War.
That said, even in this short episode, the eighth Doctor still seeks to live up to the ideals that his adopted name represents by looking to help Cass from her craft, but this is a man who is now caught in the crossfire of the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks and the ensuing destruction of the War. For those of you who remember David Tennant’s last story, “The End Of Time”, the tenth Doctor basically comes out and states that his own people stopped being the non-interventionists that existed within the “Classic” version of “Doctor Who” and became as big as warmongers as the Daleks, and this becomes clear in Cass’s reaction and willingness to not only destroy the Doctor but herself also in the crash.
For “Classic” series fans, there is the big geek moment when we find out that the Doctor and Cass have crashed on Karn, home of the Sisterhood that featured in the 1976 story, “The Brain of Morbius”. Once on Karn, the Doctor is temporarily revived, but only so that he can be offered a symbolic “pact with the devil” by the Sisterhood to save the universe by moving from the sidelines and becoming a participant in the Time War that he seeks to avoid. McGann convincingly portrays this dilemma as he tries to remain the “good man” that the Doctor represents, something that can act as a parallel to the sixth series episode “A Good Man Goes To War” where the eleventh Doctor admits that he no longer sees himself as a good man because he has to bind himself to rules to at least impersonate being a good man.
It seems that the eighth Doctor is willing to sacrifice his own life to maintain his own personal code of honour, but all he needs is a little push to move him away from this code, and Moffat cleverly makes this push the death of Cass. Whilst he doesn’t care appear to care about the carnage which the Time Lords and Daleks inflict on each other, the Doctor is affected by the death of innocents and from the moment when he witnesses the dead Cass, his fate is sealed as he becomes a man with nothing to lose. Gone is “The Doctor” to be replaced by a man who is a “Warrior” or, based on the behaviour of the Sisterhood, a hired gun and, in some respects, as much a victim of the Time War as Cass as the Doctor’s soul is “killed”.
Prior to this though, Steven Moffat plays another fandom trump card by referencing the eighth Doctor’s companions from the Big Finish productions audio range in Charley Pollard, C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew and Molly O’Sullivan. One of things that I find intriguing about these references is that he salutes these companions in the nature of comrades in arms rather than friends, even though he uses the word “friends”. Although I’m not fully versed in all of the companions of the audio range, I enjoyed the adventures of the eighth Doctor and Charley. Their relationship was based on friendship and, to some extent a platonic love, and I believe that Charley would be horrified by this choice to cast off what we traditionally know as the traits of the Doctor in favour of this “War Doctor”, or as the new incarnation states, “Doctor no more”.
So, what of the future for the “War Doctor”? We know that he eventually becomes what we traditionally know as the ninth, and subsequently, tenth and eleventh incarnations of the Doctor who carries the emotional and psyhological baggage following the events of the Time War, which includes a new set of rules of engagement when facing his adversaries – darker, less willing to broker a peaceful solution, and who uses the “Classic” template of the Doctor as a mask for the damaged man within and the people who ally with him as weapons in his arsenal. A man that River Song berates in “A Good Man Goes To War” as somebody who inadvertently changes the meaning of “Doctor” from “wise man” and “healer” to “mighty warrior”.
Will the events of “The Day Of The Doctor” show how the good man who went to war became the man who has had to be put back together again with the love and companionship of the likes of Rose Tyler, Martha Jones, Donna Noble, the Ponds and Clara Oswald?
This minisode has given tantalising hints to the events that may unfold on the 23rd November. One thing’s for certain, it’ll be an anniversary to remember.
On a side subject relating to the fiftieth anniversary celebrations, the docu-drama “An Adventure In Space And Time”, written by “Doctor Who” scripter and “Sherlock” co-creator Mark Gatiss, is to be transmitted on Thursday 21st November at 9 pm (UK Time). The trailer for this drama can be found through this link.