Whee! 50th anniversary special Doctor Who, and I think they managed to pull off a suitably epic story. Lots of back references to Old Who, and a mainline plot about one of the big things from New Who. As I generally do with Doctor Who episodes this rest of this post is a not-quite-cohesive collection of things I liked 🙂
(Terminology note: I’m keeping the Doctor numbers the same, and calling Hurt’s Doctor “the War Doctor” instead of 8.5.)
SPOILERS AHEAD! Hover mouse over text to read, or read on entry page:
Given it’s such a big difference between the classic episodes & the new ones I think it needed to be in the anniversary story. And it’s also nice to have it tied up, and the Doctor (and the plot lines) can truly move on now. By making this the focus of the special I also think it compartmentalises it in a way – this is not “New Who Is Not Old Who” this is an episode in the whole story of the Doctor’s life. Yes, it’s a third of his life so far, and it’s going to forever colour his life going forward. But it’s just a part of the whole sweep of continuity. (I’m not sure I’ve managed to get that thought out of my head intact, hopefully you can follow what I mean!)
I liked that the Doctor figures out a way to avoid actually having to burn Gallifrey. I didn’t like the actual plan he came up with coz I don’t think it makes sense but I’m willing to not think about it in detail because I like the higher level story. The 4th Doctor couldn’t bring himself to wipe out the Daleks before they began, the War Doctor feels forced into the genocide of both the Daleks and the Gallifreyans, and the 11th Doctor finds a way to be true to his self and avoid it. Just a shame the “and the Daleks will shoot all of each other” bit doesn’t really hold water :/ The time locking the planet thing also fixes that bit at the end of 10’s run where the Gallifreyans break out. Which 11 remembers, incidentally, but 10 hasn’t got there yet.
For all my quibbles I liked the way everything for the climax was set up earlier on. Same software different casing – and we get the immediate pay off with the screwdrivers & the door, but then the real pay off is in the climax. Paintings that are slices of time locked away – and we get the immediate pay off in the Zygon subplot (twice), but again the real pay off is in the climax. I liked the running themes as well, of memory loss (again pays off finally because the War Doctor has to forget he didn’t kill them all), of “which one is the real one” (and in particular the running gag where 10 keeps telling the real Elizabeth she isn’t).
I loved The Moment, both the concept & the execution! The idea of a weapon so complex it became sentient and developed a conscience is really neat. And so of course it was left over at the end of the war – the Time Lords in general were afraid of being judged and found wanting, behind their rhetoric about the war being necessary. But the Doctor will use it because he already judges himself more harshly than even The Moment will. And continues to judge himself for the next 400 years – the last scene of the previous episode where 11 turns away from the War Doctor saying that he didn’t do it “in my name” shows that. So it makes sense to me that there is this spare weapon of mass destruction, and that the Doctor would be the first to use it.
The interface picked from “your past, or is it your future” made sense too – we’ve seen the TARDIS do that to interact with people before, so it’s a Gallifreyan-tech thing. And nice call back to the TARDIS being confused about past/future/causality when she was put in a human body. I thought Billie Piper did a fantastic job of playing the avatar as alien. And in an out-universe sort of way I liked that they had her back to represent the 9 era, given Eccleston didn’t return.
I also liked the way that this weapon with a conscience engineered the situation so that she would not be used. She nudges the War Doctor into seeing his future if he survives this (as punishment – which I also liked, she chose that as the punishment to fit the crime). And she chooses which future selves he meets and when – setting them up to solve the problem, and nudging things along the way to make sure they do figure out a solution.
There was loads of other stuff I liked too, but I think I’ve wittered on for long enough here 🙂 Looking forward to the next one now!