Tuesday, 19 November 2013

"The Night of the Doctor"

Of all the things I was expecting for the 50th Anniversary, a mini-episode featuring the regeneration of the Eighth Doctor was definitely not one of them. The very tight script by Steven Moffatt manages to connect the 21st century programme with its past, pay homage to a well-known story, and play with the examination of the Doctor’s character that Moffat has been preoccupied with of late. This is all accomplished whilst being as witty and moving as the programme has ever been. In a few lines, we are brought into the summer, or early autumn of the Time War and we find just how devastating it was, and how a good man finally went to war.

Paul McGann agrees to do something that Colin Baker refused to do – return to be killed off – and he immediately makes a stamp on the role, something he (through no fault of his own) failed to do in his debut. It is a very different performance from the wistful weirdo from 1996 and all the better for it – far steelier, but also with a lightness that is slowly being chipped away by the knowledge of what he will inevitably have to do. More importantly, we finally see the Eighth Doctor as a hero for the first time, a man who will not abandon someone for just hating him. Cass, the companion who never was, is strikingly portrayed by Emma Campbell-Jones and the Sisterhood of Karn memorably return, led by the brilliant Clare Higgins as Ohila. John Hayes helms a flawless production - so much is packed into "The Night of the Doctor" and so epic does it feel, it is easy to forget that it is based around two sets and three speaking parts.

I would rather watch any Doctor Who story than the TVM, the only Doctor Who story lacking in anything that be called a soul. So, to call this wonderful seven minute 'minisode' easily the best televised appearance of the Eighth Doctor rings rather hollow. McGann has put in some excellent performances and been given some great stories on audio and, sad though it is that the Eighth Doctor dies in only his second on-screen appearance, he finally has a television appearance as the Doctor he can be proud of.

NEXT: "The Day of the Doctor"