Saturday, 23 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.Z: The Day of The Doctor

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Totes epic, brah. From the BBC
"Wow, I wonder what the 50th Anniversary is gonna be like!" What I probably said in around 2004 when I learnt to count and found that Doctor Who was 41 years old.

Saturday, 23rd November, 1963. A little show, pioneered by a Canadian, a 26-year-old woman and a gay asian director, is broadcast on the BBC as a gap-filler between Grandstand and Jukebox Jury. Despite low initial ratings on account of the recent death of US President Kennedy, it would go on to run continuously for 26 years before a spectacular revival series in the early Noughties. Three films, thirty-three seasons and 798 individual episodes later, and we find ourselves at the mercy of the hand of one Steven Moffat as he invites us to share in the 50th Anniversary. In this, my 800th Post, I look at what went right, and what went wrong with this thing. I will try not to spoil, as I know this is going out at weird times and some people may have to catch up, but do be cautious.
     The idea behind a "War Doctor" is one that troubles me greatly, and that seems to have been concocted mainly to allow Moffat to deal with the 13-regeneration limit with Matt's regeneration at Christmas. The endless layers of PR promoting this as "the regeneration The Doctor tries to forget" is totally at an odds with Nine and Ten's characters, both of whom were underlined by the guilt of the War, both in terms of Survivor Guilt and at having been the one to end it. It contradicts pretty much all of Nine's tenure, in fact, from the quiet musings on his people in The End of the World, the brilliant outspill of rage and anger in Dalek, and the quiet resolution and acceptance of his fate in The Parting of the Ways. If anything, the quirky little minisode featuring Paul McGann, Night of the Doctor, makes this worse, because that means that there really is no reason other than Moffat's insulting regeneration-shuffling for it to be John Hurt in the role instead of McGann. It's a narrative and promotional misstep that gave me a lot of misgivings about this episode before it even began - and that's not even taking into account my increasing wearyness when it comes to Moffat's blatantly sexist and queerphobic moments.
     That said, the special did surprise me in that it aimed high and, for the most part, reached it without making too much trouble for itself. It felt quite odd in the way that it blended a plot which was quite epic and large-scale with one that was more run-of-the-mill, giving proceedings a quiet intimacy. The interactions between Doctors Smith, Tennant and Hurt were quite well-written, even if there were one or two off-colour jokes upon their initial meeting. I felt that the three were done well, and were more enjoyable together than apart, especially as Moffat tackled the issues surrounding the Time War in a way which, despite being a clear attempt to negate its effects upon the Whoniverse, didn't feel that insulting towards his predecessor. 0The special to me feels weirdly paradoxical in that blend of grand-stand anniversary and quiet contemplative piece, but the structure of the story itself was quite well thought-out, with not a single introduced element or reference going unused, and this provided the story with quite a fun pace inbetween segments of character bouncing.
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Clara is actually written well! It's a miracle!
From the BBC
     It's still a bit of a continuity nightmare in that one of the defining events of the New Series has essentially been thrown out of the window and taken under Moffat's custody, as well as yet another instance of Moffat bringing in all of the Doctors since Hartnell in on a plot point and re-writing 50 years of Canon for his own little schemes. But despite that, despite the astounding levels of egotistical crap which have gone into the mythos on this one, I'm not sure that I currently mind. Not right now. Because the idea of the The War Doctor, while terrible, was made to work by a combination of an okay script and John Hurt being a fantastic actor. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't the massive ground-breaking, ball-blowing Anniversary that I'd been waiting for. But for some reason, simply because it wasn't as terrible in its substance as it had the potential to be, I'm not walking away from The Day of the Doctor disappointed.
     If you really want a show which'll celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the show, I'd head over to the BBC Bio-drama An Adventure In Space And Time, which, while simplifying things a little for a modern audience, portrays Doctor Who's beginnings in a way which is moving and brilliant. If you want an episode written by Moffat featuring Ten and Eleven that isn't terrible, then I suppose this is the one for you. It got stuff done, didn't fuck it up too badly in the execution - hell, what do I care. It was good television. And for a show that recently's been rather up and down in quality, that in itself is a fantastic thing.

Thanks.

P.S. Those who haven't seen it yet... look out for a surprise appearance by someone you may or may not recognise!

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