That’s it, ladies and gentlemen! That was the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special! We’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the episode for our upcoming Fan Review article, but since I’m unable to contain my thoughts and feelings on it, I’m just going to jump right in. This is going to be a doozy!
MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW!
What made this episode extra special for me is the fact that it finally (FINALLY!) dealt with the fall of Gallifrey and the true end of the Time War. We’d heard about it throughout the series without ever really knowing what happened or just how the Doctor came to be the one to destroy two entire planets and races. It’s one thing to be told what happened; it’s entirely another to actually see it. (It was also nice to see the Daleks again in all their hateful glory, even if it was only to see them blow up. Yep, I’m a proud Dalek fangirl.)
A lot of fans were incredibly worried about Billie Piper’s role in the special. With the teaser still that was released earlier this month, scores of Whovians were already getting their pitchforks out because “that wasn’t Rose! That’s not OUR Rose!” Well, yes. And that was the point of Piper’s appearance. If the sentience of the Moment had been played by just another actor, it wouldn’t have been personal to either the Doctor or to the fans. It would have just been another A.I. in human form. I loved Piper’s portrayal and the references to the Bad Wolf. This was easily something Moffat could have screwed up, but it was handled pretty beautifully in the end.
John Hurt absolutely nailed the role of the Doctor. He was able to keep the humor and basic personality of the Time Lord we all know and love without aping another actor’s performance or being so far removed that he was unrecognizable (his curmudgeonliness was brilliant). He was very much “The Doctor” instead of “John Hurt Playing The Doctor”. I was hoping to see a little more inner conflict over the choice he had made to end the Time War, but given how set he was til the end to see the deed done it’s understandable that the majority of angst and self-loathing would have run their course. What really cinched him as the Doctor for me was what he said to the Moment towards the end: “Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.” That right there encapsulated everything that the Doctor was even through his later regenerations: a haunted man who wanted nothing more than to drown out his rage and sorrow by helping others escape the same pain he had to endure.
The absolute best part of the entire episode, however, was the interaction between the three Doctors, specifically Tennant and Smith. Since they were united in their dread of Hurt’s Doctor and preferred to remain “children” instead of “growing up”, they played off of each other so beautifully and naturally. Seeing all three of them together, all the same person and yet so incredibly different from each other (the Warrior, the Hero, and the Forgetful One), was a delight. If there was ever a full episode of those three just walking around bantering I would watch it on repeat all day long.
And Tom Baker…oh, Mr. Baker. His exchange with Matt Smith was all at once heartbreaking, moving, hopeful, and an all-around wonderful touch to end the special on a high note (along with the brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi’s eyes and the Doctors all gathered together for that final shot).
All that said, I did have a few quibbles with the special overall.
My biggest issue was the handling of the Doctor’s role in ending the Time War. I completely understand someone wanting to go back and change something they did in their past, especially if that something was as horrible as committing genocide on two species. I also understand that the point of Doctor Who in general is to be hopeful and to show that not all dark days have to remain dark forever. I get that. I love that! But with something this big, I was very, VERY concerned that Moffat would try to basically un-write eight years of a show that has been built around the fact that the main character, while lovable and mercurial in his appearance and personality, is/was a mass murderer. To change that just so the Doctor could feel better about himself I think would have been a gross disservice not only to the Doctor himself, but to the fans. What makes the Doctor so compelling is that he’s not always “the good guy”, that he doesn’t always save everyone. It’s painful for him and for us, but it’s necessary to keep him from being one step away from a Mary Sue. The decision to burn both Gallifrey and the Daleks was not a light one, nor one that was easy to live with, but it was a gamechanger that helped shape the Doctor into the madman with a box that we all know now. What kind of man would he become if Gallifrey wasn’t destroyed by his own hand? Certainly not the same Doctor we’ve been watching for the past eight years.
However, although I was iffy about that plot point, I think it ended relatively well, even if I personally am not entirely happy with it. After all, this is Doctor Who, so maybe I’ll have my mind changed somewhere along the way with the next Doctor.
There were also a few things that weren’t entirely wrapped up that bothered me, the girl with the scarf at U.N.I.T. being one of them. When she and her doppelganger were talking while Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and the Zygons were hammering out a peace treaty, they exchanged their shared inhaler. One of them made a “shushing” gesture. Why? Nothing like that in television is done without bearing some sort of significance, so why was that written in? It was no secret the girl (did we even learn her name?) used an inhaler, so why the gesture and the secretive smile?
And maybe I missed something, but what exactly caused Hurt’s regeneration? Did he get caught in some kind of nuclear fallout that everyone else was immune to? Seriously, I don’t remember if this was addressed during Eccleston’s run or not or if I just zoned out during the explanation in the special.
And why did U.N.I.T. pick up the TARDIS to begin with? It’s not like it hasn’t been left in the middle of nowhere before, so why the big hoopla about it now? Why not just pick up the phone and give the Doctor a ring like Winston Churchill and others have done in the past?
The subplot with Elizabeth I also bugged me. I mean, I get it, but why was it necessary? In series three and four it was mentioned that the Doctor had had some kind of fling with her, but it was always left more as a joke than anything of import. But again, this is Doctor Who, so even the little things from the past can be brought back later. It just seemed more superfluous than anything.
WHEW! That was a lot of hot air from me. I’d really love to hear what everyone else thought about the special! I can only handle so much from Tumblr before I get overwhelmed.
About Reporter Michelle Lawhorn:
Michelle, a.k.a. Stormraven, is what can only be described as an eclectic nerd. Her interests and expertise range from Doctor Who to Lord of the Rings, cosplay to comics, and Bollywood to opera to name just a few. When not raving about her “fandoms”, she can be found working on projects as an Associate Editor at Haven Publishing and adding to her ever-growing list of Things to Cosplay. She can currently be found searching for more material to feed her newfound obsession with Star Wars.