‘I’ve never met anyone else who could fly the TARDIS like that.’ The most picked-apart Doctor Who sketch since Moffat’s last one is essentially a safe way to reintroduce past Doctors into the 21st Century series. Davison was an obvious choice given both Moffat and Tennant’s liking for the fifth Doctor, and Tom would probably have been too big an event for an eight-minute mini-episode. As it is, this is just right, showing the old series love and respect while also poking fun at it (‘decorative vegetables’ and ‘Time Lords in funny hats’).
The fifth Doctor is about as fifth Doctorish as the first is first Doctorish in Twice Upon a Time. That is to say: the right elements are there (the slightly breathless panic; the sarcastic edge), but they’re slightly caricatured for comic effect – not that it’s a problem: this is, after all, a comedy. It’s also clear that this is written by a fan who’s never bought into the tired “bland” and “effete” characterisations of the fifth Doctor, who’s got an ear for his caustic edge – that seemed softer, in the 1980s, because the cutting remarks were coming from a pleasant, open-faced young man.
This leaves Tennant largely to play the straight man to his crochety, out-of-time predecessor. Predictably, he looks for new aspects to his performance, with a fanboyish element that comes back in The Unicorn and the Wasp. For the most part, he steps back to allow Davison much of the action, watching with nostalgia which might imply the Doctor remembering happier times when he wasn’t the last of the Time Lords and had a TARDIS full of young people, or just Tennant enjoying being on stage with his Doctor.
That’s all really, just two good actors, a script that contains enough references that old and new fans will enjoy (LINDA, the Mara, the Master and his rubbish beard). And a nice lead into the Christmas Special.
Dr Who will return in Voyage of the Damned
Next Time: The Lost Boy – Part Two