Doctor Who: The Night of the Doctor (14/11/2013)

‘I’m not part of the war, I swear to you, I never was.’ Seven minutes of brilliance that dropped as a surprise a week ahead of the anniversary. For viewers left speculating for months on the identity of the John Hurt Doctor – theories included a pre-Hartnell incarnation, or ‘The Other’ – the question was answered: a hidden regeneration in between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston. Which meant by implication the anniversary special would concern itself with the Time War (confirmed by the trailer that played immediately after this).

That this was all revealed in a mini-episode suggested the anniversary episode itself was going to include even bigger surprises. That Paul McGann returned to the role he last played on screen in 1996 was stunning. Moffat does him proud – this could be an audition piece, as he gets to be funny (‘bring me knitting’), sassy (‘the front crashes first’), defiant, furious, sad, triumphant; full of life one moment, facing death the next. His new costume is superb, too – a reimagining of his TV Movie outfit (just as the TV Movie reimagined McCoy’s): same green coat, waistcoat and cravat – no longer fancy dress (or curly wig), but the real deal. Surely, there were some execs watching this who had a pang of regret that they’d missed the chance for him to play the third Doctor in the special.

Of all the bonus episodes this is the most essential (infinitely more so than the other anniversary minisode The Last Day) – not only because it’s a chance to see McGann give us a TV take on the role after a dozen years playing it for Big Finish, but also because, in some sense, it’s the final end of the “Wilderness Years”, connecting the classic series directly to the revival like a missing link. Given how much McGann’s TV Movie Doctor seemed to be inspired by the Hinchcliffe years, it’s a neat choice to return him to Karn and the Sisterhood. Equally, some of this (‘Because you are the good man, as you call yourself’; ‘I call myself the Doctor’; ‘It’s the same thing in your mind’) is directly linked to The Name of the Doctor and ‘the name you choose is like a promise you make.’ It’s classic and new at once, the perfect bridge into the anniversary.

Next Time: An Adventure in Space and Time



  1. Pingback: Doctor Who episode 814: The Name of the Doctor (18/5/2013) | Next Time...
  2. rocketpilot

    I was aimlessly web surfing late at night when this dropped. Oh well, I thought. I’ll take a quick look. I was knocked out of my chair. “Spoiler culture” has become far too extreme online but there’s something special about being completely surprised and delighted by something.

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