The Night of the Doctor Review
John Hussey gives his verdict on the 50th anniversary mini episode.
The 50th Anniversary is fast approaching now with only one week to go before we mark the milestone of Doctor Who’s vast legacy. And what better way to get the party started and our double heartbeats pumping than to throw in a prelude story to ‘The Day of the Doctor’ that includes a very familiar face, one who hasn’t been onscreen since 1996.
I was just as shocked as everyone else when I discovered that Paul McGann was indeed back for an appearance within the 50th year. In fact I’d go as far to say that I was blooming excited to see his face again! Just when all hope had left me about the appearance of any Classic Doctor’s in the flesh and then wham! Moffat pulls the rug from underneath our feet once again with this surprise appearance. And not only that we finally see closure to McGann’s Doctor; something fans have wanted since the show’s return in 2005.
The story itself was straight forward. A space-pilot called Cass was about to die as her ship came plummeting towards a planet. Asking for a Doctor, the Eighth Doctor miraculously appeared behind with the brilliant opening line of, “I’m a Doctor. But probably not the one you were expecting.” With that the Eighth Doctor tried endlessly to save Cass but upon discovering that her would-be saviour was in fact a Time Lord, she decided to reject his help knowing too well he was a part of a foul race that had become no better than the Daleks due to the ongoing Time War. In order to prove he was not like the others, nor even a part of the War, the Eighth Doctor decided to stay aboard with Cass while at all times trying to persuade her that he wished to help her. This event ultimately led to his death and the reasoning behind his regeneration.
It was a nice little piece, written brilliantly once again by Moffat himself, and gave a wonderful little ending to the Eighth Doctor era (which still continues within the Big Finish Audio Adventures – marking McGann as the longest serving Doctor in a Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey kind of a way). The sequence was just jam-packed with nostalgia with McGann’s return being at the centre of it. Then we get the surprise return to Karn (last seen in ‘The Brain of Morbius’ onscreen and in ‘Sisters of the Flame’ and ‘The Vengeance of Morbius’ within the Big Finish Audio Adventures) where we see the Sisterhood of Karn once again plaguing the Doctor (at least this time they offer him life unlike trying to take it from him upon their first meeting in ‘The Brain of Morbius’). The last piece of call-back was during the Eighth Doctor’s final moments were we hear him acknowledge of all his companions he had travelled with within that incarnation, which finally shows that Big Finish is canon within the main series due to this.
‘The Night of the Doctor’ was very dark and upsetting due to the circumstances for Eight’s end. He died trying to convince a person that he was the ‘Doctor’, a man of healing and a man of good things. The Doctor tried to make a point that he was different to his race, a major call-back to his long life and adventures trying to escape the codes of his people and the reasons he ran away from Gallifrey in the first place. Alas, this brought his downfall in more ways than one. The Sisterhood of Karn suspended his apparent death and offered him the choices of different bodies the Eighth Doctor could take within his next life in order to fight within the Last Great Time War. At first he refused and insisted on being himself, a charming young hero who wishes to save lives wherever he can whilst keeping the persona of a young child who wishes to have fun and be funny or sarcastic whenever the time called for it. His lines mocking the Sisterhood was a great example of this:
The Eighth Doctor: Hang on. Is it you? Am I back on Karn? You’re the Sisterhood of Karn. Keepers of the Flame of utter boredom.
Ohila: Eternal life.
The Eighth Doctor: That’s the one.
Unfortunately though in the end the Eighth Doctor brought about the beginning of darkness; bringing to life the Oncoming Storm who would bring about the end of the Time War in the harshest way possible. It’s sad that he finally realised that he would have to go to war otherwise others would die over and over again. This decision even made him realise that there was no more need for a Doctor.
The Eighth Doctor finally saw closure onscreen (at last!) and we finally discovered who the John Hurt Doctor was. According to Moffat he wasn’t 8.5 which in fact is true (so to speak). As he stated within his recent interview, and as we see in the story, the War Doctor rejected his name and thereby just became an unnamed incarnation of the Doctor. Though the question still remains whether or not this counts as an incarnation of the Time Lord’s life? Although he rejects the name and doesn’t get a number ranking like the rest of the Doctor’s he still is an incarnation. So does this mean the Doctor is actually one step closer to death than we all first thought? Even though after the War Doctor the following incarnations are referred to as Ninth, Tenth and so on, the War Doctor is still the ninth incarnation which means Eleven could be on his penultimate life. Is this what Moffat meant by game-changing events into the future of the show? I guess we’ll have to wait and see (and at least it isn’t a long wait now).
Either way ‘The Night of the Doctor’ was a brilliant beginning to the 50th Anniversary Special ‘The Day of the Doctor’. It was filled with nostalgia, which is what you want during the Anniversary – call-backs to the past as well as moving the show forward, with the wonderful return of McGann as the Eighth Doctor and all the nice treats in-between. Like he was never away from his role, McGann stepped back onscreen and shined as he gave his incarnation one hell of a send off just in time for 50 years of the show. As said above, at least his adventures shall continue further within his Big Finish adventures. Roll on now ‘The Day of the Doctor’ as we see the Eleventh and Tenth Doctor confront their darkest secret and darkest day.