Specials Can Work: Revisiting 2008-10
Guest contributor Dan Peters takes a look at the 2008-2010 specials.
Recently, a rumour has been spreading that for whatever reason, there may be less Doctor Who hitting our screens in 2016. Obviously, this has not been at all confirmed, but if true, many fans would obviously be disappointed. However, I’m raising the argument that some specials throughout the year could work. The 2008-2010 Specials are in my opinion up there with the best of New Who (*cough* Series 4! *cough*). It tied up the Tenth Doctor’s time in the TARDIS perfectly and, practically it gave cast and crew time to work on Series 5, Matt Smith’s first series.
The Next Doctor
The Doctor, last seen grieving at the end of ‘Journey’s End’, is now travelling alone after the events of the episode. I like ongoing idea that the Doctor becomes less grounded without a companion and ‘needs someone to stop him’. The idea that David Morrissey was ‘the next Doctor’ played on the previosu announcement that Tennant was to leave the series. However re-watching it now, in hindsight it takes away from that. It does have many highlights still, the Cybermen are included very well and strangely seem to fit into the Victorian setting, and Dervla Kirwan is great as Miss Hartigan. Out of all the Specials, this is my least favourite, but it works as a Christmas episode, and for that time and audience.
The Planet of the Dead
Merlin’s Michelle Ryan joins the Doctor as Christina in this Easter Special. This also wasn’t a favourite for many and I think it was a shame that the script didn’t live up to the great visuals of filming in Dubai. But I like the use of UNIT and the military presence in the episode. Lee Evans is also a legend as Malcolm. It sets off the ‘He will knock’ arc which links the later specials together. The Doctor decides not to take Christina as a full time companion because he doesn’t want to lose anyone else. It’s sometimes a little too far-fetched and camp (e.g.; the flying bus!), but I think it is a great juxtaposition for what’s to come. A fun slow-burning romp, that fizzes out at the end.
The Waters of Mars
In my opinion, this is not only one of the best stories of David Tennant’s tenure as the Doctor, but also one of the best pieces of Doctor Who I have ever watched. A base under siege is the best type of story plot and the Flood are genuinely menacing. It introduces the Bowie Base Team, a whole new group of characters, kills many of them off and manages to make the audience feel distressed in just under an hour. This is mainly because the cast, including Lindsay Duncan and Humans’ Gemma Chan, are great. The Tenth Doctor knows his death is coming and therefore is not scared to change a fixed point in time, turning into the ‘Time Lord Victorious’, something that I don’t think could be done in a full series. Equally, reaching the end of his time on the show, Russell T Davies was not afraid to go dark, showing a character commit suicide primetime on BBC One. This is the episode that I always end up going back to on DVD!
The End of Time (Parts 1 and 2)
I feel this is now highly underrated. The End of Time is a swansong to not only the Tenth Doctor but also the hugely popular (my favourite Doctor) David Tennant. John Simm’s Master was a perfect adversary and equal to his Doctor, and Bernard Cribbins was a brilliant companion. There are great moments of comedy, tragedy and sadness. Not even the Ood foresaw that Wilfred Mott would lead to the Doctor’s death, but I think it’s so clever, as you believe that he would sacrifice himself for him. Also, it was fun to see old RTD cast members unite. I feel this was huge gift for viewers who had stayed faithful to ‘Who’ throughout the previous five years.
I feel if there was to be a Specials structure to Doctor Who next year, or in the near future, it could work well. Obviously, Series 9 is yet to air so we don’t know what the ongoing arc might be, but I think if we see a return of Gallifrey (which has also been rumoured), a number of movie-style specials would be a great way to shed some light on it. In practical terms it would give Steven Moffat the chance to focus on his other projects like Sherlock, and give the future showrunner (which there surely will be soon) the perfect opportunity to start work on the next series. However I think a bit more than five specials might be in order!
Thanks for reading! I want to know what you think. Tell me in the comments section below.