So now that I’ve calmed down just a little bit…
That was amazing.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that Steven Moffat is a fantastic writer. He might not be the best showrunner in the world, but he’s cranked out some absolutely killer stories; the single episodes Blink and The Eleventh Hour, two parters like The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, and even a short mini-episode, Time Crash. As opposed to the comedy of seeing David Tennant and Peter Davison opposite one another, The Night of the Doctor is pure drama, seven minutes that tell the tale of the final days of the Eighth Doctor.
I had no idea that The Night of the Doctor was being released, so when several of my Whovian friends dropped me an e-mail at work screaming “WATCH THIS NOW,” I told my boss that I needed to get in touch with my doctor and closed the door to my office. When I heard Paul McGann’s voice, my jaw dropped, and stayed there for a pretty good amount of time as he said “I’m a doctor. Just not the one you were expecting.”
With Colin Baker saying “no one included us” and Paul McGann saying he wasn’t involved in the 50th anniversary, this was an amazing moment. It’s incredibly hard to keep spoilers secure in this day and age, but no one, and I mean NO ONE, saw this coming. McGann didn’t miss a beat or miss a step. As soon as he spoke, he was the Eighth Doctor from the TV movie and the Big Finish line. Heck, for my fourth rewatch, I closed my eyes and listened to the episode like it WAS a Big Finish audio, and it really could have been one…
We’re expecting the standard “Doctor rescues companion, they escape, adventures are to be had,” but for the first time, the line “it’s bigger on the inside” stopped someone cold. Cass realizes just who her rescuer is, and it INFURIATES her to the point that she would rather sacrifice her life than be rescued by a Time Lord. That little bit of writing right there spoke louder than some novels. She’s not scared, or worried, or willing to compromise. She would rather burn to death on her gunship than step foot inside a Time Lord vessel. After all, Time Lord, Dalek, what’s the difference? And that little bit of writing, to me, tells the whole story about the Time War in a way that even the biggest budgeted television program never could. It’s the perfect case of “show, don’t tell.” The universe is burning, and even in the face of death, Cass won’t let its destroyer be her savior.
The Sisterhood of Karn. Wow. Moffat knows his history and lore, and bringing back the witches from “The Brain of Morbius” was a nice touch. Even in the face of death, the Doctor is defiant when he learns how long he has to live. (“Four minutes? That’s ages! What if I get bored and I need a television or a couple of books? Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting.”) But when he realizes that the universe has no place for a man like him if there’s any hope for life and time to continue…
How many times have we seen the Doctor risk his life for a stranger? Self-sacrifice is a running theme in Doctor Who. But here’s a Doctor who has spent his life on the fringes of the Time War, doing what he can while avoiding fighting. I’m sure that the Doctor has done good, has saved lives and changed worlds…but with the universe burning, does it matter anymore? When just the mention of the word “TARDIS” makes someone sacrifice themselves to kill a Time Lord, is there a place for a “good man” anymore?
If you’re listened to the Eighth Doctor Adventures and the follow-up serials that comprise the Dark Eyes arc, you know that Eight is beaten and broken. He’s seen companions die. He’s seen the Daleks march across reality. He’s worn out.
And…doesn’t he look tired?
This is a regeneration the Doctor is willing to make. This isn’t a case where “the new regeneration fixes the flaws of the last Doctor.” This is a case where the Doctor says “a Warrior is what is needed.” To me, it’s not that the universe doesn’t need a Doctor. It’s that this universe doesn’t DESERVE a Doctor. All that’s left, apparently, are the Time Lords and the Daleks, and those who are caught in the middle don’t want either of them assisting or helping them. In seven minutes, Moffat has laid it all out. The Time Lords and the Daleks are exactly the same, and no one knows which is which anymore. The Doctor spent his whole life running from the Time Lords and fighting the Daleks. Now, it’s his sacrifice, his decision, to become, at last, a full-fledged Time Lord.
That is what chilled me more than anything.
Hearing the names of his Big Finish companions, though…Charley, Cr’izz, Lucie, Tamsin, Molly…the time and effort that Big Finish had put in was vindicated and justified as far as I’m concerned. Paul McGann’s brilliant audio work was given the recognition it deserved, and if this causes people to go check out the web site and download some Eighth Doctor audios (they’re on sale right now!), then that’s all the better.
And, as far as I’m concerned? This means The Chimes of Midnight is now canon.