Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dr Stu on Dr Who: How Night of the Doctor Saved the 50th For Me

It's fair to say my attitude to the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary so far had been bah-humbug. With very few new episodes being aired (the Series 7 episodes we got were left-overs from last year, and only 2 episodes have been filmed this year), the sole announcements of only the returns of the Tennant doctor was mildly interesting but the return of Billie "I think I've returned to Doctor Who enough" Piper had me despairing. Meanwhile An Adventure in Space and Time seemed more like a curio than a replacement for the other 11 or so episodes we normally get in a year, and it seemed there is no shortage of tacky merchandise being released so the Beeb can apparently milk the show and minimize their annual output of the actual show. In fact even the finding of the Web of Fear and the Enemy of the World only served to enhance my cynicism, which could be summed up as, "Gee, if only the BBC had had TV channels to show these recovered episodes on instead of being forced to release them on iTunes for £9.99 a pop."

Incidentally I still expect Episode 3 of the Web of Fear to be found in time for a double-dip DVD release. So does Frazier Hines apparently.

My only real hope was for Big Finish's Light at the End, a celebratory audio featuring Doctors 1-8, which I bought the Limited Edition Deluxe release (naturally it came in 3 releases of increasing price, the Limited Edition is the mid-range at £40), as I like the 8th Doctor - who sadly has not had any other Big Finish release since November 2012. (During the Tennant-march-of-Death specials year McGann's Big Finish output was huge).

It was good by the way. Doctor 8 teams up with Doctor 4. Whoop!

Anyway, last Thursday I came back to my office from teaching a class to find on my feed a review of something called the Night of the Doctor from Stuart Reviews Stuff (another Stuart, not me, he makes much better reviews) with an image of the new-look 8th Doctor crumpled on a rock, bleeding. 6 minutes later I think I went through the highlight of the anniversary - if they cancelled the special now I'd shrug and say, "Oh well, at least we got Night of the Doctor."

He was very cagey when I said it was
a shame he wasn't in the 50th.
Now you might think this was a massive spoiler but during a visit to the Doctor Who experience I got chatting to one of the chaps who worked there while buying some souvenirs. He listed off all the doctors he'd met, and mentioned Paul McGann had filmed some material for one of 5 mini-episode prologues to the 50th - enough for a fleeting cameo. I was skeptical, saying Paul had tweeted he wasn't involved but the guy seemed adamant, saying he knew a lot of the inside things that went on regarding the show. He was right it turns out.

This is an amazing 6 minute episode. My summary would be "Caves of Androzani on steroids, only darker and 6 minutes long".

My two minor niggles are:-

1. It's 6:49 long, not 90 mins. (Hey a fella can dream).
2. We almost, almost got to see inside the 1996 TVM TARDIS, if only that silly, silly girl hadn't deadlocked the door. (To be fair that might've ballooned the minisode budget a little).

But really it's perfect. McGann nails every minute of the minisode We have an older eighth doctor, sans wig, wearing a really cool outfit that resembles his first appearance (frock coat, winged shirt, cravat/tie etc.) and IMHO much cooler than the outfit McGann started wearing for his Dark Eyes era, which to my mind is a cool coat and then whatever the actor was wearing that day (apparently a white T-Shirt and jeans). It'd be like if Tom Baker decided he hated scarves and turned up in a biker jacket, jeans and shirt to film.

TVM, Dark Eyes boxed set and Night of the Doctor Eighth Doctors
Something I did not expect was that the Doctor namedrops his audio companions Charley [Pollard], C'Rizz, Lucee [Miller] and Molly [O'Sullivan] before he downs his chalice of regen-a-juice. Given we know that he definitely believes all of these companions except Molly are dead (and that's only because we've not gotten to the end of the Molly era yet in the audios) I fear for the Irish nurse's future.

This weekend there was another scifi con at the Space Centre and I had a brief chat with Nick Briggs about the minisode. If I recall correctly he told me the following:-
  • Apparently Paul McGann asked Nick's advice on whether or not to do this episode, which Nick said, "Er... YES!" So THANKS NICK!
  • The scale of the production for this minisode exceeded what one of the producers (not Moffat) was comfortable with.
  • We probably won't see the Night of the Doctor costume in Dark Eyes covers for a while, as Big Finish had a hard time getting Paul to pose for new pictures and want to use those.
  • Stephen Moffat said (half-jokingly I assume) one of the reasons for this episode was so Big Finish could have more pictures of Paul for their covers.
Anyway, we got to see the Eighth Doctor's regeneration and proof he was rattling around during the Time War. Hopefully now Paul's been to Cardiff and acted his socks off he might get called back sometime. If you feel inclined I'd suggest sending praise to the BBC about the decision to bring McGann back by clicking here, or signing one of the many petitions to say we'd love to see him back.

Now I'm under no illusion internet petitions rule the world.

The BBC might ignore you, Paul might decide he's done enough now (and fair play to him), or the BBC might do something with this. Given both spinoffs, Torchwood and SJA, are for various tragic reasons over a Stephen Moffat Eighth Doctor spinoff, series of straight to DVD/Web episodes or even a one-off TVM would all be awesome. But if this is the last TV appearance of Eight I'm happy. Go check out the audios!

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