Who: “Doctor Who” airs on cable TV, specifically on BBC America, Saturdays at 8:00 PM, though the show is currently in hiatus.
What: “Doctor Who,” the long-running British science fiction show about an alien time and space traveler an who gallivants across the universe with companions in an effort to save people and/or history and/or the universe itself. The synopsis changes from Doctor to Doctor, but the above statement pretty much encapsulates all of them.
When: The 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor,” aired on Saturday, November 23, 2013, on BBC America at 2:50 PM.
Where: The show is set literally everywhere in the whole universe at any given time, though not without the Doctor’s ship, the TARDIS, and some face of the man who pilots it.
Why: Once upon a time (no, not that show), friends of mine said precisely this: “Why aren’t you watching Doctor Who?! It’s science fiction, it’s British, it’s everything you love (short of vampires)! Watch it! Do it!” I started with the 2005 pilot of “Rose” and kept right on chugging. Now, I’m a fully converted Whovian, with an obsessive eye to both past, as in Classic, Who and the future incarnations of the “Madman in a Box.”
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
Doctor Who turned 50, and what better way to celebrate than to create a fascinating special that explores some of the mythology developed over the years, some of which has been particularly punctuated by the revival series, and to do it featuring the most favorite of the Doctors and one of the favorite companions, in addition to current companion Clara (Jenna Coleman)? This viewer saw the special twice: once in 3D at the cinema (my first viewing) and then I watched it again on the smaller screen – just because I had to do so.
This special was very satisfying in so many ways, though it also posited new questions. For starters, Matt Smith, in his penultimate episode as the Eleventh Doctor (or is it the Twelfth now?) was at the top of his game and happens to play very well against fan favorite, the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant. What a charming and refreshing sight to see that old pin striped suit and the old Converse sneakers and to hear the familiar “Allons-y!” Yes, Ten may be this viewer’s most favorite yet, and not just because he’s dead sexy, but because he’s the compassionate Doctor. As Rose aka Bad Wolf, the Ultimate Weapon Interface, opined, Ten is the “man who regrets” while Eleven is the “man who forgets.”
The “regret” and “forget” of this special centered on the destruction of Gallifrey, the Time Lords’ (and the Doctor’s) home world. Eleven is whisked into the National Gallery in London where he is shown a three dimensional painting of the Fall of Arcadia, the Gallifreyan capital, the “credentials” of his erstwhile wife (!) Queen Elizabeth I. Seems Ten really got busy somewhere betwixt those fourth season specials. Anyway, an incarnation of the Doctor never before seen, and played by John Hurt, is contemplating the destruction of his home world to end the vicious war between the Time Lords and the Daleks, that fateful date that is both regretted and forgotten by subsequent generations of his personae, but the conscious interface of the Ultimate Weapon he stole from the Time Lords’ arsenal assumes the form of Rose-From-the-Future, i.e. the “Bad Wolf,” and attempts to open time fissures to show the Doctor the consequences of his actions. This fissure ripples from Eleven’s present to Ten’s past and finds the two of them face-to-face and surprisingly hostile toward each other, at times, like brothers, even though they are supposed to be the same person. This new Warrior Doctor also finds them, only to be cornered by an influx in both past and present of members of a shape-shifting alien race known as the Zygons, a mainstay from the Classic era. This leaves Ten, Eleven, and this “forgotten” Doctor, the one they never think about because he made the decision regarding destruction of their home world and countless innocent lives, to work together to defeat the Zygons and ultimately help the old Doctor make his ultimate choice.
Any further information, including nods to Easter Eggs and scattered tidbits thrown into the episode, would be the ultimate in “spoilers.” From this viewer’s perspective, though, Executive Producer and Head Writer Stephen Moffat really should have silenced the naysayers, those loyal to the former revival Executive Producer, Russell T. Davies, with this incredibly well written special, as he resurrected themes prevalent during Ten’s tenure and married them to Eleven’s current predicaments, setting the stage nicely for a new story arc when Peter Capaldi assumes the role of the Twelfth Doctor. Moffat also provided loving treatments of every major cameo and actual appearance of Doctor Who favorites, both real and archival, and seemed to give our two most recent Doctors much latitude to play off each other in such a ridiculously pleasing manner. The result is an immense treat for longtime and recent fans alike and will no doubt be a favorite over the course of the entire fifty years and beyond of this franchise’s lifespan.
Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations
1) So many questions: to start, GALLIFREY IS STILL OUT THERE!!! That was pretty much a redefining moment for the Doctor. So exciting to see where this search takes him. How far will he travel in Eleven’s last ride?
2) Exactly how many regenerations does the Doctor really have? The long-time accepted fact is that the Doctor is allotted 12 regens and 13 personae – if that’s true, though, John Hurt’s Doctor would add the number to 13! There are all sorts of theories circling out there, but what I’ve come to conclude is that the Time Lords can do just about anything and have done just about anything. Then, there’s the 3D movie introduction with Eleven prattling on, cheekily referencing 57 doctors and the 100th anniversary in 12D, so clearly, Moffat has something up his sleeve… Never mind the Curator and his portraying actor… Maybe this means, though, that the Doctor need only change his name, and he can receive 12 more regenerations? Golly, Doctor Who calculations are hard. Where’s my Sonic Screwdriver? (Other theories arise from events that happened to the Fourth Doctor, River Song’s using her regeneration allotments to revive the Doctor, and Ten’s regeneration using only his hand).
3) Can the Doctor encounter himself again? Please?
4) Does this mean that John Hurt’s Warrior Doctor is really the 8th? 8.5th? Watch and find out.
5) I find myself very sad that Matt Smith is leaving the show. Eleven really grew on me. He truly is a madman in a box, and it seems that each of the new doctors has upped the energy of the previous one. What will Twelve be like? That’s the ultimate question.
Doctor Who has become a favorite in this viewer’s lineup and, after fifty years, is still going strong, providing mind-bending stories and outrageous situations for a space and time traveler and his lucky companion(s). What the future will hold has been tantalizingly hinted at…and with the prospective future on the horizon, there is no sign that this franchise will be slowing down anytime soon.
Doctor Who’s series 8 premiere is not expected to occur until August 2014 (the British have super irregular filming schedules), though a Christmas special, Matt Smith’s last as the Doctor, will air in or around the end of December 2013.