Last week it was announced that two Doctor Who mini-episodes would be released in addition to The Day of the Doctor itself, one called The Last Day and the other entitled The Night of the Doctor. Well, today BBC released The Night of the Doctor online, and we got to see the return of someone near and dear to the Doctor Who universe. That’s right, we saw…you know what, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll let you watch the video yourself and experience the same joy I did.
Whew! For a six minute video, there was a lot to take in. Well, analysis time. All right, first things first…PAUL MCGANN! After seventeen years since his premiere as the Eighth Doctor in the Doctor Who TV movie (which itself was horrible, but he did great), McGann came back to show the Eighth Doctor’s final adventure. I know that McGann has been doing audio plays of the Eighth Doctor’s exploits since 2001, but I’m glad they were able to bring him back on-screen to take part in the 50th anniversary, especially considering the nature of John Hurt’s Doctor.
Even before this episode aired, it was all but confirmed that John Hurt’s Doctor was a regeneration that secretly happened between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. If they hadn’t brought back Paul McGann to film how this regeneration happened, a lot of fans would have been very disappointed. By the way, those names he mentioned before regenerating? Those were his companions from the audio adventures. Does that mean the audio plays are canon?
This brings me to my next train of thought: classic Doctors. For months, show runner Steven Moffat told us that the only Doctors to appear would be the Eleventh, Tenth, and the John Hurt Doctor. None of the other Doctors would have a role to play. This was seemingly confirmed several weeks ago when Sixth Doctor Colin Baker said in an interview that none of the classic Doctors were contacted about appearing in the 50th anniversary, including McGann. However, Moffat said on another occasion that he has been lying repeatedly to us about the details of The Day of the Doctor.
Clearly we can see he’s been misleading us since McGann was indirectly involved in the 50th anniversary. Now I don’t expect Christopher Eccleston to cameo in The Day of the Doctor considering how he feels about his time on the show (although I wouldn’t be surprised if they used CGI to superimpose his face on another body if they show John Hurt’s Doctor regenerating into the Ninth Doctor), but could this mean that the classic Doctors will have roles in The Day of the Doctor or the remaining mini-episode? We’ll just have to wait and see.
All right, back to The Night of the Doctor. Even though it wasn’t that long, I liked how we got an idea of how the Time War was affecting the rest of the universe. We knew that it was hell for the Time Lords and that multiple monstrosities were unleashed during the conflict, but it was nice to see even people not involved were suffering as well. Once Cass realized the Doctor was a Time Lord, she chose to die rather than go with him. That’s how bad the Time Lords’ reputation were at this point in the War. Still, it makes sense that the Doctor up to this point decided not to participate in the conflict considering he usually tries not to resort to violence.
Which brings me to my last thoughts. The Sisterhood of Karn (previously seen in the Fourth Doctor episode The Brain of Morbius) tells the Eighth Doctor that he is the only hope of stopping the Time War. The Doctor has always placed the safety of others before himself, so however reluctant he may have felt, it makes sense that he would choose to become someone that stood for everything he fought to avoid. The Sisterhood then gives him a potion that would allow Eight to deliberately control his transformation into a warrior. One regeneration cocktail later, we see a reflection of the Doctor’s new form which is that of a young John Hurt (I wonder which movie they got that image from?). His proclamation of “Doctor no more” confirms that this man will not be the same man we’ve admired over the years. At least we finally have a definitive name for John Hurt’s incarnation: The War Doctor. I’m looking forward to seeing what WD had to do during the Time War and the circumstances that lead him to teaming up with his older selves.
All-in-all, this was a spectacular mini-episode and a great prequel to The Day of the Doctor. I’m glad that the producers of the show had enough sense to include Paul McGann and give us that regeneration scene that we’ve been begging for all these years. Even those who don’t know who the Eighth Doctor is can still enjoy the episode, and if you feel inclined you can check out his previous on-screen adventure in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie. Like I said earlier, you’ll like him, but the movie itself will be a huge disappointment.
One last note: today was also Paul McGann’s 54th birthday. Well Paul, thank you for taking a note from the Hobbits and giving us a great gift on your birthday!