The Night of the Doctor

New Who, Series 7

The Bright Night of the Doctor


Screenshot from 'Night of the Doctor', Doctor Who copyright BBC.Yes, that is who you think it is. Screenshot from 'Night of the Doctor', Doctor Who copyright © 2013 BBC.

I'm not confident in the upcoming (the so-soon upcoming! Where in the world has the time gone, anyway?) return of Doctor Who. In fact, given Steven Moffat's track record, I'm pretty sure I'm going to be ... well, not so much disappointed — how can you be disappointed when you expect the worst? — as unhappy when I sit back and think about "The Day of the Doctor".

There is no question that it is going to be all that I have come to dislike about the modern incarnation of that venerable character: the Doctor as super-hero, as a being so important the universe as a whole would not even exist had he failed even once in battle.

Even if the episode proves to be a success on its own super-operatic terms, I'm unlikely to think highly of it. And I don't expect Moffat to suddenly re-discover the difference between the virtues of intricate plotting and actual story-telling.

But all that said ...

I've now watched the mini-episode featuring Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor in his last moments. (McGann was just about the only good thing about the atrocious 1996 vehicle which failed to re-launch the series then.) And I have to admit, I've watched it more than once and, though I think I see the holes that will ruin Saturday's extravaganza for me, I am more than a little pumped, despite myself.

In this brief story, we learn more about the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, and that — to those caught in the middle — there is little to choose between the contending forces. (I've embedded the episode in question at right, so I won't bore you with any further synopsis.)

Steven Moffat's script does very well what Moffat is still good at: establishing atmosphere, hinting at mysteries and promising satisfactory (and exciting) conclusions.

The 8th Doctor, following a crash, is offered the chance to direct his regeneration, to become the Doctor he thinks the universe needs. A warrior. And so Moffat bridges the gap between the 1996 television movie and the 2005 revival with the redoubtable Christopher Eccleston.

Again, I'm inclined to wish that Moffat had left that mystery alone, but this teaser does its job very well. The seven-minute story is a story as well as a bridge, a satisfying chapter even if it is a cliff-hanger. The performances are strong (yes, McGann would have been a fine Doctor) and, well, I find myself once again feeling I must give Moffat yet another chance to redeem himself.

So much so that I am — almost — looking forward to Saturday; and that I was able to go back and re-watch last spring's ostensible season finale — "The Name of the Doctor" — in hopes of putting my notes to that into some kind of form for my long-promised review of same.

And if that seems like rather a cheat of a way to end this review, maybe it's only fair, given the material under consideration.


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Who'd have thought Sabs was an optimist?

Gotta say, I loved this one, and I am optimistic about the show's direction. Of course, I didn't think the movie was as bad as everyone seems to think, shitty incarnation of the Master aside, mainly because of McGann's charm. It was really good to see him back.

Seen the latest one yet? It was good. Not as good as this one, but in under four minutes, surprisingly powerful.

Maybe I'll have to convert to the "optimism" policy, too

Were you talking about "The Last Day"? The pepperpots are almost scary again!

Re: Who'd have thought Sabs was an optimist?

I'm not that surprised by your optimism. You have to have some romance and hope beneath that crusty exterior to keep on keeping on as you do. (And also, to have the sense of humour you do; I don't need to tell you how rare a quality that is among the politically passionate.)

I do think the movie was more or less as bad as everyone else, but I don't deny McGann's charms (or even that he's rather handsome, in' he? Ahem ...). I guess I'd better look up the other one (was that the one that somehow ended up behind an ITunes paywall?), but I don't promise to review it. Gotta write some sort of a speech for the book launch on Sunday.

I'm still going to try to make room for the new full-length episode soon, though.

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