Over 10 million people tuned into Doctor Who last night in an evening celebrating perhaps the greatest pinnacle of British television and a true cultural phenomenon. In a feature length episode on BBC One 50 years of this sci-fi bonanza were displayed in an episode demonstrating the history and mythology of this timeless TV show and dragging the series into a new direction for the future.
With hesitation I tuned into the episode last night, hoping not to be disappointed with all the hype leading into the event. I needn’t of worried, Steven Moffat wrote the prefect episode for ultimate fans and casual viewers alike that celebrated the past and planned the future of the show without turning the celebration into an blend of old men running around embarrassing their legacy.
The episode kicked off with the original 1963 Hartnell titles and a scene that passed the scrapyard shown 50 years ago in ‘An Unearthly Child’ providing a great treat for fans of the show. The episode passes to Clara working in a school who is told she has a message from The Doctor. She jumps on here motorbike and drives straight into the TARDIS to meet Matt Smith and start their epic adventure.
With appearances throughout the episode from Zygons, UNIT, Elizabeth I and a stellar cast the episode ripped through 3 different stories from 3 different Doctors, Smith (11), Tennant (10) and John Hurt (8/9 – who knows how this works?). Hurt was fantastic as the Time War doctor, fighting in the unwinnable battle between Timelords and Daleks. It was great opportunity to show onscreen the Time War, particularly the fall of Arcadia. It didn’t disappoint and still kept enough mystery about the war for the future of the show.
Billie Piper’s return as Rose Tyler in what I can only assume is the moment she took in the TARDIS energy in ‘Bad Wolf’ was a great story device to allow these monumental moments in the timeline of Doctor Who to take place. With great performances between Smith, Tennant and Hurt and an unbelievable chemistry between the trio allowed moments of humour, sadness and poignancy to grace our screens and really bring home the mythology of the character built up in the modern series.
The best scenes ultimately changed the future of the show, with the changing of The Doctor’s own history, changed the genocidal moment eluded to in series past. The Doctors together changed the destruction of the Timelords, saving their planet by moving it to a pocket dimension, hidden away from the rest of the universe (similar perhaps to Journey’s End with David Tennant when planets were hidden 1 second out of sync with everyone else.)
The most poignant moment perhaps was Tom Baker’s appearance on screen as the ‘Art Curator’ – with Smith meeting the Fourth Doctor in a lovely moment of history and poignancy. With Baker being perhaps the most famous Doctor and the one who didn’t appear in the 20th Anniversary episode, I think that this was the biggest treat of the episode. It was a tremendous of history and celebration that was a joy to watch in a serious way and not the over the top celebratory way that they perhaps could of gone down.
A great episode that topped of a great week of treats in preparation for this great moment in time. We were able to enjoy a short mini-episode with Paul McGann (Eighth Doctor) – something fans have been crying for – as well as the many interviews and trailers leading upto the episode which can all be seen online on the BBC’s Dr Who page with the episode itself. There were many other treats as well from around the internet with a couple of my favourites being the Google Dr Who game available here and the two videos below.
There was also treats available on television in the guises of the Ultimate Guide to Doctor Who on BBC Three providing a great history of the show and An Adventure of Time and Space, penned by Mark Gatiss, which gave an incredible insight into the real life birth of the show and William Hartnell’s position in bringing the show to the forefront of the time. It was a truly poignant and fascinating historical drama with a stellar cast and is well worth a watch.
It has been a great week of celebration enjoyed for all for this incredible TV show and I think we all look forward to the Christmas Special next as Matt Smith visit’s Trenzalore and regenerates into Peter Capaldi.
By David Roberts