So that was the weekend that was. It’s worth sharing some thoughts on what I watched:
Expectations Determines Response: I contacted two people immediately after the show to get their feedback on it. Both of them expressed disappointment. Digging deeper into their response, it was clear they had certain expectations for this episode. Part of these expectations came from the size of hype leading up to the main event. This hype was not helped by the outstanding minisode Night of the Doctor. With the stakes so high, the special had to go above and beyond to at least meet the hype. Exciting as it was, the episode did not meet those lofty expectations for those two people.
For me, conversely, I was only too aware of the hype in the days running up to the event, but had switched my expectations lower because of it. As a result I was pleased with what I watched. It met the basic requirements for me, and it even lived up to some of the things Steven Moffat suggested.
The Plot Was Not That Complicated: Moffat scripts and story-arcs have been accused in the past of being too complex for the audience. I read some people level that criticism at this episode. That was a misguided criticism. It worked as I looked to summarise the plot.
Zygons attempt to invade earth again in the present and in duplicating Elizabeth I where the Tenth Doctor is getting himself in romantic trouble with the Queen. The danger however also triggers a letter from the Queen picked up by the Eleventh Doctor who receives a summons from UNIT to investigate the matter. This connects with a portrait of the last day of the Time War where the War Doctor is about to end it all, the only way he knows how.
The Three Doctors meet up in Elizabethan England as the War Doctor works out how he’ll end up and the two latter Doctors come face to face with something and someone they’ve sought to hide. In resolving the Zygon effort in the past and the present, it reinforces the belief for the War Doctor that he must still carry out his dreaded task. His later selves also reach the same conclusion and are about to join him, when Clara appeals to her Doctor’s very title. This triggers an idea that the Doctor has been considering for hundreds of years, and it clicks with his younger selves and so they make an audacious bid to radically adjust their own time-line, by altering the close of the Time War.
This was a relatively straightforward plot to follow. At least to me.
The Doctors Were Brilliant: Great credit must go to Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt for putting in excellent performances as the main character. Two things help make a programme enjoyable, the story and the performances. The story was done well and the performances really were of the highest standard for the series. Their differences as Doctors was highlighted well. Hurt’s War Doctor was already set, it’s as though we knew what he was like for ages, even though it’s the first time he’s performed.
There was something in the younger Doctor being the most mature and the oldest appearing the least, when in actuality behind the frivolity and playfulness there was still a level of weariness affecting the Eleventh Doctor. The episode was meant to be about the Doctor and it worked a treat largely because their portrayals were nailed on.
The Feel Was Special … But: The quality of the programme by its production values ensured I was not watching a regular series episode of Dr. Who. Great effort has been put into the quality of the episodes over the series, and the recently completed series endeavoured to give it a feature-film feel. This one went even beyong those standards to make it feel special.
Yet it didn’t quite feel epic. The scope of the script was large. The implications of the storyline were large. The set-pieces were large in places. Larger than normal – but not epic.
That’s not a bad thing necessarily, unless you demanded epic, in which case you could feel a tiny bit let down. Only a tiny bit.
It Has Set Up Doctor Who For The Future: I am not fussed by the happy ending to the episode. Some prefer the more melancholic tragic series endings we’ve come across in time past. This, however, is a special. This is a special set-up to give the programme a boost for the future. It meets this expectation then exceeds it. The programme was not going to struggle for story ideas, and story-arcs to consider. What this episode did, however, was change the game in a large way by leaving questions that other writers and head-producers can answer at their leisure. Questions like:
What are the consequences of the change to the Time War for the Doctor?
What are the consequences for Gallifrey and Time Lords?
What are the consequences for the Daleks?
How will that impact the rest of the universe?
Confirmation of the John Hurt Doctor as a legitimate part of the lineage also drastically changes things. The question of the 13th incarnation now for certain has to be resolved in some way with the Peter Capaldi Doctor.
Leaving the programme with these questions and issues set for the next few seasons with ample room and time to develop more issues gives much hope for the future of Dr. Who.
C. L. J. Dryden