I did say this series would include the occasional TV show, right?
I’ve kind of lost touch with Doctor Who over the years. Not only because of the various life problems that have messed me up lately but while I don’t hate it, the show lacks some of the charm of the original. Sure the sets and special effects are better, but they dropped the serial format in favor of season long subplot arcs and while I’ve liked some TARDIS consoles better than others I’m just too nostalgic for the original look. I once saw a really good fan-designed update that retained the classic feel with a modern look but the site doesn’t seem to have any pictures anymore. I also don’t like that every showrunner has their own theme that runs through their rendition since in the past it took a number of different styles with one director at most choosing to be darker or more gothic, a shared tone rather than a shared theme, if you understand what I mean. I still like the new show and it’s still Doctor Who in many aspects but I’m not as drawn to it as I am the old stuff.
So I didn’t see the actual episode where Peter Capaldi’s Doctor got whatever was making him regenerate. However I had to catch this one because it was the first time since “The Five Doctors” that someone playing the first incarnation would show up on the show, interacting with the 12th or 13th or whatever Capaldi’s Doctor is supposed to be. Steven Moffat confused things with Matt Smith’s regeneration episode. So even though it’s Summer I’m reviewing a Christmas episode. It’s my site and I can do what I want. 🙂
This is the part where I usually put a lot of movie credits, but since this is an episode of a TV show I’m not going to bother. Plus I don’t know if IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes rates single episodes or not and I’m writing this close to deadline considering how messed up my schedule is this week. Or as of late really.
THE PLOT: After leaving Ben and Polly in the events of “The Tenth Planet” (William Hartnell’s regeneration episode, the first time the Doctor regenerated) he actually ran off, trying not to regenerate because he didn’t feel ready. Instead of finding his own ship he finds the TARDIS of the (for sake of argument) 12th Doctor. He is also trying not to regenerate, but only because he feels ready to die, having gone through so much, including the lost Companions and the Time War. They come across a soldier from World War I, in the wrong time and place. Meanwhile they’re all visited by glass beings from Testimony, where the current Doctor is reunited with Bill. But what is Testimony’s real agenda here? And what part did the Doctors have in screwing it all up? And is it really Bill?
WHY I WANTED TO SEE IT: It’s a meeting between the first and twelfth Doctors. I just really liked the idea. I also wanted to see how David Bradley would perform as the Doctor, since I missed his portrayal of William Hartnell in the TV biopic An Adventure In Space And Time, which looked at Hartnell’s time as the Doctor. Plus I would get to see the classic console again, using the same set from that biopic. (I believe it was a recreation as the old sets are probably further gone than the lost episodes. Speaking of lost episodes, check out BBC America next week, because they’re airing the “Shada” episode with the unfilmed scenes done in animation.) So at least I got what I came for. As for the rest…
WHAT DID I THINK: David Bradley, who portrayed Hartnell in An Adventure In Space And Time, is probably the next best thing to Hartnell himself. Obviously he had the experience but I found it far easier to believe him as the first Doctor than I did Richard Hurndall, from “The Five Doctors”. Bradley didn’t just look the part but performed it as Hartnell. Usually I want an actor to be able to do his or her own thing when taking over a character but under the circumstances I don’t think it would have worked as well and Bradley pulls it off beautifully.
I also hope that the Doctor seeing his old Companions somehow is a tradition that stays around when Jodie Whittaker eventually regenerates. I just hope they give her Companions worth seeing. Yes, I’ve made my position clear in the past but if I get an explanation I like I’ll accept the act even if I’m still opposed to the reasoning. But they really need to change that logo. I also liked 12th “message” to his next incarnation on how to be good, which was part of 12th’s character arc from what little I got to see of this run. And I also like not only the reveal of who the soldier was but the trick the Doctor used to…no, I’m not spoiling that one. It was Christmas during The Great War. Do the research or watch the episode.
They did a seemless transition between the old footage from “The Tenth Planet” to the recreation. Oddly Robin Varley and Ellie Spencer do not return as Ben and Polly although they portrayed original actors Michael Craze and Anneke Willis. Instead we have Jared Garfield and Lily Travers (all respectively) and for the short time they’re on they do a good job.
But the part that made me happy was seeing the original TARDIS console room again. Part of me would have liked to have seen the more computerized room that started late in Peter Davidson’s run but it would have looked way out-of-place in the biopic and possibly here as well. Plus they were using the biopic’s set and that would have been hard to pull off. It looked a little smaller to me but I didn’t mind it too much. However, the smaller TARDIS exterior confuses me. I’m guessing they also got that from the biopic but I always thought the TARDIS “Police Box” exterior wasn’t supposed to change in-universe, just that the prop was rebuilt when needed. It may have been meant as a kind of meta joke but it does break the illusion, which is not a good thing.
And some of the things that has bothered me about New Who is still going on. Destroying the control room when a new director comes on board (although Moffat has had two consoles with Matt Smith both times), the explosive energy that now comes from regeneration (I accepted it for 9ths due to the nature of his “death” but now it’s just ridiculous), and the reluctance to regenerate that’s been going on since 10th uttered the infamous “I don’t want to go” line. I didn’t see the episode that caused 12th’s regeneration (which should have been in this episode like other regenerations) so I can’t comment on the circumstances but beyond all that I though it was a decent farewell to Peter Capaldi. The BBC America airing included a short retrospective of Capaldi’s run behind the scenes, which was also a nice addition.
WAS IT WORTH THE WAIT: For the most part, yes. I’m still not into this series as much as the original and I still have my problems with New Who I thought it was a good sendoff for Capaldi and seeing the two incarnations together was nice to see. I hope Bradley is able to return should they need him again and this isn’t the last of Doctor team-up stories.