It was one of the most anticipated episodes of television ever. 50 years of British TV history all coming together for 75 minutes to explode, question, and have a cup of tea. With so much expectation, and so many different ideas about what the episode should be, Moffatt and the Beeb had an extraordinary amount of pressure to deal with. And now it’s over.
Whovians all over the world are still spluttering at such a nerd fest, while everyone is probably trying to work out exactly what happened.
The episode opened like any other Doctor Who episode. The Doctor (as in Matt Smith’s – wow this is going to get confusing) was summoned to investigate the secret 3D paintings of Elizabeth I, which had mysteriously been smashed from the inside and were missing several of their inhabitants. And then the episode went wild.
It was a neat transition into the special from here, not feeling too out of place as the camera zoomed into the picture of Gallifrey at war to vividly depict, for the first time, the Time War. As a whole, the war felt too land based, people running and screaming rather than anything truly spectacular. The scene had a lot of potential, and I can’t help but feel that some of that was wasted.
From here, the episode built and built, keeping the Doctors separate just long enough to sustain the tension, and drive all Whovians insane.
The interaction between the Doctors was extraordinary, illuminating their differences to hilarious effect. It was a glorious example of how people change over time, and can even become a stranger to who they used to be.
One of the best parts of this episode was the amount of layers to it. Whilst the Zygons weren’t nearly scary enough, or vastly different to any other alien on the show, the fact that they were sidelined next to the bigger picture of the Time War made this much less of an issue, and together the storylines complimented each other. Each built the overall idea of mess, and confusion, a struggle that was impossible to escape.
Towards the climax, each Doctor’s perspective on the destruction of Gallifrey led to a muddle, and John Hurt’s Doctor’s idea that he needed to destroy Gallifrey to create the man he wanted to become seemed selfish for someone so concerned with what was best for the world. Clara’s ideals also came across as simplistic, with her suggestion that they could never do such a thing being portrayed as the obvious solution that everyone had missed. It wasn’t. It was, at the time, the solution that hurt the least amount of people. The following spectacular sequences, though, distracted from any problems I had with these scenes.
After the disappointment of learning that most of the Doctors weren’t coming back, I wasn’t expecting anything else from this episode. And then they ALL appeared!
Seeing the Doctors working together finished the episode in real style, ultimately proving the power of a person when they’re at one with themselves, and not fractured by guilt, or by regret.
The idea of changing the Doctor’s own history so much appears to have split Whovian opinion. It’s refreshing to move past the depression of leftover guilt from the Time War, it near eradicates what the Doctor’s been feeling for the past three regenerations. Watching back, will they have the same effect on us? Possibly not.
It’s an interesting, and daring change to make, and honestly, if it marks a new era for Doctor Who, I’m willing to accept it as a casualty of the show’s own regeneration. If it means the possibility of the search for Gallifrey, of other great Time Lords to meet, and of a new dynamic of adventures, this episode may have created the best series yet. And I for one cannot wait.
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