“Let me get this straight. A thing that looks like a police box, standing in a junkyard- it can move anywhere in time and space?” – Ian Chesterton
On a foggy night in London town a policeman’s beat takes him past I. M. Foreman’s junkyard on 76 Totter’s Lane. It’s 5:15pm on the 23rd November 1963 and the camera focuses on a 1950s police box in that yard… The adventures have begun…
Why 50 years on is this show still alive? Why hasn’t the TARDIS faded into the London fog of the past, with all the other favourites of the 1960s? Well, because that simple, tantalising idea still remains the same: a mad man and his box. A box that’s bigger on the inside than out, that can travel across the frontiers of time and space. Who can honestly say they would pass that up?
So, the question is which (Or should it be who?) is your favourite Doctor? With 11 to choose from, you’re pretty spoiled for choice. Personally, Christopher Eccleston (the 9th Doctor, first of the new series) will always be my top Doctor- he epitomises the role for me- but all of them have held a special place in viewer’s hearts for half a century now. And to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the longest running Science Fiction series of all time, we have the 50 year anniversary edition, entitled, the Day of the Doctor, to celebrate this milestone. As usual with these kinds of episodes, however, there is the problem of hype. We’ve known for weeks that the episode would feature at least 2 previous doctors and a new one- but can they deliver? And are 2 Doctor’s enough to satisfy 3 generations of fans?
Essentially, the plot starts with Matt Smith’s Doctor once again meeting with Clara Oswald, his latest companion, as they prepare to go on a new adventure. However, they are instead airlifted to London (in an sequence that would be funnier had this particular Doctor not have had this exact thing happen to him at least once before) by UNIT, who hand him a letter and a mission from Queen Elizabeth 1st. This mission is what leads to the meeting with the two other Doctors- Tennant’s, and a new Doctor played by John Hurt- yet it becomes the B plot for an exploration into the end of Gallifrey, an event that has rather painted the Doctor for some time.
So how was it? Well, for starters, at least it made sense in most parts. There is one plot hole that bugged me, which is waved off with an excuse of ‘Timey Wimey’ once again (an explanation that’s becoming much less easy to stomach), but asides from that, everything seemed to work well. Tennant and Smith work pretty well together- it’s interesting to see the differences between their portrayals (Tennant is less bouncy and more methodical than Smith, though not by much). They do need a stabilising element though- and Hurt provides it. His part feels well thought out (watching the minisode featuring Paul Mcgann helps), and his acting is flawless. There are one or two parts that feels a little… bitchy towards previous Doctors, but that may just be my interpretation. The general acting in this is actually pretty good- though fans of Billie Piper shouldn’t come in with any expectations.
There are problems. There are a fair few false endings, which gets slightly cheap by the end. And there is still some dodgy special effects- look out for when the TARDIS flies into an enemy early on for a really cringe-y moment. It’s also a shame some of the others couldn’t make more of an appearance- but I’ll stop there to prevent spoilers. Overall, Day of the Doctor is a solid episode, a pretty worthy 50th Anniversary episode- even if the ending is a little… bizarre.
This was not the only treat we were given in the celebrations. BBC2 also aired An Adventure in Space and Time, writer Mark Gatiss’s a love letter to the series. A beautiful tribute to William Hartnell, the show’s first Doctor and wonderfully performed by David Bradley, this docudrama will have any fan clutching a tissue by its end. Google even created their very own interactive game to mark the occasion.
And, as Christmas approaches and we move ever nearer to being half way out of the dark, our attentions turn to the Christmas special and the moment the baton will be handed to new Doctor Peter Capaldi. One can only hope that the future will kindle the flame, which the past has kept forever burning.
So, what can we expect in the next 50 years? Well, with Head writer Stephen Moffat thrusting his own sonic screwdriver into its history, we will no longer see the Doctor running from Gallifrey, but towards it.
’50 Years of the Doctor have been and past, and on the 23rd of November, the BBC celebrated this with a very special episode. Alex Davies was watching for Label.
Alex Davies and Holly Duerden