Eleven Years of the Eleventh Doctor: Vincent and the Doctor

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You can almost feel his hand painting it right in front of you. Carving the colours into shapes.

The obvious Richard Curtis film to compare this to is, I suppose, About Time. Curtis was influenced by Vincent and the Doctor when he wrote and directed About Time, if only a little bit, and even without that link there’s a broad thematic crossover in terms of that time travel romcom and what Moffat had been doing on the show for a few years. When Vincent and the Doctor was announced in 2010, an episode from “Richard Curtis, writer of Love, Actually, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Notting Hill” seemed unusual in a way that “Richard Curtis, writer of About Time” wouldn’t particularly. (The unusualness is a good thing, of course, and I think something Doctor Who would do well to reach for more often – an episode from Richard Curtis brings, if nothing else, a genuinely new perspective to the show that another episode from Mark Gatiss wouldn’t. Eleven years of hindsight obscures how unusual it was a little, makes it seem like a more obvious hire – or maybe a differently obvious hire – than it really was.)

What seemed a more interesting comparison, though, watching this back in 2021, was Yesterday. Written by Curtis and directed by Danny Boyle, Yesterday is about a struggling musician who wakes up one day and realises everyone but him has forgotten about the Beatles – he then revives his career playing half-remembered Beatles songs, becoming hugely successful as a result.

On the face of it the similarities are far less overt: there’s no time travel in Yesterday, for one thing, and its science fiction contrivances are throwaway details, not really something the film is particularly concerned with. (Although really you could make the case that’s true of Doctor Who most of the time anyway.) What it is, though, is about art in the same sense – the Beatles’ music rather than Van Gogh’s paintings, and approached from different perspectives, but there’s the same sort of lens being applied in each case, the same understanding of “art” as concept (and a product) in each.

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Vincent and the Doctor has taken some criticism for being overly materialist, framing Van Gogh’s art solely in terms its commercial value; it’s a very capitalist, very mercantile attitude, one that’d undercut a lot of the episode’s themes about depression. It’s a reasonable criticism, if maybe overstated sometimes – Amy’s “there’s going to be more paintings” is, I think, quite clearly moreso about saying that Vincent will have had the chance to paint more, rather than solely being an expression of desire alone.

Certainly, though, it takes a very populist view of art – Van Gogh’s art is validated by its mass appeal, validated by its enduring popularity. There’s an appreciation for his vision, yes, but that’s always hand in hand with this perception of his genius as something rooted in its reach: the fact it ends up in a museum, the fact that people will go on to love it and value it (both in an emotional way and, yes, an economic one). It’s the same underlining view of art that you see in Yesterday; you don’t get the sense that Vincent and the Doctor would value the work if Van Gogh had never found popularity, in much the same way that Yesterday can’t imagine a world where the Beatles aren’t popular. It’s telling that that’s something Curtis imposed on Yesterday when rewriting someone else’s concept, the sort of outlook you’d expect from a massively popular celebrity writer like Curtis. I don’t know that it’s a bad thing, necessarily; when you invite a new perspective onto the show, you invite their idiosyncrasies and their foibles too, and it’s interesting to engage with that critically.

(I do think the episode is invested in a genuine, if non-specific, appreciation of Van Gogh and his art. The episode doesn’t really have much of a vocabulary to engage with the art, beyond general observations about colour and passion – in fairness, nor do I – which does make me wonder how much Curtis actually likes Van Gogh himself, and how much of it is a sort of second-hand affection/sentimental attachment because he was his sister’s favourite artist. Which again might explain some of the underlying attitudes – he loves Van Gogh because his sister loved Van Gogh – or perhaps that’s just some superficial psychoanalysis.)

And of course, it’s not as though it’s just Curtis: it’s an attitude that’s inherent to the celebrity historical as a subgenre generally. They’re almost always framed in that way – there’s a similar aside in The Unicorn and the Wasp, about how Agatha Christie’s books are still being bought and sold long past the point you’d hope they’d be in the public domain, their popularity measured in sales again – which is probably as much a product of Davies’ own populist aspirations as it is that oft-criticised Great Man of History theory.

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More troubling, really, is that ‘mad artist’ stuff, the way it depicts Van Gogh as a troubled genius rather than a genius who was troubled – the episode doesn’t always delineate between the art and the depression in the way you’d hope it might. There’s a careful line between suggesting that Van Gogh processed his emotions through his art, and suggesting that his art was a product of those turbulent emotions; there’s a careful line there that the episode doesn’t always manage to walk gracefully, which is a shame.

Otherwise, though, it’s deft and sensitive. Indeed, for the most part it’s deft and sensitive I think, a really thoughtfully constructed piece that has a genuinely worthwhile “message”, for lack of a better word: just because you can’t “save” people, it doesn’t mean that trying to is without meaning on its own terms, or a failure just because you couldn’t “save” them. I’m not particularly inclined to speak to how Vincent and the Doctor handles mental health and depression as a whole – that’s been covered in more depth and with more authority by other people – but it is appreciated, if nothing else. There’s something nice about its directness, about how uncompromising the episode is in this respect; certainly it makes for an interesting comparison to Can You Hear Me?, an episode nominally about a companion dealing with the lingering impact of a suicide attempt so mired in ambiguity relatively few people actually understood it that way. (Speaking of Can You Hear Me?, I’d like to see Jodie Whittaker in Vincent and the Doctor – it seems it’d play very nicely to her strengths as an actor and a Doctor.)

That sense of being well-constructed extends past the thematic content; it’s a confident, well-made piece of television, with Jonny Campbell bringing an understated flair to the direction. Tony Curran is, obviously, really powerful as Van Gogh, and Karen Gillan gives one of her best performances too; there’s a nice throughline to this episode, positioning Van Gogh’s depression parallel to Amy’s forgotten grief, calling forward to a similar technique used in Series 6 and speaking again to how well constructed Series 5 is as a whole. Matt Smith, meanwhile, gets some nice material here too (I think he’d be quite a good romantic lead in a more typical Curtis project, actually), but more than anything else you get a sense of his generosity as a performer – he gives a lot of space to Curran and Gillan, willingly and skilfully stepping back into a supporting role in his own show.

Ultimately, it’s no surprise this episode appears so often on Doctor Who Best Of lists – it’s very much the sort of thing I’d like to see more of from the show.

Related:

Eleven Years of the Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who Review: Series 12 Overview

You can find more of my writing about Doctor Who here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter. If you enjoyed reading this review – or if you didn’t – perhaps consider leaving a tip on ko-fi?

Eleven Years of the Eleventh Doctor: The Vampires of Venice

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Think of it as a wedding present because frankly, it’s either this or tokens.

What’s striking about The Vampires of Venice is quite how similar it is to School Reunion. Not just in terms of the parallels between Mickey and Rory, each episode serving to reposition a supporting character as something closer to a lead, but also on a much more basic level: The Vampires of Venice is about disguised aliens operating a mysterious school, replacing some students and eating others, and generally getting up to no good. (Oddly, one review of The Vampires of Venice described it as an episode “about the fear of knowing what your life will entail and the sacrifices you might make to be forever young”, which feels to me like one of few things you could say of School Reunion but not The Vampires of Venice.)

That makes sense, of course: both School Reunion and The Vampires of Venice were written by Toby Whithouse, in each case doing exactly what was asked of him by Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat respectively. Whithouse’s original Series 5 pitch was an early iteration of what eventually became The God Complex, pushed back a year because of fears the dilapidated hotel labyrinth might be too similar to the maze of the dead in The Time of Angels; when that script was postponed, Whithouse began to develop The Vampires of Venice, prompted by Moffat to write something “big, bold, [and] romantic”. Presumably, the version of The God Complex written for Series 5 would’ve done similar character work for Amy and Rory – it’s easy to imagine the wedding present trip leading to the space hotel, fitting a different premise around the same basic character arc. (The reuse of the school setting is more likely than not just a coincidence, though it’s an interesting repetition nonetheless, particularly given Whithouse’s original version of School Reunion was set in an army base.)

Taken together, they make for interesting points of comparison to one another – less in terms of Whithouse’s work, though, but in how Moffat continues to reinvent the structure Davies applied to Doctor Who. (A word on Whithouse briefly anyway, though: it’s a well-written episode, and had he eventually taken over from Moffat, the fact that he could write something solid and reliable like this would’ve been as much to his credit as his more high-concept episodes like School Reunion or The God Complex. Equally, though, you can start to see the narrow focus that would eventually prove limiting, those portentous references to the Time War sitting awkwardly here as the series is beginning to move on from the idea; you get the sense that Whithouse was probably the writer most interested in that angst after Davies, his take on the show always very grounded in that, even defined by that.)

Within the structure of Series 5, then, The Vampires of Venice is something of a Davies-era throwback. Or, at least, it’s where that influence feels most pointed: the whole of Moffat’s first series as showrunner is closely modelled on those of his predecessor, with the initial present/future/past trilogy, the celebrity historical, and the returning monster two-parter having already opened the series. But it’s more easily highlighted with The Vampires of Venice, which mimics Davies’ innovations in terms of character, rather than just structure – as already noted, it bears some obvious similarities to School Reunion, but there’s a resemblance to The Long Game as well, another episode that develops the Doctor/companion relationship by introducing a new character into an established dynamic.

(Incidentally, it’s also interesting to note that The Vampires of Venice was being positioned as a second jumping on point for the series, for anyone who’d missed the episodes already broadcast. How exactly that isn’t so clear – something like Dalek makes sense in that role, with the iconic returning monster, as might Mummy on the Orient Express, with the heavily promoted guest stars, but The Vampires of Venice is much less consciously attention grabbing as those counterparts.)

It’s not the sort of thing you ever see Steven Moffat do again, not really: there’s no The Vampires of Venice style episode devoted to Danny Pink in Series 8 (arguably the closest is probably In the Forest of the Night, but that’s a fairly strained comparison). Even Series 10, which opens with an episode clearly written in the same style as Davies’ Doctor Who contributions, largely eschews this with its relationship plotline – Heather appears briefly in the opening and closing episodes, but there’s no effort to make her stand as a character in her own right exactly. Meanwhile, in one of the more surprising moves from Chris Chibnall, there’s been no particular attempts at any developing romantic relationships between the characters (or, if you’re feeling less than charitable, relationships full stop) – which makes The Vampires of Venice not just a throwback, but essentially the last hurrah, not just reinventing a Davies-era innovation, but putting it to rest instead.

Which brings us neatly, ish, to Rory. What makes The Vampires of Venice so distinct from its predecessors, ultimately, is that it’s far more invested in Rory than The Long Game ever was in Adam, or School Reunion was in Mickey – where those episodes were, on some level, demonstrating the inadequacies of their focal character even as they developed them further, The Vampires of Venice is a much more straightforward, and much more earnest, showcase for Rory as a character. (You can make the point, reasonably, that School Reunion is fairly invested in Mickey – he gets that vote of confidence from Sarah Jane, after all – but it’s as much about what the episode is leading into as it is anything else, and Series 2 is not making a case for Mickey Smith in the same way Series 5 is for Rory Williams.)

This as much as anything else is how The Vampires of Venice is disrupting the Davies era structure – because it’s invested in a different approach to character, both in the abstract and in terms of these characters, Moffat’s perspective on the Doctor and romance markedly different to that of Davies. Positioning the episode specifically as the Doctor trying to repair Amy and Rory’s relationship is a genuinely clever conceit, affording Matt Smith space to continue redefining the role and giving Gillan and Darvill something more distinct to play too (for all that there are similarities to something like School Reunion, it’s difficult to imagine the Tenth Doctor, Rose, and Mickey appearing in this script verbatim – that’s not even remotely what that dynamic was like). They both impress – Gillan is clearly confident and comfortable in the part by now, and Darvill has this very immediate control over the role, settling into his character faster than his co-stars did theirs.

On the whole, then, it’s another strong instalment in Series 5. There are moments that feel a little rote, maybe, details that hew a little close to familiar archetypes – but with the remove of over a decade, it’s easier to notice what this episode is doing, and how it’s subtly progressing the show. Even the more traditional aspects work – Helen McCrory is fantastic casting, her laugh is one of the more memorable acting choices from any of the year’s guest stars – and in the end it’s clear that while The Vampires of Venice might not be an obvious highlight, Series 5 would be appreciably weaker without it.

Related:

Eleven Years of the Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who Review: Series 12 Overview

You can find more of my writing about Doctor Who here, and follow me on twitter @morelandwriter. If you enjoyed reading this review – or if you didn’t – perhaps consider leaving a tip on ko-fi?

Comic Book Review | Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Vol 6 (The Malignant Truth)

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The Malignant Truth has a lot of interesting ideas on show; at its heart it follows the story of a Dalek splinter group, the Volatix Cabal. Granted, they’re fairly similar to the Cult of Skaro – but given the Cult of Skaro left a lot of potential unexplored, why not return to the idea? There’s a lot of strong concepts here, and the Volatix Cabal are fairly creepy in their own right. While one does perhaps get the sense that Titan were unable to license the traditional Daleks, limitations like that have always been the mother of Doctor Who’s greatest inventions – and the Volatix Cabal are an invention that feel right at home in the Time War.

Here’s my review of the latest collection of Eleventh Doctor comics from Titan.

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Comic Book Review | Doctor Who: Supremacy of the Cybermen

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Granted, there’s perhaps a value in questioning the merit of this. Supremacy of the Cybermen is, first and foremost, a continuity laden romp. It really is drenched in it – appearances from every Doctor are one thing, but going so far as to reference Looms is quite another. The extent to which the story works on its own terms is debatable; it’s a fairly basic, perfunctory plot, one that serves primarily to set up the monster runaround rather than anything more substantial. Uniting two kinda crap villains – yes, the Cybermen and the Time Lords are a bit rubbish – for a continuity entrenched tale is unlikely to ever be a groundbreaking piece of fiction.

My thoughts on the Titan Comics Doctor Who crossover event.

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Doctor Who – Top 5 Moffat Moments

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Steven Moffat has had a long association with Doctor Who, stretching as far back as July 1996, when he wrote a short story for the Virgin novel line; today, of course, his primary association with Doctor Who is as showrunner, a role he’s occupied since 2010. The tenth series, the first episode of which will be broadcast this evening, is going to be Moffat’s last as head writer – so now seems like a good time to take a look back across the past seven years, and celebrate some of his greatest triumphs.

This article was quite fun to write! It’s a selection of five YouTube clips from the Moffat era, with a little explanation/analysis of each one underneath. Of course, in testament to how great Moffat is, it’s the ones that I didn’t include that speak volumes – there are so many to choose from!

Writing this article really did make me appreciate Moffat more. Even I’ve had a few moments where I lost faith and struggled with some of his work (almost but not quite joining the STFU-Moffat bandwagon), I’ve come back around again in the years since. He’s bloody great, his Who has been great, and I’m going to miss it; hopefully, before Christmas, I’ll be able to write a few retrospectives about his era and why it’s so great.

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Doctor Who Review: Deep Breath

doctor who review deep breath peter capaldi twelfth doctor jenna coleman clara oswald vastra strax jenny steven moffat

You have replaced every piece of yourself, mechanical and organic, time and time again. There’s not a trace of the original you left. You probably can’t even remember where you got that face from.

Regeneration is a tricky old thing, isn’t it? It’s all well and good to say that life depends upon change and renewal, but it can be pretty weird to see a new Doctor in the role.

When Christopher Eccleston regenerated, I had only been watching the show for about two episodes, so I didn’t really get what was going on. When David Tennant regenerated, I was generally okay with it; I got the concept, and I thought he’d had a good run. With Matt Smith, it’d been quite a surprise, and I thought it was a bit of a shame – I think his last year wasn’t really as good as it could have been.

I like the fact that the show changes. I like that every few years, Doctor Who completely reinvents itself, and you end up with something new. I think it’s brilliant – it’s how it’s lasted 50 years, after all. So I’m never going to begrudge the show a change, though I might be a bit trepidant about it.

But there was no need for any trepidance here, was there? It was fantastic.

The most important thing about this episode was, obviously, to introduce Peter Capaldi. That’s the real job of it. And I think, on the whole, it did pretty well. The opening with the addled, confused Doctor was quite funny; I think maybe it was extended for a little too long (it’s about 25 minutes before he starts to settle down) but as a sort of tradition, it’s quite nice. And then after that, you’ve just got so many quality scenes with Capaldi – there’s the one with the tramp (it’s the next pigbin Josh!), his bantering with Clara in the restaurant, and the moment where they meet the robots (“Dormant. Hopefully.”) Loved that.

I think he really comes into his own though towards the end, especially where he offers the robot a drink. That moment I loved, and I felt like the new Doctor was really here. There he is; calm, collected, and with a cold, steely ruthlessness to him. And then the ambiguity surrounding the robots death, and just how involved the Doctor was with it. Did he intimidate the robot into committing suicide, or actually push him out himself?

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Companions! Clara, Vastra, Jenny and Strax. Clara was excellent here. Generally, I liked her over the last year, but I would certainly concede that she wasn’t the most well used or characterised. It’s really nice to see that changing here, and letting her come into her own a bit more. I’ve already said how I enjoyed her scene with the Doctor in the restaurant, but I think if I had to choose her best moment of the episode, it was where she was talking to the robot. Clara really held her own there; it was a well-written scene, with some pretty good acting to hold it up.

And Vastra and Jenny! Wow. I must admit, I am not normally a fan. I’m on the record as being totally bewildered by why they’re so popular, but I really, really liked them here. They were fantastic, as was the relationship between them. This was the first time, to me, it actually felt like a real relationship, as opposed to just the subject of a joke. In fact, this was their first appearance without a joke about their relationship – it’s finally grown beyond that. I’d be a lot more open to a spin off with them now. (With regards to the kiss, I did like it, but it might have been nicer if it wasn’t under those circumstances. Or better yet, they did that, and then again afterwards to celebrate or somesuch similar.)

Strax, still not such a fan. A lot of his humour just doesn’t wash with me. Bits of it were funny, but I think the comedy Sontaran is being pushed far too much now. It’d be better if he were played absolutely straight, and the jokes around him came from how serious he was. That’d be better I think. The bit where he was about to kill himself, to stop breathing – that’s the Strax I want to see more of. (Mind you, that was pretty dark, wasn’t it? Quite shocking even.)

The plot held up quite well too I think. In episodes like this, where you’re introducing the new Doctor, you don’t want to overdo it with something particularly complex. It’s best to just let the Doctor deal with something simple, and use the time to focus on characterisation. Still, it was pretty good, wasn’t it? Loved the return of the robots from The Girl in the Fireplace. It’s things like that that make me smile when I’m watching the episodes. Nice little callback.

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It wasn’t perfect though, to be fair. There were some jokes that just weren’t funny – some of the Strax jokes grated, like I already mentioned. The scenes with Clara and Vastra at the beginning, all of that veil stuff… it was just nonsense, wasn’t it? Trying to imply that Clara was an impostor, but really it’s about how much they trust her, and… nah, load of old nonsense really. I just don’t get how that’s meant to fit into things at all. Well acted though, from all involved.

But, on the topic of perfect, there was one thing in the episode which damn near was. That phone call, at the end. I knew it was coming – I’d read about it months ago, and I remembered about it half way through. When I first found out about it, I was ready to come along and whinge about it on tumblr, but I’m glad I didn’t. I hate being wrong in public, after all. It was really nice, and lovely to see Matt there. It felt like a passing of the baton in a way his regeneration didn’t exactly. It’s the same sort of thing as in The Eleventh Hour, when the Atraxi roll through holograms of the different incarnations. Except this goes one better. It really emphasises he’s the same man. And it was really sweet, too.

So overall, that’s a really good episode. It did brilliantly setting up Peter Capaldi, though it did have some faults. I think I’ll give it an 8/10 – it gets better with rewatches.

Note: Despite being very specific about leaving these old reviews mostly unedited, in terms of their content at least, there were a couple of lines in here that really grated with me when re-reading this piece in 2018 that I removed. 

Related:

Doctor Who series 8 reviews

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Doctor Who: Was there ever an ‘original’ Clara?

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So, here’s a thought…

Was there ever an ‘original’ Clara?

The understanding we have now is that Clara was born, grew up, traveled with the Doctor, then created all her echoes in The Name of the Doctor.

What if that original Clara was also created through that action?

I mean, I don’t entirely understand exactly how she echoed throughout history. As far as I remember, there was a shot of a Victorian woman and a baby in the episode… so presumably that means Clara is born to lots of different people, rather than appearing as a 23-year-old woman. (Which is what happened with Scaroth, I think?)

Anyway, what if ‘our’ Clara was also born in this way? If she’s a self-creating paradox person? That’d be… interesting. Although there’s perhaps some narrative problems created.

(And, given that we had a presumably Time Lord Clara, does that mean we can have Claras of other races? Slitheen Clara? And is she always the same? Is there a Clarence Oswald out there? How do the different experiences shape the different echoes? Is one Clara less valid than another, if there was an original Clara? If the echoes are still out there, could we meet one in a future episode? How would Clara Prime deal with meeting an echo? How would the Doctor deal with meeting an echo after Clara Prime has left him?)

I… really rather love the idea of Clara splintering, now that I think about it. There’s a hell of a lot to it, isn’t there?

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Doctor Who Review: The Time of the Doctor

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And now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves. Eleven’s hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve’s.

This is it now, isn’t it? Matt Smith no more, it’s the time of the Twelfth Doctor. It seems oddly surreal – Matt Smith has been the face of the Doctor for the best part of four years now. He took the show to new heights, new levels, new countries – it was his Doctor, after all, that opened up the show to America.

So, yeah, it’s rather odd to think of him as gone now. To think that, from now on, there won’t be any more Matt Smith stories. No more bow ties. No more fezzes. None of that.

Still, at least The Time of the Doctor was a fitting send off, right?

Right…?

The episode starts out pretty much pitch perfect – the scenes in the Dalek and Cyber spaceships were very fun, very Doctor Who. They also set up the premise for the episode as well, and I think it was a pretty good one too – there’s a message, and everyone is here to look at it. It’s an interesting hook, although maybe too reminiscent of The Pandorica Opens.

Clara’s family were nice, I suppose, but generally relatively superfluous. They didn’t exactly add much, nor develop Clara’s character or personality to huge degrees. In fact, they really seemed to be there just for the nudity jokes – which were, to be honest, puerile at best.

Anyways, after we’ve picked up Clara and got to the planet (which isn’t Gallifrey, it’s not orange!) the plot starts to pick up. It’s nice to see the crack in time back, and the explanation for it was, I think, really very good – Gallifrey is trying to make it’s way back through. That’s a great, non-linear explanation. (I do wonder if that had been the idea from the start, or if it was just added in for this episode. I hope it was the original idea)

It’s around there, though, that the episode sort of starts to falter. The idea of the Doctor giving up his life to guard the people of Trenzalore is a fantastic one – it’s an entirely different sacrifice to the type we’re used to, yet still a very Doctor-y one. Perhaps that’s even a more difficult one for the Doctor – he’s not used to sitting still.

However, the idea wasn’t really explored as best as it could have been I felt. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, obviously; just that it could have been… better. It should have mirrored, say, the Star Trek: Voyager episode Blink of an Eye or the Big Finish story Rise and Fall (I’ve linked to Big Finish’s SoundCloud, you can download the story for free. It’s very good)

If we’d seen the culture develop alongside the Doctor, everything would have hit home a little bit more – maybe all their buildings are blue, maybe the all wear bow ties. If they’d progressed just a little bit past the Victorian style lives they had, maybe it’d have worked a little bit better…

But anyways, the Doctor, protecting the people of Trenzalore. It might have been nice if we’d seen a little bit more of it – show, don’t tell, after all – but it didn’t impact on things too much. What we got was nice, after all.

The only other gripe I had was the Daleks – I think the episode might have worked better without them, and with the Kovarian chapter taking their place. It would have rounded things off a little better, and kept the episode more… I want to say discrete, but that’s not quite the word I mean. Hm.

(Also was Tasha Lem meant to be River Song? A lot of it felt as though she’d been written as River Song, but then had to be changed because… Alex Kingston wasn’t available or something?)

So, yes, that’s all the story and script stuff out of the way. Generally very good, but could have been better. I think that’s probably the best way to sum that up.

The acting, was, of course, exemplary. Especially from Matt Smith. Obviously, it would be. As it should be, in Eleven’s final hour.

I often struggle with what to say about Matt Smith and his acting, because… well, to say Matt Smith gave a great performance is like saying water is wet. Or the sky is blue. Just… so ridiculously completely obviously true it’s not exactly worth mentioning really.

Finally, then, the regeneration. The end, yes, but the moment had been prepared for. We were ready, more or less.

Matt Smith’s final lines were nice, very much so. Poignant really. The hallucination of Amy was a nice touch, and a nice callback to the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration. It was a really good send off for Matt.

We’ll never forget when the Doctor was him.

Related:

Doctor Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

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Doctor Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

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Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I went to see The Day of the Doctor in cinema. It was one hell of an atmosphere, which was both brilliant, and, at times, completely surreal. (One of the strangest sights I’ve seen in a long while was a Matt Smith lookalike, in full purple frock coat costume, standing in line to buy a Big Mac)

There were so many people there – some in full costume, others with David Tennant T-Shirts (I personally preferred my Colin Baker shirt, but hey) and many more with sonic screwdrivers and scarves. It was a really, really fantastic sight to see – hundreds of people, who perhaps wouldn’t normally talk or know each other, all together because of one little TV show. That was one of the best parts of the evening, really – seeing, for example, someone who could have watched An Unearthly Child, way back at the start, here today to watch this 50th Anniversary special.

The opening titles were lovely; to see that old howlaround effect from fifty years ago on the big screen was fantastic, and a little bit heartwarming. There were plenty of other little moments like that as well, some more overt than others. My own personal favourite reference to the past was the Doctor’s promise – “Never cruel or cowardly. Never gives in and never gives up” being the maxim that Terrance Dicks used to describe the Doctor’s character. Other, more subtle ones filled the episode as well – Clara works at Coal Hill School, with Ian Chesterton, the code for the Vortex Manipulator is the date and time of An Unearthly Child’s first broadcast, etc etc.

From there, then, we’re introduced to our current Doctor (how strange it is to think of him otherwise), Matt Smith. Right from the off, he’s brilliant. As expected really; I don’t think Matt Smith has ever given a poor performance. The same goes for Jenna Coleman, who does a great job as the Doctor’s best friend, and later conscience.

The other actors all give stellar performances as well – Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver do great work as the new UNIT family. It was also really wonderful to see David Tennant back – he was my first Doctor, and it was really really exciting to see him back, as the Doctor, once again.

John Hurt, is, of course, the actor around whom all the questions were asked. Obviously, the questions weren’t going to be about his acting prowess – it’s John Hurt for goodness’ sake!

It’s his role in Doctor Who that people were, understandably, curious about. He was fantastic; he acted as the embodiment of the classic series, asking pertinent questions about just who he becomes (“Why are you so afraid of being grown ups?”) Mocking and sarcastic, his dynamic with Matt and David was what really made this special special.

In fairness, however, it may well have worked better with Paul McGann in that part – given that he was part of the Classic series, he could perhaps have better served as it’s voice. Given that has all been and gone though – and John Hurt really was amazing – there’s little point in wishing for what could have been…

Nick Hurran did a fantastic job with the direction – viewing it in 3D, there was a real depth to the visuals, which I think added another dimension (a third dimension!) to the episode. A few sequences which stand out would be the Eleventh Doctor under the TARDIS at the beginning, and the three Doctors together in the painting towards the end.

Steven Moffat deserves a fair amount of praise for this I think. He said a while back that this was the most difficult episode to write because there was so much riding on it, and so many people to please – for me, at least, the episode was a success. Every aspect of the plot linked in together perfectly – the story with UNIT and the Zygons mirroring the problem faced by John Hurt’s Doctor. (Some of the bits with Elizabeth I, however, were cringeworthy at best, and at other times completely inappropriate.)

My only gripe, I suppose, is losing RTD’s version of the Time War, a concept which I really loved. Still, I’m relatively sure there’s a way to reconcile the two interpretations – that’s what fanfiction is for, no?

Despite that though, the return of Gallifrey – through the work of all thirteen Doctors, no less! – was a moment of triumph which worked really, really well here. The montage of clips with previous Doctors was very nice, and rather fitting as well.

There’s a really lovely moment, which I think is worth mentioning. It’s at the point where Matt Smith tells his fellow Doctors that there is, in fact, another way to end the Time War.

David Tennant turns around and, in a moment of jubilation, high fives the TARDIS.

That’s absolutely fantastic, and it mirrors, I think, the way I reacted to this special –  I really, really loved it.

50/50, as it were.

Related:

50 Days of the Doctor Who 50th

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How to bring Ian Chesterton back to Doctor Who

doctor who ian chesterton william russell return coal hill school school reunion clara oswald jenna coleman series 8 the caretaker

So, I keep thinking about that post that’s going around, saying how everyone would love to see Ian and Clara in an episode together, given that she’s working in Coal Hill now, and he’s the Headmaster…

It seems to me that there’s a great episode here, which I think could be done… relatively easily.

It should be a sort of an anthology story, framed around the idea of Ian and Clara swapping stories in the staff room.

So you’d open with them, drinking tea and laughing together, talking about the Doctor. And then Ian says, “Did I ever tell you about the time…?” From there, there’s two ways of going about things. Either you could film a new, short adventure with the Adventure in Space and Time team (you’re only looking at about 15 minutes of the episode here) or, should the missing episode rumours be true, you could have clips from Marco Polo, and tell a truncated version of the story.

Then, after Ian’s finished his story, Clara goes “Oh but Ian, let me tell you about…” – and you can either have Matt Smith come and film a short minisode (because that’s the sort of length we’re looking at), or you continue with Peter Capaldi.

Now, personally, I think, in the context of the episode, it’d work better with Matt Smith. Not only is it a nice little reference to the past, it also means that the final scene of the episode works better – because it’ll be the first point in the episode we see Peter Capaldi…

Clara finishes her tea, and bids a farewell to Ian.

And then… there’s a sound. A wheezing, groaning sound.

Someone’s standing by the staffroom door. Someone that, despite everything, Ian recognises.

“Hello Doctor”
“Hello Chatterton”

And the two friends laugh, and talk. And the episode fades out…

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