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The Night of the Doctor

starlit TARDIS
Almost all of y'all have probably seen this, but if you haven't, you should REALLY watch "The Night of the Doctor," the mini-episode prequel to the 50th anniversary special.  (If you are working phenomenally hard to avoid spoilers and haven't watched the trailer or anything, save this mini-episode until just before you watch the main episode.  However, I suspect you would have a really hard time existing in fandom without getting spoiled for this, so I would recommend watching now.)  It is important.

Here you go:

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I have intense squee about mini-episode for itself, even as I am not pleased with certain things that it means for the arc of the show as a whole.

PAUL MCGANN!!!!!!!!!   I FUCKING LOVE PAUL MCGANN!  One of the great missed chances of Doctor Who has been that his only on screen portrayal of the Doctor was in the TV movie, which didn't live up to McGann's talent.  AND NOW WE GET A FEW EXTRA MINUTES OF EIGHT!  What a gift to see him again!  The grim circumstances allow none of the joyful exuberance Eight displayed in the TVM, yet he remains witty and empathic even in the face of death and war.  He hopes that Cass will change her mind and let him save her so much that he allows himself to go down with the ship rather than leave her.  Still, must face the dire situation of the universe enough to make the choice to become something new and terrible, going so thoroughly against his grain.

I was also really happy to hear Big Finish companions name-checked.  I haven't listened to anywhere near all of Eight's audios, but I've heard about twelve of his adventures with Charley and utterly loved them (and Charley!)

All that said, I am somewhat unhappy about what this means for the mythology of Doctor Who and for the special.  I strongly dislike the concept of a "secret" incarnation between Eight and Nine, so I'm sad to have it more or less confirmed that this is what John Hurt is playing.  Prior to this, the fact that Eight, one of the gentlest of the Doctor's incarnations, was forced to act as a soldier added extra poignancy and tragedy to the Time War.  If Eight chose to destroy the Daleks and Time Lords together, then we could trust that there was absolutely no other choice besides the destruction of the entire universe.  If the genocide was committed by a regeneration specifically created to be a warrior, we lose some of the emotional wallop of a good man forced to do the unthinkable.  (Of course here we see Eight choose to become that warrior, but does he guess what it will eventually entail?)  Eleven denied John Hurt's character the name of Doctor, but saying that the War was fought by someone not part of the line of acknowledged Doctors seems unfair to the guilt and ownership of responsibility that we've seen the Doctor (especially Nine) display.

I am also worried about whether this means the special will attempt to show the Time War on screen.  On one hand I am glad that the anniversary special will acknowledge the Time War, a huge event in the Doctor's life which Moffat-era Who has largely ignored.  On the other hand, the Time War ought to be so huge, complicated, and timey-wimey that it can't be adequately conveyed within the limitations of video or human narrative structures.  Hints at something huge going on elsewhere are great, like we saw here in "The Night of the Doctor."  But if the 50th anniversary special attempts to show us the war more directly, I will be seriously pissed off, because there is no possible way it can live up to the vision in most fans' heads.  It ought to remain a horrible enigma.  (For the record, I was not super pleased by the Time War explanations in "The End of Time" either.)

An additional concern I have for the special was raised in some commentary I saw on the trailer. Rose's hair is too long for this to be the S2 Rose who traveled with Ten.  We see her eyes glow in a Bad Wolf way.  While it's possible that this is post-Journey's End Rose back somehow from Pete's World, it also seems possible that she will appear in the special not as human Rose Tyler but as some sort of incarnation of the Bad Wolf who participates in the Time War.  I LOVE Bad Wolf Rose, and I would be totally excited about her playing a role in the Time War if and only if the Doctor has to forget her afterwards.  If Nine remembers Rose's face from a magical vortex-infused person he met in the war, that changes the character of their meeting and his request that she travel with him.  It would turn Rose into another one of Moffat's mystery girls who became companions because the Doctor wanted to figure them out, no longer an ordinary human the Doctor took on after a chance meeting.

I am trying to maintain a balance of not getting too excited about the special (because given my feelings about Moffat's arcs lately, high hopes could lead to terrible disappointment) while not developing such a bad attitude that I won't be able to enjoy the good things.

Seeing Eight again was definitely a Very Good Thing.  It made me feel kind of like this:

 photo twirlyhappyeight.gif

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
wshaffer
Nov. 15th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
(Hello - here via a link from who_daily) I think you've pretty much summarized my feelings pretty well. I still have hopes that the identity of Hurt's Doctor and the Time War elements will be resolved in some elegant and satisfying way, but I don't have a lot of confidence.

On the other hand, I've pretty much been running around going, "OMG, EIGHT!!!" continuously for the past day.
tardis_stowaway
Nov. 16th, 2013 09:33 am (UTC)
Hello there. I'm glad you agree! At this point I have no idea whether the show will make me delighted, angry, or just frustrated.

This little webisode was made of pure delight. I have been gushing about it to anyone who will listen. EIGHT!!!!!! I've also been super happy to see the outpouring of fandom love for him.

(Your icon is kind of perfect for right now. Eight leans in from the edge, as if to say "hi guys! Remember me?")
joking
Nov. 17th, 2013 01:21 am (UTC)
I both agree and disagree with your thoughts on it.

I actually really like the way they're handling regenerations and the Time War. I only know Eight from the movie, but even so I could never picture him as a soldier in the war. I think this decision to regenerate into a warrior is a powerful metaphor for what everyone who fights in a war must do: choose to become a new person, a person you don't want to be and wish you could later forget. I don't think later Doctors are absolving themselves of guilt by disavowing this incarnation; clearly they do feel guilty about the Time War, and clearly they believe they're the same person across incarnations. I think they're making a sort of statement to themselves that they're never going to become that person again. In summary:

"Coward or killer?"
"Coward, any day."

I agree entirely, though, with your feelings on Bad Wolf Rose. I think it would be SO COOL if she was involved with the war and she made him/he made himself forget. If that's true I will write ALL THE FIC about Bad Wolf Rose and do a happy dance. But it would undermine the power of Season 1 if the Doctor purposely sought her out.
timemachineyeah
Nov. 19th, 2013 03:50 am (UTC)
Showing up late to the party just to say that I agree. Especially about the Rose bit, but also about having liked the idea of Eight being the Doctor in the war, and being disappointed that it wasn't him.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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