There were rumours of a prelude to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special Day of the Doctor going up this weekend – it was to be called Night of the Doctor and feature unknown exciting things. Well, perhaps the tabloids saw it and threatened to spoil everything, or maybe the BBC just suffered itchy trigger finger, but nonetheless, it’s out now and it’s… pretty cool, actually.
Spoilers below, just to be clear. Spoilers spoilers spoilers. Go here and watch the episode if you care about these things, if not – review time!
A lifetime in six minutes…
So, at the end of last series, we saw a new-past incarnation of the Doctor played by John Hurt, and everyone assumed he would be slotted in between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston as the 8.5th Doctor. But thanks to a string of interviews given by various past Docs about their non-involvement in the special, including McGann himself, we resigned ourselves to never seeing the past regeneration in question.
Happily those interviews were all lies, because that’s exactly what Night of the Doctor is. As often happens with these time travel storylines, it’s more about the execution than the ending – I imagine most of us guessed where this was going the moment the Eighth Doctor appeared – but the fun is in seeing McGann do most of his on-screen Doctoring in a single six minute chunk, running from upbeat heroism to sad resignation, self-sacrifice and angry defiance.
Seriously, it’s a great showing from him, enough to make me disappointed McGann never got to do more TV episodes. Still, fans of his interim radio adventures must’ve loved the shout-outs to his audio-only companions.
It’s hard to do a proper review-style flogging of this, because ultimately, it’s a six minute Easter Egg to get us warmed up for the special. There’s a lot of fan-pleasing references, maybe more densely packed than we’ll get in the actual special, but if you’re going to do fanwank, online prologues are definitely the place to do it. At least it’s well-produced, well-acted and exciting enough to make said fans feel thoroughly serviced, as well as set up the origins of John Hurt’s War Doctor. (Seriously, according to the credits that is his name.)
So, yeah, definitely excited for Day of the Doctor now, not to mention next week’s Adventures in Space and Time nostalgia event. Bring it on.