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Ever since it was announced that David Tennant’s run as the Tenth Doctor was announced – and that he would only be doing as series of five one-hour specials in lieu of a final full season – it seems like the world’s Whovians have gone into a kind of premature mourning. Given that the five specials were described as being individual adventures that would also provide a throughline up to the Tenth Doctor’s death and regeneration – and that photos of the Eleventh Doctor looked unusually odd – I guess that was not exactly unexpected.
[Spoiler Warning: from this point on, there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen End of Time – or any of the other specials – tread lightly past the jump.]
Then there were the first three of the five specials: The Next Doctor, Planet of the Dead and The Waters of Mars. They were fun, but hardly the stuff of legend – specials that, one had hoped, would be as petrifying as series three’s Blink, or as much outlandish fun as the rebooted series one premiere Rose [“I’m The Doctor, pleased to meet you. Run for your life!”].
True, the idea for The Next Doctor – a Victorian man somehow becomes convinced that he’s The Doctor, while Cybermen attempt to take over the world – was cool enough, but it just didn’t have the depth that we come to expect from the rebooted series.
Then there was Planet of the Dead, which found The Doctor and a busload of people [including a very Emma Peel-ish cat burglar] warped onto a desert planet where they were confronted by deadly metal insectoid creatures. This one was much more fun than The Next Doctor, but primarily because the cat burglar, Lady Christina de Souza [Michelle Ryan] seemed a good match for The Doctor, companion-wise.
Finally, The Waters of Mars dealt with one of those “fixed points in time” that The Doctor has spoken of previously [Captain Jack Harkness being one such] in the form of the crew of the first Mars base and their deaths. Besides giving us a look a completely unfettered Doctor – a Doctor who challenged every limit he was supposed to live within – we also got to see an instance where time had to make a course correction. That that course correction came at the hands of the Mars Base commander – and the manner in which it came – was likely the single most important moment on the series of specials prior to The End of Time two-parter. [Well, other than the moment when The Doctor learned he was going to die…]
Which brings us to End of Time, Parts 1 & 2 and the beautifully thought out return of The Master [John Sim] – not to mention, the Time Lords themselves.
From the moment when The Doctor appeared on the planet of The Ood, hiding behind humor [as he’s often done before], things began to fall apart for him. Little things like The Ood building a magnificent city in far less time than should have been necessary; little things like Donna Noble [Catherine Tate] catch glimpses of memories that had been locked off to save her life; little things like the followers of the late Prime Minister Harold Saxon/The Master bringing him back to life; little things like The Master’s repairing a machine that heals planets – for his own nefarious ends. Then there’s that mysterious narrator telling the story of the last day of the human race…
When it came down to it, Russell T. Davies, the mastermind behind the Doctor Who reboot, acquitted himself well with a powerful conclusion to the Tenth doctor’s run on the show. We got the kind of overwhelming plot that only The Master could dream up; we got the return of the Time Lords [whose Lord President turned out to be Timothy Dalton – who knew James Bond was a Time Lord?]; we got the return of Wilfred Mott [Bernard Cribbins] and a new alien race in the form of a couple of spiky, green interstellar salvagers, to boot. There were cameos by Billie Piper, Freema Agyeman, Noel Clarke, John Barrowman, Jacqueline King, and Elizabeth Sladen, too, among others.
And, finally, there was The Doctor. Brave, funny, daring, dashing, scared, and, at the last, resigned. Watching him check in on his various companions was poignant to say the least. And then, safely back in his TARDIS, the regeneration – and the Eleventh Doctor, running a quick check to make sure he was all there and the proper sex. It is during the scenes immediately following a regeneration that I decide whether I like, love or hate the “new” Doctor. So far, I haven’t hated a new Doctor [though Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor took more than a little getting used to – it didn’t help that he had the whiniest companion in the show’s history!]
I’m happy to report that Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor comes across as a Doctor I can wholeheartedly support. I think it’s because there was a certain desperation behind the comedy of the inventory check – especially when he discovered he had long hair and thought, for a fleeting moment, that he might be a girl. I think Eleven might just be a bit more insecure than his predecessors – and that’s a new color for the character.
With Time Lords having a dozen regenerations, we can get to Doctor Thirteen before we have to start worrying about new ways to bring new actors to the part, so the show is in good shape there – especially if Matt Smith’s Eleven has the kind of run that David Tennant’s Ten had.
Bring on the new series/season; I’m ready and eager!