The Night of the Doctor Analysis
Faith D’Isa ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Though a long-time fan of Doctor Who, current showrunner Steven Moffat is often criticized for his constant remaking of the show, never giving proper respect to the Classic series that started it all in 1963. His plots often deviate from what is already considered “canon” as of previous writers and his storylines often disregard continuity.
But the biggest hit Moffat has been receiving, as of late, is his lack of holding to Doctor Who tradition. In every major anniversary special the show has had, the show has featured the men who have played the Doctor thus far. And though, with a few of the earlier Doctors long passed away, this is completely impossible, it’s seemed that, until lately, the Classic Era was to completely be ignored in the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”. Though the episode will feature David Tennant and Matt Smith, both men have portrayed the Doctor since the reboot of the series in 2005 by Russell T. Davies. All of the Doctors from 1963 to the 1994 television movie have said that they were not asked to be involved.
“I’ve been lying my arse off,” said Steven Moffat of “The Day of the Doctor” back at San Diego Comic Con.
That was an understatement.
Last week, the prequel mini-sode to “The Day of the Doctor”, entitled “The Night of the Doctor” was released. It was announced by the BBC that one of the three Doctors who are appearing in “The Day of the Doctor” would be a part of the prequel—but who?
So to say that it was a shock when the voice of Paul McGann, the eighth Doctor from the 1994 television movie, rung through speakers as the opening credits blared, would be an absolute understatement.
McGann got his time in the limelight in his one and only screen appearance as the Doctor before starring in a number of audio dramas. His film was the BBC’s first attempt to revive the series after it had been canceled, but never reached the success it needed to become a full television program again. Because of this, the film had a very open ending, with nothing particularly being tied up.
Fans of McGann’s performance have always been eager to get some sort of closure when it came to his career as the Doctor. And that’s what we received in “The Night of the Doctor,” depicting the Eighth Doctor attempting to save a doomed pilot. She refuses his help upon discovering that he’s a time lord; after all, at this point, the universe is on the edge as a result of the ongoing Time War between the Doctor’s people and the Daleks. Though the Doctor claims to be “one of the good ones” and that he wants no part in the war, the pilot, Cass, deadlocks him away from her. The Doctor has the TARDIS, but as the ship is going down, he refuses to leave without her.
A group of women, the Sisterhood, watch as the ship crashes onto the planet, Karn, effectively killing both the Doctor and Cass. They state that they are glad the Doctor has returned, though they regret that he is dead. This is a reference to another Classic Doctor Who story with the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, called “The Brain of Morbius.” The Sisterhood takes the Doctor from the wreck and puts him in stasis; telling him that he is dead, but they have halted his regeneration. They offer him a number of potions to allow him to have a say in who he becomes.
After Cass is retrieved from the rubble, the Doctor realizes that he can’t save her. As such, the Sisterhood of Karn asks the Doctor that, if he cannot save people as the Doctor, a good man, what should he be now? What does he need now?
The Doctor states that he needs to be a Warrior, and the Sisterhood complies, giving him a potion specially prepared. After the Doctor forces them all out, he takes a moment to thank all of the old companions he’s had. Though McGann only had one on-screen companion, this line effectively made canon all of his Big Finish audio dramas.
He goes on to regenerate into what appears to be a younger John Hurt, who is introduced to us finally as the “War Doctor”.
Not only was this short a wonderful throw back and thank you to the Classic series, but it also tied up a number of loose ends, such as the Eighth Doctor’s lack of a regeneration sequence and our lack of understanding as to who exactly John Hurt was portraying in “The Day of the Doctor”.
Similarly, on the reigns of this came the “leaked” news from Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor and often favorite, having been the longest running Doctor on the show, having involvement of some sort in “The Day of the Doctor”. It seems as if Steven Moffat really was “lying his arse off”—and he wasn’t the only one.