I just couldn’t help myself. We (my husband and I) tried to watch the 50th Anniversary release in the theater, but apparently tickets were sold out within the first few hours of being online. Now that I have finally been able to watch it, however, I feel compelled to write a review. After all, how often do you watch a movie (or in this case, highly advertised TV show release) with incredibly high expectations and still walk away feeling completely satisfied? For me, not very often.
Before I go any further I should give some obvious Spoiler Warnings-
We were a little worried when the show began with the James-Bondesque gimmick of the having the TARDIS flown across London while the Doctor clung to the bottom. It felt like it was trying too hard. Silly us, we really shouldn’t have worried.
Within a few minutes we were transported to the Time War, and it did not disappoint. The graphics were impressive, like something out of Star Wars. While it’s sometimes hard to take the Daleks seriously as the ultimate enemy of the Time Lords, the general chaos of the war didn’t leave any opportunities to be distracted by their evil plungers.
I was also really pleased with the way Rose was included in the plot. While I was super excited to see her and the Tenth Doctor back as a couple, I really couldn’t think of a plausible way for them to jump between alternative dimensions… again. To be honest, I’m still not really sure why they were able to cross back into the alternate dimension in S4E13. Choosing to have Billie Piper play “the moment” (the really big bomb supposed to be used to blow up the Time War) was a nice alternative. As a sentient being who represents itself as someone from his past (or rather future, since she tends to mix the two up) it was also a really nice nod to the personification of other Time Lord technology, like the TARDIS in S6E4. It was also, of course, a great way to include the generally most popular companion, Rose, even if the sentient being seemed more like her personality as Bad Wolf than as Rose.
So there wasn’t any romance between Rose and the Tenth Doctor (‘s duplicate), but I think it’s for the best that their life together is left to speculation. The choice to snag the Tenth Doctor from out of his own timeline, rather than his duplicate out of the alternate dimension was also a stroke of brilliance, especially considering how often their sonic screwdrivers (with age differences ranging through hundreds of years) came in handy for several different scenes. I’m assuming the Tenth Doctor duplicate wasn’t given his own screwdriver when he was left in the other dimension, of course. What can I say about David Tennant except that he was, as ever, positively fantastic? Not to mention that the interactions between him and Matt Smith were just as quirky as promised.
While we were all looking forward to the appearance by Rose and the Tenth Doctor, John Hurt was the real loose-end. I think most of us were able to predict from Matt Smith’s reaction to him in “The Name of The Doctor” (S7E14) that this was the form of the Doctor that caused the destruction of Gallifrey, but I was absolutely astounded by the way the Doctor Who team managed to rewrite the fate of Gallifrey without messing with the Doctor’s own timeline. It was also ridiculously fun to watch three Doctors react to their past/future selves.
The aspects of the plot involving Queen Elizabeth and the Zygons were enjoyable as a wave to an old-school villain and as a way to lend some suspense to the movement of the plot (who is Zygon and who is human?), but I have to agree with the Telegraph when they say that Joanna Page wasn’t particularly stunning in her role as the Virgin Queen.
Overall, I was hugely impressed. I kept waiting for something to get overlooked with all the crossing over of timelines, but I feel like they were able to protect against any major issues by forcing the older two Doctors to forget the experience. It was a real treat to have Tennant and Piper back for an episode, and of course to have Hurt as a guest Doctor. There was also a nice feeling of continuity created by involving all the past (and future) Doctors in the protection of Gallifrey.
Things that got me excited about the upcoming season:
- The Doctor still hasn’t regenerated. Our only glimpse of the new doctor, Peter Capaldi, was the flash of his eyes as all the Doctors, past and present, worked together to preserve Gallifrey.
- There is still a slim possibility that River Song could come back. In “the Name of the Doctor” she continues to be present, talking with the Doctor after Clara has essentially disintegrated into his past timelines. This gives me hope that she could somehow be saved from her pseudo-existence, having been preserved in the library database (S4E9).
- Gallifrey is out there somewhere. The Doctor has been wandering for the last few seasons with less and less purpose. We’ve had the love interest (Rose), the friends who helped him get over his issues (Martha and Donna), the couple that he adventured with (Amy and Rory), and the mystery to solve (Clara), but ultimately all of his companions have had to leave him. It’s nice to finally have a plot that could involve a character with a similar timeline to the Doctor, or even the possibility for an eventual “happy” ending.
- There’s a potential for seeing old faces. The appearance of Tom Baker in the final scene suggests some of the old actors could reappear, but how, I’m still not sure.