Daveosaurus (southerndave) wrote,

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Doctor Who half century

I wasn't even able to get this typed up in the same month as I watched it. So much for 'quick' reviews. And having to read my own handwriting this long after it was originally written won't be helping its accuracy either.

Anyway, a certain TV show had its fiftieth anniversary special last month. You may have heard about it somewhere like the six o'clock news that night.

It's fairly much a tradition for multi-Doctor anniversary stories to involve, as well as a bunch of Doctors, a bunch of other Time Lords, and a huge amount of creative indulgence on the part of the cast and crew. This sort of show is fairly much directly aimed at fans who've been around for long enough that they'll pick up things that a casual viewer, or even a recently assimilated fan, won't generally notice.

In The Three Doctors, fans got to see the first two Doctors again, and, for the first time, in colour. At the time, William Hartnell was very unwell - his failing health was one of the main reasons the Doctor had to regenerate to keep the series going in the first place - so was only able to appear as a face on a screen in a few scenes. And there were Time Lords and secret things way back in Time Lord history, etc., etc.

In The Five Doctors, as many Doctors as they could find got onto the screen. At the time, Tom Baker wasn't interested in returning, so some footage from an abandoned serial got played with a framing sequence of people trying to get hold of his Doctor, but being blocked somehow. And there were Time Lords and secret things way back in Time Lord history, etc., etc.

So a long-term viewer would have a good idea what to expect from this...

And the show starts with an adaptation of the original (1963) title sequence. That's a good sign.

"Are you all right? There's a call for you at the office. From your doctor."

"Teach Yourself Advanced Quantum Mechanics".

"Oh, Doctor, I'm so sorry. We had no idea you were still in there."

"I don't like being picked up!"
"... That probably sounded better in his head."

"He's a fool."
"No, he's a madman."

"Why is there never a big red button?"

"I've been fighting this war a long time. I've lost the right to be called the Doctor."

" 'Seventies or 'eighties, depending on the dating protocol."

"Are you his companions? You get younger all the time."

"Why are you pointing your screwdrivers at me? They're scientific instruments, not water pistols."

"Can't afford to have electronic security here. We need to keep the Doctor out."

"I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman... but at the time, so did the Zygon."

"Alien technology plus human stupidity. It's unbeatable."

"No-one will be able to remember if you are human or Zygon." ... Now that's an interesting solution.

"Gentlemen. I've had four hundred years to think about this... I've changed my mind."

"Dear god, three of them. All my worst nightmares at once."

"I didn't know when I was well off. All twelve of them."

"I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time."

And at the end, a nice surprise cameo from Tom Baker. (A surprise, at least, as long as you watched the show during the simulcast, or completely missed how the six o'clock news on TV actually had a report on how he had returned to the role after over thirty years). He only appears for a minute or so, and only Eleven (or, now that John Hurt's Doctor appears to be acknowledged by the others, would he now be Twelve?) is there with him, so there could be many ways in which a fourth Doctor, looking considerably more ancient than the fourth Doctor who died in Logopolis, can be explained away by fans. But why bother? It's a nice touch, something for the fans, so, perhaps, why not take it in the spirit in which it is offered?

One can only hope that Christopher Eccleston will be able to be talked into showing up for the next Big Performance.

And the team behind the whole mess managed to avoid the worst excesses of indulgence by a simple method of filling the episode up with plot details instead. Having two complex plots running at once, with events happening in parallel, left little time for the sort of silliness that could have happened... so an alternative outlet for the silliness was found instead. Somewhere, up on the BBC web site, is half an hour or so of Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy starring as lightly fictionalised versions of their actor selves, performing a Last of the Summer Wine comedy routine, and guest-starring practically everyone who's been involved with the show and is still alive (even Sean Pertwee and David Troughton make appearances), fairly much as their own selves as well.
Tags: tv: doctor who

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