“The Night of the Doctor,” secret webisode by Steven Moffat
The mini-episode starts chaotically, with a brown-haired British girl at the helm of a crashing spaceship. It takes us a couple seconds to realize that it is not Clara, the current companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Her name is Cass, and she is very brave and snarky even in the face of certain death, which makes her prime companion material. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
A flash! Then a very familiar face appears on board.
At this point, all of Who-fandom raised their fists into the air, growling “MOFFAT! I love you, you sneaky bastard!” This webisode was a complete surprise, you see, and now we are getting the feeling that this is a direct prequel to the 50th Anniversary episode premiering in 9 days.
Cass is grateful for the help until The Doctor leads her to the police box. She realizes exactly what it is (a TARDIS), exactly what The Doctor is (a Time Lord), and she is repulsed. This is not the normal reaction to seeing the TARDIS, mind you. Number Eight looks grim. “I’m not part of the war,” he beseeches. “I swear to you, I never was.”
Cass seals herself off from The Doctor, hissing that there is no difference between Daleks and Time Lords, who are battling each other in a great war across space and time, destroying many worlds in the process. “Go back to your battle field! You’re not finished yet. Some of the universe is still standing.”
Thus ends the two most exciting minutes ever to be loaded onto YouTube. But wait, there’s more!
The spaceship crash-lands on a desolate planet. It turns out to be Karn, home of The Sisterhood, another huge Old Who throwback. Turns out, they’ve been expecting him. “Such a pity he’s dead,” they murmur as the camera pans across the wreckage.
Cass is dead, and The Doctor was dead, but The Sisterhood revived him temporarily. He has a little under four minutes left (and coincidentally, there are less than four minutes left in the video) to make a huge decision. This time, when he regenerates, he gets to decide what kind of character his regenerated self can be: fat or thin, young or old, MAN OR WOMAN (be still my heart)???
Alas, he chooses to be a man again… specifically a warrior, specifically John Hurt, now known as The War Doctor.
This is when all of Who-fandom nods gravely in silence. So this is where it all comes from, the New-Who Doctor’s gravitas, his urgency, his haunted crazy-eyes: a pretty girl who dreamt to see the universe would rather die than join him, the master of the universe (heh heh). This is the precise moment The Doctor, neutral for an uncountable number of years, chooses to join the Time Wars… so he can end it.
He drinks a potion, then he will die and regenerate into a warrior.
“Will it hurt?” he asks the Sister Ohila.
Light emerges from The Eighth Doctor, and Paul McGann finally gets his regeneration scene.
An unfamiliar hand strokes Cass’ cheek, and we see John Hurt don on his raiment, ready for battle.
- The Eighth Doctor, with only four minutes left to live, still has enough cheek left in him to say: “Four minutes? That’s ages! What if I get bored and I need a television or a couple of books? Anyone for chess? Bring me knitting.”
- Right before The Doctor drinks from the chalice that will regenerate him into a warrior, he toasts to “Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, and Molly,” heretofore only apocryphal characters in the audio plays by Big Finish Productions, now official canon. Squee!!!
- Are you kidding me, there is no meh! Allons-y!
The Eighth Doctor’s last words are no longer “Oh no, not again!” That makes me happier than it should.
Firstly, the Eighth Doctor’s new sonic screwdriver seems to be based on his TVM one (it’s chubbier and shorter so it looks like it retracts like one did) but is red at the top like the Third and Fourth’s ones.
Secondly, the Eighth’s Doctor’s TARDIS has a white stain across one of the panels that matches exactly one seen on the War Doctor’s TARDIS in the Day of the Doctor trailer — so the Police Box seen here is the one that John Hurt shows up in in the special.
Thirdly, the Police Box looks like a modern version at first glance, but seems to me to be a hybrid. It’s shorter and thinner, with smaller windows. The 2005 version of the Pull to Open sign is there but it’s been reduced and reshaped to fit the panel. We don’t get a good enough look to really tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they retro-fitted the “Adventure in Space and Time” Police Box with modern DW elements to create the effect (it only occurred to me, too, that they put the replica Hartnell console on display at the DWE, but never the Police Box…)
Finally, I’m loving the evolution if you put Eight, War, and Nine next to each other, which surprises me. I’m not one for the idea of one Doctor’s look bleeding into the next: I feel they should be opportunities to give the whole thing a sharp shock and complete change. But there’s a unique narrative at work here, told through the clothes.
The War Doctor is, figuratively, the Eighth Doctor toughened by the reality of war. The Eighth chooses to become him, and the War Doctor resembles the Eighth, in dress,but with weapons belts and hard leather atop it. Meanwhile, the Ninth is the Doctor who couldn’t let go of what the War Doctor did. Couldn’t escape it. And, even though he updates the clothes beneath, is left with the War Doctor’s jacket.
Which puts a unique spin on things: the Ninth Doctor must HATE that coat. But he wears it anyway. As penance.
This resets the regenerations! Eight died and wasn’t going to regenerate, then the Sisterhood jump starts a regeneration. This potentially changes everything. The Sisterhood of Karn is what Moffat said we’d all seen (old series fans) and missed. And, since War Doctor isn’t a “proper” regeneration, he doesn’t belong as part of the numbering.
- Calling All Whovians! (thenerdsofcolor.org)