If you are a Dr. Who fan, and you have not seen this, you totally should. You’ll need to click on the title of this post (above) and open the full post. Also, there are spoilers farther down in this article. So see the video FIRST.
And while you’re at it, check out these teasers for the 50th anniversary.
The newest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hRy2N2CMhQ
Other cool (but marginally less awesome) trailers:
watch?v=mbIug5Y7AVo (in all of DWs cheesy glory; call it 50 years of Who in two minutes.)
Explanations and spoilers below.
The Return of Paul McGann
For those of you late to the game (i.e. think of Christopher Eccleston as they first Doctor, for which, honestly, you need to be slapped for at this stage of your fandom), Paul McGann has exactly one episode, and I’m pretty sure it’s not even being considered canon by the current produces of the series.
Back in 1996, Fox thought it would be a good idea to restart Dr. Who. So they cast a Brit named Paul McGann as the 8th Doctor. Then they got Sylvester McCoy (the 7th Doctor) to do a regeneration scene, in which the Doctor forgets to look at the monitor of what the hell is going on outside before opening the front doors of the TARDIS, immediately walking into a gang war, and getting himself shot in the process. Honestly, kind of deserved it.
But to add insult to injury, he doesn’t die. Instead, he’s raced to the hospital where he dies on the operating table because the doctors refuse to trust their diagnostic tools that he has two hearts. Granted, that’s a hard thing to accept, but the evidence was literally drawn out for them.
They also grabbed a few old favorites, because it was sure to draw in the old fans. So here come the Daleks…without any explanation to new viewers as to what the hell they are. For those us familiar with Daleks, we all cringed in our seats* while they put a villain on trial and grant him a last request before executing him. These are apparently the liberal arm of the Dalek civilization.
The villain is the Master, who is horrifically played by American Eric Roberts who, among other things, says “whoa.” Besides it being an atrocious acting job, Roberts refused to wear most of the makeup that would indicate his body was falling apart and thus is the impetus of, well, the entire rest of the plot.
The last request is for the Doctor to take his remains to their home planet, a wish that the Master would never have and the Doctor should have never trusted.
Fans adored McGann and hated this pilot episode. Needless to say, the project was dropped.
*I’m not kidding about the cringing. I lived in Britain and the time, and we watched in a group whose members were constantly wincing, gasping, facepalming and more than occasionally screaming at the TV set.
The Return of the Sisterhood of Karn
This group appeared in an episode from the mid-1970s called the “Brain of Morbius.” They are Gallifreyans like the Doctor, but they apparently fled from their Time Lord cousins because, quite frankly, Time Lords are dicks. They are a personal favorite of mine.
Firm Establishment of the Extra Incarnation
The teaser at the end of the last episode to date, “Name of the Doctor,” tells us that there is a missing incarnation of the Doctor. By this point, I think most of us have figured out that he is placed between Doctors #8 (McGann, who never had a regeneration scene until now) and Doctor #9 (Eccleston).
How He Became Such as Badass
The Doctor abhors violence. That’s been canon for 50 years. Yet, from the very beginning of the new series, we have known that just once, the Doctor broke that rule one day and committed double genocide, including laying waste to his own people. Well, everyone has one of those days occasionally, right?
Now, granted, both races were locked in a war that was destroying the universe, but even in those sorts of circumstances, genocide is still way outside of the Doctor’s repertoire. What the hell happened?
The answer here is he finally witnessed one too many deaths. He has been staying out of the war as he always stays out of wars, but now he just cracks.
He’s also dying, but the Sisterhood gives him the opportunity to control his regeneration and become what is needed rather than what he wants, and what is needed in one badass Doctor…which explains to us how the Doctor can even consider wiping out two races: he made sure this time around he would have the proper perspective on it.
But it also means this incarnation is totally different from other incarnations, so much so that the three incarnations after him (#9, #10 and #11), have ignored his existence. As far as they are concerned, while it was him, that him wasn’t a “Doctor.” It was something else.
This also nicely works around the fact that we’ve been counting Eccleston as Doctor 9 rather than 10 for the last eight years.
The Final Words
The very last lines cement the mentality already hinted to in “Name of the Doctor.” Namely, that what he is about to create is pretty much anathema to his very existence. And yet, the Doctor realizes it is needed. Indeed, he seems a little ashamed of his passiveness as McGann’s final like is “Physician, heal thyself.” Consider that in the context of him destroying the parts of himself that make him “the Doctor.” Being himself is a sickness needing purging in this time of war.
And then the opening line of the new Doctor: “Doctor no more,” nicely sewing things up from the “Name of the Doctor” in which Doctor #11 refers to one who is a “Doctor who is not a Doctor” (or something close, as I don’t have the episode on hand to review).
So, I didn’t see this mini-episode until after the 50th anniversary special. I loooooved it, for many reasons:
1) I always thought McGann got the shaftiest of shafts. I used to believe that Colin Baker got screwed because of the constant threat (and actualization) of cancellation, but he did get two seasons and that hideous coat. McGann, on the other hand, had to be in America, had to deal with Fox and Eric Roberts, and still managed to leave so much of an impression on the true fans that he was able to keep the candle lit on the franchise through the many BBC audio dramas over the seven year gap between the movie and the resurrected series. Giving him a legit BBC regeneration scene just seems like a reward for a job well done.
2) Explaining the War Doctor. Like you, I wondered how we went from the ‘classic’ models to angry, pained Eccleston with a side jaunt through genocide. Double, sorry. This elegantly frames the entire concept and gives Moffat an out for keeping his naming conventions intact. He’s been my favorite DW writer not named Douglas Adams for ages now, and little things like this are exactly why.
3) His companions from the novels and radio dramas got a shout-out too.