If Eccleston Was In The 50th

From Doctor Who TV, an interesting take on what may have happened if Christopher Eccleston had signed on for the 50th anniversary:

I’ll happily admit that between May and December of 2013 I went through a period of adamant fan-insistence, telling anyone who’d listen that there was no way John Hurt’s role in The Day of the Doctor was borne purely from Christopher Eccleston declining to appear. “Don’t be so cynical!” I’d say, “This is what Moffat’s been building up to all along – a secret Doctor! How would that possibly work with someone we’d already seen?” Alas, I had to eat my words late last year when the aforementioned Moffat confirmed to Doctor Who Magazine that Eccleston would indeed have taken the War Doctor’s role in the anniversary special had he agreed to appear. But nevertheless, how would that possibly work with someone we’d already seen? Despite only appearing in one-and-a-bit episodes, the War Doctor’s existence hits Doctor Who’s 2013 output like a stone in a pond (a pond without any ducks, of course), sending ripples back through series 7B and forward across the 50th anniversary celebrations and into Matt Smith’s Christmas departure. So what would have happened to the surrounding episodes if Eccleston had shocked everyone and agreed to take part? Cue speculation…

“The Doctor has a secret…”

Most of The Name of the Doctor would work just fine without John Hurt turning round in its last moment. The Great Intelligence’s plan may have led to the War Doctor being uncovered, but the latter doesn’t hold any direct connection to the undoing of the Doctor’s victories that ensued in the episode. But putting the episode’s primary plot aside, the key dialogue allusions throughout the episode seem irrevocably tied up with the War Doctor. The entire story is instigated by a single line: “the Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave, and it is discovered”. The very satisfying rug-pull of the discovery being the Doctor’s grave, not his secret, may untie the War Doctor from the Great Intelligence plot, but it also further entrenches him in everything else.

With the Doctor’s secret, and the reasons for his name being hidden, revealed as only incidental to the Great Intelligence’s plan, there had to be a pretty damn good pay-off for what they actually were. Personally, and I’d hope most would agree, I’d say that “Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor” more than fulfilled that criteria; “Re-introducing Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor from a few years back”, however, would not have had anywhere near the same impact. Fair enough, Clara may not have seen the Ninth before, and the initial feeling from the audience would probably be sky-high excitement just the same, but once the euphoria wore of it would have made no sense: how could the Ninth Doctor be a secret Doctor? Rose knew him personally, of course, but he was in no way hidden away even after she left; a certain distinctive Northern face found its way into John Smith’s Journal of Impossible Things, and was happily shown off to Jackson Lake, Rosita, Amy, Rory, the Atraxi and Craig Owens at various points over the years. Hardly hidden away in the sub-subconscious, is it?

So what would the alternative be? The only way I can imagine it working is to remove the notion of a secret altogether. Thus: a different title, no pre-broadcast “they’re going to tell us his name” fun, no “his secret revealed” tag-line, a much less intriguing message from Clarence (“The Doctor’s grave has been discovered on Trenzalore, go there now” perhaps?), and a totally different ending. I’m thinking the Ninth Doctor appearing in the time stream as a direct appeal for help in his darkest Moment-pressing moment, echoing through his history. Despite the losses in The Name of the Doctor itself, this ending could have created a tighter link between Name and Day and, story-wise, a more immediate cliffhanger – and less of a coincidence when the War Doctor crops up again the very next episode. However, I don’t think anyone fan of the show would want it to lose the sheer amount of publicity and interest generated by the mystery of Hurt’s Doctor.

“I don’t suppose there’s any need for a Doctor any more…”

The Night of the Doctor was fan-pleasing to the extreme, and I don’t think it’s controversial to say that was down to Paul McGann’s appearance more than the revelation of the War Doctor’s origin. On the face of it, therefore, having McGann regenerate into Eccleston here wouldn’t have made much difference (and may have even allowed for a slightly fuller appearance from the new Doctor). But I don’t think The Night of the Doctor could have played out as it did at all if it was to feature the Ninth Doctor. Ask yourself, would you have been happy with the idea of the Doctor in series 1 having been specifically chosen as a warrior, and not as the Doctor? Would it ring true that Rose could fix him to such an extent that he won’t even kill the Daleks in The Parting of the Ways, if this was his genesis? It just wouldn’t have fit. The Ninth Doctor would have had to have a natural beginning within the war as we’d assumed for all those years, and so the Eighth would have been right in the thick of the action. It would still have been wonderful to see Paul in the role again, but The Night of the Doctor would have lost that element of filling in the last piece of the puzzle – it would just have been telling us what we already knew, and would feel far less necessary to the fiftieth narrative as a result.

“Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy?”

In my mind, however, the biggest difference in the parallel universe where Christopher Eccleston agreed to return to Who is in Matt Smith’s exit. Quite simply, the Eleventh Doctor would not have been on his last regeneration had the War Doctor not been introduced. So how on Earth/Trenzalore/Gallifrey would The Time of the Doctor have worked? There’s a couple of possibilities. Perhaps Trenzalore stops being the Doctor’s final resting place, and is just the scene of a climactic battle. But hold on, doesn’t that break the plot of The Name of the Doctor entirely? So maybe Matt would get an alternative swan-song that ties up the crack in time narrative and so-on, with Trenzalore tucked away for Capaldi’s last episode? But that seems equally unlikely, when we were told way back in 2011 that Trenzalore signified “the fall of the Eleventh”.

It’s also pretty unlikely that Moffat can be sure of outlasting Capaldi’s time as the Doctor; if he were to leave the Trenzalore story open when stepping down, it would rather restrict any incoming showrunner’s own ideas. So I have to return to the breaking of The Name of the Doctor point. Not only does the secret have to be removed with the Ninth figuring, so too does the core plot of the Great Intelligence’s plan! Other than the general foreshadowing of the Trenzalore setting, I can’t see anything else that could remain of series 7’s finale without the War Doctor. Unless, that is, the events of The Day of the Doctor encourage the Eleventh to head to Trenzalore before his time, in order to pre-empt and avert his final death down the line – sacrificing his current life in the process (which were my initial thoughts before the Eleventh being his final life was confirmed). That could have worked, but it would have changed the climactic scenes of The Time of the Doctor completely and in all probability left the Twelfth Doctor with the issue of gaining a new regeneration cycle hanging over him.

“I never forget a face”

Before concluding, I should confirm that I am a massive fan of Christopher Eccleston. I started watching Doctor Who in 2005, and before Matt Smith came along I was sure that he’d always be my favourite Doctor. Series 1 is very special, but it’s also complete. I would never complain if Chris came back to Who one day, far from it, but does it need to happen? Is he letting anyone down by declining a reappearance? No. When Chris took the job, he owed us nothing more than the thirteen episodes he signed up for – and he more than delivered with them.

I believe also that, when looking at how different 2013 would have been with Chris on board, that it’s all worked out for the best. Matt Smith’s final three episodes would take on a totally different character had the Ninth returned and, now it’s all happened with John Hurt on board and the Doctor gaining a new set of regenerations, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not going to see him again, not with that daft old face, but it’s OK, it’s good, as long as we remember all the people that he used to be. We will never forget when he was the Doctor.

Series 8 Episode Details

Yesterday we had some goodies from the filming of Series 8, episode 1.  Some photos and video.  Now Doctor Who TV has posted some details about that episode.  If you don’t want spoilers, stop reading now.  If not, read their article (fair warning, you might not want to ruin the surprise if this is true!):

In the scene they shot on Tuesday, Clara is still having a hard time accepting the 12th Doctor and needs some reassurance.

Fortunately she receives a timey wimey phone call from the 11th Doctor! He’s calling from Trenzalore shortly after his regeneration on the clock tower, but before Clara enters the TARDIS and he changes.

Matt Smith is thought to have already recorded his half of the scene during filming of The Time of the Doctor.

Some incomplete dialogue after Clara answers the call:

Clara: What do you mean.. “it’s the Doctor?” 11th Doctor: I’m phoning you from Trenzalore. Clara: I don’t understand. 11th Doctor: From the past. From before I changed. It’s all still to happen for me. It’s coming though, not long now, I can feel it. Clara: But.. why would you do this?

The remaining dialogue was inaudible but Eleven reassures her about Twelve: “I know you’re scared, but he will be too; and he’ll need you.”

At some point the 11th and 12th Doctor will exchange some dialogue on the call.

The 12th Doctor: So who is it? The 11th and 12th Doctors at the same time: Oh, is that the Doctor?

Clara is eventually convinced and she hugs the 12th Doctor.

Issues

As I said in a previous post, there were some issues with The Time of the Doctor which I chose to ignore.  Doctor Who TV has addressed some of these:

Matt Smith’s swan song emotionally affected millions of viewers on Christmas Day. However, was it the best tribute to a fantastic Doctor? This article looks at the plot points of Matt’s era that were hidden, invalidated, or disregarded altogether in his final episode.

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a Question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered. Doctor Who?”

In The Time of the Doctor, we see bits of a brutal war being fought on the planet of Trenzalore, and the one Doctor who had no choice but to stay on the battlefield. As the Time Lords yelled through the cracks the oldest question of the universe, Eleven refused to answer it, letting the battle for Trenzalore continue. This completely disregards the purpose of the truth field and the prophecy.

As we know from all the way back to The Eleventh Hour, the question will no longer be asked and ‘silence will fall’ if the Doctor says his name. If silence means the Doctor’s death, as he mentions in The Wedding of River Song, then silence never falls. The Doctor is saved by the Time Lords, invalidating the prophecy and rewriting fixed time. And when does ‘the fall of the eleventh’ occur? The prophecy implies that once Eleven falls, the question will be asked. The prophecy is also disregarded when the Doctor reveals that he is, in fact, the Thirteenth Doctor. In no way did this episode tie up loose ends from Series 5 and 6.

If the Doctor’s grave is not on Trenzalore, if he did not die in that battle, then Clara would have no need to enter his timeline and save him. Going off the notion that the battle ended once the Doctor killed everyone with his regeneration energy, this completely invalidates all of Series 7. There would be no more multiple versions of Clara, giving no mystery to solve. Since his timeline was altered due to the fact that he didn’t die at Trenzalore, it is crashing in on itself. He loses memories such as how to fly the TARDIS. This issue should hopefully be expanded on in Series 8.

The Doctor also allied with the Silence during the war, an enemy that he spent an entire series fighting. The Silence were minor plot points in this episode, an issue considering they are a part of the original prophecy (it is inferred that when the Doctor says his name, chaos will end and, more literally, the Order of the Silence will end, their mission fulfilled.) Considering how huge of a plot point the Silence were, to merely ally with them in the end was a huge, out of character cop-out for the Doctor.

In my opinion, the Eleventh era was defined by not only Matt’s amazing acting, but the fantastic storylines and gut-wrenching characters his Doctor encountered. In a utopia, these would come together in a perfect resolution for Matt’s final episode. However, I was disappointed by the cheap and easy way the loose ends were tied and angry to find much of the past 4 years disregarded or invalidated. This is in no way a discredit to his acting – Matt’s final performance alone caused me to shed a tear. The content itself seemed rushed and incomplete, though. The episode to me was a poor ending to a fantastic era.

Trenzalore

TrenzalorLionKing

A New Strax Field Report

Oh how I love these!  It makes me laugh that the BBC official website won’t let me view them (not available in my country), but wait a couple hours and they’re on another site 🙂

Trailer

Steven Moffat has promised us that Matt Smith’s regeneration will have a very different feel than David Tennant’s… It certainly looks that way:

And before the Christmas Special, don’t forget to watch Farewell To Matt Smith:

“The Name Of The Doctor” Review

Okay, since it’s the season finale, the last episode for 6 months and hopefully a massive episode, I decided to try and watch this one on time and with minimal interruptions.

Strax, Jenny, Vastra, River, new villains, oh my!  Here we go!

Spoilers, so don’t read on until you’ve watched the episode.

The opening to the previous Doctors, oh how I love it!  And the opening holds promises of more information about Clara.  But, of course, we already knew that… Right?

Conference calls seem to be a little different from what I’m used to, but maybe someday… And there they are – all great characters of late.  Vastra, Strax, Jenny, River, Clara.  River and Clara finally meet, and I’ve been waiting for this for a while.  I was a little surprised to see that it was fluffed over a bit, but I suppose there are more important matters at hand.  Like the death of Jenny, and the attacks on the others.  And TRENZALORE.

We’re not even a quarter of the way in, and again I find myself on the edge of my seat, jarred out of my suspense by commercials.  Unfortunately that’s what happens when you watch these things live.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to afford the DVDs, but I guess that really doesn’t have anything to do with the episode, does it?

Smith does upset/tortured quite well.  But the decision is made to go to Trenzalore, and now to force the TARDIS to do it.  BOOM!  Ah, here we are.  A little damage but nothing compared to what this place is supposed to hold.  I was a little sad to see that the TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb. That means the TARDIS dies too, and I guess I’d never really thought of that before.

Here we are again (Yowza!) running through tunnels.  Well, with a slight pause for remembering.  Somehow, though, poof – Everyone is together. Demands to open the door.  The Great Intelligence can be persuasive when it wants, but the Doctor was holding out.  Funny, the TARDIS could still hear River.  Dead River, according to her conversation with Clara.  I know what happened to River in the end, but found myself having trouble remembering the last time we saw her.  I think it was while the Ponds were still around?  Never mind, I’ll remember after the show is over.

Into the overgrown control room we go.  And here we hear the old voices again.  I’ve missed them all…  The Great Intelligence decides it will rewrite all of our old friends (versions of the Doctor), and it does.  Everyone starts to change and disappear because of the timeline changes, but Clara, good old Clara remembers the earlier conversation.  She creates herself, just like Bad Wolf.  I knew as soon as The Great Intelligence said he could go into the light and be scattered.

River tried to talk her out of it, of course, but she had to do it.  “Run you clever boy, and remember.”  I love that they injected her into old footage.  It just fit so well, and it’s nice to think he had help along the years.

The little chat/kiss with River just about broke my heart.  At the end though, just before she disappeared, I may have sworn at the screen.

Time to save the day, and save Clara.  Only first, JOHN HURT, as the Doctor.

I KNEW IT!!!!!