night of the doctorThe BBC have produced a number of Doctor Who minisodes over the last few years – either as Children In Need specials, episode prequels or extras and I’ve not once reviewed one.Yessterday, 14 Nov 2013, a prequel was released for the fiftieth anniversary story titled Night of the Doctor. I can’t help but give it a quick once over here.

Click more to read on, but be warned – MASSIVE Spoilers lie within! If you haven’t seen it yet, go here, check it out, then come back before doing so.

The Bringer of Darkness, the Oncoming Storm, the Doctor, the Warrior – A Time Lord! The 50th Anniversary features Matt Smith, David Tennant and a mysterious incarnation played by John Hurt. Only one appears in the mini episode, The Night of the Doctor. But which?

Night of the Doctor is a prequel not just to the imminent Day of the Doctor, but also to the re-launched series as a whole. The minisode harkens back to the show’s past … in the most awesome way possible. We are re-introduced to Paul McGann’s Doctor which came completely out of the blue. Unless, of course you saw the episode by going to the official BBC Doctor Who homepage. Spoiler image ahoy. Bad BBC web team.

Back to the episode itself. It’s just under six minutes long, but Steven Moffat managed to cram a heck of a lot of content into that time. We’re given an understanding of the Eighth Doctor’s role in the “Last Great Time War.”. We’re told how bad things have got by short-lived Cass. Also the fact that this woman – willing to sacrifice herself for the rest of her crew and eager to see the universe – would rather die than travel with a Time Lord … wow. Things have gotten bad.

McGann looks brilliant here. Time has clearly been hard on his Doctor – gone is the almost Byronic romantic hero that emerged from the 1996 television movie. His outfit is almost piratical – knee high boots, wide collared shirt, neck scarf and over-coat. His hair is shorter and McGann has aged well enough that his face seems lined with the concerns of trying to do good in an impossible war. Topped with the appearance of Sonic Screwdriver used in his debut adventure … I like this look on McGann.

OK, I’d have liked to have seen more hints of the outfit McGann cobbled together for his latest Big Finish series’ but that company’s continuation of our “missing” Doctor is acknowledged nicely. Shortly before the end, The Doctor reels off a list of his companions. Each of them was created by Big Finish and I only noticed Mary (Shelley)’s absence from the list.

Steven Moffat writes a great Doctor here too. It actually proved something I’d never really considered true. Any Doctor can deliver any other Doctor’s lines. They’ll give them their own spin but the core is consistent. Consider The Eighth Doctor’s line about four minutes being a long time. My favourite line in the episode. Now imagine Matt Smith’s voice. Now Tennant’s. Now Davisons … and so on. There’s also a video on youtube that has Sylvester McCoy reading Smith’s “Hello Stonehenge” speech from The Pandorica Opens. It works.

Paul McGann’s very presence manages to steal the show but both Emma Campbell-Jones (the aforementioned Cass) and Clare Higgins as Ohila turn in star performances. Higgins plays the part of a Sister of the Flame from the planet Karn. Karn (and the Sisterhood) were introduced in the Fourth Doctor story The Brain of Morbius and have direct ties to ancient Time Lord civilisation. Paul McGann has encountered them before too – in two Big Finish audio adventures. As such, their use here is extremely fitting. Higgins’ performance really worked for me. I did not trust her for an instant. Indeed, I suspect that every one of the proffered elixirs would have resulted in our hero becoming “The War Doctor”.

Speaking of “The War Doctor”, notice his reflection? That’s a young John Hurt. The Last Great Time War clearly has a time to go before it ends.

Night of the Doctor was a fitting prequel to what I hope will be a stunning anniversary story. If nothing else, it’s a fitting end to our almost unseen Doctor. Watch. Enjoy. Also – we’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode, so please comment below!

Rating: 5 / 5

Reviewer: WedgeDoc

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