As a long time Doctor Who fan, I’d been looking forward to the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary. I remember watching the 25th with the Five Doctors and absolutely loving it. Do you know why the Five Doctors was so good? It wasn’t trying to be cute or clever, or rewrite the last seven years of Televised stories. It just tried to tell a good story with as many of the Doctors and companions as possible weaved into the current season’s arc. Steven Moffatt on the other hand, has written a story where he weaves all these little Easter eggs into the story while essentially cancelling out the Davies’ era of canon to rewrite it as his own.
Let’s go over the bits that I liked. That will be quicker. I loved the return of Kate Stewart, the Brigadier’s daughter. She was great. Her line about the crows got a smile out of me, as did her steely handling of the Zygons. I’ll also admit to liking the way Billie Piper was used as The Moment, the sentient computer the War Doctor was going to use to stop the war. It’s because she was so completely not-Rose-like that I liked the portrayal. Tom Baker’s cameo at the end was great. The man is 80-years-old and can just step into the role as if he never left. See that was quick.
The problem with the rest of the episode is that it all comes off as badly written fanfic. It’s all Moffatt’s head canon on how he thought the Time War should have gone, and to hell with anything that was established in Davies’ era or any of the rules he put in place for his own. He’s already told fans “plot holes be damned, this is how I want it to be, so this is how it is.” (my paraphrasing) Where to even start; how about the “War Doctor”. This is a character that Moffatt came up with because he didn’t want Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor portrayal to be the one to have fought the war. Well, you know what? That’s just too bad. I didn’t want the Doctor’s companions falling all over him through most of the Davies era, and to have the only one not to get burned. But that’s the way it is. You don’t get to go and insert regenerations just to appease your own ego. John Hurt’s portrayal of the grizzly, war-weary man was well done. I enjoyed his impatience with the more irreverent 10th and 11th Doctors, but couldn’t Paul McGann have done the job just as well? He’s had some pretty testy moments in the Big Finish stories. He could have filled this role just fine. There was no need to create another regeneration.
And let’s look at the way the Doctor’s regenerations were portrayed. If Moffatt was going for something that was a throwback to the Three Doctor’s, the show’s 10th Anniversary episode, then the portrayals work. The War Doctor would be the 1st Doctor, Eleven would be the 2nd, and Ten would be the 3rd. The Grouch, the Clown and the Dandy. Unfortunately, the characters become more parodies of themselves, especially Ten. He comes off much more goofy than I remember Ten being. I found him more annoying that normal, and not cute at all. Eleven is essentially himself, but then he’s Moffatt’s creation, he’s not going to play with him too much.
Now, how about the return of the Zygons? That was probably the most pathetic return of a villain ever. They didn’t even get a story. They are just a plot device to introduce the concept of Time Lord art; moments frozen in time. They’re whole plot to take over the earth, by hiding in paintings and waiting for humanity’s technology to advance enough that they would want to take over is flimsy at best. They are shapeshifters from another world with greater technology than humanity in the 16th Century. Why not just take over the world then, when humans were weak and superstitious enough to fall for it? They didn’t get nearly the airtime or story their return deserved.
The coup-de-grace of the episode is Moffatt throwing out the continuity that Davies built up over his run ending with The End of Time episodes as well as his own “Doctor can’t change his own timeline” rule. Here is what I’m really tired of from Moffatt’s writing. Continuity isn’t important and can be tossed out at any time. In Angel’s Take Manhattan, Moffatt has the Doctor declaring that once an event is stated, it can’t be changed. That’s why Amy couldn’t keep reading from the book. This is a dumb idea in the first place, since Doctor Who is based on the entire premise of going back in time and changing things. Moffatt’s also made a big deal that the Doctor can’t go back and change his own timeline. But suddenly, in this episode, when it’s convenient, not only can the Doctor go back and change his past, he can get all his other regenerations to join in and it’s a party on Gallifrey as he swoops in to save the day. While this scene made a cool visual for the anniversary show, it doesn’t belong anywhere in the continuity. Especially when that twist tosses out Davies’ 10th Doctor series ending.
While this episode had its moments, it wasn’t the 50th Anniversary I was hoping for. I am so disappointed in the writing, and the contrivances that Moffatt had to come up with in order to make his vision of the Time War work. He messed up with the Doctor’s regenerations and allows the Doctor to go back and change his own timeline, something he’s spent series 7 saying over and over again is something he can’t do. But that’s only to have his other characters be killed off, or inserted into all of the Doctors regenerations so he gets make the biggest mark. This show was supposed to be about celebrating 50 years of a beloved show. Instead we get a celebration of one man’s ego. If that isn’t fanfic, I don’t know what is.