There’s something really lovely about being involved in a fandom, a special sect of people that understand why a TV show/movie/book is incredibly important and amazing. There’s something even more wonderful when that fandom is recognized and appreciated by the wider public.
Though Doctor Who has been mainstream in the UK for many years (decades, really), it’s only grown to great prominence in American culture since the newest iteration started with Christopher Eccleston in 2005. It’s still a bit of an outsider’s club on this side of the Atlantic, but that makes it a little bit more fun, if I’m honest. But even in the US, the knowledge that the 50th anniversary special was happening this week was everywhere. Theaters held special simulcasts of the episode, pubs had special nights for Whovians. I’ve heard rumors that a Mini Cooper painted like a TARDIS was spotted nearby. We got our Google Doodle, though ours came one day later than the google.co.uk version. Is there any greater measure of cultural importance and legitimacy than a Google Doodle? I think not.
BBC America started their Doctor Who marathon early in the week, and new content was there when I started my weekend. Though I didn’t learn much from Doctor Who Explained, I really loved An Adventure in Space and Time. This was a made-for-TV movie about the origins of the show, and about the first doctor, William Hartnell.
I’ve actually never seen any of the pre-2005 episodes of Doctor Who, so I learned a lot from this movie about the beginnings of the show. David Bradley (Harry Potter, Broadchurch, Game of Thrones) plays William Hartnell, and I think he did a superb job. I also think the whole movie made me very sad. When I compare William Hartnell’s love of the character and devotion to the show, with Christopher Eccleston’s attitude toward it…I’m forced to think very badly of the latter.
The movie also starred Sacha Dhawan (Outsourced, the History Boys) as the first director of the show, and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife, Doctor Who) as Verity Lambert, my new personal hero. She had a wardrobe of the most amazing ’60s clothes I’ve seen ever. Way better than on Mad Men. More importantly, she was a kickass feminist, dealing with a bunch of stodgy old men in sweaty tweed suits (the Old Guard). She fought for Doctor Who, not just because it was her first producer job, but because she grew to love the subject matter and what it could be used to communicate. She forced the BBC staff (from executives, to set designers, to technical staff) to take the show seriously; we owe her a huge thanks.
Probably didn’t take a lot of work to make it look like the 1960s again inside here, though they must have cleaned up since James May & co. drove a motorcycle through the interior.
After the movie, we had the Saturday simulcast to watch. The 50th Anniversary special, complete with Doctors 10 and 11 (together at last), and John Hurt (Harry Potter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), all playing different iterations of the Doctor:
Seeing David Tennant in his brown suit and Converse sneakers again made me literally giddy. I miss his Doctor so much. And we got to see Clara, and Rose (but not really), and all of the living actors who’ve played the doctor (sort of…damn you Chris Eccleston).
I thought the special was actually really excellent. As long as I never think too much about the timey wimey stuff, I will continue to think that. I have the feeling that the ‘time fissures’ and the Time Lord art won’t stand up to much rational scrutiny, so I will dutifully avoid any such scrutiny. I loved seeing Matt Smith and Clara, I adored seeing David Tennant again, and I thought John Hurt was fabulous.
It also felt really appropriate that we finally get to see the moment of the Doctor’s life that has really defined the show since the 2005 reboot. The Time War. The moment the Doctor had to decide to kill his own species, in order to save the rest of the universe.
We also got to see the much-talked-about relationship between Ten and Elizabeth I. Starring Joanna Page (Stacey of Gavin and Stacey) as Elizabeth I. I thought she was great, although I don’t really think Elizabeth would have had a Welsh accent.
I think my only real complaint is that, despite having Billie Piper and David Tennant together again, they don’t get to interact as Rose and the Doctor. And I was hoping for more of Peter Capaldi as 12 (or he’s really 13?) , more than just a shot of his furrowed eyebrows. I suppose their keeping his costume and his persona under wraps until the actual regeneration happens.
Sometimes, when Doctor Who tries to do something big and important, it can be a bit of a belly flop. I usually end up enjoying the little, one-off episodes more than the big important two-part season enders. But this, despite hype and importance, was really fun and lovely and I was just grateful to see David Tennant again. I think if he’d turned up with the suit and the shoes and the glasses, and read the phone book, I’d be just as thrilled.
I’m ready for the Christmas Special! To which, we now have a short teaser trailer: