Doctor Who: The Last Day (2013)

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After the incredibly awesome mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, I was pretty stoked to see yet another mini-episode a few days later. Sadly, this four minutes of material lacks almost all of the impact that TNOTD had and barely comes across as well as those one-minute cellphone prequels they did for series 2. I’m only writing about it because I feel like I should be a “completionist” since I’ve been tackling all of the other 50th anniversary material. This was intended as a prequel to the actual special, but it almost seems more like a DVD special feature.

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The Last Day tells the story of a Gallifreyan soldier that has been enlisted into the Arcadian branch of their military. As viewers, we see the unfolding story through the eyes of this soldier, a fact that almost immediately makes this seem like a “cut-scene” from a modern “first person shooter” videogame. We are told that Arcadia is the “safest place on Gallifrey” and that nothing has ever gone through both of the oddly-named “sky trenches” we saw in The Day of the Doctor.

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Our soldier goes through the agony of having a psychic head-cam bolted into his skull: first the actual pain, then multiple hallucinations of the instructor talking to the newbie seemingly dying. The instructor goes through great pains to explain away these “hallucinations” as an after effect of the camera itself, and not any sort of premonitions. Our soldier is taken to a large gun battery and briefly participates in some target practice. He is told to be on the look out for a Dalek, because “only one would destroy the city”. Seconds later millions of our old armored squid-guys fill the sky, and massacre all of the soldiers.

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It’s good to see a bit more of the Gallifreyan military, since anything about their society outside of their high-ranking elite is fairly vague in the TV and books. This was essentially an introduction to the ground soldiers we saw in The Day of The Doctor, and it did well in that regard. Sadly the script isn’t great, the acting is bland, and it feels rather cheap to be quite honest. I didn’t hate it by any means, but it The Last Day seems fairly unnecessary. I would have rather enjoyed four more minutes of Paul McGann, and that’s all there is to it.

The Night of the Doctor (2013)

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“I’m a Doctor … but probably not the one you expected!”

One of my dream storylines for the 50th Anniversary special was a multi-Doctor story featuring the return of Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor. Despite not being a huge fan of the 1996 movie that he appeared in, I grew to love his portrayal of the character because of the fine audio adventures produced by Big Finish. While my wish did not fully come true, I did get to see the Eighth Doc bless our screens for at least one final time. The Night of the Doctor is a fine prequel to The Day of the Doctor, and answers many questions. When did Eight regenerate? What/who is John Hurt‘s character? Who fought in the time war? There are more questions left after this, but the majority of the “gaps” that have been bothering fans for a while have either been filled or at least clarified. Pretty good for less than ten minutes of content!

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The story opens with a major predicament for a space pilot named Cass. Her ship is plummeting towards the planet Karn, and it doesn’t look good. Right in the nick of time, a mysterious man calling himself “The Doctor” shows up and offers assistance, but is turned away once it is realized that he is a Timelord. You see, it’s the early days of the “Time War” and Timelords are just about as popular as a particularly grouchy Dalek. Cass accepts death rather than speaking to The Doctor, a fact that devastates him to his very core. It seems that he has tried to hide from the Time War, and take no part in the various atrocities his people are committing. Pretty soon, time runs out both Cass and The Doctor crash into the planet’s surface, and both are killed on impact.

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Suddenly, The Doctor wakes up to familiar faces. The Sisterhood of Karn, not seen since the 1970’s adventure The Brain of Morbius, have revived him, but it’s not permanent. In less than five minutes he will die, The Doctor is given the choice of either a) Dying for good or b) Kickstarting his regeneration cycle and escaping his fate. There is a catch though, The Sisterhood of Karn wants The Doctor to take charge of his people’s actions in the Time War, they want him to stop hiding and become a warrior for once. With great pain, The Doctor accepts and regenerates into “The War Doctor” via some sort of “magical potion.” He is handed a bandolier and a new face appears, that of a young John Hurt, the man we saw at the end of The Name of the Doctor.

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For his short amount of screen time, Paul McGann delights with his version of The Doctor, bringing the momentary humor that I’ve grown to love in his audio adventures, and a slice of his dark side. Another notable happening is the fact that this “episode” essentially canonizes the aforementioned audio plays, by having The Doctor mention his companions before he dies. So, at least for now, Charley Pollard, C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Tamsin Drew, and Molly O’Sullivan are “legitimate” companions. I also liked how “Eight” took his regeneration. There was no emo-tastic “I don’t wanna die” tantrum that we’ve seen recently, just a stoic, if not slightly self-loathing nature to the way it happened. The effect was even like across between the new style (gold energy from hands and feet and head) and the old style (bright white light), which, if intentional, nice a nice touch by the producers.

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This ten minutes of Youtube greatness really brightened my day last week. I had no idea this even existed until I got home from work and noticed the internet had exploded into a nerdgasm of happiness. Petitions have gone up to get McGann back for some more filming in some capacity, and I think BBC had no idea that such a response would happen. It sometimes seems like old “Eight” is forgotten in the grand scheme of things, and having him get all this attention is awesome. Here’s hoping for a Capaldi / McGann episode in the future!