Doctor Who 50th: Beeb's report card
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So how was it for you? Like a longed for encounter with the person of your dreams, The Day of the Doctor came about after much anticipation and a fair amount of groping around in the dark. We knew that the 50th anniversary of our best loved show had to be special and we hoped it wouldn't just amount to 75 minutes of action on a solitary Saturday. We had looked forward to the televisual courtship - some fine dining, a box of chocolates, a bunch of flowers and many little treats before the main event. We held hands with Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and the Beeb, looked into their eyes and surrendered ourselves to their mercy.Well, first up was Brian Cox in The Science of Doctor Who, explaining the basis in science fact and theory for the Doctor's adventures. Colin reviewed it on these pages, describing it as "the perfect introduction for kids and teenagers to some of the most interesting theoretical science presented in a way that won't alienate them". With an appearance from Matt Smith to tide you over for some of the long week to follow, we'll give this a B for enthusiasm.
Then, to stop it leaking out, the Beeb gave us the 8 minute wonder that was Night of the Doctor with Paul McGann back as the Doctor in the middle of the Time War. Written by Steven Moffat, the episode explained who John Hurt's War Doctor was and seemingly brought many of the Big Finish audio plays into the proper Who canon. Teasers and trailers were released all the way up to the special but this was the most surprising and perhaps most interesting. A+...Next up was the Monsters and Villains weekend on BBC Three which had a countdown of the Doctor's enemies and the showing of episodes featuring them from the new series. It was mostly the same talking heads and clips you'll have seen from the likes of Dr Who Confidential and some of the BBC America shows, and it was too reliant on new Who for my tastes at least. This was cheap programming and nothing new, so we give the Beeb a C on this one.
Radio 4 extra was presenting several Big Finish stories during the week, but the next TV show to join the celebrations was Blue Peter with its party edition. Few words strike terror in my heart like Blue Peter and party, and this was carefully orchestrated "fun" featuring competitions, fancy dress, another interview with Matt and chocolate Daleks. Presented by non-threatening adults with poor reading skills, this was something that discerning children would circumnavigate like a steaming dog turd on an icy day. E, and lucky to get that.Later that evening, things got a lot better with Mark Gatiss' dramatisation of the story behind the production of the first Doctor Who, An Adventure in Space and Time. Nostalgic, warm and a well balanced mixture of naive empowerment story and in-jokes for Whovians, it was nice to remember the quite extraordinary people who got that first episode made, and the sadness of the true-life story of the first Doctor, William Hartnell. The most substantial entrée that the Beeb offered us and jolly good too. B+.
Once the programme finished we were also given a short remembrance of Hartnell in a 5-10 minute featurette, followed over on BBC 4 by the whole of that first serial, An Unearthly Child. As the main classic Who offering we got, this almost made up for the lack of use of the extensive archive of serials. Clearly, BBC enterprises guards these treasures jealously - B+. Radio 2 offered a couple of programmes over the next few days, and both Tennant and Smith appeared on Graham Norton's show for 20 minutes of chat and nerd bashing.Then we got the special itself, with a glare from you know who, UNIT, Timelords, Ms Piper, Mr Hurt, Elizabeth 1st, 13 Doctors and a special cameo from that most elegant of British monuments, the Tower of Tom Baker. Not a lot made any sense if you think about it, but what a ride, what a joyful escapade that reset Gallifrey and erased the Doctor's guilt. Oh and there were Zygons and Daleks too. A- for The Day of the Doctor.
Which brings us to the low-point of the celebrations. The Doctor Who Live Afterparty resembled an undiscovered circle of hell that Dante neglected to inform us of. Rick Edwards asked dumb questions with feigned interest and Zoe Ball, on her birthday, endured transatlantic interviews that left Steven Moffat with his head in his hands and the audience, experiencing a 15 second delay between respondents, must have thought they'd turned over to a new Becket play. No one is excused, no career should survive this. U.
Yet, redemption was at hand with Peter Davison's The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot as classic Doctors, Colin Baker, Davison and McCoy try to get into the filming of the Day of the Doctor. Hidden, quite unreasonably away on the red button directly after The Day of The Doctor, this was very sweet and quite wicked. John Barrowman's dark secret, Paul McGann's regular employment, Peter Jackson and Ian McKellen cameoing and a delightful send-up of Russell The Davies. It was very slight but delightfully whimsical and the perfect cuddle after the long romance. A-
With slashed budgets and the end of new drama on BBC Four, this has been a rough year for the Beeb and I for one think they did themselves proud with the last pennies they found for the special and most of the extras around it - some more classic Who would have been good though. Overall it's a B+ from us...
So what did you think of the Doctors celebrations? What were the highs and what did you hope for? Tell us below