Probably Not the One You Were Expecting – The Night of the Doctor Review

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Featuring one brand new character, the return of some familiar ones and an exciting surprise appearance by eighth Doctor Paul McGann, The Night of the Doctor is probably the best Doctor Who mini-episode we’ve been treated to yet.

Despite being just seven minutes long, this minisode is crammed full of important information, answering many Doctor Who fans’ burning questions about the period just before the New Who adventures began. It’s also the most tight and controlled bit of scriptwriting we’ve seen from showrunner Steven Moffat for a while, the short format requirements forcing him to play to his strengths and concentrate on straightforward storytelling and his trademark witty dialogue, rather than getting bogged down in over-complex plot twists and elaborate story arcs. It’s well-paced, gripping and works well in its own right, even as it obviously builds up to the upcoming anniversary special, giving us a flavour of what we can expect from this.

The-Night-of-the-Doctor-Ohila-590x331McGann’s performance is timed to perfection, really bringing the character to life and making it his own in spite of time constraints. His effortless shifts from dry humour to the sheer fury of a desperate man seem to look forward to the darker interpretation of the role as portrayed by his successor, Chris Eccleston. Along with his brilliant audio adventures, The Night of the Doctor serves as proof positive (as if any were needed) that McGann was rather short-changed in his earlier brief stint as on-screen Doctor in the unpopular 1996 movie.

After attempting to rescue a (presumably) human woman, Cass, from a failing ship, this Doctor that we were probably not expecting crash lands and finds himself dying on the planet Karn, which the more seasoned Who fan may remember from the 1976 Tom Baker story, The Brain of Morbius. In this earlier four-part story (penned by Terrance Dicks and Robert Holmes under the pseudonym Robin Bland) the Doctor encounters the Sisterhood of Karn, the keepers of the Flame of Life (or “Utter Boredom”, as the Doctor has it here), which is essential to a secret Elixir known only to the Sisterhood and the High Council of the Time Lords. In The Brain of Morbius, the character Ohica is young, under the command of the elderly leader Maren. In The Night of the Doctor, the Doctor comes face to face with a much older Ohica, now apparently in charge of the Sisterhood and played brilliantly by Clare Higgins. Ohica offers to restore the Doctor’s life, p01d76q4but only in exchange for his help in the Time War.

Although The Night of the Doctor may answer a lot of questions, it also throws up plenty more, particularly concerning the reluctantly involved new character Cass, played by Emma Campbell-Jones. Who is she and what was she doing so close to Karn? Who are the rest of her crew and what became of them? What was it that caused the damage to her ship in the first place? Hopefully, The Day of the Doctor will reveal all.

The Day of the Doctor will be broadcast on Saturday 23rd November. Don’t miss it!

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