The Eighth Doctor Returns
The internet – and my imagination – were aflame all day on 14 November (Paul McGann’s birthday, no less) due to the debut of “The Night of the Doctor.” A prequel to “The Day of the Doctor,” it saw the triumphant return of the Eighth Doctor to filmed “Doctor Who.” I was ecstatic from the moment I heard McGann’s dulcet tones proclaim, “I’m a Doctor; but probably not the one you’re expecting!” I have hardly thought about anything else all day.
In early 2012, I had major surgery on my right knee and had to learn how to walk again. Without many friends in the area at the time and forced to leave my job since I couldn’t stand, the only truly constant thing I had to look forward to was daily physical therapy and a full library of Big Finish Eighth Doctor Audio dramas. The moment, as it’s said, had been prepared for – with so many seemingly all over the place, I determined upon a particular chronology – basically, the 2011 Mary Shelley trilogy, the entire Charley Pollard run (following her into her adventures with the Sixth Doctor), then “The Four Doctors,” followed by the Lucie Miller travels.
By the end of the year, “Dark Eyes” had arrived in my mailbox and I’d completed the extant audios. It is hard to explain the effect McGann’s performance had on me over the course of my rehab. I looked forward each day to another episode, to picking up where I’d left off. Knowing that exuberant, name-dropping, downtrodden, but resilient Doctor would be there made the physical pain and the emotional distress easier to bear.
I got to know that Doctor very well. He was *my* Doctor in every way that mattered to me. I both anticipated and dreaded August 2013, because I’d be putting a lived and shared history into this next art-piece, part of my 50th anniversary art project.
“the company of friends,” by kittenry on flickr.
By the time I got to making this one, I’d also read the collected Eighth Doctor comics, which are marvelous. They are jaunts, not only in space and time, but in and through psyches, dimensions, realities, and states of being. The sheer variety of McGann Doctor material that wasn’t on tv was not only broad, but inspiring. In the intervening period, I’d made more friends, found some kind of strength and resilience myself, and wanted to honor all of that in the art, from the muted grin and wistful gaze of the Doctor to the companions across media, from Grace on tv, to Izzy/Destrii and Kroton in the comics, to Mary, Charley, Lucie, and Molly in those brilliant, sustaining audios.
I’d pretty much given up hope that the Eighth Doctor would have any official role at all in the 50th anniversary celebrations on tv, so I was glad to hear him again, especially matched up with Tom Baker, in Big Finish’s “The Light at the End.”
So imagine my surprise and delight – even elation – when I woke up this morning to see “The Night of the Doctor.”
“the night of the doctor,” by steven moffat.
There are no words to describe what it felt like to actually see Paul McGann as the Doctor again. For a short film with a running time of six minutes, forty-nine seconds, there’s no way it could have been any more complete, or could have felt any more vital. The script, the lighting, the costumes, the characters, the acting…and as always, Paul McGann’s voice; his range, and his presence, which shines through even in the audio dramas. It was magnificent; it was revelatory.
“Dark Eyes 2” is out in February – I’ve already pre-ordered it, followed by “Dark Eyes” 3 and 4, scheduled for release tentatively in November 2014 and February 2015, respectively. Up until now, the greatest thing about McGann’s run was that we never saw his regeneration, so his adventures never had to end. Another gift “The Night of the Doctor” gave us is that he just shows up at some point, so we have no idea of his path from “Dark Eyes” to “Night,” and his adventures can still go on forever in between.
It seems greedy to want more, when even this was never guaranteed. If we never see the Eighth Doctor on screen again, this is enough.