David Tennant and Billie Piper are back in Doctor Who.
Tennant is THE Doctor for much of today’s teen and 20-something fans, and Piper was THE companion.
And what’s even better, one of the main villains will by the Zygons. A fan-favourite baddie that, surprisingly, have only ever appeared in one previous Doctor Who TV story.
It’s great to hear that the 60-minute 3D special (3D, really? Who asked for that?) will pay homage to previous seasons. But… what about the other Doctors? The other villians? The other companions?
Is the Doctor that regretted being the Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, really not going to show up at all?
What about the Doctor that was disappointed to have only to starred in one TV story, Paul McGann?
Or Sylvester McCoy who recently showed up in the Doctor Who special of Pointless and Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit?
Or I’m a Celebrity’s very own Colin Baker?
Or the still very active Peter Davidson?
Or THE Doctor for all those 20-something’s dads, Tom Baker?
And then what about those who are no-longer with us? William Hartnall, Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee? The former two are being played by David Bradley and Reece Shearsmith in the upcoming docu-drama An Adventures in Time and Space. Could they play the Doctor in this episode?
Or perhaps the question isn’t could… it’s should. Should we actually bother with a multi-Doctor story?
Absolutely we should. This is 50 years of Doctor Who. Only James Bond has had the ability to evolve with the years and still stay true to what it was 50 years ago. The 60 minute spectacular at the end of the year isn’t just another Doctor Who story, it’s a celebration. And everyone should be invited to the party.
And that includes the audience. This needs to be a show that not just pleases the current generation of Whovians, but every generation. The BBC needs to somehow craft an episode that will attract the kids, their parents and their parents. And the easiest way to do that, and the best I’d argue, is to take a trip down memory lane and bring everyone back.
Granted, multi-Doctor stories have been hit-and-miss in the past. The absolutely dreadful Dimensions In Time, a Children In Need special episode designed to celebrate Doctor Who’s 30 years, is the pinnacle of bad Who stories. So bad that it’s not even considered canon.
But Steven Moffat isn’t about to write a bad episode. Even his ‘poor’ episodes, like 2010’s The Beast Below, is still infinitely better than most other episodes out there. The 50th Anniversary Special will not be Dimensions in Time.
And just because you’re bringing back McCoy and the Bakers, does not mean they have to play the Doctor. They’re all noticeably older (and larger) than they were during their Who days. Why can’t they be cameo players? Incidental side characters, designed to honour the show whilst not confusing the story?
The biggest challenge in my eyes is not bringing back the Doctor, but the villains. Not only does Doctor Who’s 50 year special have to pay homage to those that have come before Matt Smith, but also to the baddies, too. Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors… The Master.
And then there are the companions.
I know anniversary specials in the past have been confusing affairs, with too many cameos and baddies and not enough, well, story. But this year is different. We are not celebrating a random tenth birthday. This is 50 years. And the fans want to see everyone back together for one big celebration.
Doctor Who does not need to end in a multi-Doctor story, multi-bad guy, multi-companion story. In fact, it shouldn’t.
There are many ways in which the BBC can celebrate Doctor Who this year, and they are already doing. A docu-drama that tells the story of the first ever Doctor Who, written by the wonderful Mark Gatiss, is a great way.
The problem with writing a multi-Doctor story, is that the writer begins telling the story from the wrong place. Moffat is a man who dreams up great ideas and then turns them into wonderful scripts with great characters. That idea could be about an evil in the Wi-Fi, or a crack in a bedroom wall, or a planet full of mad Daleks. It shouldn’t be ‘How do I get all the Doctor’s in the same room again?’
And more to the point, all the Doctor’s together just would not work.
I love Classic-era Who. I just finished Tomb of the Cyberman again, what a wonderful episode that was.
But it’s camp. Over-the-top. Silly. Can you imagine the over-dramatic Sylvester McCoy in the same world as Matt Smith?
Doctor Who today is still the same show as it was, but the tone is noticeably different. The first seven Doctors are overly eccentric.
If there is going to be a multi-Who episode, I’d suggest that you leave it with Tennant. Maybe, if you can, attract back Eccleston and McGann, too. These Doctors still work in the modern day. But leave it with that. Let the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who get marked with a spectacular, exciting, dramatic story, that has a number of nods and winks to previous stories but in a subtle way.
As for the suggestion that perhaps McCoy, Baker, Davidson and Baker make cameo appearances. Again, I am going to have to say no.
A lovely anecdote came out from the recent James Bond 50th anniversary on how they nearly had Sean Connery in the movie Skyfall. The legendary actor was going to play one of the side characters. But they decided against it very quickly. The reason that director San Mendes gives is that ‘it would take you out of the movie.’
Indeed, it would. Rather than getting drawn into the action, you’ll spend half your time going ‘oh look, Sylvester is playing the Café owner!’ Is that Ace playing that tramp? What’s the point in making it 3D if you want your audience to spend half its time getting excited by cameos.
As for the villains? Forget Zygons. It just has to be the Daleks.
The multi-baddie nonsense that was The Five Doctors turned out to be a mess. And this year’s series of Doctor Who already features episodes with Cybermen and Ice Warriors. Just stick with the iconic pepperpots. Make a few winks to the classics, and create an episode so good that Doctor Who fans will be proud to show their grandchildren in 50 years time.
That’s the best way anyone can honour 50 years of such an iconic television programme.