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So, this was it. This was the big one. The 50th Anniversary. The big wazzoo. The really good weed in your pipe.
Did it deliver?
"... it’s Moffat’s confidence in his ability as a storyteller which stands out and makes this complex adventure work, as his attention to detail and passion for the franchise shines throughout, wholeheartedly earning its use of such weighty elements from the series’ fast and ever-growing mythology." — Anthony Ocasio (Screen Rant)
I have never gotten the vibe that Moffat was a confident writer. He stays in very safe areas and dances around his bag of tricks to make the story 'complicated' (not complex, you want complex go watch David Lynch, Cronenberg, or even Gilliam). When we said Farewell to the Ponds, it involved a walking Statute of Liberty. When we said farewell to Rose, it involved a beach and David Tennant turned down to 50% opacity. Ill let you be the one to decide which was more emotionally devastating.
Moffat, much like his incarnation of the Doctor is more excited by doodads and whistles than his predecessors. The 50th is no exception. Yes, there is passion, and while I might not think of Moffat as a very confident writer, he makes up for it with ego, since I always get a sense of 'F*** you, got mine."
" ... a clever, chaotic, infuriating combination of nifty, knowing tiny detail and big, hollow, pompous bluster." — Jim Shelley (The Daily Mail)
I don't know if this was meant as nasty as I took it, but the words Big, Hollow, and Bluster certainly do come to mind thinking about this episode. I'll talk about it more indepth below, but Moffat managed to radically change the Doctor Who history, while leaving it completely inconsequential. If anything, the events of the 50th don't resonate even into the next friggin episode. Again, the word I'm going to use is 'safe.' I see no risk factor in anything Moffat has done since the Big Bang, which was so grandiose in its emptiness and inability to make impact. He moves so fast from one emotionally devoid set-piece to the other but covers the seams with pithy witticisms.
What I Say
I wanted to like it?
Plot — I was almost instantly turned off to this (after a clever opening hearkening way back to Classic Who) by Clara's ability to close the TARDIS door by snapping. What started as a big reveal by for the Doctor, has now expanded to his companion (a companion the TARDIS didn't like just a few episodes ago, mind you), but seeing as the whimsical music plays over this moment, I guess I have to forgive it.
So the TARDIS is picked up and brought to London, even though Kate Stewart reportedly didn't know he was inside the damn thing. So why did she pick it up? She purportedly wanted the Doctor's presence. Assuming he wasn't in the f***ing TARDIS you just successfully stranded him in the middle of bumf*** nowhere. So what's the real reason?
|Moffat's being subtle again.|
The 11th Doctor is dropped into a mess involving a 3D painting depicting the last day of the Time War. The 3D is nice and it's a good concept, even if it's usage later on is a bit ... questionable. Anyway, this leads to the other two concurrent storylines. John Hurt plays as the War Doctor, a secret incarnation of the Doctor who fought in the Time War, who's acts of brutality were so heinous the Doctor blocked his existence from his memory, calling him the "one who broke the promise."
This of course has not stopped the Doctor from talking about his actions in the Time War in the first person in the past. Like when Tennant said, "I was the only one who could end it." Or when Smith tells House, "Fear me. I killed all of them." Still, I'll let it slide. I thought it was a nice addition to the mythos, and John Hurt is fantastic as always.
After leaving a message for the War Council of Gallifrey, "No More," the War Doctor has stolen 'The Moment' a sentient weapon capable of ending the Time War between the Daleks and the Time Lords. It manifests as his future companion Rose Tyler. She grants him the ability to see what becomes of him if he goes through with his plan.
The third, and weakest storyline in the 50th is definitely the 10th Doctor's adventures with Queen Elizabeth I and the monsters the Zygons. Granted I didn't grow up with Classic Who, and my efforts to get into the show have been hampered ... mainly by disinterest. The first few serials weren't all that engaging, but I did enjoy the Three Doctors. That said ... I didn't care for the Zygons. But what can you do?
The main issue I have with the Zygon storyline is one of weight. They were trying to give all the weight to the Time War storyline, but there is an imbalance, where the Zygon story starts to feel like fluff. As a standalone episode, this would have been pretty weak for the 10th Doctor, all things considered.
Still it afforded a lovely scene between the Three Doctors while they're locked away in the Tower of London. One of my favorite lines from Matt Smith's Doctor is almost delivered as a throwaway line (I just love those), "It just occurred to me this is what I'm like when I'm alone."
So, without spoiling too much (like I might have done yesterday) the three disparate Doctors and the three disparate storylines continue to build to the Day of the Doctor, the day the War Doctor ended the war. It climaxes with archive footage of all previous Doctors in a, "Here comes the Calvary!" moments, including a brief cameo.
Characters — Since everything outside the Time War story-arc feels a bit lackluster, let's look at the characters, which is undoubtedly where the 50th shines. The interactions between the cast is brilliant. David Tennant and Matt Smith are obviously having a ball, and there's plenty of playful joshing (I'm assuming in front of and behind the camera) that you stop seeing them so much as past and future selves but as twin brothers. There's so much fun dialogue, and there are moments, surprisingly to me, where Moffat allows some genuine, open introspection. The Doctor can't hide from himself. Matt Smith is called the one who forgets, and Tennant is the one who remembers. It says a lot about both their incarnations of the Doctor.
Clara is not a bad companion. She's companion-light. There are resounding moments where I love her characters, interspersed among a lot of moments where she's just kind of there. It's the reverse of Amy, who was just kind of there, except for when she's pop off with some dialogue that made me want to strangle her (Karen Gillian though, is a wonderful actress and I'm happy to see her doing well post-Who). Clara is given some tender moments, especially with the War Doctor, and later near the climax with all three of them together. My only question is this. Where the hell did Clara go during the climax? She must be brewing the tea they're drinking in the next scene.
|"Oh, hullo. Where've you been?"|
The Moment takes on the form of Rose Tyler, which ... actually I liked more than I expected to. Billie Piper is so much fun to watch on screen, and she plays this wonderful middle-ground between playful and mischievous, grieving and morose, stern and threatening, and calm and understanding. Like the actors playing the Doctor, she's given the opportunity to turn in nearly every direction she can.
Spectacle — There are some pretty awesome moments in this episode ... granted most of them have to do with just having the actors on screen together, so there's that. The imagery of the Time War was very well done, although ... it's sad, seeing the rich history of the Daleks, that I just don't find them threatening anymore. I could try and make the argument to blame Moffat for that but ... eh, they might just be played out. Thankfully this episode did have some powerful moments, always generated by an undeniably all-star cast.
|"What we do today, is not out of fear or hatred. It is done because there is no other way."|
Oh, and my lesbian unicorn pointed out, "... he actually marries Elizabeth II and ten said that he left before the wedding (super nit picky I know), TEN'S HAIR. okay that's not important."
Lastly, I'd be super remiss if I did not mention Tom Baker's lovely cameo as the Museum Curator. He and Matt Smith are obviously having a ball with each other, and it was very well done.