Review: Doctor Who 50th

In just over a week, we will arrive at the annual End-of-December holiday, one we have been building up to for weeks maybe even months. I refer, of course, to The Doctor Who Christmas Special. With his special event nearly upon us, I thought I would take a look back at the most recent episode to air, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special.

Overall, I was satisfied with the Anniversary episode. The highlight to any of these kind of things is always the different Doctors interacting. David Tennant as Ten and Matt Smith as Eleven are the two main characters, and I had some misgivings about that. Tennant is my least favorite of the new Doctors. I find him to be whiny and a drama queen. But this was Ten from after “The Waters of Mars,” a Ten who just doesn’t give a crap about the rules or anything else. In this role, he is enjoyable to watch.

The interactions between Ten and Eleven are fun. Both are mostly flippant characters who bounce off of each other well. And when their silliness starts to get a little annoying, they are joined by John Hurt, the War Doctor. As an older, more serious Doctor, he nicely counters the two younger Doctors, keeping them in check. The scenes with the three Doctors together are the best part of the show, and reminded me strongly of the original series episodes “The Three Doctors.” It’s on Netflix, go watch it!

The plot was pretty good as well. Unlike a lot of stories in Steven Moffat’s run, there’s a clear resolution that, while leading to the next episodes, resolves the issue at hand and wraps up the loose ends. The finale was cool, and was a moment we will probably, and hopefully, never see again. I say hopefully because it’s such a special thing that to do it again would spoil the moment.

There were two main problems I had with the episode. The first was the lack of Nine. Christopher Eccleston was my favorite of the new Doctors, and to see him only in brief stock footage was, while expected, also disappointing. I would have loved to have seen some scenes with him and the War Doctor, as I think their personalities would mesh in a lot of interesting ways.

My other disappointment is harder to quantify. It just felt something was lacking for being such an important anniversary. It’s like taking your spouse to The Olive Garden for your 50th wedding anniversary. It might be nice enough for a date night, but for such a special night you expect something more. It was a very good special episode, but not a great anniversary episode. They tried, and I can’t quite put a finger on what’s missing, but it takes more then a few callbacks and Easter eggs to encapsulate 50 years of a TV show.

Fortunately, this was made up for by “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot,” a thirty minute program made by Peter Davidson, the Fifth Doctor, starring himself and Sylvester McCoy and Colin Baker, the Sixth and Seventh Doctors, respectively. The show is about their attempts to get into the 50th Anniversary episode. Hilarity ensues as the three actors deal with not being wanted by the new regime and resort to having to sneak into the set. It plays on a lot of expectations of people who are critical of the newer episodes, and features some amazing cameos. Immediately watch this after the 50th to get the full, awesome anniversary experience (though again, no Eccleston! Grrrr…).

It sets us up in a good place for the Christmas special and the introduction of the new Doctor. I only hope something a little more creative then “Energy Overdose” brings about the next regeneration.

In his pretend life, August Baker is a retail monkey who channels anger and loathing into something vaguely resembling literature. In his real life, he is a Space Pirate.


  • Jason Arnett says:

    I agree with you that there was something lacking in the episode. I’d liken it to getting cherry pie that you think is going to be extra tart and tasty with an extra flaky crust and it ends up just being a pretty good product cooked from frozen.

    I’m looking forward to watching on Christmas Night. Saw the new trailer today (well, heard it rather) and I’m hopeful it will be maybe a little more special. Or at least flaky.

  • I’ve felt pretty “meh” about Doctor Who lately. Your review of the anniversary episode has me curious, but I still don’t feel all that compelled to catch up on this season and watch the episodes. Hopefully the Christmas special will infuse some excitement back into the show! I think Jack and I are both looking forward to a new Doctor.

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