Sunday, 1 December 2013

At the End of the Day - A Fiftieth Anniversary overview

So the Anniversary is officially over, the Day of the Doctor has come and gone and it now feels a bit like that post-festive lull between Christmas and New Year.  Although if 'Christmas' was the 50th Anniversary then that makes 'New Year' the upcoming Christmas Special.  Which is confusing.

And what of the Anniversary?  Did it live up to or even exceed expectations?  In my opinion it was everything that one could have hoped for and then some.  Here's some of the highlights for me:

Destiny of the Doctor

An enjoyable series of audiobooks that ran throughout the year.  Beginning in January with the First Doctor and ending in November with the Eleventh,the series produced some great stories that did a good job of evoking their respective Doctor's eras while also being imaginative and original stories in their own rights.  My personal favourites of the series were Smoke and Mirrors (featuring the Fifth Doctor meeting Harry Houdini), Enemy Aliens (with the Eighth Doctor and Charley from the Big Finish audios) and Night of the Whisper (featuring the Ninth Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack).

For those who stuck with the series throughout the year there was the added bonus of an over arcing plot line that saw the Eleventh Doctor making a cameo appearance in each story, asking each of his predecessors to do something to aid on some secret mission that only becomes apparant in the final story of the series.

The only thing that slightly the whole experience is the unfortunate and unplanned demise of Audio Go, producers of many audio books, including Doctor Who.  As co-producers/distributors of the series along with Big Finish, Audio Go's sudden collapse at the end of October led to fears that the final story in the series would not be released.  Fortunately Big Finish were able to go ahead and release the story via their own website so the series is complete.  That said, I haven't actually got the final story yet so I can't say if it will be a fitting end to the series.  But I don't think I'll be disappointed.

Series 7b

With everything else that was going on this year, it's easy to forget that there were eight new episodes of Doctor Who shown in the Spring months.

For the most part it was a good series.  'The Bells of St. John was good, fun, if undemanding opening and was a good introduction to Clara.  I'm afraid that I have to agree with those who thought that 'Rings of Akathan was dull, although it was nice to learn a bit about Clara's background.  I was similarly underwhelmed by 'Cold War' although the re-designed Ice Warrior looked great.

Fortunately the rest of the series really seemed to pick up.  'Hide', 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS' and 'The Crimson Horror' were all very good and then, when I thought it couldn't get any better, we had 'The Name of the Doctor'. This episode tried to do three things all at once and, for the most part suceeded.  It served as a fitting finale to the current series (solving Clara's mystery and the final face off with the Great Intelligence), set up things for the future (John Hurt) and paid tribute to the show in its anniversary year.  A great way to end the series and get people excited for the anniversary special.

Peter Capaldi

I'm not sure if it happened by accident or design, but the next Doctor was announced right in the middle of this anniversary year.  And for the first time ever, he was announced as part of a special live television broadcast, shown around the world.  If you're going to make an announcement in that way, you're going to have be fairly certain that the man in question is going to be a popular choice.

Fortunately the man chosen as the Twelfth (or is it Thirteenth?) Doctor was Peter Capaldi, someone who many people hoped would be cast but few people believed would be.

The Proms

The regular Doctor Who Proms from the BBC are always very enjoyable but a personal highlight for me was the medley of music from the original 26 year run of the series.  It's nice to see the composers from that period of the programme receive their dues, particularly Dudley Simpson who's music was as much a part of Seventies Doctor Who as Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee.

The Return of The Web of Fear and Enemy of the World

As most Doctor Who fans are aware, there are a large number of black and white episodes missing from the archives.  As each year passed, it became increasingly unlikely that we would see any more of those missing episodes returned.  And then, just two years after the last find, a further 9 missing episodes returned!  The biggest find in over twenty years!  And the best thing about it was the episodes made up (almost) two complete stories.

Some rumours suggest that the episodes were recovered back in 2010 and that they were held back until the Anniversary year in order for the news of their recovery to make a greater impact.  Other information suggests that the find was much more recent and the fact that they've re-emerged now is just a conicidence.

Whatever the reason, they are back and they're available to watch either via ITunes or on DVD (Well, Web won't be out on DVD until 2014) and that's the important thing.  The question is: is there more to come?

The Light at the End


This was the perfect way to start off the Anniversary celebrations.  Big Finish released their celebratory story - The Light at the End exactly one month before the Anniversary date itself, presumably so that it wasn't overshadowed by everything that was happening on the TV.

Featuring Doctors 4 to 8 teaming up to take on the Master as well as some clever cameos from the first three Doctors and a host of companions, this was just what the Doctor ordered (forgive the pun) for anyone who felt that the 'classic' Doctors were under-represented in the TV special.

An Adventure in Space and Time

This docu-drama, recounting the early days of the series, was a highlight of many fans' anniversary celebrations.  I knew it was going to be good but it actually surpassed my expectations.

The story of Doctor Who's genesis is a familiar one for long-standing fans of the programme but to see it brought to life (albeit with a bit of dramatic licence used) was truly fascinating.  And I really liked the final scene where William Hartnell gets a glimpse of the future of the programme and realises that his legacy will endure.

The Doctor Who Celebration 

This huge event took place over the weekend of the Anniversary at the Excel Centre in London.  I was there on the opening day, the 22nd November.

I can honestly say that I don't think I've seen so many Doctor Who fans gathered together in one place.  I don't know the exact numbers but I understand that there were about 7000 fans there each day.  Fortunately the attendees were split between two groups (Ice Warriors and Weeping Angels) and the day was organised in such a way that it was near-impossible for all 7000 people to be in the same place at the same time.

One of my personal highlights was the entrance to the main exhabition hall itself:

Granted, this may not look too impressive in the picture but the idea was a good one.  You walked into a black and white television set (you can probably tell that the street backdrop is in black and white).  You then take a short walk down the street that gradually changes from black and white to colour before arriving at the gates to I.M Foreman's junkyard, as seen in the first episode.  You then walk through the gates into the hall itself. 

The hall was absolutely full of displays, exhibits, talks and various other activities, too numerous to mention.  I particularly enjoyed a talk by Dick Mills, formerly of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  He gave an overview of how the original Doctor Who theme was created.  I also liked a session with the people from Big Finish Productions, who showed what it was like making Doctor Who audios.  They also gave a few people from the audience the chance to have a go themselves.

The highlights of the event, though were the three talks that took place on the Main Stage.  The first was an interview with Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.  They seemed to having a lot of fun and, amongt other things promoted their own special film, The Fivish Doctors Rebooted.

The second panel featured Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffatt, none of whom I'd seen live before so that was interesting.  Not surprisingly they wouldn't anything slip about either the Anniversary Special or the upcoming Christmas episode.

The final show on the Main Stage was a Special Effects show.  Whilst not quite up to the standard of the previous two shows, it was still very entertaining and some of the explosions made a few people jump!

Overall it was a great day and no one else who went seems to have had a bad experience either. It was certainly the perfect way to build up the anticipation for the Anniversary Special. 

Night of the Doctor/Day of the Doctor

 After everything else, this could have been something of an anti-climax.  Furtunately it wasn't.

It may not have been to everyone's taste but Steven Moffatt's take on an Anniversary story not only celebrated the past but also filled in a few gaps in the Doctor's long history.  The prequel, 'Night of the Doctor', finally gave us the long awaited return and regeneration of Paul McGann whilst also introducing us to John Hurt's 'War' Doctor.  'Day of the Doctor' itself finally showed us the final days of the Time War, that has been such a large part of the past 8 years of the series, as well the Doctor's involvement with the War. We even get to see the beginning of the regeneration from John Hurt to Christopher Eccleston.

As well as celebrating the past (including cameos from all the past Doctors) Moffat also sets things up for the future. Not only was there the relevation that Gallifrey is safe, but lost, we then get Tom Baker playing a future incarnation of the Doctor who's retired to be curator of the National Art Gallery. And then, of course, there was this:

A brief glimpse of the next Doctor. Was there a better anniversary present than that?

The Five(ish) Doctors Rebooted 

For many fans there was something better than seeing Peter Capaldi in Day of the Doctor and it was this. Tucked away on the BBC Red Button channel, this 30 minute comedy film, written and directed by Peter Davison, was the perfect way to end the Anniversary weekend.

At the Celebration event at the Excel, Peter Davison had boasted that his film had an even better cast list than Day of the Doctor and he wasn't wrong. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen it yet but it's well worth watching to see famous peoppe making fun of themselves.

Well that was the Fiftieth Anniversary for me. There's so much more that I could have mentioned and more still that I didn't have the chance to experience for myself. One thing's for sure: this was the biggest anniversary celebration that the series has had. I don't think we'll see one bigger.

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