First, isn’t it a joy to have some really meaty new Who to meta about?
But this…wow. It was Shakespearian in its intensity and execution. We’re looking at big, big stuff here. That, however, didn’t detract for a moment from all the smaller details being scrupulously attended to. Wonderful characterisation and acting all round – you really cared about every person at Bowie Base after five minutes. It reminded me of TIP, but taken up a level. Then the background – wonderful, believable realisation, almost up to Hollywood standard. And what an opener – the colour contrast of the TARDIS blue on the red rocks of Mars.
I wasn’t all that surprised by the storyline. I’ve been expecting Dark Doctor ever since Family of Blood and never understood how he avoided sliding into that particular pit after a year with the Master. He seemed to teeter on the edge at the end of VOTD. And it’s been there from the start, hasn’t it? Ten has never been nice. Not deep down. You could see it as far back as TCI – the arrogance, the sheer pleasure of scaring people just because you can, and most of all the pointless cruelty of his attack on Harriet Jones.
Here, we start to see a lot of those early threads coming together, delivering and maturing. In fact, what hasn’t worked for me about everything since TSE is that I couldn’t believe in a Doctor that wouldn’t snap like this. He’s seen his daughter die in his arms, been tortured by the Master, lost the love of his life and his best friend in a day and been destroyed by Davros, just for starters. Of course he’d snap. What amazed me was the quality of DT’s acting – yet again. Remember the moment in Utopia where Derek Jacobi turned round and you just knew someone had flipped the Good/Evil switch that second you looked into his eyes? It was that calibre of acting, but more sustained.
Because the awesome thing about it was there was nothing in Tennant’s performance tonight that didn’t build on what had gone before. It went further but never too far to be believable. Quite the reverse, it was the chatty good-timer spouting cliches in POTD that I couldn’t believe in. Going back to that edgy bonhomie, that you just know is going to far, that’s Ten out of control and it’s even more frightening than blowing up your own space station. And the arrogance, the way he spoke to the three survivors, that’s not come out of nowhere either.
He couldn’t have done it alone though. LD was amazing, too. The way she made that difficult, subtle dramatic journey from mistrust to belief back to mistrust again, yet retained all her nobility and dignity. And the way all three of them reacted with fear of him at the end was very chilling.
But now what? Where do the Ood fit in – are they Time Lords in disguise? If the Time Lords really are out there still, somewhere, why didn’t they intervene when the Master released the paradox that killed millions of people? I was hoping for a jaw-dropping glimpse of the Castellan or something but I’m well satisfied with what we got. It felt real and, dark though it was, it was honest and left me filled with optimism. I can forgive this show most things so long as it’s being honest.
It’s late and I could go on, I’ m sure I will have much more to say – but finally, why does Ten seem so sure he will die and not regenerate? The level of fear that goes with this particular death seems to be unique in his lifetime. He’s faced death many times but hasn’t felt this way about it, so what does that tell us? The Time Lords had the ability to punish their own kind by taking away their future regenerations. If he is condemned to death for this, what does that mean for the other Ten and indeed for Donna – maybe he will be allowed a period of grace to save them? It’s difficult to think what else would compel him to go back to Wilf and Donna when he knows it could kill her.
And why is this particular timeline so important? Even a Dalek respected it. (Though I did wonder, if the whole scenario got that bleak, how come first contact seemed such a novelty in CoE). I even wondered, at one point, whether it was connected with the Dalek invasion of Earth back in the Hartnell days, the one that resulted in Susan leaving the TARDIS? Maybe something happened then that changed the Time War?
Or could it be that Ten feels that, since he now has nothing to lose, he’ll bring his people back to judge him? There was a fascinating little hint RTD let drop in the latest DW Mag, that we get to see Ten in a very different costume in the Xmas episode. I do hope there’s a tiny bit of humour, though. The thought of sitting though dark Who and then Hamlet is rather challenging for Xmas day..