First Fifty's Final Face

Review of The Doctors Revisited - Eleventh Doctor

As we wind down the year, anticipating the upcoming regeneration, we Revisit Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor. Since his reign is only current until Christmas, it's not as premature to do a retrospective on his era as it felt when this series of specials was announced.

I did, however, find it odd that the production team chose to throw out spoilers for the entire arc of Series Six left and right—and for the mid-series finale of S7, too—yet barely breathed a word about anything to do with the second half of S7 except Clara's personality and relationship with the Doctor.

I realize they had to be careful, if all of these specials were filmed at the same time; not even The Snowmen would've aired yet when everyone was interviewed. (And while I'm on the topic, here's the list: lead actors Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill, and Jenna Coleman; supporting actors Mark Sheppard, Frances Barber, Hugh Bonneville, and Mike McShane; writer Tom McRae; producer Marcus Wilson; and show-runner Steven Moffat.) So long after the fact, though (remember that The Name of the Doctor aired way back in May), it provides a certain surreality to the episode, like time traveling back a year, when we had no idea what was coming with Clara's Series Seven storyline.

The rest of the special feels, for a fan like me, like redundant rehashing of obvious traits of the Eleventh Doctor, his Companions, and their stories. More so than the rest of the installments, even. Much like last month, it may be down to how recent all of this is, so I've tried to take it in context.

Beginning as always with descriptions of this Doctor's character, the episode covered all the obvious bits: the old soul in the young body, the professorial look, the bow ties and fish fingers and fezzes. A couple of descriptions really stuck out in my mind, though—not least McShane's assertion that Eleven is in essence "an antagonized bookworm." I also liked Smith's comments on how the Doctor tries so hard to look cool, to act like a human, and then gets it wrong—and how this is the context in which we see how very alien he is.

Moving on to the Companions, I was surprised yet again. Obviously they included Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and Clara Oswald, spending quite a lot of time on how Rory's relationship with the Doctor developed over the series, and on Amy and Rory's relationship to each other. I quite liked the observation that Rory could take or leave traveling with the Doctor; it's not the be all, end all of his existence. He just does it to be with Amy (because she loves it) and keep her safe.

As for Clara, there wasn't much "there" there. To reiterate my point above, all we saw was a little personality and how she and the Doctor tend to bicker. Even if they had filmed these interviews at a more auspicious time, though, I'm not sure we'd have had much more. It's only after The Name of the Doctor that she was released from her role as Plot Point, so there wasn't much to tell (much the same way there wasn't a whole lot of Series Five mentioned—aside from how the Doctor and Amy met when she was a little girl—because that's the series in which Amy was the Plot Point).

The biggest surprise to me, though, was the absence of River Song from the list. Granted, Alex Kingston's name has never appeared in the opening credits, but given that she's been a guest Companion in fourteen episodes—twelve of them during Eleven's era—it seemed rather an oversight to exclude River from the festivities.

Finally, we come to the adversaries, and as Daleks and Cybermen have already been done a couple of times (and the resident Sontaran and Silurian are more comedy relief than "Famous Foes"), we're left with more modern classics. The Weeping Angels, famously introduced in the fan-favorite episode Blink during Ten's time with Martha, returned as the main antagonist in two stories (three episodes), effectively bookending Amy's travels with Eleven.

The other major new villain was the Silence (and, oddly, Madame Kovarian—who, while a great character, always struck me as a subordinate of the Silence and their cause). I'll admit, they are a wonderfully creepy-looking creature, and the whole concept of a memory-proof monster is appropriately spine-chilling. (Is it too much to hope that the hype for the upcoming Christmas special stating that "Silence will fall" means Moffat's finally going to tie up all the loose ends he's left dangling since Series Five? Probably. I'll keep my fingers crossed anyway.)

As always, this installment was followed by one of Eleven's stories. This time, they chose The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon, the opening salvo for Series Six. Moffat's intro touts the brilliance of the location filming, the fact that they chose to "start with the finale" for this series (which, as far as I'm concerned, didn't work as Moffat envisioned), and the supposedly shocking news that one of the four main characters dies—yes, really! (no, not really; don't get me started)—in the first few minutes.

If I weren't a fan, and had never seen any of these episodes or characters, I'd probably have found the special a useful introduction. As it is, it was a pleasant walk down memory lane. With the anniversary year winding to a close and another regeneration pending, I'm glad we've had this chance to glance back at the history of the show. And now, the next time a curious friend asks you what a given Doctor is like, you have but to point them at the appropriate installment of the Revisited series, and they'll get a broad, lovingly presented overview. There are worse places for that friend to start.

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