Well, that was unexpected. It is kind of traditional that when a Doctor Who regenerates into his new incarnation it’s a fairly maudlin affair that says a sad goodbye to an established Doctor and gives his new version less than a few seconds of screen time.
The last of the special 60th Anniversary special editions of Doctor Who just went in a completely different direction and, despite all the usual caveats, did a pretty damn fine job of doing it. Of course, this was a Russell T. Davies joint, so it was full of the usual heavy-handed “current year” references that land with a thud and an eye roll.
This time it was a treatise on social media, screen addiction, and echo chambers making everyone so certain of their own point of view that it nearly brings down a civilisation.
Yet it was also an entertaining enough look at that phenomenon. What was good was that it really gave Tennant’s Doctor and his companion Donna Noble a chance to stretch their legs again and remind you why they were so popular in the first place.
As it was the final episode of the trilogy since the Doctor regenerated, post-Jodie Whittaker, into an earlier version you knew it was certain doom for this version of the Doctor, the return of Tennant. It was here it threw up a few surprises.
Before we get to that it’s worth mentioning Hollywood’s own Neil Patrick Harris as a returning nemesis in the form of the Celestial Toymaker, a seriously tricky enemy from the Doctor’s past.
Clearly having an absolute blast playing an over-the-top villain, full of camp showmanship and lip-sync’d Spice Girls songs, what could have been supremely annoying was instead suitably menacing and unsettling. From Starship Troopers to Barney Stinson and his recent presenting gigs, he’s always good value. Here he was again.
Then it was time for the big regeneration, the end of the return of a much-loved version of the Doctor into a new actor, Ncuti Gatwa.
Davies found a way to do it that actually subverted expectations, gave Gatwa far more screen time than any other new Doctor has got directly after regeneration, and injected a great sense of fun into the whole thing. What it also did was give Tennant’s version of the Doctor a really satisfying coda that left you feeling… well… nice!
So, what of this new Doctor? Much has been written and speculated. Much commentary has been made even here at Last Movie Outpost. Most of that has been related to Davies and his inability to not insert his own particular brand into the proceedings.
The simple fact is that he was pretty damn good. Given more time to introduce himself than any other recent regeneration in the final episode, I found myself thinking that I could stand to see more of his adventures.
And that is, after all, the only thing you can ask of a new Doctor. On to the Christmas special, then…
Check back every day for movie news and reviews at the Last Movie Outpost