My earliest memory of television is of the Sontaran, Linx, removing his helmet. It was first broadcast when I was seven, and it feels like a child’s memory, shock burning it in. He is an ugly fellow. I found Sontarans terrifying, especially in The Sontaran Experiment, which featured a robot which captured human beings for torture, to test their resilience. When I saw the story again, this century, that robot which had so frightened me merely appeared camp.
I have been very much looking forward to The Day of The Doctor, and have watched the surrounding programmes and videos. Below is the video of The Night of the Doctor. You need to have some knowledge of the programme to get anything out of it: you need to know that The Doctor travels through time and space in his Tardis, usually with a human companion, and when he is mortally injured he can “regenerate”, adopt a new, healthy body. This allows the actor to change and the programme to continue for fifty years.
But also, the video is set on Karn. In The Deadly Assassin, broadcast in 1976, it was established that a time lord could have only twelve regenerations, that is, thirteen incarnations. In The Brain of Morbius, broadcast the year before, it appears that there is no limit on the number of regenerations.
Some Doctor Who fans say this is a matter of Canon, the rules of the Doctor Who universe, and so cannot be altered. This is expressed vehemently. Doctor Who is a programme about an immortal who drops in to bad situations, and makes them better. That is very attractive when the world is incomprehensible and scary. I am tempted to see Doctor Who canon as a thing I can understand and control, as a sop when I can control nothing else.
And- after fifty years Doctor Who has to contradict itself. The basic premise remains the same, alien with human companions makes bad situations anywhere in time and space better, but more arcane matters can be changed if the writers wish it. The canon-fanatic does not have control, even of that. It seems to me that fans accept this. “Is it entertaining?” is more important than “does it contradict a line from thirty years ago?” We let go of our need to control. We see the positive and the good, not the thing to whinge about.
As an introduction to The Day of the Doctor, here is The Night of the Doctor, set before all the Doctor Who broadcast this century, during the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. He seeks to recruit a new companion, but she refuses because he is a Time Lord, as bad as a dalek (who are really, really bad). The Doctor, who has avoided involvement in the Time War, now in despair becomes a Warrior who will intervene in it.
The challenge for The Day of the Doctor is to produce a drama from all of this, which someone new to the programme can enjoy.
Don’t tell me the Rules is my review of The Day of the Doctor.