I don’t pretend to understand what makes good writing. I don’t know why I’m captivated at some times, left cold others. I can’t point to a feature of this or that and say, “This is why.” But I can show you something that doesn’t work, as I did in my last post, and then something that does.
This brief episode is almost perfect.
It came out of nowhere, a surprise gift, and it delivered on some of the wildest expectations of the anniversary. The Doctor, the mad man with a box, arrives somewhere there is trouble – but this time the object of his intended rescue rejects him most forcefully. He has tried to stay out of the war, but the war drags him in, as it has dragged in every living thing in the universe. Fight or die are the only choices. The Doctor would prefer to die, but only by fighting can he save anyone at all.
I knew Paul McGann slightly, having just listened to ‘Storm Front,’ the first of his audio series with Big Finish. The voice was known to me, and the face was a wonderful, delightful surprise. “Not the one you were expecting,” he says, and he could not be more right. From that moment we have everything that makes Doctor Who great: humor and drama, tragedy, magic, and a hero who will go on to save the day. We have Cass, who wanted to see the universe, and whose courage saved her shipmates. We have Karn, a world the Doctor has visited before. We have the range of regeneration possibilities laid out before us. (Yes, he’s still a white male, but we’ll get there. The ground is laid.) We have real drama, real heart. I felt Cass’s frustration with her ship, her delight turned to rage at the Doctor. I saw him make his final choice. I felt, heart-wrenchingly, his love for his companions – Charlie, C’rizz, Lucy, Tamsin, Molly, all of Big Finish. I watched the final scenes through tears.
It’s only a tiny piece of the DW universe, but it shines among the brightest of them all.
I could watch it again and again. I probably will.