Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Sherlock related review roundup Sherlockabilia Shop Now Open

Doctor Who: The 50th Anniversary Sherlock related review roundup * 24 November 2013

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Yes, it may win the award for perhaps the most unwieldy title for an article ever posted by Sherlockology, but when it's in relation to an event as momentous as the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, it's possibly justified.

Below, we look into the televisual events from the past week of celebrations that are directly tied to BBC Sherlock - The Day of the Doctor and The Night of the Doctor, both written by Steven Moffat, and An Adventure in Space and Time written by Mark Gatiss. Since all are post-broadcast, there will be a degree of spoilers contained within, but certainly nothing that will derail enjoyment if watching each for the first time.

So without further ado...

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The Day of the Doctor

And what a day it was. Neither homage, nor straight up adventure of the week, Steven Moffat's script had to cater to many masters, not least the inevitable weight of titanic expectation. The Day of the Doctor can viewed in many ways - a liberal plugging of a chronological, unseen hole in the plot that has existed since the return of the show in 2005; a straight up celebration of what makes the series so popular; and a summation of its title character when at his lowest ebb.

It is a rollicking adventure that encompasses several plot threads at once, all eventually coalescing into a final act that pays ultimate fan service while rewriting the rules of this universe with gleeful abandon - yet still maintaining the status quo and never stepping on any toes. Funny and dark, scary and air-punchingly powerful, distinct threads are woven by Moffat that are uniquely separate from the other, each differentiated by the three show piece Time Lords that lead this tale. The weariness of John Hurt's War Doctor is the emotional drive, on the cusp of committing genocide, and places him in total counterpoint to David Tennant's Tenth and Matt Smith's Eleventh. The youngest, but also the eldest, Hurt is the astute eye that comments on the incarnations that we have taken for granted, Ten and Eleven as the child-like regression to try and forget previous, horrendous actions.

Both Tennant and Smith are given the bulk of the funny stuff, Ten madcap and Eleven quirky, and placing both together both highlights the great differences alongside the inevitable similarities. Tennant and Smith have a brilliant chemistry together which is a genuine joy to watch, and in combination with Hurt the episode has a real sparkle - witness the three attempting to escape a cell, with a clever time travel solution formulated in a supremely clever manner... and for it all to be undermined by the door being unlocked. That sort of subtle playfulness pervades the script, not least in the tremendous final scene between Smith and a familiar face that skirts the line between ambiguity, fan service, and complete homage, looking endlessly forward while acknowledging everything that has gone before in beautiful, twinkling form. It is a television moment to genuinely remember.

There is inevitably almost too much to say on the packed 75 minutes - the clever use of Billie Piper's Rose that runs the risk of fan disappointment while ensuring it never disputes her existing story; the dramatic return of the Zygons; the unexpected appearance of no less than thirteen Doctors; the fact the ravens of the Tower of London run on batteries... but the greatest feat of The Day of the Doctor is that it does something new while never relying too much on what has gone before. It is ultimately the chance for the Doctor to finally correct his conscience, a knowingly indulgent moment for him that allows him to be truly great while also pushing the series into an entirely new direction.

But first, it seems that Steven Moffat will finally reveal to us what it means when Silence Falls this Christmas...

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The Night of the Doctor

If the conclusion of The Day of the Doctor is genuinely nostalgic fan service, 7 minute long short The Night of the Doctor is fan service of a very different kind. Steven Moffat plugs an entirely separate narrative hole, finally affording Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor a brief moment to return after his sole onscreen appearance in the 1996 TV Movie - and more importantly, to correct the fact he was the only incarnation to never Regenerate onscreen. This is a packed few minutes, light on laughs - though they are there, hidden in the writing if you look - but filled with mythology and course correction, validating John Hurt's incarnation of the Time Lord and fully explaining his origin. The result is a different kind of satisfaction from the longer special episode, but one that ensures that long held questions are finally answered.

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An Adventure in Space and Time

Away from the fictional world of the character, Mark Gatiss presents us with something completely different but no less exciting. A genuine labour of love, An Adventure in Space and Time fulfils his long held ambition to tell the story of the creation of Doctor Who, when a brash Canadian, a first time female producer and a team of unbelieving staff joined together to make a stony, pugnacious actor become the greatest time traveller the science fiction world has ever seen.

The film shows us a world of television production very different from now, one where sexism and racism are the casual norm. It is as a result completely concerned with time and place - a notion suitably apt considering the result of what the creatives depicted are producing - with history butting heads with the fantastical. Ravishing production design recreates the original TARDIS set in detail beyond anything previously seen on screen, and special mention also has to be made to the use of BBC Television Centre, a structure literally bigger on the inside, framed throughout to appear utterly otherworldly. The drama is focused throughout on these genius visual metaphors and juxtapositions, be it the haunting opening shot of a familiar blue box from which a policeman emerges to find William Hartnell parked outside, to the sight of a Cyberman puffing on a cigarette in a filming break.

The entire cast is exceptional, not least Jessica Raine as Verity Lambert and Brian Cox as Sydney Newman, but the film belongs completely to David Bradley as William Hartnell as The Doctor. From early bitterness, to a genuine thawing, to final heartbreak, Bradley is given a gift of a role by Gatiss' script, and it would be utterly unsurprising to see his name appear prolifically come awards time.

Here, in post airing hindsight, the final moments of An Adventure in Space and Time are a curious mirror of those at the conclusion of The Day of the Doctor, concerned intently with the concept of legacy while looking far into the future. Wordless and entirely surprising, here it's a moment that enters the realm of complete fantasy in a drama that has been focused on historical accuracy, but importantly the moment feels completely justified emotionally. By the close, the truest words to describe the film are heartbreaking yet uplifting, a love letter to those that dared to produce the series in the first place despite their flaws. An Adventure in Space and Time is the most mature and emotional feature in the BBC's 50th Anniversary celebrations for Doctor Who, and one that should not be overlooked.  


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