I have a confession. A dark secret so terrible it feels like I spent four billion years burrowing through diamond with my bare fists to conceal it. And I have concealed it simply because I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’. You know the type. The sort of person who will pick fault with everything no matter what. The sort of person that finds so little joy in anything you wonder why they even bother anymore. But here it is. My dark confession. And here it is…
I did not care for ‘The Day of The Doctor’.
Mmm… that felt kind of good. Did not like it. Couldn’t get into it, did not enjoy it.
My feelings on the subject can be summed up by Peter Griffin’s feelings on The Godfather;
Before I continue, I should like to stress that this is NOT going to be some kind of bitter-hate mongering piece, quite the opposite, I just want to get the negative out of the way first.
So back to THAT episode.
Now there were many, many, reasons why I disliked it. Far too many to go into here, that is another tale for another time. No, here I will focus on one of those reasons. The reason that prevails against all others, the thing I hated more than any other and that is the iteration of the lead character played by John Hurt. Of course he is now known by a more common name, but I refuse to use it because, quite bluntly, it’s a stupid name, the literal definition of which would be;
The state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country who is qualified to treat people who are ill.His action figure blister packet refers to him as ‘The Other Doctor’, The literal definition of which would be;
A person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.Maybe I’m a grammar Nazi, but this sits better with me. The other option I like is that in his final moments, the 8th Doctor actually says ‘make me a warrior’. Again ‘The Warrior’ as a title makes much more sense.
So it’s not as if there weren’t options, so for the purposes of distinction throughout the rest of this article I will refer to him as ‘The Warrior’.
Not content with this utterly pointless take on the character, we were also served up half-baked notions for why. One being ‘I had a hard time imagining the ninth Doctor ending the Time War, so I thought about the eighth, but I couldn’t imagine him doing it either’. People seem to turn to this notion but its flawed in that it doesn’t matter which incarnation it is. It’s still the same character. Yes, the different incarnations have superficial differences but at his core, he’s always the same, as Moffatt later noted;
‘You write the Doctor the same, it’s the actor who brings the differences’Call me picky, but causing genocide isn’t what I would call a superficial difference, if the Warrior could do it, then eight and nine have it in them too so it wouldn’t have mattered. But hold on a moment; there’s a flaw in that argument to; he didn’t actually do it! That was the point of the whole episode, he didn’t actually commit the genocide in question and incidentally, no explanation was given as to why he thought he did, other than he couldn’t retain the events. So he wouldn’t remember that he tried to save Gallifrey. I can accept that, the whole thing would be even more nonsensical if he did, but why does that mean from this point on he’ll think he tried to destroy it?
As an aside note, I’d like to point out that during Russell T Davies era it is never explicitly stated that he did. There were comments like ‘there was a war and we lost’ and ‘I watched it happen, I made it happen’ in reference to Dalek ships but it is never explicitly stated that he had anything to with the Time Lords destruction and as a viewer this was not how I interpreted it. It is not until ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ that he explicitly states ‘I killed all of them’ and even then it’s a ‘where the hell did that come from?’ kind of moment.
So he was built up to be this dark chapter in the Doctor’s life and then just wasn’t. A monumental waste of a story that frankly wasn’t that interesting in the first place. It was there for one reason and one alone. Stunt Casting. A twist for the sake of a twist that fell apart after five minutes.
But despite all my bile, I have come to accept him as a legitimate iteration of the character, and I can sum up why with just two words;
To illustrate my point, I’m going to utilize a conversation I had with a friend;
‘So Batman V Superman, what do you think? should I see it?’If someone asked me about Big Finish’s John Hurt Series, the conversation would have flipped to;
‘Oh yeah, you gotta see it, just for what it is, it’s an event, it’s these two iconic characters coming together for the first time, it’s really special in cinema’
‘But is it any good?’
‘So ‘Only the Monstrous’, should I give it a listen?’That’s right. It’s very good. Not perfect by any means, and not necessarily great ‘Doctor Who’, but more on that in a moment.
‘Well you don’t have to. It’s not essential to the series narrative, it’s just back story they’ve decided to fill, it was out of date before it was dreamed up, so you’re not really missing anything if you just skip it’
‘But is it any good?’
It’s not amazing but it’s solid. If you are going to do ‘Doctor Who’ as war drama this is the way to do it. It’s not thrilling adventures in time and space, it's war stories on a far and distant planet, it’s essentially ‘Doctor Who’ does Star Wars - which is oddly ironic as someone close to me cited ‘The Day of the Doctor’ as ‘The Phantom Menace’ of Doctor Who.
It's war drama, It’s ‘Doctor Who Unbound’ with the added bonus of being canonical It’s a vastly different take on the show and dare I say, I feel Nicholas Briggs handles this version of the character rather better than Moffatt does. What on TV was little more than a cheap stunt to get a ‘celebrity Doctor’, in the Big Finish universe it actually feels worthwhile.
I’m probably in the minority here, but it kind of made me wish that this had been the direction the anniversary special had gone in and left Tennant and Smith out of it in favour of a John Hurt only episode. I wouldn’t for a minute want to imply that I didn’t like John Hurt in the role, in fact seeing one of my favourite actors playing one of my favourite characters is something I should have adored, which probably didn’t help my fanboy grumpiness. When Hurt is allowed to ‘own’ it, we get to experience what the character was supposed to be, the war-beaten survivor, the man who is compelled to keep going because there is nothing else, the man who doesn’t keep his behaviour in check, the man who will quite overtly push company away rather than invite it. This is particularly prevalent when he quite deliberately subverts a mission to make peace with the Daleks simply because he knows how pointless it is. When he is required to share the screen with Doctor’s ten and eleven, all that is dramatically interesting about him is largely ignored in favour of grumbling about how silly his later incarnations are. Now Doctor Who has never taken itself too seriously and I love the silliness as much as the next. I love the big ton of fun that is ‘Robot’ and I love the so-bad-its-good ‘Timelash’. I also love the gritty classics that are ‘Genesis of the Daleks’ and ‘The Caves of Androzani’, but what makes those tales work is that they don’t feel the need to undercut the drama with a naff joke. Equally ‘Robot’ and ‘Timelash’ don’t feel the need to ‘get all heavy’ for no apparent reason. The Warrior’s chiding of Ten and Eleven for ‘talking like children’ feels like he’s pointing out how dramatic the series could be compared to how silly it is now, which makes for very awkward viewing. Not that ‘Only The Monstrous’ is devoid of humour, it isn’t, The Warrior saying;
‘There’s an Earth expression which I feel has particular relevance here, how does it go? Let me make sure I’ve got the phrasing right… Bog off!’Every Doctor has a defining moment that makes you go ‘Yes! That’s the Doctor!’ for me this is Hurt’s. It’s funny, but only because it’s a nice character moment amidst all the drama and not because it’s poking fun at the show itself. Also, when the actor in question really gets into their stride, they create moments that you couldn’t imagine any of the other doing. Part of what made Troughton’s Doctor (and in turn the entire series endure so as not to understate his contribution) was that you could believe that he and Hartnell were the same character, but he very quickly added aspects that William Hartnell absolutely would not have done. You couldn’t imagine Hartnell adopting various aliases as Troughton does in ‘The Highlanders’. Equally you couldn’t imagine Troughton in the ‘shower cap scene from ‘Spearhead from Space’. Despite Moffatt’s assertions, I didn’t feel there was anything particularly distinctive about The Warrior that his role couldn’t have been taken by any of his predecessors with only minor tweaks to the narrative. I could have easily imagined Davison saying ‘What are you going to do assemble a cabinet at them?’ or Colin Baker grunting ‘Oh for God’s sake, Gallifrey stands!’ or McGann stating ‘Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.’ One of the highlights of ‘Only the Monstrous’ being when in a heated conversation on a boat, The Warrior seemingly throws his ‘stand-in companion’, Rejoice overboard claiming ‘I’m a monster now aren’t I?’ it’s a defining moment that’s very hard to imagine any other Doctor doing. So it is Big Finish that define this Doctor, rather than the TV series that created him.
It’s very easy to understate the importance of Big Finish. I remember when they were a cult spin off from a cult TV series that only the hard core fans listened to. And despite this, over the years they have expanded on the fifth Doctor, redeemed the sixth, continued the seventh, finally brought back the fourth and given us the entirety of the eighth. As I said earlier in this article, the adventures of The Warrior are not usual Doctor Who and therefore could not be done on screen, so it falls to Big Finish to re-imagine the series as war drama and though it may not be usual Doctor Who, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile take on the series. So although I may not be keen on how he came to be, thanks to Big Finish I have come to accept The Warrior/Other Doctor or whatever you want to call him as a worthwhile addition to the mythos.
I still refuse to call him The W@# Doctor though.
Dominic Fellows is an actor and writer from Birmingham in the UK. He is also producer of the group Stripped Down Theatre (find them on Facebook). His shows have had more than one or two ‘geeky gags’ in them.