Tripwire Reviews Doctor Who: The Power Of The Doctor

Time For A Change?

Tripwire’s contributing writer Robert Cave casts his eye over the latest Doctor Who special, The Power Of The Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s last adventure. Warning: a few spoilers ahead if people haven’t seen the episode…

The Power of the Doctor
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Director Jamie Magnus Stone
Stars: Jodie Whittaker, David Bradley, Colin Baker

Centenaries are often melancholy affairs. They celebrate the achievements of people who, human lifespans being what they are, are seldom around a hundred years later to enjoy all the plaudits and recognition their efforts merited. Instead, they are more often events tinged with mourning and remembrance of those that came after. It is perhaps fitting that the Thirteenth Doctor’s swansong episode, an occasion of mourning and remembrance for the latest incarnation of everyone’s favourite Time Lord, was commissioned as part of the festivities to mark a century since the BBC’s foundation.

There’s a great deal to love about this episode, starting with its exuberant opening sequence in the middle of a gorgeous faster-than-light space train heist, channelling Doug Trumbull’s spectacular stargate sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a great little action set piece that brings home the dangers of an adventurer’s life to Dan (John Bishop) and prompts him to leave the TARDIS crew shortly after the titles have rolled to Segun Akinola’s magnificent take on the show’s main theme.

Dan’s departure is somewhat abrupt, almost akin to Sarah Jane Smith leaving the Tardis a mere two stories into season 13, but I also found it strangely satisfying conclusion to the character’s arc. He gets to leave on his own terms at a time of his own choosing in a story whose theme is how we reconcile ourselves with endings that are maybe not quite what we would choose.

Of course, there’s a big difference between a theme and a story and this episode, despite its fan-pleasing Dalek-y whistles and Cyber-bells, is very much a showcase for the Master. Sacha Dhawan excels in the role and clearly relishes every mercurial, conniving, vengeful, viciously playful moment it provides, up to and including the hopak jig he performs in the guise of Rasputin to a soundtrack of the gloriously camp Boney M.

The Master’s (Dalek) plan to torture and usurp is best enemy isn’t particularly novel: the two glass chambers he uses in his attempted forced-regeneration into the Doctor’s body seem a clear reference to the Russell T. Davis story The End of Time: Part 2, in which The Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) choses to sacrifice himself to save Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins). But novelty isn’t the point here. We are on a Doctor Who nostalgia mega mix, a carnival celebration of everything that has come before, a great mountain of easter eggs and plot references that may not be healthy a part of an ongoing diet but are immensely enjoyable as a once-in-a-while treat for special occasions.

And what a treat it was to have the on-screen return of two more classic-era companions! Teagan (Janet Fielding) and Ace (Sophie Aldred) were both brilliant and on great fighting form. But while their presence had already been trailed in the build-up to the show, the inclusion of five earlier incarnations of the Doctor (played by David Bradley, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker, Silvester McCoy and Paul McGann) was a complete and welcome surprise.  I was also glad that Tegan and Ace finally managed to get some closure with their respective incarnations of the Doctor through the contrivance of the AI Doctor hologram.

I was less pleased that Jo Martin’s version of the Doctor didn’t appear in person. Still, at least she played a role in writing out the Gallifreyian Cybermen/Cyber-Masters, from the Timeless Children. Turning massacred Time Lords into Cybermen never quite sat right with me. Maybe Martin will return in the Russell T. era but am very aware that he probably has a whole heap of other ideas and priorities.

If I was going to level any criticism at all, it would be that, for me, the selection of some of the guest cast occasionally felt a little random. Did we really need to see the semi-cyberman Ashrad (Patrick O’Kane) back? Why did we get Jacob Anderson’s Vinder, but no Thaddea Graham as Bel? Why Bradley Walsh’s Graham and not Tosin Cole’s Ryan? The answer is probably as simple and prosaic as actor availability, but these are the little irritating grouses on which fandom is often built.

I was also a little irked by the intriguing narrative cul-de-sac of an apparently earnest dissident Dalek that had come to view other Daleks as subverting their creator’s original goal of preserving the genetic inheritance of the forbears the Kaleds. Sadly this interesting notion is never fully explored here and with the departure of this episode’s writer and show runner Chris Chibnall, it probably never will be, at least on screen. One for future Big Finish audio, perhaps?

Then we had the regeneration. I’m conscious that I haven’t really talked about Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor, yet or Mandip Gill’s Yas yet. They were both great, as always. I loved seeing Yas coming into her own, taking control and flying the TARDIS. And I loved her last moments with the Doctor, choosing not to say goodbye. What closure she gets comes in the form of the support group/recruitment office of former companions set up by Graham. Post-Doctor adventures abound.

And then we got Whittaker’s regeneration into David Tennant. Familiar teeth. And another outing for another old favourite, eh? Jodie Whittaker’s time as the Time Lord might have come to an end, but we now have cause to think it at least possible that we might see her again in the role at some point in the future. There is now at least a precedent for a future return. Here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later. I’m already looking forward to the 2023 diamond jubilee episode. See you then.

Here’s the episode’s trailer from the BBC

The post Tripwire Reviews Doctor Who: The Power Of The Doctor appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.

Time For A Change? Tripwire’s contributing writer Robert Cave casts his eye over the latest Doctor Who special, The Power Of The Doctor, Jodie Whittaker’s last adventure. Warning: a few spoilers ahead if people haven’t seen the episode… The Power of the Doctor Writer: Chris Chibnall Director Jamie Magnus Stone Stars: Jodie Whittaker, David Bradley,
The post Tripwire Reviews Doctor Who: The Power Of The Doctor appeared first on TRIPWIRE MAGAZINE.Read MoreTRIPWIRE MAGAZINE

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