And so the moment for the special anniversary episode of Doctor Who is fast approaching. The internet is all abuzz in speculation and excitement. The release of the “Night of the Doctor” featuring Paul McGann (the 8th Doctor) last week has only added to the commotion. But of course, the fans are waiting for the ultimate moment, the special to be aired worldwide at 2:50pm EST on Saturday. 50 years after the airing of the first episode, “An Unearthly Child.”
But what do you do to commemorate such an anniversary? After all this is more than just one episode of the long running series, it is a special moment and with it comes a great many expectations.
While the fifty year mark is rather unusual, a number of television series have celebrated anniversaries. Often they do this with episodes featuring original cast members, and they are seen in a ‘where are they now’ kind of aspect, charting the characters’ growth after they had left the series. Many times the anniversaries are considered more as a commercial possibility, where the series is packaged as a special edition DVD set, with outtakes, documentaries, and the like. Shouldn’t Doctor Who be different?
It seems that in its fiftieth year, Doctor Who is gaining a significantly larger worldwide audience than it ever previously had. Back during the run of its original series (1963-1989) there were fans, but outside of the UK, it was hard to get Doctor Who merchandise (magazines, books, etc). Now I can walk into any number of stores and find something with the Tardis on it. The show is both popular and understood by a diverse audience, around the planet. This only seems to raise the expectations- I mean now more people are actually watching.
So how will the producers of the series commemorate the occasion? There have been hints out there- or spoilers, as River Song would say. We will see the current Doctor Matt Smith, and his predecessor David Tennant, and then we will see the “War Doctor” played by John Hurt. But no other returning Doctors. Yes I know, that would be a difficult thing to do, after all the first three Doctors have all passed on. For the surviving Doctors from the original series time has marched on. They all have aged relatively well, but since they regenerated when they were younger, the added years could never be adequately explained. Although I did like the explanation for the “Time Crash” episode with David Tennant and Peter Davison, that the move in time had aged him. Paul McGann was great in “Night of the Doctor,” but having him regenerate there put him out of the running (or did it?) for the full episode. And Christopher Eccleston does not tend to revisit his past work, so he won’t be around for the new one. Should they have even brought back Tennant?
Then there are the companions… they could be reasonably expected to age, so coming back to the series would be easy (except for Adric who they mercifully killed off in “Earthshock.”) But how would they be used in furtherance of the story? And the death of some of the ‘favourites’ might make their absence felt all the more.
We of course have to wait for the episode on Saturday. Will all the fans be happy? Unlikely. There is already a lot of discontent in the fandom with the way the series has been going this last year, and there have been calls to get rid of Moffatt. Fans are rarely happy, rarely satisfied. There is always something about the show that will displease some. Expectations are running high, people want something amazing, something fitting, and something wow. How can anything be expected to deliver it all? We shall see my friends, we shall see.