Thursday 27 October 2022

The Power of the Doctor

The Power of the Doctor is the last of three Doctor Who specials marking the end of Jodie Whittaker's tenure as the titular Time Lord in 2022.

Nick Smith, our resident US-based Whovian, boards the TARDIS for a final adventure with the Thirteenth Doctor.

Guest post by Nick Smith

Sacha Dhawan is the Doctor! A least for a little while in the 90-minute BBC centenary special episode of Doctor Who. He shines brighter than a Castrovalvan dawn, giving the strongest performance in a story chock-full of characters.

Aside from Dhawan and departing Doctor Jodie Whittaker, don’t blink or you’ll miss Sophie Aldred (Ace), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart), John Bishop (Dan), Jacob Anderson (Vinder) and several more that I can’t mention for fear of being hauled away by River Song. Because spoilers, sweetie!

Suffice it to say that the power of nostalgia is strong; writer/showrunner Chris Chibnall bets that it’s strong enough to glue an anniversary adventure together.

We are in the age of surprise guest appearances, thanks to the success of The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Picard. Visual pyrotechnics take precedence over the deep-dive character development so many British shows, including some of Chibnall’s, are known for.

Those shows have time to broaden their heroes and villains; Doctor Who does not, hurtling through time and space at breakneck speed and hoping something sticks in our rose-tinted brains.

It’s a testament to the companion actors’ abilities that it would have been better to have a story devoted to Tegan, Ace, Dan or Yaz alone. Dhawan’s scenes are also too few but as with the other actors, he achieves a lot with the little he has.

As the Master forces the Doctor to regenerate into him and cosplays as his nemesis, Dhawan has a ball with the situation in scenes that must be a dream come true to a Who-loving actor like him.

Sadly, the conclusion to this adventure seemed rushed and we don’t get to say goodbye to the Master, most of the companions or other, very special characters who turn up. Instead, we’re told that the friends have been ‘dropped off’ out of view.

A lot of lore has grown around Ace in particular and it’s good to see that this story doesn’t go out of its way to contradict the New Adventures and the Big Finish audio stories. We meet a mature Ace with experience that could have been gained in outer space or Perivale – it’s left up to us to decide.

Another potential pitfall was the close proximity of Doctor Who’s 60th Anniversary in 2023.

With so much to celebrate, Chibnall could have chosen to avoid any references to the show’s past. That’s not his style. He finds ingenious ways to commemorate old favourites without grinding the adventure to a halt.

"I didn’t want to tread on anything that might be happening in future," Chibnall told The Mirror. "I didn’t tell anyone we were going to be doing it, I just put it in the script. It’s about as metaphysical as the show’s been."

Doctor Who can be abstract, concrete, comical, scary or even silly. Chibnall has tried all these approaches with overall successful results, and the potluck The Power of the Doctor is no exception. With something to please even the grouchiest of fans, the centenary special is appropriate to a world of memes, leaked tweet pix and binge-watches, all counting on nostalgia to stir the brew.

With iconic visual elements trumping substance, I predict that Chibnall’s era will be beloved by the kids watching it, who will grow into the next adult generation of fans.

Just as the Star Wars prequels have a following, so will the Thirteenth Doctor’s stories. Which begs the question, which Doctor Who character is the equivalent of Jar Jar Binks?

The series 13 specials are available for pre-order (affiliate link).

Have you seen The Power of the Doctor? Let me know in the comments below.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated for spam. Stay on topic and do not embed links. Keep it family-friendly.

Thank you.