The Doctor: Who says I got a plan?
Production Code: 3.X. (Footnote ).
Doctor Who Season: S33 (the Christmas Special halfway through it).
Story Number: 231.
50 years later…
“It’s the same story every time. And it always begins with the same two words.”
And so Doctor Who returns and begins again.
Like the very first story, 50 (or so) years ago, the Doctor isn’t exactly a very warm person when his “companion(s)” first meet him.
Like the first story of the 21st Century, Rose, too.
All three stories then have a cold and distant figure at their centre, though the “warming up” for the Eleventh Doctor is achieved over the 60 minutes (for those other Doctors it could be argued it was a whole season).
The Victorian values of the other cold and distant figure – Dr Simeon – are contrasted against the other “Dr”.
The choice of actor for this role has to be remarked upon – it’s Richard E Grant, who was going to very much be “The Doctor” for the 40th Anniversary celebrations, that is, until the 2003 announcement that the TV programme Doctor Who would return. (The DWM cover of the time shows the contradictions, proclaiming Grant to be McGann’s “successor” while also saying “Doctor Who set for BBC TV comeback!”)
The Webcast Scream of the Shalka starring Richard E Grant’s “Ninth Doctor” then remained a curiosity rather than the start of a new era.
In that story the Doctor isn’t exactly a bundle of laughs either.
As Vastra says of the Doctor of this story “He stands above this world”, aloof on his cloud.
It takes Clara to coax him out of his sulk.
The trio of Vastra and Jenny and Strax – returning from A Good Man Goes to War for this and a couple of minisodes before it – are an absolutely genius addition to Doctor Who (as fandom realised from their first story) and the Doctor and Strax make for a great comedy double-act.
The Doctor’s rather frosty attitude to Strax – at least in the first half of the story – highlights just how Clara warms him back to his regular jovial self.
Clara herself – now, this is the second time this actor has been in the television programme, (and the audience being wrongfooted by her appearance in Asylum of the Daleks was a highlight of 2012’s Doctor Who), but the Doctor only realises “what’s up” near the end of the story.
As for her and the Doctor together, they have so many great scenes and lines, the greatest line of which is Clara primly telling the ice creature “the position is taken” as she rises up into the clouds with an umbrella, Mary Poppins-style.
The greatest scene though:
As can be seen from that BBC America YouTube, it’s a perfect blend of epic sound and music (the theme kickstarts the same time the TARDIS does).
By the story’s end there is a new mystery for the Doctor to solve, and nod to Sixties continuity in this year of celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who.
A fantastic start.
This is the third production-run of the Moffat era, and the first run had “DOCTOR WHO SERIES 1” on the clapperboards.
However The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe is also logically “3.X” – think of it as just another quirk of Doctor Who.