Minisodes are nothing new but this ... this is taking it to a whole new level.
On the one hand, this was a bold move by Moffat and the production team. We're not talking world peace or solving hunger here, but this is a Doctor Who regeneration and it was released directly to the web. It's not some animated filler, or non-canonical special, this is Paul McGann brought back to the play the Eighth Doctor dying, revived by the Sisterhood of Karn (from the well-loved "The Brain of Morbius"), and choosing to regenerate into a warrior specifically to take up arms to end the Time War. In other words, this is a big f*cking deal to have it posted to YouTube in advance of the 50th anniversary special.
So now we know where "The War Doctor" comes from. But, we still have lots of questions. Not the least of which is, do we now stop calling Eccleston's Doctor the Ninth since he would appear to be the Tenth, and +1 the subsequent Doctors, with all that entails (or doesn't entail)?
Let's let Capaldi's status as the apparent Thirteenth and, possibly?, final incarnation of the Doctor slide for now and see how things play out before venturing a guess. In the meantime though, we can deal some things that could muddy the water. This, like Two's eventual regeneration to Three, isn't quite as straightforward as it might at first appear. This time, instead of being offered a face from the white male stock photo pool, the Doctor is offered chalices that will direct his regeneration to specific type. (The possibility of the Doctor regenerating as a woman is again raised as a possibility, cementing the work Gaiman already did to make that canonically possible.) Unlike the transition from Troughton's Doctor to Pertwee's, we actually see result though, so it would seem to preclude the possibility of their being another regeneration in between or a Season 6b-type scenario.
|Doctor no more.|
Was this too much to jam into less than seven minutes of web video?
Well, yes. Probably.
In a few minutes of his experienced time, the Doctor went from being a determined conscientious objector with regard to fighting in the Time War, to deciding to regenerate in order to engage in and end it. (So, when Eleven ... errrr, Twelve, says the Hurt Doctor is the one who broke the promise in "The Name of the Doctor", doesn't he really mean Eight? This new Nine, the Hurt Doctor, isn't he really just the direct result of Eight's choice and, blameless in his role? It was, after all, the Sisterhood who programmed him and Eight who elected to become him?) Sure, those are an eventful few minutes, what with failing so to save Cass and sort-of-dying in the process ... but still, this feels like it should have been at least a full episode in the current TV format.
For crying out loud, as a blogger, I had it hard enough trying to get the numbers of the stories to line up between the classic and new series just restricting myself to TV stories, now I've got this to try to account for this. Sigh. Do I put a line on my Episode Index page for this? And, if I do, to I put it under the McGann heading? Or under the Matt Smith? Or create a new sub-heading under the Matt Smith heading? No, it's just too much. Like "The Light at the End," -- and any other audio, novel, short story, and comics -- I'm going put this on the blog as a stand alone post and not try to figure out how to line it up with the TV stories. This one is so much more difficult to do that with though, tying in as it does, with a televised story and being so much more consequential and integral to the TV story it prefaces and the series as a whole.