The BBC gives us a love letter: a prequel to Day of the Doctor

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Matt Smith, John Hurt, David Tennant

The fever pitch of the fans waiting in anticipation of the broadcast of the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, Day of the Doctor, couldn’t be higher, thanks to BBCOne’s deep connection to the fans and the resonance they’ve created surrounding the historic event.

Oh wait, yes it can.

This prequel, called Night of the Doctor, gives us the missing pieces that stitch everything else we know together so that they make sense.  In just a few short minutes, a number of little nagging problems are neatly and cleverly handled:

  • We get to see Paul McGann in full glory as The Doctor, fighting to help a trapped gunner on a fighter ship engaged in the Time War, and how he meets his untimely end – and his resurrection. McGann is  lovingly referred to as the 8th Doctor by the fans, even though he’d never actually been on the series itself. His portrayal of the Doctor in the 1996 made-for-TV movie for Fox Television was legitimized by the appearance of Sylvester McCoy, the Seventh Doctor as his immediately previous regeneration.  Today happens to be Paul McGann’s birthday as well – a happy coincidence.
  • We see how the eight Doctor becomes the War Doctor (not the Valeyard as many have suggested), and because of the change in monickers, the 11th Doctor Matt Smith, is still the 11th Doctor and we don’t have this ripple renumbering effect happening anymore, disrupting years of written stories and documentation and fannish involvement with the series.  We can hear Doctor Who fandom breathe a huge sigh of relief from here.
  • The problem of what happens after the 12th regeneration has been neatly handled.  The Doctor won’t just die, he’s been given help by a previously unknown enclave called the Sisterhood of Karn, (we hope we have the spelling right) who are the keepers of the Eternal Flame of eternal life.  They’ve elevated Timelord science to its pinnacle, and they can control the regeneration process with relative precision.  Including, presumably, busting that 12 regeneration limit.

If this upcoming episode isn’t the most watched program in BBCOne history, it won’t be for want of trying.

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UPDATE:  Also released today is Valerie Frankel’s Kindle-only book, Doctor Who, the What, Where and How. 

From the description on Amazon.com: “Doctor Who is a show about books, TV, and science fiction for the fans within us all: The Tenth Doctor loves Harry Potter, the Eleventh Doctor wears costumes, Martha Jones wants to record Shakespeare’s lost play and sell it on the internet. As the characters gush over Agatha Christie or Clara Oswald reads Amy Pond’s novel, they enter a self-referential world of fiction about fiction, delighting in a world of fandom. Producers Davies and Moffat nod to their other creations, from Sherlock to Casanova, and share their love for both the old series and the larger world of Doctor Who novels, audio books, and comics. As bestselling authors like Neil Gaiman and Eoin Colfer involve themselves, the franchise riffs off Star Trek, Star Wars, Alice in Wonderland, and Hitchhiker’s Guide, becoming a celebration of all the world’s greatest works as it takes its place among them.