"The Night of the Doctor" is the prequel episode to the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special, "The Day of the Doctor". Many previous Doctor Who episodes have had prequel episodes released onto the internet, but this one was the longest, and the most significant. It also goes beyond being a prequel for "The Day of the Doctor", providing background for all of the new series. There will be spoilers here, and even cast credits give gigantic spoilers.
Somewhere out in space, there is a crashing spaceship. A voice on the spaceship tells the pilot that a Doctor is coming, and indeed we see a TARDIS flying after the spaceship. The pilot of the ship insists she doesn't need a doctor, and behind her we hear a voice say:
"I'm a Doctor, but probably not the one you expected."
and we see Paul McGann
, the Eighth Doctor
, visible on screen for the first time since 1996
. His line is a fairly obvious wink at the fourth wall
: news that McGann would be reprising his role was kept well under wraps, and his presence in this episode came as a complete surprise, even to the most thorough of Doctor Who's rumormongering audience. McGann and the pilot, a girl named Cass, flee through the ship, but when she finds out he is a Time Lord
, she locks herself away from him: death is a preferable fate to traveling with a Time Lord. This is the heart of The Last Great Time War
, and both the Time Lords and the Daleks are equally hated by those left in the universe. The spaceship crashes, and the Doctor awakes to find himself surrounded by The Sisterhood of Karn
, last seen in The Fourth Doctor
story "The Brain of Morbius
. They tell him that he is already dead
from the crash, but they have kept him temporarily alive long enough for him to choose his next regeneration. He has tried to be good, to stay out of the war, but they urge him to take an active part. He drinks from the cup, and chooses his next form: The War Doctor
, played by John Hurt
Despite its short runtime, this episode is incredibly important for Doctor Who mythology. It also reconfirms the importance of Paul McGann's Doctor, and was even released on McGann's birthday as a type of present. The only problem that most people have is that McGann's time was so short, but what chance he did have to act his role is being lauded by fans.
I am certainly excited for next week.