"You have a little under four minutes." "Four minutes? That's ages. What if I get bored? I need a television. Couple of books. Anyone for chess?"
IN THIS ONE... The 8th Doctor regenerates into the War Doctor.
REVIEW: Seeing the 8th Doctor again rocked the Internet back a little more than a week from the 50th Anniversary Special, and in less than 8 minutes, blew the TV Movie - Paul McGann's only other televisual appearance, out of the water. As an old-time fan, it does seem a little referential and fanwanky, but it didn't seem to matter to New Who fans who discovered a cool new Doctor in those few minutes. How did the Doctor get involved in the Time War? This is that tale.
Initially, the Doctor wants no part of it, but the universe is on the edge of the abyss, and the Time Lords' reputation is such that Cass, a natural companion type, would rather die than go aboard a TARDIS (and does). This was inferred through the RTD era, but it's still shocking to Classic and New Who fans alike. What happened between the Doctor's last chronicled adventures and the War's aftermath seems terrifying and epic, and it's all done in such an efficient way too. We then get to Karn (see The Brain of Morbius for more on the Sisters) and the Doctor is on the cusp of regeneration. They've got these potions that can influence a Time Lord's next incarnation and convince the Doctor to take the profile he'll need to end the Time War. His choice, "Warrior", is abhorrent to him. He wants it to hurt. He drinks to his Big Finish companions (squee! but too bad about Sam, Fitz, Compassion, Anji, etc.). He apologizes to dead Cass. And then he becomes John Hurt, or a younger John Hurt, which speaks to how long the War must've lasted after the Doctor get his hands dirty.
What's amazing is how we mourn the 8th Doctor. In those few minutes, he puts a spell on the audience. He's witty and irreverent, naive and tortured, reticent but ultimately incapable of resisting the need for self-sacrifice. He's everything we want the Doctor to be. Fans were soon demanding a web series of 8th Doctor adventures, which means Moffat managed something great - making us care that this long-past, and little-seen Doctor had to die.
REWATCHABILITY: High - An awesome mini-episode that puts Paul McGann's Doctor on the map the way the TV Movie never really managed to.