Here we go.
I got the idea for this during a conversation with Gareth. We were talking, I think, about the prospect of two Doctors appearing together in the Anniversary Special in November. I cannot believe how many people are still convinced that the Tenth Doctor will actually have to be the Metacrisis Doctor in order for this episode to work. There is nothing in the script – nothing – that says two Doctors can’t cross timelines and meet up once in a while. But two’s never enough for us lot, is it? Why not three? Why not four? Five?
Actually, if we’re talking Doctor numbers, why not Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight, all of whom are still available? Well, most of them are too old. Sorry, I know that people are upset at their lack of involvement in the BBC special, but I genuinely don’t believe that any of this is posturing on Moffat’s part. Just think about it for a second. Can you really see Tom Baker popping on that wig and scarf and climbing into the TARDIS again at his time of life? I mean honestly? The apparent ageing of the Fifth Doctor was just about forgivable given the explanation provided in ‘Time Crash’. McCoy’s still pretty sprightly (he’d have to be, to drive a chariot pulled by rabbits) and Colin Baker lost about two stone in the jungle, but squeezing them back into those costumes – even if you’re going down the “Ooh, temporal anomaly” route to explain the wrinkles – is beyond the skill of the BBC wardrobe department. I’m not being mean, here, honestly. But when they digitally de-aged Jeff Daniels for Tron: Legacy it just looked creepy. Let Four through Eight handle the Big Finish stuff instead, of which I am assured there is plenty. They can all still do it (the Sixth Doctor, in particular, is a revelation, and not of the Dalek kind) and – let’s be honest – after the mess that was last Saturday’s episode I can’t help thinking that they should stay away from Moffat’s vanity project purely on the grounds of artistic integrity.
That leaves us with Eccleston.
I’ve talked about my conspiracy theories surrounding this quite recently, so we won’t dwell on it now. In any event it occurred to me that if we’re going to have Eccleston show up again in New Who it’s going to be through surviving footage. I’m sure the BBC have something fleeting and anti-climatic planned, so I have beaten them to it and pasted Eccleston in myself. His low episode count meant there wasn’t a lot of appropriate screen material, and I figured the best way to make it work was have three different Doctors in three different locations, all chatting on Skype. And so for the Ninth, his episode-closing confrontation with the Daleks (ooh, I’m getting goosebumps again) was an obvious starting point. Obvious too was the Tenth Doctor’s lengthy to-camera monologue in ‘Blink’, containing as it does all manner of asides and quizzical looks, and no extra-diegetic sound. For the Eleventh, it gets harder – but I remembered thinking last autumn that ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’ was top-heavy with people staring at screens for no really good reason, and as it turned out there was quite a bit of usable footage.
I put this together over two evenings. The biggest problem is the inconsistency in sound textures, jumping from the grainy whirr of videotape to synthesised choral chants to Murray Gold’s lush orchestration for parts of ‘Dinosaurs’, but not having access to the original masters that was something I simply couldn’t help. Some of the dialogue I wanted to use was clearly delivered to other parties on screen – for example, when the Ninth Doctor says “I’m coming to get you” we can see the Daleks in the background watching him, and while I could have just used the audio it felt a bit like cheating, so I kept such occurrences to a minimum. Editing, too, took some time, in order to pace things appropriately and make sure it stayed in flow – even now there are ways I’m sure I could improve it to the extent that I’m quite hesitant about watching the thing again. But as a concept I think it works (just) and hangs together (also just). And it was fun finding the common threads and having Ten and Eleven engage in sufficient tomfoolery to wind up the ever-serious Nine, who becomes increasingly annoyed (and my goodness, didn’t Eccleston spend an awful lot of that scene just STARING?).
Gareth has suggested another version with McCoy bellowing “UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING”, and at some point I will go back to ‘Remembrance of the Daleks’ and then make that. And throw in a bit of Troughton for good measure. In the meantime, this may be the closest we get to having Eccleston back in Who, at least until he caves in and signs up for Big Finish. Which, of course, would be Fantastic.
Note: the first version of this article, published 29 April 2013, stated that McCoy bellowed “INFINITE RICE PUDDING”, when the actual quote was “UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING!”. This has now been changed.