John Hurt is one of Britain’s greatest actors. Period. So it was perfectly fitting that he was cast to play the war weary Doctor, (who no longer even called himself The Doctor) as he faced The Last Great Time War for the protection of the universe and time itself. With John Hurt in the role of The War Doctor, we get the perfect transition between classic Who and new Who with a face and manner that seems completely out of touch with each, and yet has that little spark of life and vitality to the character that we’ve so come to love. Easily one of the best Doctors despite only a very limited amount of screen time, just proves again how fantastic he is.
Best Companion: The Moment
Honorable Mention: Clara Oswin Oswald
BEST/WORST (ONLY) EPISODE (STORY ARC):
The Day of the Doctor (#240)
Why it’s the best/worst: As anyone who has ever seen an anniversary episode of Doctor Who knows, these stories can frequently be lots of fun, because they bring the many facets of the diverse actors who have played the character into direct confrontation with his other selves. The 50th Anniversary episode of Who brings this tradition to life by bringing together for the first time, two of the most popular Doctors in the show’s history, introducing a new incarnation of the Doctor, and then some. (If you’ve not yet seen it, the “and then some”, shall for now remain a secret.) However, unlike many of the anniversary episodes that came before it, this story actually propels Doctor Who forward by giving viewers a few answers to some questions they have long pondered over and imagined, and presenting a new destination for the show in the future.
Most fans of the series will agree on one thing, one of the greatest mysteries of new Doctor Who, is what are the events that transpired between the last episode of the classic series and the first episode of the new series? Things had been eluded to, (repeatedly) in the new series, of The Last Great Time War, and the events and horrors that had occurred then. With the 50th Anniversary episode, fans finally got a glimpse at some of those things which would turn the universe’s greatest adventurer into a man filled with regret and running from his past, and the effect of the things that he has done, but that is just the beginning of why this story is so great. Add to that two Doctors known for their humor and dynamic, against a weary, disillusioned, and surly War Doctor, and you have all the makings of one of the best episodes of the entire series. In addition to this, fans are treated to some answers they have been craving about bits of cryptic references the 10th Doctor mentions about Elizabeth I, as well as a reappearance of one of the most beloved monsters of the series (Zygons), and an answer to who and what “The Moment” is that the Doctor used to stop the Time War, and it all comes together in a perfect and unexpected way that pays real tribute to the show, while never neglecting the things that make it great. If there was any disappointment at all in this episode, it was purely the wish to see more resolution with the Zygon plotline, a wish to see some explanation and resolution to Season 7’s climactic ending (which is never acknowledged), and the hope to have seen more of the Time War itself. These complaints are minor, however, and all in all, this episode is amongst the very best, and only exists as The War Doctor’s worst in any capacity only by default of being his ONLY story.
The Name of the Doctor (#239)
Perhaps it is unfair to include this here as it has already been mentioned as one of The Eleventh Doctor’s best episodes, and John Hurt is barely in it, but as John Hurt’s character was briefly introduced for the first time here to the great surprise of all fans, I do believe it deserves a secondary nod here. Add to this the very limited exposure the War Doctor has in Who and it is even more worthy of its mention here. (For full thoughts on this, see the best of the Eleventh Doctor – Matt Smith.)
The Night of the Doctor (Mini-Episode)
While this is not a full episode (which is why it only receives an honorable mention), this mini-sode is amongst the best of Who and packs a myriad of great moments for fans. If you’ve seen the 50th Anniversary episode but missed this mini-sode, you’ve not had the full experience. Watch it now, and realize how this is a great episode for both the War Doctor and the 8th Doctor, bridging the gap between classic Who and new Who.