Doctor Who: Looking Back at 47 Days #23 – Startling Story Conclusions

A few years ago, I did a series of 47 daily posts which all looked at different questions related to the revival series of Doctor Who, focusing on stuff I like about the show. I worked out a series of questions in advance and then picked one randomly for each day. I’ve decided to revisit the series to see how my opinions may or may not have changed, and to bring two of my daughters into the discussion, since they are both big fans and have recently finished watching the revival series.

Why 47?  It’s my favorite number.

Why Doctor Who?  It’s my favorite show.

Why the modern day Doctor Who only?  Simply because I remember it better.

Why are we looking back at this now? Because we’re on a 47 day countdown to November 23, the birthday of the show.

Check out Day #22 here.

When I first did this, it was September 2016, which means we were in between the Christmas episodes The Husbands of River Song and The Return of Dr. Mysterio, and were yet to debut Peter Capaldi’s last season on the show. Jodie Whittaker was even further away. How has the passage of time, evolution of opinions, and three further seasons of the program impacted my opinions?

Today is Day #23, and our theme is…

Most Startling Story Conclusion

Not mid-story cliffhangers, mind you, but those instances where the big shock or the big twist came at the end of the story.

Sometimes this is tricky to define. Are the endings of Face the Raven and Heaven Sent mid-story cliffhangers? I’d say no, but some would say yes. Other times, it’s obvious, like the conclusion of The Almost People or The Name of the Doctor…those are both startling, and they both come at the end of stories.

In fact, The Name of the Doctor was my pick last time, with the debut of John Hurt as the War Doctor. And The Almost People and the revelation that Amy was a Flesh-duplicate was my runner-up then. If I hadn’t just used The Almost People as my favorite plot twist, I might have used it this time.

I also considered picking Sleep No More, both from the point of view of how creepy it is to see Rasmussen’s face dissolve away like that, and also because the ending made me go, “What? That’s it? That’s the ending? That’s the gimmick of this episode? How stupid.”

But no, cooler heads prevailed, and I selected something instead which might be described as “unsettling” more than “shocking”, but whatever, this is the way we are going today…

The Girl Who Died

This story, by Jamie Mathieson and Steven Moffat, featured the Doctor saving the life of young Viking girl Ashildr, who had died tragically saving her village from an alien threat. After wrestling with the futility of it all, he decides to use that same alien’s technology to bring Ashildr back to life. It feels like a moment of great victory for everyone, but afterwards, the Doctor broods about it. He has effectively made Ashildr immortal…what implications upon on history will that have?

Then we get the episode ending. A bright and hopeful Ashildr looks out upon the countryside. But then, in a surreal bit of filmmaking, time begins to accelerate around her as she sees the passing of the seasons, the years, the centuries, but her own face never changing, except for the way that her optimistic smile gives way to a dark and grim stare…and we realize that the Doctor’s concerns are well-founded.

It’s a nice job by the whole production team, including actress Maisie Williams and director Edward Bazalgette

What did my daughters say?

Johanna (16) surprised me by picking The Wedding of River Song, which ends with the head of Dorium Maldovar ominously warning the Doctor that he must soon face the question that he’s been running from his entire life: “Doctor Who?” She said she immediately came up with some sort of elaborate multiverse theory about Doctor Who (which I gather has not been confirmed), and she really liked the look on Dorium’s face at the end.

Laurelle (14) picked the appearance of the First Doctor at the closing moments of The Doctor Falls, even though she found the story that actually came after that to be a bit of a let-down.

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