I’ve been to a few of these Fathom Events before and so I’ve come to know what to expect. The ones I’ve experienced involved television shows and before the presentation starts the movie screen shows interesting trivia questions to get the audience in the mood for what is about to come. My favorite was that in North America alone more than 1,000 sonic screwdrivers are sold daily. And then there’s also some kind of featurette that involves the making of the episode with interviews of cast and crew. This one was entitled “The Day of The Doctor: Behind The Lens,” narrated by the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker.
But the one thing that I did not expect was the audience. Most of the time there’s 30-40 hardcore fans that attend these special screenings. But this time the theatre was packed. It was stadium seating so nobody sat in the very front couple rows because it was just too close, but all the rest of the seats were full. It wasn’t just the fact that the crowd was so large that was impressive, but the crowd was so diverse. There were kids, teens, young adults, middle-aged, and elderly people in the audience. Not only were the age groups well represented but there was an equal amount of male and female viewers of many nationalities. It was blatantly obvious how big Doctor Who‘s appeal truly is.
Before the curtain rose, you could hear multiple screwdrivers in the audience, and some of the younger fans were dressed as various versions of the Doctor, some like the Tenth, others like the Eleventh, and a few with scarves like the Fourth. When the lights finally went out and the film started, the crowd went ballistic. It sounded like the first night of a new Star Wars film. And when the names “David Tennant” and “Billie Piper” flashed across the screen, the crowd erupted again and again. Just being in a crowd that enthusiastic intensified my own excitement for what I was about to see.
As with many of the episodes of Doctor Who and with all of the time-travel elements, it’s difficult to summarize the entire story without missing something and keeping it into a small digestible amount for a reader. But suffice it to say it’s a story of redemption for The Doctor. A long time ago in one of his many incarnations, the War Doctor (John Hurt) made a decision. A massive war raged between his archenemies, the Daleks, and the Time Lords, his own people. In order to stop the war and save the universe from ultimate destruction, he made a difficult choice. He used the ultimate weapon, a sentient device with a conscience that not only destroyed every single enemy, but every one of his kind as well with him being the only exception. It was not an easy decision, but one that he has lived with for many lifetimes.
While it sounds simple enough, we find that things are never that simple in the life of a Time Lord. The device manifests itself in the guise of Rose (Piper), the companion for the Tenth Doctor (Tennant), and decides to give him a glimpse into his future and to ultimately meet both the Tenth and Eleventh (Matt Smith) Doctors before he makes his decision.
As the three contemplate what the implications of their meeting may result in, they have much more on their plates as they must deal with a modern-day invasion of Earth by a shape-shifting race known as the Zygons, who are mounting an attack from Elizabethan England. While the Doctors end up coming to terms with what they must do, once again it’s humanity and the latest companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman), who saves the day by diverting their attention from destruction and focusing it on what The Doctor does best, finding another way.
The special effects in this presentation were of feature-film quality as were the audio effects. The introduction of all of the Doctors in the climactic scene using both current digital effects and archival footage was quite impressive and satisfying. And of course, the cameo by one of the most popular Doctors, Tom Baker the Fourth Doctor, as the Museum Curator was the icing on the proverbial cake.
Overall, the night was a tremendous success. The crowd was engaged. The show was one of the best Doctor Who episodes I’ve seen. And it was a great night for the 50th anniversary of the Doctor Who franchise. Not only am I looking forward to the television show, but I’m hoping that Fathom Events will put The Doctor in the theatre more frequently.