Reverse Storytelling

John Rentoul

Christopher Eccleston1 300x195 Reverse StorytellingFor someone who does not care for fiction (made-up stuff about things that didn’t really happen), I have an unusual admiration for Doctor Who. I have a special reverence for Russell T Davies, the creative storytelling genius who revived, updated and played with an old story, and for Christopher Eccleston, a serious actor who took the risk of bringing back an old favourite.

Now I add Steven Moffatt to the pantheon. He took over from Russell T and wrote the 50th anniversary extended episode, which I reviewed for The Independent on Sunday here. Spoiler: I thought it was brilliant, clever and very funny.

I have now, while we wait for the Christmas Day special, watched again the first three of Russell T and Christopher E’s episodes. “Nice to meet you, Rose: run for your life!” And so on.

My admiration for Moffatt has increased. The way he has reverse engineered the story so that the whole of the “new” Doctor story and the whole of the “old” Doctor story circle back on themselves and make sense – as much sense as a time-travelling moralist can make – is a remarkable piece of work.

Eccleston is completely plausible as the regenerated form of John Hurt, the “War Doctor” of the 50th anniversary episode. In Rose’s flat he catches sight of himself in a mirror and flicks his ears, saying, “Not bad.” So he has indeed just regenerated. At the end of the 50th anniversary episode, we see Hurt starting to regenerate and saying that he hopes his ears won’t be so prominent this time.

What I had forgotten, though, was how bad-tempered, bleak and sad Eccleston often was, in between the japes, the big grin and the “Lots of planets have a north”. Watching the early episodes again, he could easily be the same being as the Hurt time lord, who has just sacrificed all his people to save the universe.

A triumph of backwards-compatible narrative.

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  • Ciaran Goggins

    Davies gave us gay Doctor Who’s. Fiction? You mean like the official version of Dr Kelly’s death? See what I did there?

  • Pacificweather

    Now there are two things we agree on. Things are looking up.

  • Pacificweather

    Which one was gay?

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