If you’re reading this in America, chances are you won’t know of Metro, a free newspaper they give out at railway stations in London and the south east (and possibly beyond, athough I’ve never bothered to look). Metro is a tabloid publication that fills its columns with assorted celebrity gossip, mundane entertainment news and the occasional article of interest, and it’s generally read on the train or bus and then discarded for someone else to read and abandon. I look at it online because it’s usually fairly on the ball with respect to picking up Doctor Who stories, and if there’s a story development or casting change I’ll often read about it in Metro before I see it in the Guardian (who have bigger, Daily Mail-shaped fish to fry).
It was while browsing through Metro yesterday that I discovered the BBC’s newly released publicity stills from ‘Day of the Doctor’. A trailer is still forthcoming, of course, and as far as I’m concerned it can be forthcoming until the 23rd November, because I already know more about the special than I’d like (which is entirely my own fault) and, as I’ve always maintained, Doctor Who was better in the old days when there was less courting of the press. The announcements and teasers are necessary, of course, because social media (and the internet in general) has created a culture of leaks, but it was more fun when we genuinely didn’t know what was coming.
Still. To be fair to the Beeb, the new stills don’t show us anything of any real interest. There are no monsters, and the only recognisable location outside the TARDIS is the National Gallery, in a scene that was already widely publicised when it was filmed earlier this year. The sheer mundanity of most of the images begs the question of why on earth they were released, but (in the absence of the aforementioned trailer) I suppose the BBC impresarios felt they had to do something to keep up the momentum, now that the hype from the rediscovered Troughton is dying down.
So for the most part these images are impossible to really examine in any depth, although that didn’t stop certain people trying. In a Metro blog entry entitled ‘What do the new The Day of the Doctor photos reveal about the 50th anniversary special?’ (to which the standard answer is surely ‘Not a great deal’), a chap called Dan Wilson – who describes himself as a “Whovian, Blue Peter Badge winner, barfly and flaneur” – adds to his impressive list of writings with an examination of the stills. Except he’s not able to come up with anything substantial, so he either points out the obvious or makes it up. “His hair looks good,” he says of Matt Smith. “Let’s hope the Christmas wig looks as glorious.”
It doesn’t get better: Wilson points out that Tennant is piloting his coral TARDIS, before rather hilariously describing it as “vintage”. This is like describing Downton Abbey as “iconic” (and this is, coincidentally, exactly what the Independent did the other week). He then goes on to talk about Hurt’s “beaten leather jacket” and “general demeanour”, before later remarking “goodness me ten and eleven (if that’s what we should be calling them now) don’t look that glad to see him”, failing to note that all three of them (well, two and a half) appear to be looking with some concern at something off-camera. Perhaps it’s Billie Piper’s dental records.
I’m not going to blame Dan for all this: he writes well enough, and the fact that he’s grasping at straws here is a safe bet that this was a commission from the powers that be, rather than anything he actually wanted to do himself. But honestly. The fact of the matter is that these images are designed to get everyone filling in holes – although to be fair to Mr Wilson, he is very good at spotting Hurt’s red sonic screwdriver, the colour of which clearly indicates that he is engaging in some dubious moral practices. (Gareth once pointed out to me that the end of Return of the Jedi could have been greatly improved if, when Darth Vader had told his son to turn to the Dark Side, Luke had examined his green lightsaber and said “Are you absolutely sure? It does mean changing the bulb“.)
Anyway, if you want these images to say anything, you need to make them talk. So I did.
The last one will mean nothing to you if you’ve not seen ‘The Three Doctors’, but that’s your own fault. You really should watch it. Go on! Skedaddle. It’ll give you something to do while we’re waiting for that trailer.