Newspaper Taxi wrote:
I don't really see a lot of people talk about the Hurt serials that ran from '01 to '05. I really felt that the show took on a much darker tone during this period and I'm really shocked at some of the things that the guy we're supposed to call "The Doctor" did. I mean -- the Time War? It made for one hell of a season finale and my favorite regeneration scene ever, but wow. I had a hard time looking at him the same way afterwards.
You need to look at Hurt's four years in the context of the times. When he was cast, mid 2001, things were looking pretty good. Yeah, the economy had taken a tumble after Bush's election, but it had mellowed out. It looked like things were going to be pretty steady. And the first half of Hurt's first season reflected that.
Unfortunately, Hurt made his debut as the Doctor on September 13th. And the world had changed two days before.
It wasn't until "The Sontaran Gambit"/"Sentinel of the Daleks" two-parter in February 2002 that we really began to see how dark Doctor Who
could go. Ironically, it wasn't even Hurt's Doctor that was dark. It was what the Thals were doing in that two-parter that was so jaw-droppingly insane, and I think the Doctor was as appalled as the audience was. Clearly, it was a story written in reaction to the Afghanistan mission, but it really opened the door for where Hurt's era would go with the Daleks taking the Sontaran clone banks for themselves and the revelation about the Dalek time machines.
I view Hurt's era as a reaction to the Bush/Blair failure in Iraq, and I see Hurt's Doctor as a tragic hero. You can see in Hurt's Doctor the arc from true believer in the righteous cause to disillusioned warrior who has lost faith in his leaders. You can see it most clearly in "The Tears of the Ten Thousand" when the Doctor confronts Romana and demands to know how many more worlds must burn because of a mistake, and Romana's chilling response -- "The mistake would be in not burning more" -- is the point where the Doctor loses all faith in his cause.
Hurt's era is uncomfortable viewing, because they were trying so hard to make something relevant to the era. In that regard, I think they were trying to ape Star Trek
a little too hard. But Hurt's era is also, in retrospect, difficult to watch simply because it hasn't aged well. The era that followed with Eccleston and Tennant also hasn't aged particularly well -- Eccleston's season in particular is grounded firmly in the 2005 present, and its references have dated badly -- but Hurt's era looks cheap and its political undercurrents are no longer meaningful.
Hurt himself is great. His work, however, is very much of its time. It lacks timelessnes. Say what you will about Steven Moffat as writer, but as a producer he's made his tenure timeless.
Newspaper Taxi wrote:
I'm looking forward to seeing Hurt return in the 50th Anniversary special and I'm glad to see that Smith's Doctor doesn't even consider him to officially be a 'true' Doctor.
I'm glad to see John Hurt back, too. Hurt was my Doctor.