What a corker! There we are, getting to actually see Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor again — once more onto the breach!
The Last Great Time War has been raging for so long that the entire Universe has been affected, and much of it destroyed. The Eighth Doctor has been staying away, keeping out of it, wanting no part of the bloodshed. But he must — for he’s the only one who can end it. This confirms what this Anniversary Special will be about: the big mystery, the one that was only touched upon in The End of Time, explained enough but never quite. Introducing John Hurt as “the War Doctor” also means that the count will remain the same. He’s an anomaly, a triggered regeneration brought on by the Sisters who guard the flame of eternal life. They granted the Doctor a boon, something to make it through before regularly regenerating into Nine (Christopher Eccleston). We see a young John Hurt in the reflection, confirming his status as an anomaly, a Doctor that will age before regenerating.
As with every long-standing mystery, there is trepidation when writers undertake the resolution of those mysteries, and I know that the fandom is embroiled in debate about this as we speak. Personally, I like this. I love that we got to see Paul McGann reprise his role, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the three Doctors, 8.5, Ten and Eleven, make this terrible decision together that will finally end the Time War. Eight chose to be a warrior for this, because that’s what he never wanted to be, but has to become if he wants to get through this and save the Universe. It also explains just how much of that is going to linger in Nine when he first meets Rose. Ten said it, he was born from blood, anger, and revenge — and this is how it starts.