Doctor Who fans thought they had seen the last of Paul McGann in the role of the Time Lord, but they had not reckoned on Steven Moffatt.
The eighth Doctor, seen only once before in 1996 outing Doctor Who: The Movie, stars in the mysterious mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, which has just been released by the BBC.
The short film starts with McGann’s Doctor hurtling through space in a doomed ship accompanied by a woman called Cass.
When she finds out he is a Time Lord she refuses his help because the Time War has been so bloody – in fact, she claims the Doctor is as bad as the Daleks. The spacecraft then crashes on the planet called Karn (as last featured in fourth Doctor episode The Brain of Morbius).
The Doctor is then revived and, with only four minutes to live, drinks a potion offered to him by some mysterious witch-like women, the Sisterhood of Karn, which sees him regenerate into John Hurt, the War Doctor. He declares "Doctor no more", claiming the universe has more need for a warrior than a Doctor.
The audience then sees the Doctor’s reflection – an image of a young John Hurt.
Interestingly, McGann's Doctor pays tribute to various companions from the audio plays, including Charley Pollard, C’rizz, Lucie Miller, Molly O’Sullivan. This might imply that the plays are now part of the official canon of the TV series.
Introduced briefly at the end of series seven, Hurt's Doctor appears to harbour a dark secret relating to a great deal of death and destruction – almost certainly during the infamous Time Wars.
See the iPlayer video here.