The Day of the Doctor was loud, pompous, self-important, and left me grinning from ear to ear.
I’m a fan that loves perfect, and will still settle for “good.” There are plenty of fans of Doctor Who, including self-proclaimed “superfans,” who get incredibly upset if an episode isn’t up to their “perfect” standards…
And there are, of course, people with legitimate gripes. Plot holes or dropped storylines. Yet another case of Mary Sue-ism. Grand ideas resolved in a cliché manner. Understandable.
In the end, The Day of the Doctor was the best way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our beloved show. Eight years ago, only a handful of people, both inside of the United Kingdom as well as those around the world, gave a damn about the revival of Doctor Who and the casting of Christopher Eccleston and Billie “she’s a pop star” Piper. Those of us in America had to illegally download torrents of Rose in order to watch it, and it took forever for the Sci-Fi channel to pick up Season One. Now? The show was simulcast in numerous countries in every time zone, and Whovians everywhere got a chance to celebrate proudly that a show that was once cancelled back in the late 80’s is now a staple of pop culture.
We had the current Doctor, Matt Smith, and the current companion, Jenna Coleman. We had the most popular Doctor of the current revival, David Tennant. We had the (arguably) most popular companion, Billie Piper…I will give Billie Piper credit, she’s a much better actress than I ever thought she could be. I liked the idea of a weapon with a conscience, and she played it just loopy enough that she wasn’t channeling Rose Tyler and phoning it in). And we had one of the best actors today acting as a bridge between old and new, John Hurt, who had the unenviable task of portraying a Doctor who had given up and reached the end of his rope.
The things I didn’t like about The Day of the Doctor? The Zygon/Human treaty was glossed over and the viewers never had any idea how it turned out. For all we know, negotiations are still ongoing. And man, the Silurians are going to be PISSED when they wake up. “You made a treaty with the Zygons and not US?!?” I felt that the parts of the Time War we did see were deleted scenes from Starship Troopers; for all the mentions of the Nightmare Child and the Could-Have-Been King, it was a bit disappointing. And at times, the writing was a bit “eh, eh, see how clever I am,” which is a Moffat trademark.
But it’s a bit like saying “I didn’t like the part in The Chimes of Midnight where Charley had to explain something in great detail because it’s an audio, so it came off as out of place.” The Day of the Doctor was everything a Who fan could ask for. The chemistry between Smith, Tennant, and Hurt was amazing, in the forest, in the Tower of London, and in the desert house. You never felt like Hurt’s War Doctor was shoehorned in; he was just as amazed at his other incarnations, both in positive and negative ways. It was almost like watching Troughton and Pertwee bicker once again. And the scene where Smith and Tennant set up the peace treaty, with the swivel chairs, was like watching poetry in motion.
My fiancée called it about halfway through the episode; “they’re going to negate the Time War.” While that isn’t quite what happened, I didn’t see Gallifrey’s final fate coming. The guilt the Doctor has felt over the destruction of his home planet, a destruction he himself brought about because there was no other way, has been a driving force over the entire revival. It was something the Doctor who never, never do, and it drives home what Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor said during his regeneration; this wasn’t the Doctor anymore. It wasn’t until, in a callback to the “why don’t we just program the sonic screwdriver and wait 400 years, oh, wait, we did wait 400 years” scene, that the Doctor redeemed himself. Gallifrey never fell, those children never died. While the Time Lords are intelligent and advanced, the Doctor is CLEVER. It took a little while, but in the end, the Doctor did the right thing, and redeemed himself along the way.
And I like how John Hurt regenerated because the universe needed a Doctor. It adds a bit more weight to Nine’s line of “I think you need a Doctor” from The Parting of the Ways, because he’s the Doctor again, saving Rose’s life.
Am I a bit…not miffed…perplexed? Confuzzled? That the Time War’s final consequence was wiped clean? A bit. It fits with what I said, that the Doctor finally found a way around the problem, and in the end, it doesn’t wipe away the guilt that Nine, Ten, and Eleven felt. It just got front-loaded, and now one of the Doctor’s major pieces of baggage is removed…and for better or for worse, the stuff with the Master and Rassilon in The End of Time is still canon. Moffat paid respect to RTD’s plotlines while resolving them, and now we have the next big story arc for Doctor Who – the restoration of Gallifrey. Which will either involve or lead to the introduction of this man.
(seriously, either Capaldi is going to play an old-school, “my guilt is gone” style Doctor, or he’s going to be the bloody Valeyard)
I loved all the little callbacks and shout-outs during the course of the Day of the Doctor…but a lot of people have voiced that they were disappointed we didn’t see any new footage or input from the classic Doctors, save dialogue taken from previous episodes during their original run. I’m with them…but I understands.
To me, the 50th anniversary was more than just The Day of the Doctor. It was The Night of the Doctor, the Five(ish) Doctors, and The Light at the End, along with An Adventure in Time and Space to top it all off. Each Doctor, in a way, had “their” moment, even the War Doctor. If you haven’t seen The Five(ish) Doctors yet, I encourage you to do so. The Day of the Doctor was a tribute that modern day fans would appreciate, but The Five(ish) Doctors was made by Peter Davison for the old-school fans. Cameos, in-jokes, taking the piss out of each other, and a true appreciation by Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy (with one-scene-wonders Paul McGann, Tom Baker, and John Barrowman) for the role that they’re most famous for. To me, it was never just The Day of the Doctor. You couldn’t have everything in it and make it something EVERYONE could enjoy. The Day of the Doctor was the main course that everyone could digest and smile about, and if you didn’t get your pudding, you could watch The Five(ish) Doctors and watch Colin Baker force his family to watch Vengeance on Varos once again. Some say it’s a classic!
Oh, and if you haven’t seen An Adventure in Time and Space or listened to The Light at the End yet, I highly encourage that as well!)
One more thing. Wasn’t it just great to see Tom Baker on screen again? I don’t know if they hired Tom Baker for that scene, or if he just wandered on set one day and Moffat yelled “screw it, put him in!”