Our Doctor Who expert, Tony Cross, is journeying through all of time and space to bring us his thoughts on every available Doctor Episode. Today is the Eleventh Doctor adventure The Day of the Doctor...
The Day of the Doctor is damn good. The 50th Anniversary Special was always going to be something of a challenge with fan want lists - including mine - being so long. I got most of them. Yes, the McGann appearance and regeneration was in the online Night of the Doctor but still we got that little gap closed. Yes, I'd have liked the War Doctor to have been a broken, battered McGann and not a newly created incarnation. But although I didn't get that wish we did get John Hurt as The Doctor instead, so I can't really complain.
It rattles along at a fair old pace, jumps about in typical Moffat esque timey-wimey stylee and is stonkingly well directed by Nick Hurran. I didn't get to see it in all its 3D glory on a big screen but even on my pathetically small screen here at DreamCage Towers it looks (and feels) like a movie.
The way the story twists the Zygon-Elizabeth I-UNIT sub-plot into a much bigger story about the day the Doctor decided to end the Time War is rather well done. The idea of 'The Moment' - an ultimate weapon with a conscience - is the best idea in the whole piece in my ever so 'umble opinion. It gives The Moff a chance to give Billie Piper an appearance in the 50th Anniversary Special without her having to be Rose. The Moff seems to have been of the opinion that the Rose - Tenth Doctor story had run its course and so Billie Piper gets to be the Moment's 'hot interface'. Which also gives Piper the chance to be rather good playing a different part. I like it. It's a good decision done well.
The Moment presents the War Doctor with the chance to see his future. To see what his decision will lead to: "The man who regrets and the man who forgets." That involves him in the Zygon-UNIT-Elizabeth I shenanigans.
My only real quibble with this story is Elizabeth I (Joanna Page). Not so much the performance, which initially seems to be channelling Queenie from Blackadder but improves from the moment there are two of them. More the general portrayal of the woman herself. I won't rant on about this, but Elizabeth I isn't the sort of woman who'd have agreed to marry the Doctor at the drop of a hat. This was a woman that survived the political machinations of Tudor Court life. The kind of machinations that lead to early, unpleasant deaths. She wasn't a ditz. So please don't do that kind of thing again Mr. Moffat.
But I can forgive this because the rest of the story is so good. And rather moving.
To cut a long article short the Doctors get together, which is really what we're all looking for. We want the banter. And we get that in spades. Particularly the disapproving grumpiness of John Hurt's Doctor who basically represents Classic Doctor Who. His criticism of the two younger Doctors is basically the Moff channelling the complaints and digs about the New Series from Classic Who fans. There's even an amusing line about kissing in there.
I shall stop here for a brief paragraph of John Hurt praise. He's wonderful. Clearly a brilliant actor with a long line of fantastic work behind him Hurt manages to bring the War Doctor to life. His curmudgeonly take on the Doctor nicely balances out Matt Smith and David Tennant's performances. In fact, this is a moment to applaud all three Doctors for some fine work all round. I'm a fan of the scene in the Tower cell, which manages to cover several important issues.
Meanwhile the Zygon's are about to seize control of the UNIT's black archives and all the goodies that are contained therein. They've duplicated Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) and McGillop (Jonjo O'Niell), which means Clara is in trouble but fortunately Clara's a clever woman and does the time travelling equivalent of a runner. In the meantime, the real Osgood, who escaped her Zygon duplicate, has freed the real Kate etc. Kate's going to blow up London to destroy the Black Archive. The Doctor's arrive determined to stop them and using the Black Archives memory wiping technology (another minor quibble of mine that but more about UNIT's employment practices than anything else) to force both sides to the negotiating table.
This demonstration of what the War Doctor's future seems to have done convinces him that he should go through with his final destruction of Gallifrey to bring an end to the Time War. Yet it isn't over. The Moment brings the two future Doctors along. It initially looks like things are going to go ahead as we've always assumed they were at this point: Gallifrey's destruction. However, Clara's reaction stops things in their tracks reminding the Doctor of the promise his name represents (and dropping a couple of classic Terrance Dick's lines in to proceedings.)
At this point the Doctor's come up with a plan, which may or may not work, to save Gallifrey. It involves all of them working together and lo we get to see all twelve Doctors...no...all THIRTEEN as Capaldi's eyes get a quick guest appearance.* It's nice to see a little nod to the Classic Doctors here even if their bits are cobbled together from older episodes or an impressionist.
We're not sure at this point whether Gallifrey has been saved or not but we do know that the Doctor didn't blow the whole planet up. Of course, this potentially makes all the 'last of the Time Lords' stuff nonsense and might undermine the Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctor's air of tragedy. Except there's the effect of the time lines, which conveniently will wipe their memories to the point at which they'll only remember that they tried to destroy Gallifrey. It's closure of a kind for the Eleventh Doctor but not for the rest of the Doctors. It's both a potentially happy ending and a rather sad one.
The War Doctor and the Tenth Doctor leave. We get to see a bit of the regeneration between the War Doctor and the Ninth (but not the full thing). It does mean that we've tied up all the regenerations now, which I'm happy about. Even if it isn't that big a deal for most other people.
The Eleventh Doctor sits down to have a moment with his picture. Being a great reviewer, I've failed to mention this picture up until now. My apologies for this. It's the problem with doing these reviews as stream of consciousness immediate reactions. Basically, there's a piece of Gallifreyan art called 'Gallifrey Falls' or 'No More' one or t'other. It's a three-dimensional picture of a moment in time at the Fall of Arcadia (as mentioned previously). It's the day the Doctor decided to say, 'No More'. It's the day of the Doctor. Boom Tish.
Anyway the Eleventh Doctor sits down but is interrupted by the Curator. Now who the Curator is or might be or was is a matter for a far longer conversation than I've got time for here, but I loved this moment. It bought a tear to this old fan boy's eye. I'm not going to spoil it but it's a lovely scene and it made me happy. As did the final moment in the story.
Basically this story is packed full of goodies and The Moff manages to balance the celebrations aspects of the episode with a decent story in general. It's well-directed, well-acted and well good. Innit. You couldn't have wished for a better 50th Anniversary special. It managed to honour the Classic series and Doctors whilst giving the show a new direction.
Gallifrey falls no more.
*I didn't have a problem with all the Doctors turning up btw. My theory was always that the Time War was such an epic Universe time line shaking event that there was no way that Time Sensitives couldn't have picked up on what's going on even if only peripherally. It might be interesting if the Doctor originally fled Gallifrey to avoid the oncoming Time War.
Tony Cross is the creator of the wonderful Centurion Blog's found HERE and HERE.
Image – BBC.