In case you’ve been living under a rock, this year is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. So there’s been a bit of a celebration on the old BBC all culminating in the special episode The Day of the Doctor. And it was pretty darned good. (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
The last time I wrote about Doctor Who I was bemoaning the sorry mess that was the last series. There wasn’t any mess in this episode. The Day of the Doctor was pretty solid, with two plots running side by side. A missing version of the Doctor (named the War Doctor and played by John Hurt) is just about to destroy Gallifrey and wipe out his own race, the Time Lords, in order to prevent a war that will engulf the universe. And the Zygons are trying to take over the Earth. Doctors War, Ten (David Tennant) and Eleven (Matt Smith) all get tangled up in events and manage to save the day. All of them.
First, let’s get this out of the way. The ending. What an enormous cheat. The Time War has been a big part of the revamped Doctor since he was brought back to our screens in 2005. Having to commit genocide on his own people gave him a darkness and a weariness to him. He was haunted. He was a survivor. It motivated everything he did.
“Not any more!” says Moffat. “Look, we did some timey-wimey stuff and it just looked like he killed everyone. But they’re all safe really.”
I hate retcons. They’re a flipping cheat. And the Doctor’s been cheating far too much lately.
One other gripe was Billie Piper’s appearance; it seemed gratuitous to me. She had no real need to be there. It didn’t make an awful lot of sense and it seemed like she was being shoe-horned in so the BBC had something else to build hype about.
But Hurt, Tennant and Smith shine too brightly for these flaws to really be seen. Smith, of course, is on his usual fine form. Tennant was a pleasure to watch again. And the two of them played their differences very well. Sometimes they were similar to comic effect, others at polar opposites to dramatic effect. Excellent stuff.
Hurt, of course, was always going to steal the show. And he was definitely the highlight. The War Doctor was what everyone wanted to see and Hurt delivered an excellent performance. He could have been a one-note character, simply playing the tragedy of the genocide he’s about to commit. But he was many things: wise, grumpy, tired, even funny. Whilst Tennant and Smith romp about, he asks them, “Must you speak like children?” Despite playing the old, tired warrior, he was still recognisable as the Doctor. He had his clever ideas and he even romped a little himself at the end.
And, despite my problems with the ending, it did address my gripe with the last series: the story, although it contained a few odd tangents, was strong. A beginning, a middle and an end. Whilst not appropriate for a first-time or even casual viewer, it was a self-contained story. And it does open new doors for the next series. It will be interesting to see where the hunt for Gallifrey takes the Doctor.
In short, if you’re a fan, you’ll love it. If you’re a casual viewer, you’ll enjoy it but need to visit Wikipedia afterwards to figure it all out. If you’ve never watched Who before, do not start here! Go watch series five. It’s the best one.
What did you think of Day of the Doctor? Leave me a comment and let me know?