Doctor Who -Day of the Doctor

Day of the Doctor


A story that has been waiting to be told since Doctor Who returned to TV screens in 2005 is the story of the Time War. It was slowly revealed that Gallifrey, the home to the Time Lords who had exiled the Doctor those many years back were no more, having perished in a massive battle with the Daleks. The ripples of the Time War could be seen in the first four series of the new program, with lots of hints but no real closure. After taking over as show-runner, Steven Moffat scoffed at the notion of exploring the Time War as unnecessary and seemed annoyed that anyone would want to see that story expanded upon.

Fast-forward to the 50th anniversary and the Time War became the perfect material for the celebratory adventure, and it would also explain why the Doctor was so different, why he was so childish and what he sacrificed during his darkest hour. It also gave fandom a new Doctor, bumping up the existing incarnations and making Smith the 12th, not the 11th Doctor (much to the surprise of many).

But was it any good?

Even though it is the longest lasting program of its kind on television, to date there have been very few anniversary stories for Doctor Who. There was the 10th anniversary Three Doctors, the 20th anniversary The Five Doctors and the 25th anniversary Silver Nemesis (yes, there was a 30th special, but it was so bad most fans ignore it). These stories have been celebrations of the longevity of the program but in the case of the Three and Five Doctors, they have also been jolly good times for the actors to team up and share the screen. The stories brought back old monsters and new ones, but were thin on plot on places. They are stories to watch with a glass of sherry. In the case of Silver Nemesis… it’s anyone’s guess what that was all about (though Ace does wear a fez and the mystery of the Doctor’s name comes up a lot).

In this case, the celebration is mainly one of the BBC Wales iteration of the program, reaching back to 2005. Since Chris Eccleston was not returning, this meant that the only real camaraderie for previous Doctors would be enjoyed by David Tennant and Matt Smith. Seeing as how these two actors are arguably the most popular Doctors among current fans there is no real loss here. Yes, I had dreams of seeing Baker-McGann on screen (somehow) all teaming up but that was unreasonable of me (though we actually did get this).

Opening with the 1963 version of the credits is a nice touch, the slow pan by Coal Hill School is even nicer and then the story takes a deviation into something about paintings, Zygons and Queen Elizabeth. Never mind, see what I wrote about the other specials? The running around and monster fighting is just an excuse to get multiple incarnations together. Smith and Tennant are magnificent on screen and really spark off each other very well. As many readers of this blog may recall, I am not a fan of Tennant, so the fact that I was not urged to kick in the screen when he came on is a plus.

The other angle of this story is the War Doctor, a character who was introduced in last series’ Name of the Doctor to the confusion of many. Played by John Hurt, this incarnation was said by some to not count in the program and perhaps he was the Valeyard or something. He raised more questions than anything else. Battle weary and ragged, this incarnation was shown to be born out of necessity on Karn when the Eighth Doctor realized he could not fight a war. It was the War Doctor who destroyed Gallifrey, an act that plagued the Doctor through his next three incarnations and affected his character and demeanor. This act, in short, made the modern version of the Doctor.

It was absolutely hilarious to see Hurt’s Doctor interacting with his other selves, at first mistaking them for companions. His banter made my curmudgeony heart warm as he barked at the two young Doctors, asking why they acted like children and why they kept pointing their sonic screwdrivers at people like squirt guns. The triple dose of the Doctor was nothing short of magical. Which is great because the story was rather thin.

I know that Moffat had no interest in showing the Time War and if I knew he was going to present it as a low budget version of Starship Troopers I would have agreed. Watching twenty extras chase their kids around a very small warzone while Daleks failed to shoot anyone was not what I was expecting when I imagined the Time War. In any case, the angry and desperate War Doctor made these sequences sing for me. Crashing the TARDIS through a squad of Daleks was brilliant.

I have no love for Billie Piper. Rose overstayed her welcome and seeing her back for this story did not fill me with happiness. The revelation that she was not playing Rose but instead the interactive AI of the incredibly complicated super weapon called The Moment made things easier… but she is still rubbish. Ah well. She wasn’t in it much.

In sharp contrast Jenna Coleman shined as Clara. Her chemistry with Smith gets better all the time and I will be sad to see that go. Using her character as not only as a clever and resourceful companion but also a sympathetic reminder of the Doctor’s ingenuity was a very inspired decision and made up for her lack of activity in this story.

The conclusion, in which the Doctor rewrote his own history, saved Gallifrey and gave him a new path in life that doesn’t have to lead to his tomb on Tranzalore was a very very impressive trick made all the better with the inclusion of the 13th (yes, 13th) Doctor, Peter Capaldi … or just his eyes anyway. A massive explosive resolution in which every incarnation wrenched the time stream into a new order was a very fine treat… one that has been a long time coming from Moffat who has been slipping in the past few years.

I have been watching Doctor Who for a very very long time. How long? It was on something called a UHF channel and recorded on these things called video cassettes. If I wanted to know about a story not shown by my local PBS station I bought a novelization and read it. None of this streaming TV nonsense. It was hard work being a Whovian. Even our toys were rubbish with Daleks that couldn’t move and a Davro with two arms. Even when it is good, I have to admit that I begrudgingly watch the new series. It’s just not the same (and I know it shouldn’t be the same). That said, this was a sterling way to honor the legacy of Doctor Who and pave the way forward for a new direction (right, Moffat???).

Day of the Doctor was by no means perfect (much of it was just a silly run around and the Zygons were very un-Zygon-like for my taste) but neither was the Three Doctors or the Five Doctors. But it was a fun adventure that I am sure made fans old and new happy.

Seeing Tom Baker make that surprise appearance at the end was the icing for me. For all of my love for the past Doctors, he is the ambassador of Doctor Who for me as he was the first one I saw. His scene, albeit a brief one, was poignant and lovely. I had very low expectations, but this pleasantly surprised me.

Great work.

I was lucky enough to find a cinema playing the Day of the Doctor (for free!) and afterwards I interviewed some of my fellow attendees to see what they thought and got some interesting reactions…

Please excuse my goofy laugh.

17 thoughts on “Doctor Who -Day of the Doctor

    • Outside the Mission Valley Cinema in Raleigh. I suddenly realized that a unique opportunity I had and decided to use my phone and interview people. I failed to market my blog very well, so I would be surprised if anyone interviewed here will see the post. If so, I hope that they comment!


  1. First about your interviews… I felt increasingly sorry for that Clara-looking girl who kept getting interrupted and you kept going back to her and she kept being interrupted by one of the other guys!

    Also… I couldn’t help but laugh… they kept bringing up Rose… and finally your phone buzzed… I guess you got a call or something BUT it sounded like you were finally reacting to the Rose mentions… NO… no more BUZZ! 🙂

    Now onto the show… I knew about the Tom Baker appearance… but by the time we got to the end I was about to think it was a red herring dropped by Baker… then the mysterious curator, and I knew it was going to be him… that was nice.

    I liked Hurt quite a bit more than I thought I would… perhaps in part because he was saying things some of us have been thinking for years… his commentary on the Doctors was funny… and true… funny because it was true 🙂

    I found that the story strangely worked too… not an award-winning story mind you… but the plot worked. Everything had a purpose, and it tied up all the things it unraveled… it just worked, and it changed the status quo without invalidating anything that came before. It lets Hurt, Eccleston, and Tennant have their angst and guilt… because the Doctors never remember multi-Doctor adventures except when they are in one… and then it changes things, and maybe we are going to get Timelords back again soon.

    I wish we had more actual Doctors in the episode… but that probably would be tough to manage… I still hope for McGann in the future. I gather Night of the Doctor has drummed up a lot more praise than the BBC thought it would for McGann fans…

    But I have to honestly say… this might be my favorite episode of the Moffat era. Again, not the best story per se… but the most effective and best episode possibly for all the things it managed to pull off AND how it overwhelmed by underwhelming anticipation. I watched it twice yesterday… and it worked the second time through still.


    • Hahaha, very unintentional humor with the buzzing. It’s funny you should mention the call for more McGann since before the screening the theater owner/programming director came out and asked if we would like to see more of him ad the audience cheered. Or maybe I am hallucinating that memory… It was a special moment.

      And of course I would keep going back to the gal in the red dress! She was terribly cute and sadly drowned out by the other fans. Ah well.


    • The return of the mighty Hal!!! We have missed you, thanks so much for the return visit and the plentiful responses to the article. As I was reading your posts I realized that I had neglected to comment on the communal experience I had in watching the episode with such a large group of fans. I will be adding to the article, I guess, to correct this.

      I also had an epiphany that John Hurt should play the Doctor in the same tone as his character from 42 inch Chest all effing and jeffing at Tennant and Smith (sorry if the reference passes you by. It’s not a great film, but has a stellar cast and some great performances). And thank you for introducing me to what could be the lewdest curse I have ever seen… I am in awe.


  2. Hello, Jameson. Long time no see, etcetera. I had to comment on your snappy review. And offer my own brief one. It is Doctor Who’s fiftieth anniversary, after all! Think of this as being like the one gift you really didn’t want on your birthday. Ha!
    It’s dreary but I have to agree with pretty much all you say, darn it. Yet I shall be a trifle more acerbic (I’d imagine that the thrill of seeing it at a cinema among an enthusiastic audience might provide a high!).
    It’s hard to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of something but, of course, Moffat has been in hype overload so it isn’t as if he can dodge criticism or complain about it. The truncated season 8 (or season 7b if you must) was not, on the whole, very good and the fact that the fiftieth anniversary itself wasn’t marked by even a punchy mini-season was a disappointment as was the news that the fiftieth *year* as a whole will be empty of Doctor Who – apart from the Christmas special – until next autumn (I do wonder if this is because Moffat has far too much on his plate and simply refuses to let go of Who, even though the ideas well seems to have run dry, or if it’s typical modern BBC idiocy. Or money problems.) so the special had a great weight on it. Did it succeed?
    I’d say that, on the whole, no, it didn’t. As a celebration of fifty years it was for the most part, it was a bust. As a celebration of the relatively paltry eight years of the revived series it was rather better. However, the two best things about it were both tied to the past (the original run of Doctor Who), an amusing commentary on modern Who, and an exciting pointer to the future. And for those two things Moffat deserves praise but before we get to the praise, there’s the little matter of a partial burial!
    Moffat’s storytelling and plot logic was, as has become typical pretty forced, pretty abominable. As you note, it’s all very mechanical. As mechanical as Kamelion and often just as unconvincing and shoddy. The long midsection was often flabby and riddled with longueurs. Cont’d


  3. Cont’d (did I say “brief”?! And “review”?!)
    While Moffat’s attempts at witty dialogue and situations misfired as often as they worked, throughout. The whole Elizabeth I sequence was forced, and if you’re going to encroach on Blackadder II territory you have to do much better than that. I’m also not sure that we really needed to have the whole dubious ” tenth Doctor married Queenie” plot point disinterred, particularly not when Joanna Page was so mediocre in the role here. Obviously, this was all to set up the meeting between Tennant and Smith, and to be fair THAT worked quite well, even if Moffat’s dialogue for Smith works only about half the time, the rest making him sound like a moron (and as for the unwelcome appearance of that f***ing fez…!).
    I have some positive things to say about this sequence but that’s in a while, first the rest of the negative. The Zygon plot is throwaway, that whole section exists to provide a traditional adventure but it’s badly developed and finally fizzles, basically because it’s there to introduce No More /Gallifrey Falls and the Gallifreyan art/frozen moment concept, the plot mechanism really grinds here as Moffat sets up his deux ex machina in typical clunky “clever” fashion. The pity of it is that the invasion through paintings idea is *brilliant* and could really have been used in another story, it had the potential to be spooky if the villains weren’t the Zygons and there was a proper story. As it is, the Zygons are a plot device and, what’s more, don’t even look as good as they did in 1975, resembling here sucker-covered muscle marys. Their are scenes in the gallery that really dragged and in which nothing happened, odd for a 70+ minute special.
    The decision to portray the last day of the Time War was problematic, as what we got was familiar post-Star Wars action rather than the strangeness once described in RTD’s best-ever dialogue. Certainly it’s here to set up the Nth variation on the “Everybody Lives” ending, but still…


  4. Cont’d (Okay, I know this is stream of consciousness and bonkers!)

    As with the senseless scene of the Doctor dangling from the TARDIS as it’s carried by a helicopter, this sequence seems to be there to provide a conventional version of “spectacular” screen action. It’s also there so Moffat can have his intended ending and because the Time War would be impossible to depict on-screen as described.
    The women in Day of the Doctor aren’t particularly well portrayed, both Rose/Bad Wolf/The Moment Interface and Clara are there to be wise and magical, this makes sense in the former case (I’m no fan of Piper either but thought she was okay here) but Clara’s wisdom seems to come from nowhere, she’s a pretty prop and we are given no reason to BELIEVE in her insights, and Jenna Coleman isn’t up to the job. The entire Moffat conception of Clara is based around her being WONDERFUL but she ain’t a character, she’s a prop, a fantasy. So her influence on the Doctor wreaks of lazy plot-driven writerly contrivance. Welcome to Moffatland, Where Logic Takes a Holiday!
    So, that’s (some of) my criticisms out of the way, now what did I like… As with you Tennant didn’t make me want to kick the screen in! The tenth was still quite bland, and irritating but the jokes at his expense were funny, particularly the comments on kissing. Smith was quite good in his quieter moments. Some of the CGI was admittedly quite lovely and spectacular. The opening and closing credits were great. The appearance of all thirteen (!) doctors was welcome, if plagued with wonky effects work and editing… However, what were the Two Great Things? John Hurt as the War Doctor/Warrior/ Other Ninth Doctor. Hurt was unsurprisingly great, his acting was exquisite, both moving and funny. Moffat’s writing for the Hurt Doctor was the best he’s done for any Doctor. The “For God’s Sake!” reaction to Tennant and Smith’s idiotic catchphrases was perfect! As was his first meeting with his successors. I would gladly watch Doctor Who with the Hurt and McGann Doctors cont


  5. Concluded! (Bwahaha!)

    over at least four of the others (and in acting terms as the Doctor they are well up there). Hurt was able to sell serious emotion AND comedy in a way that easily outclassed T and S (and Eccleston). He really MADE the story work, in a way that surpassed the sundry Moffatian illogicalities, even the cowardliness of not having the Doctor really have to do the soul-wrenching thing he had to do could be overlooked because Hurt was so good (I AM glad that Gallifrey is back, weirdly this is my fantasy of how Gallifrey would be dealt with, so I have to say that, in that respect, I’m pleased.)
    Oh, and the second thing?
    TOM BAKER. Fourth Doctor. Future Doctor. Curator. Beyond Perfect. Even guessing it was coming the sound of his voice entering the scene followed by his appearance was astonishing. What a beautiful, moving, luminous scene. Well done, Tom. Well done, Moffat! The Great 50th Anniversary special and Doctor Who story hoped for? On the whole, no. But an entertaining one with some Transcendent moments? Yes. That ending. LONG LIVE THE DOCTOR! Splendid chaps, all of them.


  6. The main problem with Day of the Doctor was the same as season 6 and 7, as well as the eighth doctor prequel…too much story, to fast. The eighth doctor should have had a season or at least a movie. Instead moffat does what he does best…,gives us junk food…tastes great, looks great, but is utter crap. Paul Mcgann was the best thing about this anniversary, by far. He would have been on terms with Baker’s doctor if given the chance, what a waste. Everything else was rather forgettable.


  7. Thank you exceedingly much, Jameson! Oh, and lewd curses come trippingly to my tongue, or, in this case, digits.
    I can certainly imagine Hurt firing profanity projectiles at the Tennant and Smith Doctors in that rich, oaken voice of his! “Will you two mother****ing bleeps stop f***in’ poncing a- bl**din’-round?! And stop wavin’ your bleeping sonic screwdrivers in the air as if they are substitute d***s you look like bleeping bleeps! Oh, and it’s bleeping “sonic screwdriver”, you lazy b******s, not “sonic” you utter ar*es! Come back the fat me in the vomit-worthy costume, all is forgiven! Almost.” Bwahahaha! I must admit, you did give me the horrifying, nightmarish vision of Ray Winstone as the Doctor! Argh!
    I’ll say it again, fantastic perspicacious review, J-man!


    • I’m funny to you? How am I funny? Am I funny like a clown?! Do I AMUSE you!?


      Strangely… while typing that in Pesci mode… I can actually hear Colin Baker’s voice doing that bit quite well too…


  8. SJV, now that is REALLY scary! Having watched Colin being all SHOUTY at the beginning of Attack of the Cybermen (a story improved no end by shots of Nicola Bryant as Peri running… Ahem!), that is frighteningly plausible. 🙂


    • Did you see the Matt Smith/David Tennant bits where they are intentionally-badly reading famous lines from other movies? They ran those on BBC America in between commercial breaks when they re-aired Day of the Doctor later Saturday night. Those were funny… and yet, now I REALLY want to hear Colin Baker do that scene from Goodfellas!


  9. Oh, I’ve heard of those but I haven’t seen them! Hey, what about Goodfellas for the stage with Colin as Tommy Devito! Someone make it happen! And the guy who shoots Colin-as-Tommy in the head could be played by… Michael Grade, or perhaps Grade could be the guy in the back of the car who gets stabbed by Devito! Colin has his revenge… 🙂 Either that, or it could be Saward or Moffat… Ha. Good to see you, SJV and Jameson.


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