Well, it’s been and gone… but what did we all think at FTN Towers of The Day of the Doctor?
Some of our guys review the 50th anniversary speicil and, believe it or not, we didn’t all love it…
Saxon’s video review:
In 2013 something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562 a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion.
Sometime in the future, during The Time War, the battle of Gallifrey between The Time Lords and The Daleks is in its final day. Billions of lives are at stake as Gallifrey, home of The Time Lords and The Doctor looks set to fall….
2013. London. The Doctor is summoned to U.N.I.T. Headquarters by a letter from Queen Elizabeth the first, in a matter of the utmost importance. A painting, depicting the future battle of Gallifrey is on display, yet not hidden in the vaults where other more dangerous and annihilating objects are stored. The Doctor (Matt Smith) recalls an earlier adventures where he first encountered Queen Elizabeth in his earlier life as The Doctor (David Tennant). Noticing that there is something odd with The Queen, This Doctor soon uncovers a plot by the shape shifting Zygons…
Meanwhile, some time in the future, The War Doctor (John Hurt) is wrestling with a decision that will have the most devastating effect for The Time Lords, The Daleks, the universe and himself: should he destroy both races to save the universe, no matter the cost?
Doctor Who, a British institution, has been going for 50years (give or take a number of periods where it was decommissioned and then re-invented so to speak) and in that time it has built up a tremendous fan base all around the globe. With so many Whovians waiting in expectation of this momentous episode, writer Steven Moffat may have had his work cut out for him.
The feature length episode, lasting 75mins, explored the part of the Doctor’s own history where he took part in The Time War and literally bared the scars. Very little was mentioned of this war prior to this episode, in fact it has only really been mentioned in passing in previous years starting with Christopher Eccelston’s tenure as the Doctor, and this most likely explains why this storyline was chosen.
I will personally admit that I am a fan of the Classic Doctor Who as I have found that the newer series has depended too much on CGI to explain storylines and some of the scripts have been dumbed down to entice a younger audience. That said, I too was eagerly anticipating this episode, though more out of curiosity than anything.
First off, The Day of the Doctor has some good points and sadly some bad points. It was great in certain parts and totally dire in others. Starting with the great points, there is no denying that The Battle for Gallifrey was truly intense. The scenes of destruction of the alien city were superb; from the aerial battle with the Daleks’ bombardment from space to the engagements of The Time Lords and Daleks swooping through the cityscape, it was very thrilling. Added to this was the ground battle (that was VERY similar to the ground battles in the first two Terminator movies) that really made the audience feel like they part of the action.
The performances of the Doctor, particularly John Hurt’s scene-stealing incarnation, were brilliant. The teaming of the Three Doctors, John Hurt, David Tennant and Matt Smith at times was also enjoyable.
However, there were quite a number of purely dire points to this story. First off, the main plot of the Zygons taking over Earth was completely ignored halfway through the running time. It seemed like they were there at the start of the show simply to facilitate the need to have multiple Doctors.
Also, Billie Piper returned, though NOT as Rose Tyler, but as the Conscience of the weapon that The Doctor (John Hurt) was going to use to destroy both Gallifrey and The Daleks. Whilst it was great to see this companion make a return, it was simply stupid in other terms as The Doctor had not encountered Rose Tyler before and therefore her appearance had really no meaning to him. Surely it would have been more suitable to have a companion from the Doctor’s past as his conscience as this would have added more emotional depth to his decision?
The script, written by Steven Moffat, was at times interesting and touching and at others incredibly grating. The interplay between the the three Doctors at first was comical then became extremely annoying as the David Tennant and Matt Smith Doctors ended up being a Laurel and Hardy-esque double act. At ties the viewer could be forgiven for not telling them apart as their personalities were virtually identical – this is something that was completely the opposite of all of the other previous incarnations of The Doctor as each version had its own distinctive personality.
Whilst it was wonderful to see Tom Baker in a cameo at the end of the episode as The Curator, the interplay between Matt Smith and him, both hinting at what he may or may not be, was fun, but on second thinking, it was simply another shameless effort to have a Classic Doctor actor in this episode. If that was the case, why not have him as The Doctor (he was “The Definitive Article” you know) and not mish-mash round it.
All in all, I personally think that the episode had more poor points than great ones. The overall script was written for 8-year-olds and had virtually no appeal for the fans who have watched it for many, many years. This was a marketing ploy for the BBC and as I am sure the viewing the figures will prove, it will be classed as a great success and no doubt will ensure that the Doctor will continue for many re-generations to come!
Full disclosure; before watching the Day of the Doctor special I had never watched a full episode of Doctor Who. For me, liking Doctor Who was one of those things that meant you were a proper geek, up there with playing Dungeons and Dragons and wearing Star Trek outfits; I am a big sports fan and I have friends that I haven’t met while playing World of Warcraft – surely I would never go “full nerd”, this thought process completely ignores the fact that I read comic books and have a Batman tattoo.
I had convinced myself that, when questioned by “normal people” about my nerddom, I could always defend myself with “I am not a proper nerd, I don’t watch Doctor Who or anything like that”. The Doctor Who revival is something I have been mostly able to ignore, none of my close friends are fans and most fans I’ve seen at cons or signings seemed to be 14-year-old girls wearing dickey bows or forceful middle-aged cosplayers who wouldn’t let you within 15ft of them without trying to jump into your pictures wielding what appeared to be a pen that lit up, which thankfully isn’t my usual social circle.
My blissful ignorance was disrupted this year with the 50th anniversary which seemed to take over every TV station and website. But the news that actually made me turn my attention towards the sci fi saga was the rumour that Peter Capaldi was going to be swapping spin doctor for Doctor Who. Like pretty much anyone who watched Armando Iannucci’s fantastic series “The Thick of It” I was mesmerized by Capaldi’s foul-mouthed political pitbull Malcolm Tucker. Capaldi’s announcement as the new Doctor was prefixed with a video montage of some of Doctor Who’s best moments and, despite not knowing the context of any of the scenes, I found myself thinking that it didn’t look half bad, and when Capaldi finally emerged to confirm his appointment I had decided that I would have to watch at least a few episodes. If only for the hope that he would swagger through the series telling life forms from all over the galaxy to “come the fu*k in, or fu*k the fu*k off”
I had seen a trailer of The Day of the Doctor (posted on this site) and thought that it might be an idea to give it a watch, just so I have some reference points for when I would eventfully start watching Capaldi’s run, all I knew of Doctor Who was the little titbits that had seeped into pop culture: I knew he was a time lord but had no idea what that entailed (presumably he is very punctual?), I knew there was a blue phone box that he used as a space ship, something about a funny-coloured scarf and he had a pen that I assumed was a laser gun. I had listened to the excellent Doctor Who Irish Pubcast special and had discovered that the Doctor was an alien; up until then I had always assumed he was in some sort of Quantum Leap situation – I didn’t realize that all incarnations of the Doctor were versions of the same person.
After leaving the recording for a few days – wanting to watch it but not really having any desire to do so – a break in Sons of Anarchy left me without anything to watch and, being far too lazy to get up and put something different on, I hit play on the Day of the Doctor, fully expecting to be hitting stop just as quickly and heading back to Gotham to begin the frustrating task of restarting Arkham Origins (which had decided to delete itself after I had invested three days defending its citizens-honestly I don’t care if Black Mask kills them all now). Within a few minutes I found myself surprised at how much I was enjoying the playful humour of Matt Smith and when the painting of the time war was revealed to be a beautiful 3D rendition I found myself thinking I had gotten it wrong and my image of Doctor Who being a cheap-looking monster of the week show was way off.
Then it happened, John Hurt appeared and was doing his usual John Hurt thing of being gruff and awesome, and then the peddle bins showed up. I remembered now why I never watched the show previously; I had always thought any show where its main villain looks like it is used primarily for recycling can carry no threat. Then, following this scene, who should show up only Billie Piper and, unless she broke into a duet with Mr Hurt of “Because we want to”, I was ready to call time on the Doctor. Then something very strange happened; despite not being a half-naked call girl, Piper was holding her own; in a scene with John Hurt no less! Straddling the line between temptress and conscience, she was a revelation to someone who’s only experience of her acting talent was that music video were she danced up and down the street questioning why people didn’t approve of how loud she was playing her song.
Enter David Tennant; I had liked Tennant in the Fright Night remake and, as a Manchester United fan, his heart-warming performance as the physio in the movie United will always mean he will get a pass from me. He and Smith shared incredible chemistry with great one-liners tempered with almost Laurel and Hardy-like physical comedy. When the duo were thrown in with Hurt’s tortured Doctor a new dynamic was added and the whimsy that had gone before was now offset with a darker edge as the full weight and ramifications of Hurt’s Doctor’s decisions came to light. The scene were Tennant’s Doctor confesses to counting the lives of the children he had murdered while Smith’s incarnation pleads ignorance with a hint of knowing self torture was far heavier and more dramatic than anything I had expected coming in.
I had now found myself invested completely in the story and when the rubber-suited aliens showed up I didn’t pass comment; I was too caught up and just went with it. The resolution of their storyline was particularly clever and carried a message people of any race would do well to heed. When the trio arrive back in the midst of the war to fight the Daleks my cynicism from earlier had completely gone and, in the space of an hour, in my mind they had gone from peddle bins to bad-ass. And when Capaldi made his brief entrance into the Whoniverse (does this make me a Whooer?) I was almost cheering.
There were surprising moments of tenderness that most mega-budgeted movies could only dream of, and real heart – or two (see, I am learning). Hurt’s Doctor revealing that the memory of his greatest triumph would be forever replaced with that of his biggest regret was proper kick in the feels. And, by the time the credits rolled, I knew I was going to be there watching when Capaldi eventually enters the Tardis proper.
Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying “The world would be a poorer place without Doctor Who”, for the first time in my life, I would agree with him on that.
4 out of 5 Nerds
Fifty years is a long time for a TV series to be going. It would be very easy for a series to turn its 50th Anniversary episode into something resembling nothing more than a clip show. So kudos goes to Steven Moffat for giving us a perfect balance of reverence and modernity; nods to the past while keeping an eye on the future, and managing to tell a great story at the same time.
Seeing the two most recent iterations of The Doctor squaring up to each other – often with hilarious results – and then throwing John Hurt in the mix as well, ran the risk of stuffing the episode with too many cooks. But each Doctor got their own moment to shine, whether it was seeing David Tennant slipping back into the role of Ten and being just as good as he always was, or seeing Eleven conceal the hurt and pain behind his child-like manner, no one was anything less than pitch perfect. And while Matt Smith is the current Time Lord and the episode was ostensibly tailored around him, it was John Hurt’s impeccable performance as the War Doctor – clearly hardened by battle but not yet haunted by the genocide of two races the way Nine, Ten and Eleven are/were – that nearly walked off with the entire episode.
Well, if it weren’t for Capaldi’s eyes [I swear I’ve watched that one moment dozens of times already since broadcast].
We had our questions answered, we got closure on the Time War (a thread that’s been running through new-Who since it returned in 2005); we were given several crowd pleasing moments (Capaldi! Tom Baker! THIRTEEN TARDISES!); a relentlessly witty script that paid homage to Classic Who as well as poking fun at some less well received aspects of new-Who (“Geronimo!” “Allons-y!” “Oh, for God’s sake. Gallifrey stands!”) and we now have a whole new direction for the show as it’s no longer about a Time Lord without a home; now we have a Doctor that’s actively searching for it.
And I cannot wait.
5 out of 5 Nerds
Fifty years after starting off as a relatively small-time children’s show, Doctor Who was celebrating its birthday in a major way. It garnered its second Guinness World Record – already being in there as the most successful sci-fi series – after not only airing live to 10.2 million in the UK but also being shown in 94 countries across six continents, in more than 1,500 cinemas worldwide.
Steven Moffat, executive producer and head writer for Doctor Who, said: “For years the Doctor has been stopping everyone else from conquering the world. Now, just to show off, he’s gone and done it himself!”
After being lucky enough to watch the 50th Anniversary Special in 3D at the cinema it is hard to argue with him.
Leading up to the big day itself the show was on everyone’s tongues. I was able to avoid all of the major spoilers (sweetie) but it was very difficult; social media, newspapers, TV trailers, and friends were all talking about what they thought was going to happen and who was going to show up. After the show had aired, social media, newspapers, TV trailers, and friends were all talking about what HAD happened and who HAD shown up. And, judging by the buzz of excitement, people weren’t disappointed.
I definitely wasn’t!
The Day of the Doctor obviously had a lot to live up to, not only the 50 years that had gone before but also the fans’ expectations … and fans, especially Doctor Who ones, can be a fickle and demanding bunch. However, Moffat played a very clever game, in my opinion. Rather than trying to tell a story that actually showcased each and every Doctor, companion, and adversary that came before, he instead played homage to them. He gave us a surprisingly simple story, that in some ways stood alone from any ongoing story arc, and focussed on telling a romp of a tale that had deft, fleeting touches on the past. References for fans to pick up on: Kate Stewart intimidating the Zygons with her father’s name; the Sycorax; the UNIT scientist Malcolm ; Ian Chesterton as the governor of Coal Hill School; the Three Doctors; and so much more.
All of these elicited the right reaction from the packed cinema: gasps, laughs, and even cheers at the right moments.
And all from, as I said, a relatively simple story. The Zygons, last seen in 1975, were a brilliant choice of villain as their shape-shifting ability meant they were used as an effective plot device while also tying in to the past Doctor (David Tennant) and the present Doctor (Matt Smith). Seeing these two interact with each other was amazing. Tennat’s nonchalant charm and confidence counterpointed Smith’s frenetic energy and hand flapping nicely. The moments where, briefly, they both seemed to be the same person, as they had the same thought, was subtle though inspired. You could actually see how both actors were playing the same character, just from different perspectives.
Then John Hurt came into play. While I was expecting – hoping – for the War Doctor to be something different, to be the dark doctor he had been hinted at but what we saw was the Doctor who had been fighting a war for a long time, who was tired and despondent, but who had not yet made the final decision to end the war by committing double genocide. He was nearly there – and Hurt played that so well, especially in the eyes – but thanks to the consciousness of the moment, and the intervention of his fellow Doctors, he was stopped. He never became, fully, that War Doctor, but instead stayed THE Doctor. He also seemed to get some of the finer lines, both witheringly sarcastic and emotional. One of which was especially good: “Am I having a mid-life crisis?”
The Moment’s consciousness was another interesting touch. The most powerful weapon ever created chose the form of one of the (briefly) most powerful beings ever: Bad Wolf Rose Tyler. I thought that Billie Piper actually played the role extremely well both being Rose and not Rose at the same time. I actually couldn’t help wondering if the Moment was actually the time vortex powered Rose herself but it didn’t matter. She played the part well and her interactions with Hurt were wonderful. It would have been nice to see her directly interact with Tennant and Smith but that wasn’t to be.
…a nostalgic part of me wished that Liz Sladen had still been alive to play the role that Piper did, as I think that that would have been not only a perfect nod to the past but also a perfect part for the very talented actress.
The Daleks were briefly – though strikingly as always – seen as part of the Time War. This part, for me, was one of the weaker sections. It played out very similarly to any other sci-fi war/battle movie. I saw humanoids fighting with robots. I didn’t see Gallifrey fighting with the scourge of the Universe. Perhaps it was budget constraints or perhaps it was time constraints but, either way, the Time War didn’t seem to be the menace that it had been stated as – where were the burning galaxies and universe, where was the overwhelming threat that would force the Doctor to do what he did (and then didn’t do)?
However the real story, the core of it, was always going to be the moral question of whether the Doctor would, or should not, commit genocide. It was amazingly well written to have so much subtext going on in every scene where the three doctors were together. Hurt played it brilliantly, always watching the other two and sizing up what they would become in the future. Moffat played a great scheme with the dungeon scene where he used the link between the three to not only show that Hurt is/was a Doctor but also to show how time travel can work …what one Doctor started another finished. And then, in true Doctor Who fashion, the complex timey wimey method wasn’t needed as the easy answer – TRY THE DOOR – was actually the solution when Clara let them out.
Another simple, yet complex, solution to a difficult question was the peace treaty between the Zygons and the humans. The Doctor once more showed his (their) mercurial and almost omniscient overtones by using UNIT’s own mind wiping technology – which he shouldn’t have known about, just as he shouldn’t have known about the Black Vault, but did! – to save both London and the Zygons. Having neither side know who the ‘good guys’ were, so that they both worked for the best interests of all, was a very typical Who solution. We didn’t see the outcome, obviously, but we didn’t need to. The fact that they were allowed out of the room meant that it worked.
The answer to the moral question, should the Doctor use the Moment to commit double genocide, was handled well and lead to some of the most awe-inspiring scenes of the episode. When the Doctor theme music plays, as all three walk out of the picture and into the Black Vault, it raised goosebumps all over me; it was the heroic moment, where you just knew that they were, finally, acting as one Doctor. The Doctors gathering in the battle for Gallifrey was a moment to savour, seeing all of the previous Doctors working in concert to save their home was simply perfect and the glimpse of Peter Capaldi utterly electric – simply a fleeting shot of his eyes raised a cheer in the cinema …I don’t know if I started it or not, but I know that I couldn’t stop myself from joining in.
The resolution was simple: Gallifrey was never destroyed but whisked away into a pocket universe. The thing is that this doesn’t undo a single moment of the past series of ‘New’ Who at all. To everyone watching, Gallifrey was destroyed in the Time War and, for all the previous Doctors, they still believed that it was …moving forwards, however the Doctor (Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi) will know that Gallifrey is out there, somewhere, and that instead of destroying it they saved it. That is a game, and character, changer. From now on the Doctor does not have to be broken, or lost, but can finally have what Who was always about:
It was last five minutes of the show that almost broke me, however. As the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, made his appearance this episode delivered an incredible emotional impact. The voice – THE VOICE – from the past was haunting and the whole cinema sat up and went extremely still. Baker appeared as a the Curator – possibly a new name for an old character, and one that the Doctor could ‘grow up’ into, perhaps? – telling Matt Smith’s Doctor to go and look for Gallifrey. This was both electrifying, emotional, raw, and very tender. I may even have had something in my eye at that point.
Was this the best thing ever shown on screen or TV? No. Was it even the best Doctor Who story ever told? No. Was it, however, an amazing event that perfectly showcased what has come before and what is still to come by simply being what it has always been: charming, eccentric, and a very, very British take on the greatest TV hero of all time (and space)? Yes, oh yes it was!
And, in case you didn’t realise it I adored this episode. Absolutely adored it!
6 out of 5 Nerds