Doctor Who – “The Day of the Doctor” Review: A Wonderful Celebration of the Past and Present
After months of hype and sky high expectations, it would be so easy for “The Day of the Doctor” to fall unceremoniously on its face and leave many disappointed. And, I’m sure there will be some out there who are indeed disappointed. But I have a feeling many will be just as joyously surprised as I was with how well the Doctor Who
anniversary special was executed.
This certainly isn’t a perfect episode of Who
, as it falls into several “classic” pitfalls that seem to permeate the Steven Moffat era. To begin, the Zygons are certainly one of the lesser villains in the modern series. Their desire to possess Earth as their new colony is a rather dull plot point, and serves almost solely as a means to get the three Doctors in a room together (which, considering the strong results of their collaboration, isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
The other plot point that is a bit off is the inclusion of Elizabeth I. Granted, I’ve always wondered what Ten (or should I say Eleven now?) did that made her so angry that she wanted his head in “The Shakespeare Code,” but her inclusion here just doesn't quite work with the overall story arc. I would gladly trade in Elizabeth for more time with Bad Wolf/The Moment.
Now for the good. I haven’t been a huge fan of the Moffat era of Doctor Who
. I’ve found the stories to be a bit of a mess, and the season long story arcs to be convoluted. I’ve not enjoyed how suddenly the companion isn’t there to help the Doctor, but is more often than not there to be lectured at or “solved” by the Doctor. But this episode showed all the great character moments we all know Moffat is capable of (I hold “Blink” to be the best of the modern Who
episodes, so I know Moffat is capable of telling excellent stories).
Much was made of having David Tennant and Billie Piper both return for the episode, and their appearances were worth all the hype. While I would have loved to see Rose return one more time, I’m glad she didn’t, as The Moment provides an excellent use of Piper in a new and interesting way. The Moment is equal parts heart and snark, and the character truly gives Piper something wonderful to play. Acting as a ghost of lives future for the War Doctor, there is a real fear that her influence will not be enough to save the War Doctor from himself. But, how could Rose (even simply the image of her) fail to save the Doctor when he is in need of saving? That’s been her role since her first appearance, and I am happy she once again saves her old friend.
David Tennant, like Piper, makes the most of his return. Having the calmer and darker presence of Tennant’s Ten (to eliminate confusion, I’ll just call them by their most known monikers) works extremely well alongside Eleven. Tennant and Matt Smith have superb chemistry, and their scenes together are an absolute joy to watch. Their combined energy creates a steady ebb and flow of Eleven’s often frenetic energy and Ten’s more sedate presence.
Putting Ten and Eleven alongside the War Doctor does dull his darkness a bit, which was a bit disconcerting in light of his foreboding introduction in “The Night of the Doctor” webisode. Considering the grave task the War Doctor has been entrusted with, I would have liked to see a bit less comedy and a bit more drama. But, on the whole, I have very few complaints with the scenes involving all three Doctors, as well as the happy ending that leaves the door open for future visits to Gallifrey.
However, I’m willing to forgive the plot holes and the unnecessary villains in exchange for the beautiful scene that ends the special. Hearing that voice, seeing those mannerisms, and watching the spark in Tom Baker’s eye makes up for any shortfalls. Eleven may now be on his way to his final adventure in this particular body, but having the brief moment between Eleven and Four (and I fully believe that was indeed Four, not simply the curator) to give him an extra bit of hope as he goes on his final journey is a glorious thing to see.
-- Many great lines throughout the special, but I’m particularly partial to the War Doctor’s take on how Ten and Eleven seem to think their sonic screwdrivers are weapons of some sort. Seriously boys, they’re meant to unlock things, not shoot people!
-- I’m operating under the assumption that the War Doctor regenerated into Nine/Ten at the end of the special, rather than regenerating back into Eight. Although, due to the bad blood between Who
and Christopher Eccleston, I guess we’ll never get to see that regeneration.
-- Seeing the wistful look on Ten’s face when War Doctor mentioned the “Bad Wolf Girl” was heartbreaking.
-- Kudos to Moffat for giving Clara something to do that didn’t involve the Doctor saving her. It was a great change that I hope continues with Thirteen.
-- Speaking of Thirteen, did you catch his eyes during the scene with all the Doctors converging? I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us.