50th Anniversary of Doctor Who Special
I’ll be honest, I don’t like to do reviews RIGHT after watching something. I like to get into conversations, watch it a few times, read more about it and then commit my final definitive thoughts in review form. Well…Im just too excited to wait! I watched “The Day of the Doctor” with over 100 people in Cleveland as part of a really cool watch party and it just multiplied the excitement. More on that experience here.
Like many of my Doctor Who reviews, it’s easier for me to break up the special into different small sections based on what moved me the most. These thoughts might not be totally linear but, like I said, I just want to get these thoughts out there so I can be part of the discussion. This is almost ALL SPOILERS. You’ve been warned! Let’s start with…
All Fifty Years Celebrated
There were so many teasers and call backs to classic Doctor Who in this special! I admit to have not seen every episode of classic Who (yet) so I am sure I missed a ton of references but the ones I caught were magic. I’ve been excited about the premiere of “An Adventure in Space and Time” so I have re-watched some of the William Hartnell era episodes recently (thanks Netflix!).The episode opening with the first doctor’s intro proves to me that this is a total embrace and celebration of the classic and modern. Having Clara work at the same school as original companions Ian and Barbra was both a natural evolution to Clara’s character as it was a perfect ode to the beginning of the series. One of the best quotes from The Day of the Doctor is in the Tardis – “I love the round things!”. Quotes like this really pay you back for being a fan of Classic Doctor Who
Why Companions Are Important
Seeing Clara embrace her life and strive towards her potential has been gratifying. She knows who she is and she loves it! The bit of fun where she drive her motorcycle into the Tardis and shows off how adjusted she has become to traveling with the Doctor really nails how fun this life can be. Ultimately, Clara saves the day. Her humanity saves Gallifrey by confronting the Doctor. She has saved the Doctor physically throughout all space and time and now she has found a way to heal him emotionally as well as the lives of millions of Time Lords. She may be the most important companion ever.
Differences Between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors
When the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors meet they are separated by over four hundred years. That’s over half the age of Ten! How has time made a difference on Eleven? He is much less haunted by the Time War because he has spent so long forcing himself to not think about it. That’s why he comes off much lighter than Ten and certainly less haunted. Seeing them together really typifies just how different they were from each other.
The granddaughter of the Brigadier now has the fourth Doctor’s scarf. Before I ever watched Doctor Who, all I knew of the character was Tom Baker. That scarf was the defining visual trait that told me that was him. I didn’t know about regenerations or that there were even different actors who played the character until years later. Seeing that scarf that often in the episode put a smile on my face because, even though Tom Baker wasn’t “My Doctor” he’s the first one I had been exposed to and to me will always be the quintessential Doctor.
Besides showing lineage with the third Lethbridge-Stewart at U.N.I.T we’re treated with their involvement being important to both this story and thus showing you how important they’ve been to the Doctor’s past. Hearing Eleven tell Clara that he had a job reminds you of all the great stories from the past especially those of the Third doctor.
The Time War
There’s no way they could compete with what was in my head. Like, Star Wars’ Clone Wars, fans have thought about what this must have looked like for years before ever getting to see it. I was disappointed by how conventional it looked. This could have been any war in space and didn’t look like what I thought a “Time War” would look like. I had pictured battles all over the galaxy at all points of time simultaneously. Sometimes seeing something isn’t as good as imagining it.
Weapon With A Conscience
What a perfect Doctor Who story device! Nothing evokes the best of the Tenth Doctor’s reign better than “Bad Wolf” and this special utilized it perfectly. For those fans who have not seen the adventure of David Tennant’s take on Doctor Who, this was probably the most confusing portion of the show. That said, a 50th Anniversary Special is hardly the stuff of new fandom so they’re just going to have to relax.
Elizabeth The First
I’ve wanted to know why Elizabeth has had such a distain for the Doctor in the new series. Now we know why. The idea that the Doctor was (is?) technically the King of England better come up again. Including the queen ties up a loose plot line while also including one of my favorite aspects of Doctor Who – historical cameos. She was tough and never backed down…she’d make an interesting companion!
War Doctor, Voice of a Generation
John Hurt’s War Doctor was the voice of many old school Whovians. Everything about his future selves annoyed him! The youth of his future selves coupled with their mannerisms comes off as a dead-on description of what I’ve read many times on message boards. Perhaps, this is an indication of how the Twelfth Doctor will be returning to the “roots” of the character.
Three Doctors Working Together
With three different versions of the same person in a room, you’d think it could get pretty redundant. It turns out each of these versions of the Doctor are in such vastly different places that it’s almost like three different characters interacting. I say almost because when everything is on the line, you see what makes him special in all incarnations shine at once. When a problem is too big for the biggest brain in the universe only three of that brain can win. Remembering that there are hundreds of years worth of experiences separating these versions is something that truly defines what makes Ten and Eleven so different. I believe The War Doctor is affected differently by his exposure to Ten and Eleven. He is shaken by just how haunted Ten is while angry at how Eleven forced himself to forget the tragedy of the Time War.
Our future doctor made his fist cameo appearance in Doctor Who which was something I did not expect. I’m still a little unsure about how John Hurt’s War Doctor impacts the naming conventions. Will Capaldi be the Thirteenth Doctor? Has he reached his regeneration limit? I hope these are answered quickly during his run. He did look scary though, didn’t he?
We finally get to see the regeneration that happens before Christopher Eccleston’s Nineth Doctor. Turns out the War Doctor’s final words are the same as the final words of the First Doctor – “This Body Is Wearing A Little Thin”. Speaking of final words, David Tennant uses the phrase “ I don’t want to go” before he gets in his Tardis. Turns out, those will be his last words eventually too.
Tom Baker, The Curator
At first, my brain was trying to comprehend just how the Fourth Doctor could be in his personal future and have also aged. Was it a shape shifter? Another Time Lord who eventually will have been freed by the Doctor? Was his past or his future? Well, like most things with Moffat, if you really want to stress out about the specific physics of something, you’ll just get angry. I’m so glad my heart kicked in and shut up my brain and just let me enjoy this hint dropping confusing but above all perfect meeting between two beloved versions of the Doctor. I thought all we’d get was the scarf to remember Tom Baker by but we got so much more from this scene. Watch how he literally walks into the light at the end of this exchange. There were a few moments that MAY have brought a tear to my eye in this special but this is the only one I’ll admit.
I continue to have discussions on why, overall, I wasn’t happy with Man of Steel. My biggest problem is because of the theme of hope and how central it is to the character. In the end, Superman chooses the pragmatic solution instead of finding “another way”. This is has been the central problem, for me, of the Time War. It so defines the modern era of Doctor Who because when we meet him again it’s after he has given in to pragmatism and lost sight of his greatest attribute: hope. Sure he shows gives it to others in dozens of examples but his record had been forever tarnished. He is known as “The Coming Storm” and many other dark titles throughout the galaxy which works in many dramatic ways but it’s not really who he is. I think we need a character in genre fiction who always finds another way again because so many other characters have adopted realism or idealism. Maybe this reversal of the War Doctor’s decision will usher in a new era of hope.
“The Warrior, The Hero, And You”
You know that Moffat device where everything seems hopeless with no way out and then a Deus Ex Machina appears out of nowhere because it feels emotionally satisfying? Well, you either hate or love that moment in his writing. Personally, I look forward to them because it’s about the triumph of spirit and ingenuity over darkness. I love those scenes in his writing and Clara provided one at just the right time here.
Clara: “We’ve got enough warriors. Any old idiot can be a hero.”
Eleventh Doctor: “Then what do I do?”
Clara: “What you’ve always done.” “Be a doctor.” “You told me the name you chose was a promise. What was the promise?”
Tenth Doctor: “Never cruel nor cowardly.”
War Doctor: “Never give up. Never give in.”
Everything You’d Want From Doctor Who
This story had monsters in rubber suits (of a sort), complicated paradoxical time travel, a companion saying just the right thing at the right time, U.N.I.T., a threat averted through diplomacy, humor, nail biting drama, Daleks, a regeneration, sonic screw driver(s) and more heart than any show on TV. The components of what makes Doctor Who special were all in this Doctor Who Special. Well done, BBC!