And so thusly, Whovians around the globe sigh and smoke a cigarette, bathing in the after-glow of “Day of the Doctor”, the hotly anticipated 50th Anniversary of the well-loved BBC sci-fi serial. What started out as a decidedly low-budget piece of evening idiotbox entertainment has since turned into something akin to religion. Generation upon generation of fans congregate together within this fandom to share their love an appreciation for everybody’s favourite, brilliant, crazy, eccentric and benevolent Doctor, the trusty TARDIS his companions and their adventures through time, space and dimension.
By the time a beloved franchise reaches a milestone like an anniversary, it is natural for fans to speculate expectations about where the series will go. Although “Doctor Who” more or less has a “Monster of the Week” serial format with cliff-hanger after cliff-hanger, writers and creative crews had to find various ways to keep audiences invested. Aliens, worlds, customs, villains, all of these things contribute to “Doctor Who’s” longevity. The Doctor regenerating is arguably the most crucial event and how an audience reacts to a new incarnation of the Doctor has assisted in keeping the series on the small screen for so long. Now that Peter Capaldi is Number Twelve, I personally couldn’t be happier because for those who are familiar with his work will know that the character is in capable hands. For those who don’t, you are in for a treat, I know it! His brief cameo in this episode/feature genuinely caused me to clap my hands like a retarded seal and say “OMG, HI!”
Yeah, this one!!!!
For those eagle-eyed Whovians, there are buckets of cheeky references and loving homages to episodes of “Doctor Who” past that will no doubt delight the long, jelly-baby eating scarf off you.
So, in short, what did I think of the half-century celebration of The Doctor? It was… pretty good. Not amazing, not particularly revolutionary but still respectable (and anything has to be better than that dreadful American TV special with Eric Roberts, UGH). In an essence, “The Day of the Doctor” finally lifts the curtain on the Doctor’s past and his connection with the destruction of his own planet Gallifrey, a connection that he has long tried to bury throughout his years. Basically? The Doctor was forced to make an impossible choice for a Phyrric victory- destroy his home planet and the lives of his fellow people for the good of every other species in the known universe and beyond. You can’t escape from your past, no matter how hard you strive.
Now darling Whovians, before you pounce upon my person with claws sure to shred, allow me to elaborate on my opinion. To make a golden commemoration of anything requires a whole lot of thought, practicality and consideration. You cannot please everybody, no matter how hard you try, so naturally I wasn’t expecting something wild and crazy, in fact I was expecting nothing except for good chemistry between Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt was three incarnations of the Doctor and my expectation was fully realised. In terms of acting, the trio were wonderful, nay, perfect. The interplay between each actor is unrepentingly natural, darling and hits all of the right notes. They don’t all get along all the time (which makes sense, because who exactly is at peace with themselves all the time?), each of them harbor their own opinions and in some cases will not be swayed completely by what their counterpart tells them. At it’s core though, there is a consistent flow of deep-seeded respect and admiration with a distinct whiff of reality. Smith and Tennant’s Doctors aren’t above giving a scoff regarding Hurt’s curmudgeon-like behaviour and way of speech just like a pair of know-it-all Ivy League Boys.
By the same turn, Hurt is completely shocked that he is destined to turn into these two men, that he basically weeps for the future. Some of the best interactions though is when all three truly reach into each other’s souls and minds and recognise there is a reason for each and every thing they feel and do. Props much also be delivered to Billie Piper who returns, but not as you’d know her. I still find it so overwhelming that Piper started out as just another bubble-pop singer only to transform herself into a gifted all-round performer. In terms of the other cast, yeah, they were all solid and I couldn’t find one truly weakest link (given the casting director was able to snag a Redgrave is of no surprise to me given “Doctor Who” manages to attract a heady following of Brit Thespian Royalty). Jenna-Louise Coleman and Joanna Page makes quite an indelible impression as Clara Oswald (Eleven’s current companion) the Virigin Queen Elizabeth I, although when we first see Bess making out vigorously with Tennant’s Number 10 Doctor, that goes to show that despite what the history books dictate, Bess was a bit of the naughty.
Despite it’s more confidence elements, allow me to intimate to you why I personally didn’t feel like my mind had been blown completely.
While the story itself is probably as “Doctor Who” as a panda may expect, it didn’t feel epic, as in, it did not have the clout that seemed to be promised to us in the teaser material. Granted, teasers are meant to amp an audience up for the main event, but when the final product is presented, people are gonna be expecting that sensation of excitement. Here though, that union of promise and reality isn’t consumated. For instance, I would have been more than content with a story centering completely around the three Doctors and coming to grips with their involvement in a mutually-shared history and destiny. At the end of the day, this is the story of the Doctor himself. The rest of the story involving the dastardly Zygons felt third rate, as in non-essential to the most important element. They were primarily there to be a nuscience, not an overwhelming menace. Okay, sure, they wanted to take over the world and all of that fabulous stuff, but they just gave me no cause for alarm. Perhaps that’s what I didn’t really think much of the Zygon plot- it lacked urgency and relevancy to the larger scale stakes. They have a lovely design team though. This event should have revolved around the Doctor and the unaccountably horrendous sins of his past, the rest is chaff. Not terrible chaff, but inconsequential chaff.
A minor quibble that I have personally is I was a little sad that Christopher Eccleston wasn’t able to return as Number Nine. Given the nature of the piece, the Doctor dealing with self-regret and loathing after basically committing the mass genocide of his own people to save the lives of others in the universe, you’d think Nine would be a more than suitable candidate because he was so bitter and at times ruthless than his other selves. While the interplay between Tennant, Smith and Hurt is on the money, Eccleston would have been a hammer-blow of grief and personal damnation.
Though nobody can play hurt like Hurt
And while this isn’t so much a criticism, more of an observation, by the end of the show, the game has been permenantly changed thanks to the insurrection of a brand new continuity. Although the Doctors have found personal redemption, I felt left with more questions atop of some answers. For one thing, has all the Doctor done in the past been for nothing? The lives he has saved, the discoveries he has made and the connections he has forged been erased from the canon? Or do they now exist, but only in the various lives of each Doctor, but the experiences aren’t shared collectively? After going back in time to save Gallifrey and it’s people, does that mean there are other Time Lords about? Are they as merciful as the Doctor? Does this new canon infer that The Master himself is now alive and if so, where is he?
Additionally, there was no mention of the Human Doctor (a clone of Number Ten) even though his existence has greatly altered the lives of those he meets. And where was Donna Noble, River Song, Captain Jack et. al., the characters who have also played a major role the Doctor’s life? Perhaps the writers wanted to do something different, but since those folks were all integral to the Doctor’s existence, you’d think we would have seen something from them. SO. MANY. QUESTIONS and that isn’t even including whether or not they will explain the fact that the Doctor has a biological grand-daughter (who we saw in the original Hartnell series). Steven Moffat has a talent for talking big and scary, but it’s one thing to speak and it’s another thing to do.
By the way, am I the only one who is still awaiting the return of The Rani, perhaps the baddest bitch to ever lock evil horns with The Master? Where you at, girl?
Everything said and everything done, I appreciated “The Day of the Doctor” and consider it respectable and a worthy installment to this on-going saga. Is it worth forking out $15 to see at the movies though? I don’t believe so. Is it worthy of a Whovian? Oh yes.
Many happy returns on your 50th year, Doctor, and here’s to another 50 more.
BTDUBS: I’m not gonna say who my favourite Doctor is because as far as I’m concerned, since “Doctor Who” is still a work in progress. But in terms of who I would like to see as the Doctor? Well, just to make things interesting, I would love to see Richard E. Grant play him. Yes, he played a villain in the Christmas episode, but he would rock. As a female Doctor… perhaps Emma Thompson or Joanna Lumley because why the heck not?