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Gallifrey Falls No More: The Day of the Doctor

Somehow it’s been 2 months since my last post.  Part of my problem was my complete inability to write about “The Day of the Doctor” in an analytical way.  I saw it in the theatre (in 3D), which was a great way to experience it.  There was just so much excitement in the air, and it was impressive to see that there were 6 theaters(!) full of Doctor Who fans.  Even now, I still just have to say that I loved it, even though I know it has its flaws.  So, in an attempt to finally get this blog up to date, I’m just going to post the thoughts that I had after viewing the episode. I started this post right after the 50th aired, but something (which I’ll cover in my next post), got in the way of me finishing it.

All 12 of the Doctor's incarnations

All 12 of the Doctor’s incarnations

I’m going to begin by discussion what I liked best about the special: the way that it really did pay tribute to the entire history of the show.  My favorite moment was when all 13 Doctors appeared to save Gallifrey.  I have to admit that I got a little teary-eyed when they started showing images of all the precious incarnations of the Doctor.  I thought it was a nice way to honor all the actors who have played the Doctor, even if I did still wish that there had been a way to let the previous Doctors film something new for the special.  Which, of course, leads me to another favorite moment: Tom Baker’s appearance as the curator.  Since he probably is the most iconic of the Doctors, it seemed appropriate for him to turn up in this story.  This is one of those cases of emotion trumping logic because the explanation of his appearance is rather vague and I’m not sure it even makes sense, but I don’t care.  I was just happy to see him.

I also felt that Moffat did a great job of weaving subtle references to the past throughout the story.  The moment that I particularly enjoyed was when the War Doctor stated to regenerate and he mentioned that his body was “wearing thin,” just as Hartnell’s Doctor did in the first regeneration.  Of course there were also references to “reversing the polarity” and, of course, new series references, such as an explanation as to why Elizabeth was so mad at the Doctor in “The Shakespeare Code.” If I may have a tiny digression here, I was a bit disappointed at the way Moffat wrote Elizabeth.  I thought he made a woman who was very strong into a bit of a lovesick schoolgirl.  Does everyone really have to fall in love with the Doctor?

The Doctor and the Curator

The Doctor and the Curator

Moving on to the actual story, I thought that it was a clever way to save Gallifrey and take away the Doctor’s burden of guilt without negating the past.  I have always hoped that they would bring the Time Lords back to Doctor Who at some point.  After all, if the Daleks could survive their apparent destruction in the Time War, why couldn’t the Time Lords?  This story leaves that door open, but in a way that doesn’t change what we thought we knew.  The Doctor’s guilt has been an important part of his character since the new series began; if you just rewrite history and save Gallifrey, Eccleston’s brooding nature, the darkness in Tennant, and Smith’s constant running don’t make sense anymore.  Moffat managed to find a way to erase the weight of genocide from the Doctor’s past without trivializing how much he suffered from his guilt. I also enjoyed the way that Moffat used the Doctor’s guilt to explain why his most recent incarnations had gotten so young.  And, by lifting the burden of guilt from Matt Smith’s Doctor, he could now prepare the way for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor.

I also enjoyed the “War Doctor.”  The minisode that showed McGann’s Doctor regenerating into the “warrior” really set the stage for him.  I’ll admit to being a bit skeptical about whether or not I’d be able to accept the War Doctor, but I had absolutely no difficulties.  The casting of John Hurt certainly didn’t hurt in that respect.  Hurt was able to bring a lot to the character that really made you feel that this was a man who had lived though impossible times and was desperately searching for a way to make them stop.  I wish that Eccleston had been in the story (and I got a bit hopeful with the regeneration scene), but the story worked just fine without him.

The War Doctor and the Moment

The War Doctor and the Moment

I also thought that the way that Billie Piper returned was handled well, by not actually bringing Rose back, but having the Moment take on her form.  I was a bit wary of yet another appearance by Rose from her alternate universe or having to deal with the romance between Rose and Tennant’s Doctor again (of which I was not a huge fan), but Moffat managed to bring her back in a way the circumvented all of the possible hazards.  And, speaking of the Moment, I thought that it was a very clever device to use in the story: a weapon with a consciousness.  It seemed very Time Lord-esque to develop a weapon that could judge your actions and hold you accountable for them.

Finally, I should mention the villains.  I enjoyed the return of the Zygons.  Their storyline just kind of fizzled out at the end, but they proved that they could still be interesting villains.  I also thought it fitting that the Daleks made an important appearance, but I was glad that the story didn’t revolve around them.  The Daleks are very important to the history of the series, just as the Time War has become an important part of the new series. I liked that they were a part of the story, without being the central antagonists.

The Three Doctors

The Three Doctors

Overall, I thought “The Day of the Doctor” had a very Three Doctor-y vibe. Smith and Tennant get along better than Pertwee and Troughton’s Doctors did, but still there is a bit of that competitiveness that always came in the classic series whenever the Doctor met himself.  I loved the way the Doctors called each other on all of the criticisms that people have had of them (i.e. “timey-whimey,” the pointing of the sonics as if they’re weapons…)  Basically, I felt that “The Day of the Doctor” was a great tribute to all fifty years of the show while still moving the story forward and providing new storylines for the next 50 years.


4 responses to “Gallifrey Falls No More: The Day of the Doctor

  1. chorenn ⋅

    Gorgeous review – some great points I haven’t seen before. About the Zygons, while you’re right it did kind of fizzle out, it left the Zygons in a great position for future episodes. If they work out a good agreement with the humans, we could easily see episodes in which the Zygons actually work with the Doctor instead of against him. That is a very cool idea. (And of course, renegade Zygons could be villains as usual.)

    I loved the interactions between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. They felt to me like brothers – they understood and worked with each other, even though they clashed a bit and tried to one-up. Mr. Smith and Mr. Tennant worked together so well. My only regret is that we’ll probably never get to see them together again. Since they don’t do multi-Doctor episodes except on major anniversaries, the next possible time would be the 60th, and by that time, Mr. Tennant will be too old to believably play the Tenth Doctor. I’m hoping that the success of the 50th will encourage the BBC to have these kinds of episodes more often.

    • I would love to see them use the Zygons further. You bring up a good point about them: thanks to the agreement, there’s potential for the Zygons to be working either with or against the Doctor. Since Moffat seems to like to find ways to make his “bad guys” good (Silurians, Sontarans, the Silence, and, in the past year or so, even a Cyberman and a Dalek), he might explore this idea in the future.

  2. A) welcome back! and B) I agree with basically everything you wrote (although the logic of the Doctor turning into Old Tom Baker later in his time stream now makes sense in light of the new revelations given in “The Time of the Doctor”). The script wasn’t quite as tight as, say, “The Five Doctors”, but the nods to the past were well thought-out and gorgeous (the opening titles and pan of Coal Hill, with Ian, and Waris Hussein/Anthony Coburn namechecked on the sign, is all incredible). John Hurt just nailed it, NAILED it, his only time out — he’s definitely now one of “my” Doctors!

    • After posting this, when I read your thoughts on it (I’m still making my way through the backlog of posts I missed, so you may get a few random comments on some old posts), I realized that I had forgotten to mention the references in the beginning with Coal Hill School sign. I thought that was a great tribute to the start of the show.

      I also completely agree about John Hurt. I wish that we could have had a whole series following his adventures as the Doctor.

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