Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review: Doctor Who - The Day of the Doctor

The day has come and gone. Christmas day for 77 million Doctor Who fans worldwide, the 23rd November 2013, is now over. The surprises have been unwrapped - so was it worth the wait? In a short answer; most certainly so! For a longer answer: read on...

'Never cruel or cowardly.' 'Never give up. Never give in.'

When UNIT call the Doctor in to investigate an impossible incident at the National Gallery, he is swept into an adventure involving Elizabeth I, shapeshifting Zygons and his past self! But there’s more, an even older incarnation of the Doctor is returning, and the Last of the Time Lords is going to have to visit his darkest day all over again...
A few months ago, we thought Series seven finale ‘The Name of the Doctor’ was a liberal re-shaking of Doctor Who history - yesterday the 50th anniversary special materialised in our dimension, pointing and laughing at that episode for its half-hearted attempt. For at its heart, 'The Day of the Doctor' treads a very clever line between changing a defining part of the revived series of Doctor Who while also, actually, not. For once, though, it can be said that the show will be the same 'no more...'

Away from the plot (spoilers), the special was released in cinemas worldwide – one screening of which I was lucky enough to attend – and so had extra pressure to reach the filmic quality that the Doctor Who of the past year has aimed for. And to all intents and purposes, it achieved it. Many fans have been after a big-screen Who outing for years, but surely if one ever came it couldn’t look anymore gorgeous than this (oh, those beautiful Zygons). As for the 3D element, it was a potentially superfluous but enjoyable addition to proceedings and was quite effective on several occasions. Nick Hurran, the show's current stand-out director, certainly handled it well and it really aided to the cinematic feel that the special possessed. 

As well as Moffat’s script and the whole sheen of the special, the performances are really what held the whole shebang together. It was wonderful to see Billie Piper back, bringing new aspects to her character, Jemma Redgrave was once again solid as the Brigadier’s daughter and UNIT lead, Kate Stewart while Jenna Coleman was as likeable as ever, albeit in a diminished role. However, the sure stars of this special are certainly the three Doctors. John Hurt brings his usual gravitas to the 'War Doctor' while the riffing of David Tennant and Matt Smith is a true treat to watch. The return of Tennant was an exciting prospect alone but its extra pleasing to see him playing a fun Doctor again, not the tortured version of his later years in the role. Every exchange between the two Doctors is laugh-out-loud funny and work in tandem next to the special’s unfolding drama.
Unfortunately, there are a few nitpicks to be had – I'm unsure of the characterisation of a hopelessly besotted Elizabeth I and a resolution to the Zygon subplot would have been nice (I just want more Zygons) but, really, when the rest is as bold and exciting as this these foibles are forgiveable

Overall, 'The Day of the Doctor' is a fast-paced blockbuster as well managing to be a portrait of the Doctor's character, with a flavour of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. After the release of 'The Night of the Doctor' and the reveal that it was going to reveal secrets of the Time War, there was the worry that the episode would be low on shocks (we, of course, know how it ended). However, Moffat pulls out all the stops to produce an exceptional piece of television (even if you don't see it on a TV). Congratulations to all involved for creating something that, as with much of Doctor Who this year, celebrates the show’s illustrious past and aims to ensure its future. After this 50th anniversary (very) special was broadcast in 97 countries across the world, it’s fair to say that Doctor Who will be with us for a good many years yet. Another fifty? For those of us without a TARDIS, we'll have to wait and see. 

P.S. Rather wonderfully, this is my fiftieth blog post this year. If Doctor Who has taught me anything, I now need to pop back into my own time stream to ensure that it turns out this way...


  1. I was pleased with how it turned out; they rewrote the story but without making the last few years meaningless. Actually, the way they saved Gallifrey was similar to my headcanon of the Time War itself - my impression was that Gallifrey and everything affected by the Time War was sealed in a bubble of time, locked away so that it could not get out and destroy the whole of reality.Seems I wasn't so far off after all.

    I thought that the Zygons and Queen Elizabeth subplot could have been a full episode in itself, but I think it worked to show that the Doctor's life was never eventless, and he got snatched out of one adventure into another. There ought to have been more resolution, but that's a minor quibble really.

    I loved the use of the original opening credits and return to the setting of the very first Doctor Who episode, as well as getting all of the Doctors involved. ALL of them. Fantastic!

  2. I really do like the fact that it keeps the RTD era intact as well as turning it on its head. How odd - it seems not much has changed for you then!
    I always like the idea of interrupting an adventure with another one so I did enjoy the Zygon story. Oh yes, it was definitely a minor quibble - the whole thing was too much fun to complain about.
    The nods to the past were glorious, one of the best being the opening. The inclusion of all thirteen (and more...?) Doctors was a surprise but entirely welcome. Lots of the things this special raises will be talked about for a long while...
    Now I can't wait til Christmas!


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