The Day of the Doctor
The Day of the Doctor
This Story: 50th Anniversary Special Production Code 7.15
Overall: Story 240, Episode 805
Airdate: 23 Nov 2013
Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by John Hayes
- Due to the amount of things I wanted to say about this one, I broke my own format and wrote about it here on my blog, versus Twitter.
- The show’s 50 Anniversary special, airing 50 years to the day from Unearthly Child Episode 1.
- This was the first story that Jenna Coleman was billed that way vs the Jenna-Louise Coleman she had been billed at till this point.
- There were two prequels for this story. The first is “The Night of the Doctor” featuring Paul McGann. The other is called “The Last Day“. The latter shows part of the actual Time War, but does not feature the Doctor, Clara, or any other known characters except Daleks.
As I mentioned above, I wanted to write more than usual about this story, as it’s perfection. It would take too many tweets on Twitter to cover all this, so I went a bit more long from here on my blog. I’ll have a tweet, but it’ll basically just reference back here. Anyway…
The 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who was a HUGE deal. They promoted the shit out of it in the months leading up to this. It was set up by the brilliant Season 7 finale, “The Name of the Doctor“. When it was shown originally on the BBC, there was a world wide simulcast. Channels everywhere in the world broadcast it all at the same time relative to the BBC original, which made for some weird broadcast times in certain parts of the world, I’m sure. For me, it was at I believe 1 or 2 in the afternoon that day (I forget what the exact time is at the moment).
I myself saw it in the theatres. It was shown in 3D – the only Doctor Who story to be made that way – I mean an official story, not a special like Dimensions in Time. [Ed Note: A friend who read this told me a Capaldi story was aired in theatres in 3D as well] The theatres had two special intros that were later released on physical media, but were not part of any broadcast version anywhere. One was a 3 minute intro explaining the use of the 3D glasses with David Tennant & Matt Smith – had a comedic bit about making the other theater goers being Zygons. The other was with Dan Starkey as Strax talking about proper behavior in movie theatres. I loved both of those, they were so much fun, and glad they were included on the physical media release.
Even though I’m going long form here, there’s just so much to talk about that I can’t get it all. There is just an avalanche of easter eggs in this ranging from the obvious (the first scene being in black and white mirroring the first scene in first episode) to the super subtle (the clock at the start when Clara is riding a motorcycle was set to the exact time that the first ever episode of Doctor Who started on 23 Nov 1963).
The show itself starts off with an immediate throwback using the original titles from 1963 and that version of the theme song, leading into a black and white scene showing a policeman walking by a wall and a sign that says ‘IM Foreman” – again matching the 1963 first episode. It then transitions to modern, and we get probably my only real disappointment in the story. They set it at Coal Hill School (again first episode), and they have a named headmaster on the sign of I. Chesterton – the original Ian companion. That they didn’t have William Russell appear as Ian there to talk to Clara always bummed me out, but it’s minor. Clara goes to meet the Doctor, and while they’re in the Tardis, we get a rapid fire succession of easter eggs. There’s the aforementioned clock, the Tardis is picked up by Kate Stewart of UNIT (both references to 70’s and the Brig), his assistant has a cell phone with a Tardis dematerialization sound as a ringtone, the person on the phone is Doctor Malcolm Taylor (from Planet of the Dead), Osgood is wearing a fourth Doctor scarf… and all that is before the credits. As I said, this thing is a flood of easter eggs.
The main plot has to do with the Time War, which we finally get a look at. It shows the last day of the Time War when the Doctor uses what we now call “The Moment” to wipe out the Daleks and the Time Lords to stop the time war. Which brings us to one of my other talking points – Billie Piper. If you’ve been following me on this marathon, you’ll know that Billie Piper is a mixed bag for me. When she was with Christopher Eccleston, she was great – with David Tennant, I didn’t care for the pairing at all. Then they couldn’t leave well enough alone. They gave her a great emotional end, then couldn’t stick to it and kept bringing her back. When I heard they were bringing her back for the 50th, I groaned. We didn’t need some other “exception” to her ending and thereby undoing it – yet again. But that’s not what we got here. She isn’t Rose Tyler, but the manifestation of “The Moment”, a Time Lord weapon. She’s effectively the consciousness of the weapon that can judge the person using it. She only actually interacts with John Hurt’s War Doctor (more on him in a bit), but I loved her performance here. She looked good, it was well acted, and I really loved her in the 50th – first time I can say that I think since Chris Eccleston left the show.
It’s a show with time travel at its core, and it’s about the time war, so there will be some time shenanigans – we have multiple doctors on screen (10, 11, War), and then later on all the other show up in clip format. It’s also the first appearance of Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor but in a non speaking role, just a closeup of his face (which you can see above). This is somewhat addressed on screen when all three of them are in the Tardis at once, the interior changes a bunch, and we get consoles for 10, 11, & the War Doctor in quick succession (including a reference the roundels). Even within this story there’s some scenes that you watch and go “What?” and then they loop back to them towards the end (moving the painting to the Black Archive for example). This story really is peak Moffat.
I wouldn’t call them the “main” villain, but an old enemy from Tom Baker’s era – the Zygons are in this one. They haven’t appeared on screen since 1975’s Terror of the Zygons (roughly 400 episodes ago). They serve a lot point here as they can change their shape, and in this story, that’s something that gets used a bunch.
But one of the best parts of all this is John Hurt himself. The original remit for this special would have had Christopher Eccleston, but Chris declined to participate, so it was left to Moffat to device a scenario to come up with a Doctor that would have been the one in the Time War to destroy everything. Interviews I read said he didn’t see McGann’s 8th Doctor doing this, so he exploited a loophole. Since we never saw McGann regenerate into Eccleston, he retroactively inserted an incarnation we never heard of before – John Hurt’s “War Doctor”. We did see McGann regenerate into Hurt in the special The Night of the Doctor, and then towards the end of this, we saw Hurt regenerate into Eccleston (of a sorts, as Eccleston wasn’t there). As I said earlier, he’s the only Doctor who interacts with Piper’s “Moment”, and she’s up to the task and acts with him. But a lot of the glory is of course when the Doctors all start insulting each other. I adore when The War Doctor is annoyed at 10 & 11 for acting childish, saying things like “Timey wimey”, “Allonzy”, and “Geronimo”. But my favorite part is when he chastises them (more than once) over using their sonic screw drivers “like a water pistol” – “What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?” While I think most fans would have liked to have had Eccleston make an appearance properly, what we got instead with John Hurt was glorious. It was his only televised appearance (although a few clips of this story would resurface in Capaldi’s era). Hurt did do some Big Finish audios (who hasn’t at this point?). But the three of them together is all kinds of fun. Wish I knew who made this graphic below – spotted it online years ago. :)
As long as we’re talking about previous Doctors, there’s David Tennant – who seems slightly more manic here than during his original run. It’s not bad, but it felt like 10 was sped up a bit – more like 11’s manic personality. But it’s so much fun, especially the small bit with him arguing with a rabbit. Thought he was a little silly with Queen Elizabeth.
The middle bit is like most middle bits in the story, it drags a little. The exposition in the middle with the three Doctors in a jail cell is good character development, but given the overall pacing of the story, it feels like a big slowdown.
Given I’m going to be probably just repeating myself on how cool certain bits are, I’m going to just do a few in list format that I liked for one reason or another.
- 11 walking past a fez and picking it up – “Someday you’ll just walk past a fez“…. That the fez then becomes a plot point to bring the three Doctors together is a riot.
- There’s an amusing reference here by Kate Stewart to her father’s old records about there being three Doctors at once (The Three Doctors). There’s another about events being referenced being in either the 70s or 80’s, mirroring the real life “UNIT dating controversy” issue.
- The Black Archive room is basically a UNIT Doctor Who storage room. Everything in there is some sort of reference to the past, especially their board of photos. I wish we got a clear shot of everyone who is on there, but we don’t in the episode, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a shot of it taken during production. There has to be one somewhere, I’ve just never seen it. (Alternate 1 | Alternate 2)
- Reference to Capt Jack Harnkess here, kind of wished he had made an actual appearance.
- Tennant’s bit about acting all brash and then having to retract his statements is funny.
- The fact that the three Doctors were in a cell and it was unlocked and they didn’t try to open it manually is really hilarious.
- Love Tennant bringing back Troughton’s “Oh, you’ve redecorated – I don’t like it”. He also brings back the First Doctor’s line “Good to know my future is in safe hands” (both from “The Five Doctors“).
- The scene with 10/11/War in the hut on Gallifrey with the Moment is a great one. Almost thought for a minute they’d follow through and show the destruction of Gallifrey, but it didn’t happen. Some good acting there by Smith, Tennant, & Hurt.
The big final battle is a different level of glorious, and might be one of my favorite scenes in the entire run of Doctor Who. It involved the three active Doctors (10, 11, & War) as well as all the past Doctors via clips from their episodes. It’s on Gallifrey, and the disgust the Gallifreyan general shows at all the Doctors being there at once is funny. My favorite single part of all that is the fact that they got NEW dialogue for the First Doctor. It wasn’t just old/looped Hartnell dialogue they got a voice replacement – “Warning the War Council on Gallifrey – this is the Doctor”. It’s small, but I love that moment. Then we get the appearance of Peter Capaldi in all this. And the final disgust of The War Doctor with “Gallifrey Stands”.
My daughter was 8 when this went out, and she adored this scene. She would quote the dialogue, and get the right inflection for “GALLIFREY STANDS!” by the War Doctor. It’s a great memory for me.
… and then we get to the best scene in the thing. Or at least it’s peak fan service. Tom Baker. In the leadup, there were rumors both directions as to whether he would appear. Then he appeared. He obviously doesn’t LOOK a ton like he used to – you can tell it’s him, but he’s aged a LOT. Still – the voice is identical, and oh man, just hearing it was epic. The time I saw it in the theatres was even greater as the entire place cheered when Tom came on. He wasn’t playing the fourth Doctor as such. He was playing “The Curator”, and by dialogue on the episode, he appears to be a much further down the line Doctor, who has taken the face of “one of the old favorites”. His scene is so well written, and so into the “moffaty” level of Doctor Who, it was perfection. The moment he walks off the set after his scene, you really feel that’s it – no more Tom Baker in Doctor Who, and honestly, I think I’d like that. They did film that tag scene for the Shada story on the Season 17 Blu-Ray, but to me this is the end of Tom Baker’s run on (TV) Doctor Who. It was a perfect ending to a perfect story. There’s a postscript scene after this where it looks like they have all the Doctors in one place, but only the ones from this story actually move or do anything. Still, a fun visual.
There’s so much more I could write about here, but I’ll stop here. The story is deep. It’s funny, it’s emotional, it’s got fan service. It’s everything you want an anniversary story like this to be.
Perfection, Mr. Moffat.
Links[ Wikipedia | Tardis Data Core | SPS Historium | US DVD | UK DVD | US Blu-Ray | UK Blu-Ray ]
#DoctorWhoMarathon Ep 805 - The Day of the Doctor (Story 240, Serial 7.15) - 23 Nov 2013 #DoctorWho— jᎾᎬ sᎥᎬᎶᏞᎬᏒ (@JoeSiegler) September 12, 2023
The 50th Anniversary special was perfection. It required way more than I could give it on Twitter, so I wrote about that on my blog instead. Linkage:https://t.co/Svvruu677R pic.twitter.com/qbaSSdkFva