Alright already! Can we just get to the special now you procrastinating son of a b*tch!
Hey, hey, language!
Fine, enough of the history lesson. Let’s get into The Day of the Doctor.
Finally! So to start with, is The Day of the Doctor any good?
Well, if we judge the Day of the Doctor as an anniversary special that celebrates both the past and present as well as adding elements that look towards the future, then yes, I’d say its damn good. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever really is. A few minor nitpicks aside, the episode accomplishes all that it set out to do. One of the biggest concerns a lot of fans (including myself) had been was that the special would seem more like a celebration of the last eight years of the show, rather than fifty years. Thankfully, Steven Moffat has found a way to incorporate several aspects and references to Classic Who into this very “NuWho” episode, while also setting up a new direction for the show to take into its future. The best of the previous Doctor Who anniversary episodes (1972’s The Three Doctors for example) had followed a similar formula. It works well because it acts as an anniversary special without feeling like just a one-off episode. Despite all the celebrating involved, The Day of the Doctor advances the current storyline, reveals significant information about the past we’ve not been privy to, and also sets the Doctor and the show up with a new purpose that could potentially carry forward for at least another decade. It’s not any easy thing to accomplish all of this in under ninety minutes. So kudos to Steven Moffat for managing to pull it all off, and with style.
What the hell is a Zygon?
Honestly, most of what you really need to know about a Zygon is explained to you in the special. As far as their previous incarnations on the show, Zygons have only made one other televised appearance prior to this, back in 1974’s Terror of the Zygons with Tom Baker. I’ve not had the chance to see the original serial yet, so my knowledge of their background is probably about as limited as yours. For that reason, I direct you to the following link, which should be able to explain them a lot better than I can:
Well, back to an earlier question then. You said that Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) was in the special too.
Yes and no. Billie Piper does appear in the anniversary special but she is NOT playing Rose Tyler. It’s made very clear right from the start that she is actually playing the interface to The Moment. She chose a form that would be familiar and comforting to the Doctor from his past (“or from your future, I always get the two mixed up.”) And to make it even more interesting she actually corrects herself after she identifies herself as Rose Tyler, stating “In this form I’m called Bad Wolf.”
I personally thought this was a fantastic twist and aspect to the episode. I was a bit worried when I first heard that Billie Piper was returning that we’d have some of the same issues that have plagued previous multi-Doctor/companion specials. When you start to throw too many characters into one story for the sake of celebrating the shows past and present, there tend to be some characters who may get side-lined or feel shoe-horned in just for the sake of having them. By having Billie Piper play The Moment/Bad Wolf it allows her the chance to participate in the special but also being crucial to the plot in a way the Rose may never have been able to.
Aside from that, just the fact that she identifies herself as Bad Wolf adds a real timey-wimey sense to the whole thing. Since the Bad Wolf entity was created when Rose absorbed the energy of the Time Vortex and the 9th Doctor, after drawing the same energy into himself, breathes it back into the TARDIS, it’s potentially possible that the Bad Wolf energies are able to move through time and space. If that’s the case, the interface of The Moment may not just have assumed the form of Bad Wolf, but may in fact be Bad Wolf; an entity from the Doctor’s future traveling to his past to help him prevent the one event he cannot forgive himself for. Whether that is the case or not, it also adds another linking bridge between the old and new series by giving Chris Eccleston‘s 9th Doctor a reason to feel drawn to Rose during his first series.
So the Doctor is married to Queen Elizabeth I?
It would appear so. Those who thought the Doctor’s first brush with matrimony was with Professor River Song were probably a bit surprised as they watched the anniversary special play out. However, those of us who have been watching since the David Tennant years had our patience rewarded and a major plot hole filled.
When Tennant regenerated into Matt Smith at the end of The End of Time, we were left with a nagging loose end stemming back from season three. At the conclusion of The Shakespeare Code, the 10th Doctor is introduced to an elderly Queen Elizabeth I. Having never met her before, he is naturally confused when Elizabeth speaks his name with recognition and refers to him as “my sworn enemy” before issuing the order to have his head lopped off. As they escape to the TARDIS, Martha questions The Doctor about what he’s done to upset the Queen so badly, to which he replies, “How should I know? I haven’t even met her yet.” The TARDIS door shuts behind them just ahead of a few well placed arrows, ending the episode and also teasing us with the prospect of eventually finding out just what the Doctor did/does to get THE Good Queen Bess all riled up. Alas, this was not meant to be. What made things worse was a brief bit of dialogue spoken by Tennant in part one of The End of Time. While rattling off a list of unseen adventures he’d had after the end of Waters of Mars to a waiting Ood, Ten mentions that, amongst other things, he got married.
“That was a mistake. Good Queen Bess. And let me tell you, her nickname is no longer… *ahem*…anyway.”
To add salt in the wound, we would even get a brief mention of their relationship during Matt Smith‘s first season. After meeting Liz 10 in The Beast Below she recounts her family’s history with the Doctor concluding with, “And so much for the virgin queen you bad, bad boy!”
And that would seem to have been the end of it. With Tennant gone it looked as though the Elizabeth/Doctor tale would remain untold.
Cut to Nov. 23, 2013 and we’ve all been proven wrong. Not only are we treated to the Tenth Doctor’s adventure with Elizabeth, but it also plays a significant part in the plot of The Day of the Doctor. Proving his skill at writing “timey wimey” Steven Moffat manages to tie up this loose end very neatly, working it comfortably into existing Tenth Doctor continuity while also making it a natural and coherent part of the story. Others may have simply shoehorned this in as fandom fodder, but Moffat is able to do what few can: placate fandom without sacrificing plot.
Now, just to clarify the timeline a bit and put this adventure into context:
The Shakespeare Code (Series 3) – The Tenth Doctor and Martha meet an elderly Queen Elizabeth I who deems to the Doctor to be her sworn enemy.
The Waters of Marsh (2009) – The Tenth Doctor, wishing to avoid his forthcoming regeneration, takes off in the Tardis to further adventures. At this time he is without a companion.
The Day of the Doctor (2013) – The Tenth Doctor (sans companion) has begun a romantic relationship with a young Elizabeth I, believing her to actually be a Zygon in disguise. Discovering that the Elizabeth he’s been romancing is actually the real deal, the Doctor is forced to go through with his promise to marry her. With the nuptuals completed, he takes off with his 9th (8.5? War Doctor? Whatever..) and Eleventh incarnations in the TARDIS, telling Elizabeth, “I’ll be right back.” By the end of the episode, The Doctor has not yet returned to Elizabeth as promised.
The End of Time Part One (2009) – The Doctor meets an Ood and apologizes for having taken so long. He rattles off a list of things that he’s done including having gotten married to Elizabeth I.
So, Gallifrey is actually still out there…somewhere?
Looks that way. This was actually an aspect of the episode I wasn’t expecting. It’s always been stated in both classic and Nu-Who that the Doctor cannot alter fixed moments in time nor can he alter aspects of his own timeline. I knew we were finally going to get a glimpse of the Time War and was thrilled about that, but it never even occurred to me that they would work in a way to alter history and change the fate of Gallifrey.
But how does that work then? If the Doctor isn’t allowed to change his own timeline isn’t there going to be some major paradox because of this? And more important, shouldn’t the changes made to the timeline effect aspects and possibly even the existence of the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctors?
Ah, here’s where I give major kudos to Mr. Moffat. It’s things like this that will make me defend his writing skills and his worthiness at being Doctor Who’s show runner every time. The way Moffat works it, everything that transpires at the conclusion of the special not only happens but possibly has always happened.
Okay, that makes no sense.
Hear me out. They establish during the first encounter between Smith and Tennant that the 11th Doctor doesn’t have any memory of these events having happened. And neither of them seem to have any recollection of having been John Hurt back then, meeting the two of them now. Moffat explains this by stating that since their timelines are out of synch, once each of them returns to their own timelines, the past Doctors will retain no memory of these events. Only Smith, being the current Doctor, will remember any of this as it’s part of his current timeline. Tennant and Hurt will continue on with their respective timelines but won’t recall the events that have just happened…including saving Gallifrey. So once Hurt regenerates into Christopher Eccleston, the only memory he’ll have is of having used the Moment to destroy Gallifrey and the Daleks. So Eccleston’s adventures will play out exactly as we’ve seen them, with the 9th Doctor carrying the guilt of the genocide he’s (as far as he knows) responsible for. They even state that it will appear to everyone else that the Daleks and the Time Lords just wiped each other out. And that’s exactly how it’s been perceived up until this episode.
Essentially, nothing has actually changed. Gallifrey was never actually destroyed. But the only one present at the time (The Doctor) doesn’t remember saving Gallifrey because of the converging timestreams. It’s been out there all this time. He just didn’t know that it was out there to be found…until now. This whole idea is actually the part of the episode I loved the most. Rather then simply giving us a glimpse at the Time War and actually getting to see things that have only been hinted at in the past, Moffat has managed to throw in a plot twist that not only works as a twist, but works within existing continuity without altering or retconning anything we’ve seen before. And by establishing that Gallifrey is still out there somewhere waiting to be found, it actually gives the Doctor new purpose and gives the show a more focused direction. Although I’m sure we’ll still get the same kinds of stand alone adventures we’re used to, just the idea of the search for Gallifrey allows for exciting possibilities as the years progress. In its own way, it feels similar to Classic series arcs like The Key to Time and Trial of a Time Lord; both of which featured several individual stories all linked by an a season-long arc. It was a daring experiment that I feel has paid off beautifully and has me looking towards the future of Who with a great deal of anticipation.
What’s the deal with John Hurt’s regeneration? That was kind of random.
Ah, here we come to my only real gripe with the entire special. It’s a small one and one I can easily live with, but each time I see it, it feels like a major missed opportunity. As Hurt’s War Doctor departs in his TARDIS we see the regeneration energy start to bleed out of his hands. Now some have claimed that by not showing the full regeneration and still having the numbering question somewhat up in the air, this leaves room for additional Doctors or even the idea of Hurt “Degenerating” back into Paul McGann. I’ll argue that with anyone. As quick as it is, if you freeze frame towards the tail end of the shot its very clear that Hurt is regenerating into Christopher Eccleston. Which brings me to my gripe. I have no idea to what capacity Moffat may have wanted Eccleston’s 9th Doctor to play in the storyline had he actually been willing to return. And even if the plot was tweaked to account for his lack of participation, it does annoy me just a bit that he couldn’t even agree to a day’s work to at least do a proper regeneration. Even if Hurt had just fallen to the floor behind the console and Eccleston were to pop up and yell, “Fantastic!” that would have been enough for me. I know he had a negative experience behind the scenes doing his one year, and I’m aware that he’s moved on to other things, but seriously…if you can find time in your busy schedule to make The Seeker and play Destro in the first G.I. Joe movie, you’d think you could spare one hour of one day to at least give fans a regeneration scene. Again, I may be nitpicking, but having Eccleston there for that scene would have been the final connecting point that would have brought Classic and Nu-Who together, with a clear line running from McGann to Hurt to Eccleston. So as I said, a missed opportunity. And not one I blame on Moffat or anyone else working on the show. I’m sure they tried. And not knowing the full story, I can’t even really truly blame T for it either. But it did leave me wanting rather than feeling sated.
In any case, enough of the negative and onto the positive. An official appearance by Eccleston aside, we did finally get the other missing regeneration we’ve needed since 2005. And in a nice nostalgic touch, Hurt refers to his body as “wearing a bit thin…” Classic Who fans will recognize that line as a call back to William Hartnell, the 1st Doctor, who uttered the same words just before starting what would be his first regeneration.
But what caused the regeneration? He just gets into the Tardis and it starts. Why?
He said it himself, his body was at its end point; worn down and requiring a regeneration. It’s the equivalent for the Doctor of dying of old age. Let’s not forget that at the conclusion of the Night of the Doctor minisode, the reflected face of the newly regnerated War Doctor that we see is that of a much much younger John Hurt. I’ve seen it posted elsewhere that the image used was taken from Hurt’s performance in BBC’s I, Claudius mini-series which would make the John Hurt Doctor we’ve seen in the special about 37 years older than when he initially regenerated. And that’s only if you account for natural human aging in years. Spending that many years doing nothing but fighting in a war is bound to take its tole, even on a Time Lord.
Now some might see it as an odd coincidence that its only just after finishing this adventure that Hurt begins to regenerate. I’ll admit that on the surface the timing does seem odd and almost seems like Moffat and company trying to find an excuse to include the regeneration. However, I have a different theory that may help explain the timing. It’s been established before that in cases where his death is not immediate, the Doctor can fight off the regeneration effect for a limited amount of time. Peter Davison‘s 5th Doctor, dying from poisoning in the Caves of Androzoni actually starts to regenerate towards the end of Episode 3, but fights off the effect to allow him enough time to save his companion Peri. And as we discussed earlier, David Tennent’s 10th Doctor holds off his regeneration long enough to allow him time for one last glimpse at each of his previous companions. I theorize that a similar notion could be applied to this regeneration as well. I like to think that the War Doctor’s body has actually been at the brink of regeneration for a while and he has actually been fighting off the effects for as long as he can in order to do what has to be done. To be a tad more morbid, it’s even possible that he might have been fighting back the regeneration specifically to allow him time to use The Moment to end the Time War and hoping that he’ll die in the process, without having to regenerate and live with what he’s done. When The Moment mentions something about his future he actually replies with, “I don’t have a future.”
By the time he steps back into his TARDIS at the end of Day of the Doctor, the War Doctor knows his work is done and finally let’s go, allowing the regeneration to take him and allowing him to once again become The Doctor.
Who was The Curator? Everyone seemed to go nuts when he was revealed. I don’t get why though.
Ah, yes. This was probably the biggest reveal in the entire episode and the one that likely made all Classic Who fans lose their minds.
The Curator was the 4th Doctor (or at least a revisiting of the 4th Doctor) once again portrayed by actor Tom Baker. Long before David Tennant or Matt Smith reached their levels of popularity, Tom Baker was THE Doctor for quite a few generations of fans. Of all the Doctors of the classic era (and probably even the modern era) Baker’s 4th Doctor is probably the most easily recognizable and distinguishable of all. With a mop top of curly hair, pronounced teeth and nose and a multi-colored scarf that seems to go on for miles, the image of the 4th Doctor is easily the one that most often comes to mind when classic era fans think of the character.
Another reason for this is the length of Baker’s time in the role. To this day, Tom Baker still holds the record for the longest tenure as the character on-screen, having played the role consistently from 1974 (Robot) to 1981 (Logopolis). So when it comes down to it, if any still living former Doctor was going to make any kind of cameo of any kind in the 50 Anniversary special, Tom Baker is rightfully the one to do so. What works even better is that the cameo isn’t just Tom Baker making an appearance, but that he is actually playing The Doctor once again.
Wait…I thought he was The Curator? And how is he playing the Doctor again if he’s so much older than when he played the part before?
You do have a point. Baker was 47 when he recorded his final story that had him regenerate into Peter Davison, the 5th Doctor. At the time of the filming of Day of the Doctor, Baker was 79. Quite a noticeable gap, as you pointed out. However, the way it’s explained in the scene, Tom Baker isn’t playing the 4th Doctor, but rather a future version of the Doctor that has taken on the appearance of the 4th Doctor. Note the initial dialogue between Matt Smith and Baker:
SMITH: I never forget a face.
BAKER: I know you don’t. And in the years to come you may find yourself
revisiting a few. But just the old favorites, eh?
Let’s also remember that during The Night of the Doctor mini-sode, the Sisters of Karn point out that the regeneration doesn’t have to be random. The implication here is that at some undetermined point in the future, The Doctor learns how to tailor his regeneration and is even able to regenerate into features similar to ones he’s had in the past. It was a brilliant idea that also, whether intentionally or not, opens the door for the possibility of other classic Doctors getting to make an appearance in the future.
So in the end, I’m willing to declare the Day of the Doctor as a major success. It managed to assuage the fears of many fans like myself quickly and seems to have placated fans old and new alike. It has also managed to break out of the mold of the stand-alone anniversary special by introducing aspects and events that will have major impact on the show’s future. With the stage set for Matt Smith‘s exit on Christmas and a new full series with Peter Capaldi, I’m finding myself more excited right now as a fan then I’ve probably been since Smith’s first season.
Hopefully you’ve all found this informative and not too long-winded. With any luck my next go-round won’t take as long to post. Until then, everyone have a happy holiday and I’ll see you after Silence has fallen. Gallifrey Stands!