Wow. Where to even begin?
No other science-fiction show has endured as much or as long as “Doctor Who” — 50 years, 11 lead actors (or 13, technically), dozens of companions, hundreds of episodes and even cancellation. But after everything, the show is more popular and beloved than ever, and here we are – Nov. 23, 2013, the 50th anniversary.
“The Day of the Doctor” is more than just a special episode — it’s a worldwide event, a simultaneous celebration of the show’s history, a monument to all of the Doctors, and a landmark for the future of the story. Never have I seen the audience in a movie theater applaud after a movie, and yet that is what happened after “The Day of the Doctor”; it’s that outstanding.
Writing “The Day of the Doctor” can’t have been an easy task for showrunner Steven Moffat, and yet the episode miraculously manages to provide the perfect amount of story, depth and fan service, alongside all of the action, wonder and humor that the show is known for. The script itself is rather fantastic, with hilarious banter between the cast and terrific pacing.
“The Day of the Doctor,” even more so than Season 7’s “The Name of the Doctor,” is utterly crucial to the mythology of the show — questions are answered, references are made, and our perspective on both the past and the future of “Doctor Who” is changed forever. This is what “Journey’s End” and “The End of Time” should have been. To say any more about the plot would be criminally unfair for people who haven’t seen it yet.
The cast are all wonderful. Matt Smith and David Tennant once again own their roles, perfectly portraying the Doctor as the crazy, hyper and deeply broken individual that he is. Even John Hurt, who plays the troubled and forgotten Doctor from the Time War with such gravitas, brings out the Doctor’s humorous side, despite dire circumstances.
Jenna Coleman is, as always, an absolute joy as the Eleventh Doctor’s companion, Clara Oswald. She acts as a strong, human counterbalance to not one, but three Doctors, and is able to keep up with them with ease. I was really worried that the unnecessary return of Billie Piper (who played Rose Tyler, a companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors) would derail the entire episode, but thankfully, it’s handled pretty well; her appearance makes total sense in the context of the episode, and it doesn’t drag her character out any more than necessary. Jemma Redgrave and Joanna Page also give decent performances as UNIT Commander Kate Stewart and Queen Elizabeth I, respectively.
Not only was seeing “The Day of the Doctor” on the big screen an awesome experience, but the 3-D really adds to the story, visual spectacle and feeling of immersion — more so than many feature films. The editing and cinematography are also pretty amazing, and contribute to the cinematic nature of the episode.
When you watch the episode, keep a keen eye out for hints and references to the show’s past, as well as cameos from … certain people.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
The only major problem is that throughout the episode, the absence of Christopher Eccleston is really felt. Having him appear alongside Smith and Tennant would have added so much to the central story and theme of “The Day of the Doctor.” It’s such a shame that he declined to star in the episode, even for a just a cameo.
Although “The Day of the Doctor” feels suitably large scale and significant, it felt like the episode could have done with a slightly higher budget, particularly for the Time War sequences. A longer run-time might also have allowed Moffat to flesh things out a bit more.
Some scenes (specifically featuring Elizabeth I and the Zygons) seemed a little out of place and inconsequential alongside the grand scale and dark tone of the rest of the episode. It was nice to see the loose end involving Tennant’s Doctor and Elizabeth I finally resolved, though.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
Released and aired by the BBC, “Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor” was directed by Nick Hurran from a screenplay by Steven Moffat. It was produced by Moffat, Marcus Wilson and Faith Penhale. It stars Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt, Jenna Coleman, Billie Piper, Jemma Redgrave and Joanna Page.
“Doctor Who” will return Dec. 25 for a Christmas special, which is set to feature Matt Smith’s regeneration into the Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi — who will then star in an eighth season in 2014.