REVIEW: Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special ‘The Day of the Doctor’

Where do I start? Doctor Who, a dying show nearly 20 years ago, gets revived a decade later and has since become a worldwide phenomenon. A show that was once scoffed at for being corny and having cheap special effects, is now the emotional compass for many people across the globe. Doctor Who is a Guiness World Record holder for longest running television sci-fi drama, and now after this last weekend, largest worldwide simulcast of a television drama. This past weekend saw Doctor Who celebrate it’s 50th with it’s extra sized, extra timey wimey anniversary episode titled “The Day of the Doctor.”

And what a day it was.

Be warned, I will be talking about the episode. There are spoilers abound!

One of the big draws for this episode was the return of David Tennant as the 10th, or is it now the 11th, Doctor working together with Matt Smith. We’re first introduced to him in this episode as he is wooing Queen Elizabeth I, a relationship which was previously mentioned in Tennant’s final episode “The End of Time.” Just seeing David Tennant don the pinstripes and trenchcoat again was a real treat. It was almost as though he never left. 

We also get our first real taste of John Hurt as the War Doctor. An incarnation of the Doctor that fought in the Time War and was a regeneration between the Paul McGann and Christopher Eccelstion versions of the character that we had previously not known about. He is the Doctor that ended the Time War by using a weapon called “The Moment,” which killed all of the Daleks and Time Lords. I really enjoyed John Hurt’s Doctor. He managed to have an old man grumpyness, yet seemed vibrant and youthful at the same time. It kind of makes me wish we could have gotten more of the War Doctor fighting in the Time War. 

Billie Piper is back in the episode, however she’s not reprising her role as Rose Tyler. She plays the living consciousness  of “The Moment,” a living weapon. Telling the Doctor she has taken the form of someone from his past, or future. Unfortunately only the War Doctor can see her so those of you that wanted a reunion between Tennant and Billie Piper will be disappointed. 

The episode actually seems to be like two episodes in one. One story spread across two time periods deals with the attempted invasion of Earth by an alien race called the Zygons. This side of the story has all the makings of what makes Doctor Who fun. There is a lot of comedy, mixed in with high stakes with a dash of goofy looking alien villains. Also heavily involved in this side of the story is UNIT, basically the Doctor Who universe’s SHIELD. While this part of the story got “resolved,” I still didn’t feel like it really did. It was fun, but I think it wrapped up a little too fast.

The other half of the story examines what makes the Doctor, well, the Doctor. We go back to an event that had only been previously mentioned. The Doctor’s darkest day. The day he murded his entire race along with all of the Daleks. The last day of the Time War. This is an event fans have been wanting to see since Christopher Eccelston first mentioned it. It was always time locked so we’ve never been able to see it. Until now! The living consciousness of “The Moment” causes time fissures that allow the Doctor’s to meet up and head into the Time War. 

The Doctor’s companion has always been our point of view, the human point of view, when it comes to the Doctor. They are the one that keeps his morality in check. And Jenna Coleman as Clara does just that. It looked as though all three Doctor’s are going to use “The Moment” to end the Time War, then Clara calls them out on it as all three are about to use “The Moment” together. She made them remember the oath that they took when they took the name Doctor. “Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in.” This in turn leads to the Doctors drastically changing their future. Instead of destroying Gallifrey, they attempt to save it by placing it in stasis in an alternate universe. However it still appears to be destroyed to the rest of the universe  therefore causing the subsequent timelines to stay the same.

The three Doctors featured in the special aren’t the only ones to save Gallifrey. All thirteen versions of the Doctor lend a hand in doing so. Using archival video and audio footage they managed to include all versions of the Doctor in this attempt to save their home planet. Including our first look at the upcoming Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. Getting to see all the Doctors gave me a bit of a “Hell Yeah” moment while watching, and may just be my favorite part of the episode. 

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

There was one last little bit of goodness in the special. A very special and awesome appearence by possibly the most popular Doctor, Tom Baker. He shows up to let Matt Smith know that Gallifrey wasn’t destroyed, that it’s out there somewhere. I believe this is foreshadowing for the first season with Peter Capaldi season, perhaps with him searching for Gallifrey. 

All in all I thought it was a fitting special to celebrate this anniversary of such a great show. It managed to further the story of the current Doctor, yet throw in enough nods to everything that came before it to honor the last 50 years. It makes me excited for the Christmas special, which will be Matt Smith’s swan song as he returns to Trenzalor to face his final fate against Cybermen, Angels, and the Silence!