Monday, 25 November 2013

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

Doctor: 'Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.'

A satisfying anniversary episode all told. It had pretty much everything you'd expect from a multi-Doctor episode: a cataclysmic storyline, bickering Doctors, a returning companion (kind of), classic monsters, and a whole slew of sneaky references I'm still mulling over. What I didn't expect was a complete rewrite of the biggest historical event in the show's modern history. Or Tom Baker.

Earlier in the week, Tom blabbed to the press about his involvement in the 50th, but did so in such a way that when I read it, I didn't believe it. Tom's so eccentric, that bragging about being in the special, and then not being in it at all, is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect from him. But in it he was, and I loved it. Tom was my Doctor, so a cameo from him felt like a personal treat for me.

After 'The Name of the Doctor', my expectations for tonight's episode were high. I'm not sure it entirely lived up to the hype, but it came close. Storywise, it was a straightforward romp, with few timey wimey bits. Multi-Doctor episodes are odd: they're all about getting the Doctors together, dropping them in some random story, surrounding them with companions past and present, and then watching them interact. In that respect, tonight's episode didn't disappoint—in fact, I dare say it even surpassed its brief, as Tennant, Smith and Hurt bantered up a veritable storm. Nothing was sacred: from Matt's chin and hand-flapping mannerisms, to David's svelte figure and accent, to Hurt's age... it was all there to be made fun of.

It was as though Moffat took every criticism ever levelled at the show—and of the Doctors in particular—turned it into dialogue, and then had Hurt kick Tennant and Smith's arse with it. It was glorious to see Chinny, Sand Shoes and Grandad ripping into one another. Matt was his ever solid, dependable self, Tennant functioned as though he'd never been away, and Hurt turned in a performance which grew as the episode progressed. He seemed rejuvenated by his younger selves. I found the three of them stood around the Moment, ready to end the Time War together, particularly moving. Rather than isolate the War Doctor, a shameful secret of their shared past, they instead finally embraced him.

And how lovely that, in the end, it was Clara who helped stop them from destroying everything. This is why the Doctor has companions; to remind him of who he is. (And to open doors that were never locked.) I liked the parallel between what was going on with U.N.I.T. and the Zygons, and what was happening during the Time War. It was the exact same moral quandary: is it permissible to kill millions in order to save billions? The answer in both cases was yes and no. In both stories a resolution was forged by sleight of hand: on earth, the Doctors fooled the Zygons into thinking they were human, whilst during the Time War, they fooled the world into thinking that Gallifrey had been destroyed. In both instances, the lies were justified by the result, and everybody lived. Apart from the Daleks.

In hindsight, I'm not sure how I feel about them rewriting the last minutes of the the Last Great Time War. On the one hand, I'm glad that the Doctor didn't have to wipe out his own people—the potential for future storylines involving Gallifrey is admittedly a delicious prospect—but it does negate the Ninth Doctor's angst somewhat. All this time he's believed himself responsible for the annihilation of his whole race. (With notable exceptions.) Now, it never happened. Which makes me feel a little like I did when Rose ended up trapped on a parallel earth with a half-human Ten. (Eleven now, I just can't be arsed to recalibrate.) It was a clever story idea, but did it fully satisfy?

If I'm honest, I was dreading seeing the Time War on-screen. CGI has never been one of the show's strong suits, and I had fears that it would be ruined by actors chucking themselves around a sparsely populated set, feeble explosions, and the occasionally sub-par special effect. Thankfully, it was tastefully done. Moffat even kept the participation of the Daleks to a minimum, ditto the Zygons, who mostly appeared in human form. This wasn't a story about monsters, it was a story about the Doctor and his choices, and was always at its strongest when the three Doctors were together.

To bring back Billie Piper, not as Rose Tyler, but as the Moment's conscience, was a brave move. A lot of Ten/Rose shippers hated it. Worse still, there was virtually no interaction between Tennant and Piper. How could Moffat do such a thing? Personally, I loved it. Ten and Rose's story was done seasons ago. Whether you liked how it ended or nor, it did end. Contriving a way to rekindle their relationship would have felt bogus—yet, Billie Piper absolutely should've been there. Rose was the first companion of the revitalised series, and was the first of a new breed. What better way to insert her into the story, than to have the Moment choose Rose's form from the Doctor's memory?

I called the Peter Capaldi cameo. It was shorter than I was expecting, but it was there. I wish I'd put a bet on it now. My other prediction was a Christopher Eccleston cameo—which sort of happened, but it was reused footage, so it probably doesn't count. The constant tips of the hat to days gone by, from Osgood wearing Four's scarf, to 76 Trotter's Lane (the scrap yard where the TARDIS resided back in the 60s), to the old titles at the beginning, were all lovingly inserted, and made me smile every time—as did seeing all twelve Doctors standing together at the end. (Shitty CGI quibbles aside.) And for anyone who missed it, I strongly recommend watching 'The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot'. It's almost as good as the 50th Anniversary episode itself.

Other Thoughts:

—Clara's already been to the Black Archive, yet doesn't remember? Spoilers!

—Loved Clara riding her motorcycle into the TARDIS, skidding to a halt, and then the Doctor breaking the fourth wall.

—'The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot' is currently only available via BBC iplayer. Maybe it'll become available in the US later. Sorry chaps.

—We didn't actually see the War Doctor regenerate into Nine. More trickery perhaps? I'm distrustful of everything now, although the War Doctor's 'ears' comments did seem to seal it.

—I enjoyed Joanna Page's portrayal of Elizabeth I. She managed to outwit the Zygons, outsmart all three Doctors, and get Ten down the aisle. Not too shabby.

—The solution to the Zygon problem had a huge impact on the usage of the Moment—it also had a profound effect on how the War Doctor viewed his own history.

—Why did the War Doctor say that his regeneration 'made sense'?

—Here's a deleted scene of the Three Doctors together. Hilarious!

—The Doctor's sonic screwdriver (same software, different casing) not only mirrored his regeneration cycle, it also set up their eventual escape, and provided a context for the Doctor to change his own history.

—Some nice parallels, too, with the stasis cube and the paintings providing a solution on how to save Gallifrey.


War Doctor: 'The interface is hot.'
The Moment: 'Well, I do my best.'

Ten: 'I'm the Doctor. I'm 904 years old. I'm from the planet Gallifrey, and the constellation of Kasterborus. I am the Oncoming Storm, the Bringer of Darkness, and you... are basically just a rabbit, aren't you? Okay. Carry on. Just a... general... warning.'

Ten: 'That's a time fissure. A tear in the fabric of reality. Anything could happen. For instance... a fez.'

Eleven: 'It's not working!'
Ten: 'We're both reversing the polarity.'
Eleven: 'Yes, I know that!'
Ten: 'There's two of us. I'm reversing it, you're reversing it back again. We're confusing the polarity.'

Eleven: 'It's a... timey wimey thing.'
War Doctor: 'Timey what? Timey wimey?'
Ten: 'I... I've no idea where he picks that stuff up.'

The Moment: 'They're you. They're what you become if you destroy Gallifrey. The man who regrets, and the man who forgets.'

War Doctor: 'Is there a lot of this in the future?'
Eleven: 'It does start to happen, yeah.'

Eleven: 'Hey, look. The round things.'
Ten: 'I love the round things.'
Eleven: 'What are the round things?'
Ten: 'No idea.'

War Doctor: 'Bad Wolf girl, I could kiss you!'
The Moment: 'Yep, that's going to happen.'

War Council 1: 'I didn't know when I was well off. All twelve of them!'
War Council 2: 'No sir... all thirteen!'

War Doctor: 'I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time.'

Ten: 'Trenzalore. We need a new destination, because I don't wanna go.'
Eleven: 'He always says that.'

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