So. I watched this on Sunday morning Japan time November 24th. I watched ‘The Five-ish Doctors’ with Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the thing downloaded, which I enjoyed immensely. It was very funny and a great nod to the past. And then it was time. 50 years in the making – ‘The Day of the Doctor’. It had, sadly, already been spoiled to ribbons. We already knew who John Hurt was ‘ the War Doctor’ – thanks to a brilliant prequel featuring Paul McGann. We already knew that David Tennant and
|Tom Baker makes an appearance,.|
So with the absence of surprises, I delved into this 76-minute special. I watched it twice on Sunday. The first time left me feeling incredibly flat. Disappointed. Not angry or resentful I should add, I just didn’t connect to the thing. I didn’t enjoy it I guess. I didn’t think it was in anyway bad, but I didn’t like what Steven Moffat had done, the choices he had made along the journey. Which I thought was fine, everyone has different opinions, different expectations and you can’t please everyone, and this time I was one person who it hadn’t hit accord with and such is life.
|John Hurt as the Doctor.|
I watched it later, in the evening again. And I got more out of it. I didn’t completely change my mind, but I got more out of it. I smiled more. I enjoyed it more. So let’s look closely at what we got.
We got the Time War. I will start with the biggest negative of all perhaps, and that’s the way the Time War was depicted. It’s supposed to a war in TIME, as far as I understood. BUT instead it was merely Daleks and Time Lords shooting at each other. A lot. The argument could be made that it wasn’t waged through time but FOR CONTROL of time, but we had been told before it was the former. The look of what we got was very good, very epic. But I felt letdown as how the Time War had been envisaged.
We got the War Doctor. And really this is what the story was all about, and with that I have a big issue. John Hurt plays the Doctor the once. He’s a special guest-star in this episode and he’s centre-stage. To me that was not right. In the broader sense it is about the 10th and 11th Doctor who have tried to forget the Time War, and this incarnation of the Doctor. The story is about the Doctor’s self forgiveness. Until they decide to change history. The most powerful and best point of the special is when ten and eleven (now eleven and twelve) stand side by side with the War Doctor to end the time war with this amazing sentient weapon – another aspect I liked. The weapon is played by Billie Piper. More on her later.
But the idea of changing the past, it’s something that’s crept in frequently it seems of late. Just change history. It harks back to ‘The Waters of Mars’ when the 10th (11th) Doctor declares he is so powerful history is his to command. And then he realises he’s gone too far. So what is this? And yet history is and isn’t changed. Gallifrey is saved, hidden somewhere, giving the Doctor a quest to find it. It’s beyond timey-wimey now. The Doctor will still say the same person and believe he destroyed Gallifrey and the Daleks, until he reaches the point in his time stream with Matt Smith. Ok. But what about ‘The End of Time’? Did that happen? How does it all fit in? It’s not worth thinking about because nothing will ever make sense again. I liked the Time War idea. I think perhaps we didn’t need to see it. Ever. As much as many fans have been screaming for it. In one foul swoop Moffat has changed the Time War and added another Doctor into mythology.
Which also begs the question – why not use McGann as the War Doctor? I can’t believe people watched the show JUST to see John Hurt, and at least that would be a nod to the older fans in some way. Was Moffat determined that none of the existing Doctors should be shown to do something so bad as destroy Gallifrey? I think it would have worked better with McGann personally, and it wouldn’t have changed what people accepted and Who-history. A perhaps better argument against McGann appearing as the Doctor in ‘Day of the Doctor’ could be that if one was included (as the Doctor) it would be unfair on Davison, McCoy and Colin Baker.
David Tennant and Billie Piper. Great! They weren’t teamed together which was a blessing. Billie was really good as the weapon, creepy and all. David Tennant was somewhat understated, which was nice actually. Moffat decided to give the three Doctors a fair bit of screen time together, unlike previous attempts at multi-Doctor stories, and that really paid dividends. I’m not really sure about the stuff with Elizabeth the first. David Tennant really is the romance Doctor. And now married to Elizabeth the first!
John Hurts’ mocking of Tennant and Smith has made a lot of Who-fans smile, myself included. That was played beautifully. We had the 13 Doctors working together with a great sound-alike of William Hartnell and an ever-so-brief appearance by Peter Capaldi (which I was expecting sadly) as the TARDISes are used to save Gallifrey. We had some wonderfully clever uses of time, having all that time from Hurt’s Doctor through to Smith’s to calculate how to save Gallifrey. Except – Hurt’s and Tennant’s Doctors were supposed to forget everything! Ooops! But what’s a good episode without massive plot holes?
I didn’t like Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and the eagerness to blow up London. The Zygon sub-plot was almost irrelevant and they left the Zygons negotiating with Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and forgot about it. Well, unless we see more of it in the future of course. But it didn’t bother me. Nice touches here and the – the use of the Coal Hill School, where Clara now teaches, and I Chesterton as the ‘Chairman of the Governors’ too, lovely touch.
And then we had Tom Baker in the final scene (not as the Doctor), and he was simply magical. There’s not much more I can say about that scene. Doctor Who is going to change from this story, you can be sure about that. The exact direction is known only to Mr Moffatt, but I think it will include Gallifrey. A search for Gallifrey. That could be the focus of Series 8.
The plotting of the special disappointed me, but there was still a lot to like. Some wonderful moments. The Doctor – the Doctors were the focus, not the Daleks or the Zygons, and surely that’s something they got right. I’m a grumpy old man and not everything floated my boat. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m not going to shout with indignation over the parts I didn’t like, or act like ‘HOW DARE HE’ in regards to Mr Moffatt. He’s a fan too, and presumably he wrote what he would have liked to have seen. Which is the only way he could about it. Doctor Who is 50 years old. I love the show. I do not love every single story. Probably though, every single story has a moment, an idea, something I liked. And this, despite the plotting, had plenty.