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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'?

—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.'
Also posted at The Time Meddler.


  1. I can confirm that Paul did indeed call it. And now there'll be living with him.

    'The Day of the Doctor' was like all Doctor Who anniversary specials, as in it was brilliant in places, but never truly satisfying. As great as it was to see them again (I'm sure David Tennant was having), the Zygon storyline felt rather underdeveloped. And how come the Doctor and Clara were no longer stuck in his time stream? It felt like we'd missed and episode. When we first see Clara 's working at Susan's old school. Did Moffat deliberately skip that so this episode would work better as a stand alone piece? If so, I hope he explains it in the Christmas special.

    There was a definite 'Three Doctors' feel to proceedings, with Hurt playing the Hartnell to Smith and Tennant's Troughton and Pertwee. I glad that Moffat resisted the urge and didn't turn the whole thing into a nostalgia fest. There were many lovely tips of the hat to the show's history, but if we'd been bombarded with cameos from everyone who'd ever in the show it would be 'Five Doctors' all over again. Or worse, 'Dimension in Time'. And besides, that's what 'The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot' was ultimately for.

    Not being a fan of all the last of the Time Lords angst we've had to put up with since 2005, I have no problem with Moffat changing how the Time War ended and saving Gallifrey. I'm looking forward to seeing the Doctor interacting with his own kind again. We started this journey 50 years ago with the Doctor running away from home and now he's taken his first steps on the way back. So yeah, it wasn't perfect, but it was still a really good episode of Doctor Who.

    Here's to another 50 years of them.

  2. Ten is "my Doctor", and I loved how they used Billie. I have put Rose and the Doctor far behind me.
    I am not sure, however, how I feel about the reboot of the Doctor's past - NOT being the one to annihilate his whole race...doesn't that change his personality? Isn't that why he has that dark and mournful side?
    The three Doctors together was a blast - you picked out all my favorite lines.
    All in all, lots of fun!

  3. Just read your comment, Mark...I only started watching Doctor Who in 2005 and have never seen the original run...so are you saying that prior to that the Time War ended differently? In other words, prior to Nine, the Doctor didn't have that history? Or just didn't brood over it?

  4. Sooze, the Time War is something that has only been part of the series since it returned in 2005. There was nothing like it at all in Classic Who.

  5. Well, THAT explains a lot ;-)


    Quite a large thing to throw in there...did it tick off Classic Who fans?

  6. I thought the Doctor Doctor Doctor interaction was terrific, and the story very good. I did wonder if they'd just pissed off a lot of the die hard fans by rewriting the end of Gallifrey, though it was certainly fine with me.

    What this confirmed for me was that David Tennant is definitely *my* Doctor. I've never warmed to Matt Smith, even though he's done a good job. And I was disappointed that we didn't get David Tennant and Billie Piper together. Oh well.

  7. Matt Smith is my Doctor, but I do love Tennant, and seeing Smith and Tennant interact made my heart smile. But I am really looking forward to seeing what Capaldi does. Even if there won't be a mass of swearing involved.

    Paul, wasn't the War Doctor only around to stop the Time War and would regenerate once it was done? That's what I gleamed from The Night of the Doctor, but I don't know.

    And I loved Elizabeth 1. Although because my sisters subjected me to Gavin and Stacey, part of me was like "what is Stacey doing?" a lot. But she got to kiss Tennant about five times so good for her!

  8. I'm on the fence about the Gallifrey Stands change. I liked the way that regret informed the Doctor's choices and served as an anchor to his personality through the different regenerations. Plus I think Peter Capaldi could play the heck out of that angst. But, I can see where it will open up story possibilities.

    Of the post reboot Doctors, Eccleston was my favorite, with Matt Smith a close second. I never felt the Tennant love. He didn't irritate me here as much as during his tenure, but I'd have loved to see War / Nine / Eleven in this story. (I know it was never going to happen since Tennant's Doctor was very popular. I march to a different drummer a lot.)

    It was fun to see Billie Piper again. Her isolation as the Moment was a bit frustrating, but it did serve the story instead of having the story try to do service to a character reunion.

    Basically, I enjoyed it and my son and I have spent some time today discussing and speculating about the future. So a success at our house.

  9. Did you catch the "wizard of oz" references ?
    First of course Clara was called the wicked witch of the well, then we see a pair of red shoes in the black archives. Coincidence ? I think not. I believe there's more, but I didn't find them yet.

  10. I thought the red shoes were River's shoes from the Weeping Angels episode in early S5?

  11. I really enjoyed this as well, although it did leave me somewhat unsatisfied for reasons I can't completely out my finger on. I'm ok with the change in the time war. I know I would have loved to see more of the actual war - at least enough to get an idea of what the war doctor had done for those years since the regeneration from the eighth doctor. I never really got the feeling for his history.
    I, also, thought the Zygon story just kind of faded away at the end.

    I did love the tips of the hat to the classic series throughout as well as the doctors' interactions.

    I'm a little confused about the time war. At the time that Gallifrey burned, wasn't it in a time lock where nothing could get in or out, and yet 13 tardises could get in... I wish they had given some sort of explanation (or maybe I missed it).

    Looking forward to Christmas... I've really enjoyed Matt Smith's run, he's about tied with Ten for me, but I'm ready for a less childish (for lack of a better term) doctor.

  12. I loved it! I thought it was wonderful. The tips to the past and the interactions between the doctors was fantastic. I have watched it twice already because I felt I probably missed so much. I have to say I felt that Matt and Jenna were either underused or outshone here, however I am with Billie, am absolutely Tennant girl and loved see him run amok through history with 'Bess and got many of the great lines. Originally, I thought that when I first heard Tennant and Piper would be in this; that they would be the half human/doctor and Rose coming to save the day. At first I thought I was disappointed, as a huge Doctor/rose 'shipper, but no; I believe Moffatt was brave and very clever to use them as they dd.
    Hurt was outstanding and I hope we get to see him again.
    I grew up with Tom Baker and loved seeing him--he is so quirky and wonderful; however am confused how he could be in his future as an aged person? Maybe this will be explained later on.
    Overall I though there was some high expectations, and was very happy how it was done, and look forward to the Christmas special and next season with Peter Capaldi

  13. For Tom Baker, he stated that the doctor might in the future "return to his old favorites", implying that Baker was possibly playing a future version of the doctor who had regenerated back into that form.

  14. Absolutely lovely episode. While I teared up a lot watching "Name of the Doctor", with this episode I had a silly grin from ear to ear for most of the episode. I think it's appropriate that with a celebratory mind set, that we get an appropriate retcon that progresses the Doctor from a mood of regret to a renewed hope for the future. I liked the 3 doctors' interactions, the various shout outs and in jokes. I loved how The Moment / Bad Wolf guided the War Doctor, that the ultimate weapon of destruction actually tried her best to avoid being used, and how Clara helped the doctors see there's an alternative.

    The Tom Baker cameo was a real treat for me. I started watching Doctor Who in 1987 on PBS Saturday mornings, and the first episodes I saw were those of Tom Baker. It's not till later in the series that I became aware of the other doctors. I wasn't spoiled about his appearance, so it took me a second to register that it was indeed him. It's lovely that Queen Elizabeth I appointed the Doctor to be the curator of the under gallery, and knowing sometime in the far future, maybe the Doctor will return and regenerate into the Great Curator. At least that's how I interpreted that lovely scene.

    Nonei, in the episode Ten mentioned they shouldn't be able to be there, but someone let them through. The Moment then said "clever boys." I took it to mean that The Moment allowed the other 2 doctors to come through, releasing the time lock so all the doctors can come together and save Gallifrey. It's the best use of the Rule of Cool I've seen in a long while.

    Between Person of Interest's "The Crossing", Scandal, and Doctor Who, I felt completely exhausted by my TV watching. I now look forward to a break of no new TV for a few weeks.

  15. Thank you Rebecca, I did miss that. I'll be looking for it on the second time through :)

  16. My eyes were glued to the screen and I enjoyed the show very much! I missed C. Ecclestone though.

    I'm thinking, maybe because the Regeneration from the 8'th Doctor to John Hurt was forced (but freely) by the Elixier, this Timelored was "forced" to regenerate into the 9'th Doctor after his task was done - and of course this regeneration in this time was part of his own history? I guess, without the events of this special and after using the moment, the "warrior" regenerated because of guilt into another self.

    Living in Germany I managed to watch the Five(ish) Doctor rebbot on the bbc.co.uk-website yesterday, maybe it is still working.

  17. I'm not against rewriting the Time War in theory, and having Gallifrey back is fine by me, but I get a little hung up on the precedent they've set. They barely paid lip service to the problem of changing the Doctor's own timeline. If he can just go back on his own history like that now without any real consequence, and to change something so massive, why doesn't he just always do it?

    I know they're going to ignore it and there's probably a handwavy explanation. But if he can do -this-, then every time someone around him dies in a way less time-important way, "I can't go back and fix that or time would explode" is going to feel like a pretty lame excuse. Because if you can find a way to undo what is probably among the biggest events in the history of the universe without time collapsing, you can find a way to undo just about anything.

    I mean, in the long run it's not that big a deal, and they'll just act like that was a special circumstance for whatever reason, but it's a thought that is going to fester for me. I like the results, but I also like having a pretty solid rule about not changing your own personal history.

  18. I'm not so sure they DID change anything.

    The rest of the universe still believed Gallifrey was destroyed. And the Doctor, prior to the events of this episode, still believed he destroyed it(the War Doctor said "I won't remember any of this"). So nothing we've actually SEEN in the show has changed. Who's to say it wasn't this way all along?

    In fact... wasn't Gallifrey time-locked, rather than destroyed, in "The End of Time"? How did that happen, if not exactly the way we saw in this episode?

  19. As a long time fan, I really enjoyed it. It wasn't great, but it was fun. It made me miss David Tennant a lot, but I've grown to like Matt Smith as well. I'm excited to see where they go from here. And it's not very long until Christmas, so we won't have quite so long a wait for another episode. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot was great - everyone familiar with the classic series should give it a watch. Very funny. Here's to another 50 years.

  20. Shadow, I had the exact same question about the time-lock, but when I read up on it (yes, it was bothering me that much LOL) my understanding was that the time lock occurred because during the war, both sides would continuously go back in time to try and change the outcome of battles and those actions created a time lock because of the instability of time or something like that.

    In The end of Time, the Time Lords were escaping the time lock before the daleks could wipe them all out. Ten sent his planet back into the time lock just in time for it to supposedly get burned/defeated by the Daleks.

    Come to think of it... since the Master went with them, just just realized that of course means he'll be on Gallifrey in the time bubble when the doctor eventually gets there...

    I agree with you - I think it was this way all along rather than a change in the time stream. There are a number of episodes that follow the bootstrap principle, and that makes the most sense as far as not making the universe collapse lol.

  21. I loved it. I've been waiting for someone to re-write the Time War since 2005 - I'm just not down with the Doctor committing double genocide and there's so much more story potential, plus it opens the door for other Time Lord characters like Romana and Susan to reappear (regenerated, of course).

    I was annoyed that Rose wasn't Rose - it reminded me (Buffy spoiler alert!) of why Amber Benson declined to appear in s7 of Buffy. But in my head, the weapon having a conscience was just a rumour and that actually was the all-powerful Bad Wolf Rose, so all's well :)

  22. I loved the episode. At first I had mixed feelings about the retcon of the Time War, but now I actually like it.

    Here's my thinking:
    It was impossible to save Galifrey. That's why we didn't hate the Doctor for destroying them in the first place. But that act haunted him for the next 400 years. That's 400 years of regret and wondering if there was anything he could have done differently. (It makes me think of Spike and Buffy, "Every night I save you.")
    It is only because the Doctor has been pondering the question of how to save his planet for so long that he is able to come up with a solution. So Nine, Ten and Eleven's regret is not wasted, it's part of the solution. The Doctor only saves Galifrey because he regretted destroying it for so long.

    Anyways, that's how it works in my head.

    But the rest of the episode was fantastic! Seeing Smith, Tennant and Hurt interact was wonderful and I loved Billie Piper as The Moment. All in all it was a lot of fun :)


  23. Mandy, I was in the middle of a huge post asking the question: does the 50th harm the rewatch value of the earlier seasons? But you're absolutely right... it really doesn't have to . Thanks for answering before I even had to ask ;)

  24. Paul, glad I could help :)


  25. Now I started watching with 10 but I have to say 11 became my doctor quickly I took to 11 better then 10 although 10 leaving made me cry I'll be heart broken after 11 leaves

  26. i agree with everything you had to say in your review but there is 1 thing you might have missed..... after everything was said and done, matt said that david and john wouldnt remember any of this happening that john would still think that he destroyed gallifrey so it still ties into how chris was feeling guilt, angst, torment, sorrow for what he "did" do if you remember john saying that even tho he wont remember it, at least he can enjoy that moment of being called the doctor again and as for partial cameo appearance of eccelston, if you look at johns eyes they start to change into eccelston's eyes. and i never thought aabout rose's part about not being seen by anyone but hurt, i thought she was unnecessary but you made me see a different perspective and i agree very good review

  27. There were some definite problems with the story (aren't there always?) but overall that turned out to be okay. You really pegged it perfectly when you said that this was about the characters (The Doctor, in particular) rather than the monsters.
    It wasn't a perfect story but it did it's job admirably...and that's the important part; how well did it fulfil its purpose?
    Another brilliant review. I could easily wile away hours on this site and you have inspired me to begin writing reviews and commentaries of my own. So thank you for that.

  28. You're so welcome, Emily! We're enjoying your comments. Welcome to the site!

  29. I'm rewatching this episode and just noticed something I'm surprised slipped my notice until now. When we first meet Kate Stuart this time, she mentions "the ravens are looking a bit sluggish", suggesting they need new batteries. In her first appearance on the show, she mentions to Amy something about having "ravens of death", in a manner that led us to believe it was a joke. Maybe it wasn't? :)

  30. Tom is my Doctor as well. I do enjoy them all to at least some degree, but Tom was sublime and no other Doctor compares to him. So loved seeing him here!

    I also agree with Mark Grieg that the whole angsty tome war stuff was not to my taste at all, and this special changes things genuinely helped to increase my enjoyment of this special and new Who in general.

    This was a genuinely fun special and I really liked how 10 and 11 bickered that was as has been pointed out, reminiscent of the Three Doctors, without just copying it. John Hurt was great as the War Doctor too, so it worked out to the point that I really liked this one.

    The callout to past and future Doctors, with Capaldi's appearance, as all the Doctors move to defend Gallifrey felt amazing as a classic fan.

    One of my favorite new Who stories and if I ever made an integrated overall list of classic and new, it'd be pretty high on that list too.


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