TV REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Day of the Doctor

First of all, the important stuff. There's big spoilers in this review. Huge, wibbly-wobbly timey wimey ones. Please avoid if you haven't seen the episode yet because I do not want to be the bearer of any unwanted surprises.

Still with me? Right then. In the words of Ten... "Allons-y!"

There was a part of me going into this episode wondering whether Moffat would really pull it off. I mean, this is a man who's Who legacy so far has been about over-complicated spectacle and plot points that sometimes don't make a whole lot of sense. The 50th Anniversary episode always promised this in spades, especially when the appearance of John Hurt as The Doctor at the end of the last series all but promised a return to the Time War. Confirmed by the stupendous mini-episode The Night of the Doctor, featuring McGann's Eight (can I just say, called it), The Day of the Doctor was to deal with the big gap in the Doctor's timeline, between Eight and Nine in which the Time War took place and the Daleks and Gallifrey were both obliterated. To deal with this even in a feature length episode was a big ask, but boy did Moffat deliver.

Thankfully, the entire team (for the credit should not go to Moffat alone) produced a spectacular tribute to, fittingly, the past, present and future of Doctor Who. Spanning across three time periods, we had Eleven and Clara investigating something odd at the National Gallery, the War Doctor fighting the Time War and deciding to take final, decisive action and Ten wooing Elizabeth I as we finally got to see their oft-talked about relationship. A tear in space and time and a transported fez later, the three Doctors were united, not only to face the Zygons in a centuries-old invasion of Earth, but to decide the fate of Gallifrey in the process.

Boiled down to its essence, this was a story about an old man who discovered he had the opportunity to change his past and alter his future simultaneously by seeing where his actions would lead. It was sort of A Christmas Carol via Gallifrey as John Hurt's War Doctor is guided through the episode by the return of the Bad Wolf (Billie Piper, clearly having a blast) as the Moment's interface before he decides to end the Time War. It was a far more intimate story than I was expecting and even amongst the spectacle, it was Hurt's quiet narrative arc towards making his decision and Tennant and Smith's memories of said moment made it all the more affecting.

The performances were suitably brilliant and I don't think anyone could have predicted just how much fun Ten and Eleven were together, bickering and sniping with excellent comic timing. Once the War Doctor was added into the mix, it got even better as the three very different versions of the same man had to get used to each other's tics and methods whilst learning to work together. Not only that, but we got all thirteen from William Hartnell right through to future incarnation Peter Capaldi (proud recipient of the second biggest yell of the night from this audience member), working together to save Gallifrey from its previously certain demise.  

The road to Gallifrey was a tricksy one and one I wasn't entirely on board with for a lot of the episode, particularly once I realised the Christmas Carol element of the narrative meant a possible retcon of the Time War. Getting rid of the Doctor's actions, destroying both the Daleks and his own race in the process, would undermine a huge amount of characterisation that has defined New Who. The Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Doctors have all, in their own way, dealt with the fall out from his actions and one element that was not lost in this production was the trauma that Ten and Eleven have dealt with as a result of the War Doctor's decision. The scene between the three of them in the Tower of London was brilliant with Bad Wolf acting as the Ghost of Doctors Past, Present and Future and to wipe it out the Doctor committing genocide would drain all meaning and development from the character since his return in 2005.

Importantly though, this wasn't a complete retconning; the Doctor is still shaped by the belief that he destroyed Gallifrey and his people with it. The torment that haunted Eccleston's incarnation and much of Tennant is still there as they don't remember the events of this episode occurring. It's a simple, effective yet powerful moment that changes everything and yet nothing all at the same time. It also gives a lot room for future manoeuvring, particularly for Capaldi's Doctor as it seems that Eleven is heading to Trenzalore for his final tale. The return of the Time Lords in The End of Time was famously anti-climactic, so let's hope if we do see the Doctor's civilisation again, we get a bit more of them this time. I for one am rather excited about where it's all heading now.

Naturally with it being a Moffat-penned episode, there are still a wealth of questions to be answered, hopefully by future episodes. However, for the most part, it actually made sense. Logical, narrative progession sense, something which I think a lot of us weren't expecting. The Zygon problem resolution leading into the Doctors solving the Time War problem was beautifully done, even if it did mean the Zygons fell by the wayside once the latter took over. Perhaps my only criticism would be, as fun as it was to see Ten marry Elizabeth I, Joanna Page's performance felt out of step with the rest of the production. She was just very... loud. A small gripe though.

There were plenty of other things to love in there too including lots of affectionate references to the series' past including the original credits and One's TARDIS; "I love the round things" and jokes formed from a lot of current criticisms of the show. The War Doctor's regeneration (with the teensiest hint of Eccleston), Tom Baker cropping up as the Curator at the end was a delight (and proud owner of the biggest yell of the night - that voice) and the final shot of the twelve Doctors so far was positively spine-tingling. Billie Piper was spellbinding and it was great to see her back again even if the lack of interaction with the other Doctors felt like a missed opportunity while Clara turns out to be possibly the most powerful Companion in the life of the Doctor, influential in this moment. 

I could go on really; it was a joy from start to finish and feels like it has really injected some life into the future of everyone's favourite Gallifreyan. Geronimo indeed.

- Becky

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