TV Pop: The Day of the Doctor

Show: Doctor Who
Year: 2013
Stars: Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt

I think I can reliably assume that I’m not the only one blogging about this TV event (which I saw in a cinema) this week, but what better way to try my hand at a television review. I’ve been wondering about how to go about this; I probably experience as much through the TV as any other medium, but I’m at a dilemma as to how I approach reviews. Do I go by individual episode, series or show as a whole? Fortunately in this case I can happily postpone the real decision-making, as The Day of the Doctor is a convenient stand-alone episode which I can come at almost like a film with the added context of the Doctor Who world.

First I should outline my Who credentials. I’m a fan, but I’m no fanatic. I’ve seen every episode since the revival and not a single one of the original series, which I’m sure loses me lots of critic points. That isn’t to say that I don’t know the general plot leading up to the appearance of Christopher Ecclestone’s Ninth Doctor, and I do intend to one day watch all of the (surviving) episodes that I can get my hands on. As such nevertheless, I don’t feel that I really missed out on any plot points despite this gaping hole in my Who knowledge; dyed-in-the-wool(-scarf) fans know no more about the fabled Time War than I do. This was (mostly) an episode for everyone.

So to the plot. The Day of the Doctor sees The Doctor (Hurt) in his character-defining moment: on the verge of pressing the (big red) button to lock away Gallifrey, the Timelords and the Daleks in a timelock, effectively killing them all. The “galaxy eater” has a conscience, unnecessarily played by Billie Piper, who creates a time warp to show this Doctor (the “War Doctor”) the consequences to himself of this terrible decision. This takes the form of introducing him to two of his future incarnations – namely, his Tenth (Tennant) and Eleventh (Smith) regenerations. After being embroiled in a Zygon plot and locked up in the Tower of London by Queen Elizabeth I (Joanna Page), the Doctors are eventually able to devise a plot that may or may not have saved Gallifrey from total annihilation, utilising the help of every previous Doctor (and a future one).

In a story that answered many questions and asked even more, each Doctor gave an excellent performance. I particularly enjoyed the War Doctor’s comedic indignation at the “modern” doctors he is destined to become, while the Tenth and Eleventh poke fun at each other incessantly in a way that is very believable given their respective status. Joanna Page gives a humorous, if a little too Welsh, turn as the Virgin Queen. The story was funny and moving in equal measure, and amazed all in the large screening in which I partook. A personal highlight was the surprise appearance of Tom Baker, following his scarf which had been flapping around all episode. Although the 3D added almost nothing, overall the experience was visually stunning and emotionally exciting. The Christmas episode has been rubbish for a few years now, but it’s safe to say we’re all now eagerly awaiting the final appearance of Matt Smith and the proper introduction of Peter Capaldi (who may or may not be now the Doctor’s thirteenth and supposedly final form). With this and the Sherlock rumours, December 25th might well be shaping up to be a very special day.

My rating: 9/10