Firstly, this is not an impartial review. It can’t be. I remember reading an article about the BBC bringing back Doctor Who in 2005. I then proceeded to Google ‘Doctor Who’ and was immediately captivated by what I discovered, and subsequently became very excited for its return with Christopher Eccleston. I admit to being too emotionally attached to David Tennant’s Doctor and losing interest during Matt Smith’s second season but, on the whole, I have followed Doctor Who fairly avidly since its return. The show’s rich history and lore are celebrated in this 50th anniversary episode, ‘The Day of the Doctor’; and what a glorious ‘Day’ it was.
I was fortunate enough to see the 50th Anniversary special in the New Picture House cinema here in St Andrews. I’ve seen quite a few films there over the course of last year, but I have never seen it so packed or heard such a buzz. There was a queue in the lobby specifically for the Doctor Who screening, of which I was at the front, and many a costume of Matt Smith’s Doctor could be seen, complete with fezzes (and in one case a TARDIS teapot). As the lights dimmed, silence fell but was immediately replaced by whoops and applause as the original credits for the William Hartnell series played. This was very nostalgic, and yet nostalgia was not the sole focus of the episode. Instead its aim was to celebrate through looking forward, with some nods to the past thrown in. The prime example of this nostalgia was the inclusion of the Zygons. Retaining their classic design, it was nice to see David Tennant facing off against his favourite enemies alongside Matt Smith and John Hurt. While they did not add to the episode in any real way, their subplot was fun and worked well in uniting the Doctors and allowing them to interact, even if they really could have been replaced with any classic Doctor Who villain. The episode’s main plot was far more meaningful and successful in its execution: revealing the mystery of John Hurt and the Time War.
There has been much speculation on the identity of John Hurt’s character but the 50th anniversary confirms that Hurt is the Doctor who fought in the Time War. He comes after Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. The main plot focuses on Hurt deciding whether or not to annihilate both the Time Lords (his own people) and the Daleks in order to stop the Time War and save the universe. One of the most important parts of the Doctor’s history, the exploration of this monumental event was full of moral questions and deliberations and allowed Hurt, Tennant and Smith to show off their acting chops and remind us that the Doctor is a truly brilliant character. Their interactions provided some of the finest moments of the episode, whether it was John Hurt admonishing his future selves for their ‘sand shoes’ and ‘dickie bows’, or Tennant and Smith reminding him that he is still the Doctor, not a warrior. The finale, in which the Doctors move Gallifrey (the Time Lord home planet) to a pocket universe instead of destroying it, was simply amazing. Utilising archive footage of the previous doctors flying the TARDIS, a sense of unification of both old and new was created as all the Doctors worked together. And I do mean all, as we were treated to our first glimpse of future Doctor Peter Capaldi. I squealed. It was fantastic.
And that is the word with which to sum up ‘The Day of the Doctor’: fantastic. Catering to the tastes of both old and new fans, it reminded us why Doctor Who is an iconic programme. With a colourful past and a promising future, I cannot wait to see what adventures the years have in store for Britain’s favourite Time Lord; geronimo!