The following is a guest post.
Fifty years ago, the BBC had a scheduling problem that really hasn’t changed in five decades. What can you schedule on Saturday evening that won’t lose the afternoon sports crowd or alienate the teens for whom night programming is geared?
Sydney Newman, head of drama and also a science fiction lover, came up with a brilliant idea for a show about a man who could travel anywhere in space and time.
He called it Doctor Who.
This Saturday, Whovians gathered around the world to watch the simulcast of “The Day of the Doctor,” the fiftieth anniversary special of Doctor Who.
We watched in 94 countries on six continents, making it the most widely broadcast show of all time—certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
A local theater held a huge party, complete with Dalek piñatas and pin the face on Cassandra. We all drank tea and ate birthday cake and answered trivia questions based on 50 years of television history.
Everyone was wearing something Who related. There were several brilliant cosplays, including an Ood with a crocheted mask. You couldn’t go anywhere without tripping over a long scarf, and the t-shirts were fantastic.
About ten minutes before the show started, everyone settled into their seats. Someone brilliant soul held their sonic up, and soon the room was filled with the buzzing noise and bright lights that all Whovians recognize.
Since seeing the 50th anniversary as it was simulcast, I’ve seen it two more times—once at home, and once in 3D at a different theater.
What follows is my completely spoilery review.
This is your final warning. Past this point, there are spoilers, sweetie.
Rather than a summary, I’m going to give you my top five favorite moments from the episode, plus a few bonus things at the end.
1.) Billie Piper’s character. While I know some Rose/Doctor shippers felt cheated here, I appreciated not having my heart ripped out by a third inevitable separation. The Moment chose Rose/Bad Wolf’s form because it meant something to the Doctor, but she wasn’t that person. And while we’re on the subject, the idea of a weapon of mass destruction that will sit in judgment on you should you push the big, red button was brilliant.
2.) The gorgeous triple act of the Doctors. Moffat promised a double act, but we got one better. I’ve already seen fan art with “Sand Shoes, Grandad, and Chinny,” and I expect to see a lot more. There were so many brilliant lines, but my favorite was probably, “Geronimo!” “Allons-y!” “Oh for God’s sake—Gallifrey stands!”
3.) 3D that was actually integral to the plot. I’m not a huge fan of 3D in films, because it tends to be gimmicky. But this time with the stasis cubes and Time Lord art, it actually mattered to the plot of the story. I’ve seen the episode three times now, twice in regular HD and once in 3D, and I can tell you it really does make a difference.
4.) The presence of three Doctors being integral to the plot. Again, this could be gimmicky, but in this case, it was vital to the entire story. The Moment specifically chose future Doctors because she/it knew the Eleventh Doctor had spent 400 years going over every detail, looking for any possible scenario he might have missed. She knew that if given the opportunity, with those resources (same software, different faces) that he would figure it out.
5.) And finally, Gallifrey Falls No More. When David Tennant said the episode was a seismic shift for the show, this was my prediction—but I had no clue of how they could make it work. The end solution was artistic in its simplicity. Like Time Lord art, Gallifrey is now in suspended animation, lost somewhere in a pocket universe. To the outside observer, the two races destroyed each other. Thanks to timelines being out of sync, the Doctor doesn’t know he didn’t destroy them both, which maintains the canonicity of everything we’ve seen since 2005. But somewhere, Gallifrey still exists.
There was more, so much more to love. The first moments of the show brought me to tears, with the original title sequence and the shot so reminiscent of the very beginning. The rest of the call backs to the past were just as moving and just as well done, right down to the closing shot of all twelve Doctors looking toward Gallifrey and home.
Of course, the brief appearance by Tom Baker is what everyone’s been talking about. In the theater Monday night, I heard audible gasps from audience members who recognized his voice before he even appeared onscreen. The implication that the Doctor might one day take this face again and retire to be the curator of the National Gallery was lovely—and maybe it explains Osgood’s scarf.
Over all, “The Day of the Doctor” did exactly what the special should have done. It was the one time the producers could count on pretty much every Whovian in the world watching the episode, and so they used it to move the show in a new direction. No one will come into the next series unaware of the groundwork that’s been laid.
Like all little boys who run away, the Doctor is finally ready to go home.
Nancy Kelley is a Britophile, blogger, and author of Jane Austen sequels. She has two cats instead of a metal dog, but she does believe that if you are ever passed out from regeneration sickness (or any other ailment, such as work) tea is all you need – it’s just the thing for healing the synapses. You can find Nancy at her blog www.nancykelleywrites.com. Read more of her posts here.