It’s been fifty-years since Doctor Who first graced television sets. Fifty-years of Daleks, Sonic Screwdrivers, and time-wimey adventures with a madman in a box. I don’t think any show can say they’ve lasted, or even better, thrived, for this long, and while Doctor Who has run into its roadblocks in the past, it’s always come out on top.
For the show’s fiftieth-anniversary episode, Steven Moffat was tasked with the tremendous responsibility of crafting a timeless story that would appeal to fans the world over. And by some miracle, Moffat has pulled it off. The Day of the Doctor is absolutely brilliant, and it is destined stand as a permanent testament to what makes this show so special.
The big hook leading up to The Day of the Doctor was the reveal that Matt Smith would be joined by not one, but two (and, as it turned out, more) Doctors. This is an event that has rarely been seen, and while it’s an appetizing treat for fans, it can get tricky to pull off just because of the sheer amount of exposition required to explain it.
I knew The Day of the Doctor would be great, but I’ll be honest in saying I was a little nervous how well Moffat would be able to fit so much into a 90-minute show. But once again Moffat proves that we really shouldn’t doubt him, because not only does he handle the many characters and crossovers with total ease, but manages to tell one of the most important tales ever seen in the Doctor Who universe.
It all begins the way you’d expect any Doctor Who episode too. The Doctor and Clara (who I’m still totally in love with) are cruising about in the TARDIS when they’re suddenly apprehended by UNIT, the alien-defense task force that is in desperate need of the famous Doctor’s services.
After a particularly fun scene that involves some real hang-time from the Doctor, the plot kicks itself into high gear as we’re suddenly thrust into a time-bending adventure that is so brilliantly constructed that I’m not even going to try and sum it up here. Simply put, the long age question of how the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey was destroyed is finally answered; and the results are, quite simply, fantastic.
While he was first introduced in the Series Seven finale, The Day of the Doctor is our first real look at who the War Doctor, the never-discussed incarnation responsible for destroying Gallifrey, really is. And, surprisingly, he’s not the vengeful warrior I was expecting.
Instead, he’s a man faced with the impossible decision of either destroying his planet and consequently causing his species’ extinction, or doing nothing and watch as the galaxy collapses around him. This entire scenario has only ever been hinted at in the past, but finally being able to see it unfold is something that will break both of your hearts.
Matt Smith delivers his very best performance to date in The Day of the Doctor, and it’s great seeing so many different sides of him come out in this episode. Smith’s range has always been impressive, but it especially shows itself here, as he often goes from charming to vengeful at a moment’s notice.
Especially fun are his scenes with David Tennant, who is arguably the most beloved incarnation of all. Seeing these two fan favorites on screen together is something that is so delightful even if I wanted to I wouldn’t be able to wipe the stupid grin off my face.
David Tennant hasn’t lost his touch one bit, and you can tell he’s having an absolute blast reprising his role as the tenth (or is it eleventh?) Doctor. And since Moffat and his writers have such a keen understanding of the series, The Day of the Doctor is filled with subtle nods and references to what has come before, and it’s almost a game in itself trying to catch all of them.
As we all expected, the most enjoyable moments in The Day of the Doctor are when we get to see all three Doctors interact with each other at the same time. Smith and Tennant act like they’ve known each other for years, and you can tell that John Hurt, who’s a scene stealer in his own right, is having so much fun bantering alongside them and his more mature nature provides a nice contrast to the two younger Doctors.
One of the fears I had going into The Day of the Doctor was that, with such a large cast, not everyone would get their appropriate time to shine. And while this does end up being true in some cases, I was pleasantly surprised to see all my favorite characters get their well-deserved attention.
Jenna-Louise Coleman is still awesome as Clara, and while she doesn’t exactly get to do anything we haven’t seen her do before, it’s great seeing her hold her own during the witty banter and repartee amongst the many Doctors, and I especially enjoyed her one-on-one time with the War Doctor.
Even though I was hoping for Billie Piper to get the chance to share the screen with David Tennant once again, it was really fun seeing her in Doctor Who again, and while she might not be the Rose we all know and love, she’s still great and also shares some especially memorable scenes with John Hurt.
One of the few complaints I do have, however, is that the villains of the piece, the Zygons, who haven’t been seen in years, aren’t all that menacing. They look the part to be sure, and their shape-shifting abilities do allow for some really fun scenes, but as the primary antagonist of a tale this ambitious they come across as slightly lackluster.
Of course, there’s so much going on that it’s easy to forgive the forgettable Zygon threat, and it is nice seeing Moffat pull out an old foe for the Doctors to go up against. I do wish however that they were given a little more material to work with, because it would’ve made an already great episode just that much better.
With that said, The Day of the Doctor delivers such a monumentally satisfying climax that you’ll likely forget about everything else. It’s so large in scope and weight that even a few days after seeing it I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. And anything that makes you pronounce the plural of TARDIS is a winner in my book.
The Day of the Doctor is, by far, one of the best Doctor Who episodes we’ve ever been treated with. It appeals to fans of all generations, and somehow manages to answer a long-asked question in a meaningful way. It brings together everything from the past, and maybe a little from the future, and delivers a fiftieth-anniversary worthy of everyone’s favorite madman in a box.