Simulcast globally on Saturday, the world watched as the very mythology of the “Doctor Who” series was rewritten and a new mission was assigned to the famous Time Lord on the 50th Anniversary Special.
Plus, not three, but five Doctors appeared on the special.
(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you don’t want to know what happened on “The Day of the Doctor”)
“The Day of the Doctor” presented several game-changers as it united David Tennant, Matt Smith and John Hurt, who all play the role of Doctor. They were brought together to basically help the War Doctor (Hurt) decide if he would go through with destroying their home planet Gallifrey in order to end the Time War and save the Universe.
Guided by the image of former companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), the War Doctor turned to his future selves for guidance and came to the same conclusion: He needed to destroy the planet. This time around, though, he would share the regretful action with the assistance of the 10th and 11th Doctors.
But, before current companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) could show her Doctor (Smith) that there is indeed another way, the crew had to rediscover an ancient Time Lord art form that could suspend someone in one moment of time.
For that, they had to revisit England in 1562 to learn how a race of alien doppelgangers, the Zygons from 1975-era “Doctor Who” episodes, were able to use paintings to travel from that time to the current day in order to capture Alien technology, destroy the earth and move on to find more comfortable dwellings.
So, after the Doctors convince (Read: force via sonic screwdriver) the Zygons and humans to figure out how to work together without destroying one another, they return to the question at hand: To destroy or not destroy Gallifrey. This is where Clara comes back in.
She knows how much the Doctor regrets ever doing it and reminds him that he’s not the Doctor who does it, nor the one who regrets doing it, he’s the one who could fix it. So with the knowledge of the time suspension paintings, the three Doctors hatch a plan to combine forces and pull the entire planet into a painting. In its absence, the attacking Daleks will shoot each other down and end the war.
Earlier in their mission, they realized that since they all share the same sonic screwdriver that if the earliest doctor begins calculations, each following Doctor would have been calculating the same problem over thousands of years. This brings all known doctors together to help pull the planet into the painting, including the 12th, oops, 13th Doctor, the incoming Peter Capaldi.
Blink and you missed him. Capaldi’s eyes were shown during the scenes that worked its way through all 12 Doctors. A Time Lord even said, “No, wait, 13!”
In a flash, the planet is gone. And the three Doctors bid each other farewell. But, the 11th, no 12th (it’s so confusing), realizes he doesn’t know for sure whether it all worked.
Cue the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, as museum curator (and possibly playing a Doctor, we can’t know for sure), who reveals that a painting believed to either be titled “No More” or “Gallifrey Falls” is actually titled “Gallifrey Falls No More.” And thus, the Doctor is given his next mission: Find Gallifrey.
The special was packed full of treats for the diehard Whovian. Some of my favorites?
– The return of the fez: It was a big fascination for Smith’s Doctor (though, I read that it originated with the Eighth Doctor) when he was first trying to establish his own unique style. On the episode, he grabbed the hat from one of the museum cases and Clara told him that he could just pass by a fez one of these times.
– Companion jokes: My favorite one was when the image of Rose Tyler, sitting upon the box that is the weapon that destroys Gallifrey, tells Hurt, “Stuck between a girl and a box, the story of your life, huh Doctor?”
– Ageism in the modern Doctor: Upon meeting the 10th and 11th Doctors, Hurt mistakes them for companions — a nod of course to this iteration of the Doctor as younger men.
– The hero shot: The three Doctors emerged from the time suspension painting side-by-side and walking in slow motion. Epic.
– Never forget: Baker nods to the series’ lack of reference to some of the less celebrated Doctors when he told Smith, “You might find yourself visiting a few, not just the old favorites.” Possibly a foreshadowing, as well, of what’s to come.
What was your take on “The Day of the Doctor”? Was it blasphemy for showrunner Steven Moffat to rewrite the show’s mythology or genius?
Watch Smith and Tennant talk about uniting on-screen above. And a deleted scene from the special below: