Much to the delight of Doctor Who devotees everywhere, the 50th-anniversary special of Doctor Who was simultaneously broadcast around the world last Saturday at 7:50 p.m. Greenwich (2:50 p.m. Eastern time).
For the non-Whovians out there, Doctor Who is the British sci-fi drama about the adventures of an alien Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey named, quite simply, the Doctor. The Doctor normally travels with a companion—usually an ordinary person from Earth—through time and space in what looks like an archaic British police box called the TARDIS, a spaceship bigger on the inside than it looks.
The special episode was named “The Day of the Doctor”, and it marked the return of the beloved Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), the (current) Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), his companion Clara Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman), and the first companion of the Doctor in the new Who episodes (those made when the series returned in 2005 after a 16-year break), Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). The War Doctor (John Hurt) appeared in this episode after being mysteriously introduced in the latest season’s finale.
At the start of the episode, we learn that Clara is now a teacher, and the Eleventh Doctor has been travelling. They speak only briefly before the TARDIS is picked up by a helicopter with Clara and Eleven inside. They’re dropped at Trafalgar Square, where they meet Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) from the UNIT, the British organization that aims to protect Earth from aliens, and scientist Tom Osgood (Ingrid Oliver). They’re shown a 3D painting of Gallifrey that doesn’t belong in modern-day London, through which someone has broken into the outside world.
We then see a flashback to the War Doctor, who’s responsible for the double genocide of his own people and the Daleks (the first villains ever to appear on Doctor Who). The War Doctor has stolen Gallifrey’s most dangerous weapon, the Moment, a device with a developed conscience. The War Doctor hides the device while he tries to figure out how it works, and the device is activated in the shape of Rose Tyler.
Meanwhile, the Tenth Doctor is shown frolicking in the woods with Queen Elizabeth I (Joanna Page) in 1562. Disappointingly, I found Page’s performance rather flat. She lacked chemistry with Tennant, which was especially important since we’re supposed to believe these two have a romantic history. Their relationship just didn’t come across as believable.
Ten then asks the Virgin Queen to marry him and she says yes. Ten calls her out for being the fake queen, because the real Elizabeth would never share the throne. It’s then revealed that there are two Elizabeths, one being a Zygon, a monster from the old Who that looks like a bipedal triceratops and has the ability to shapeshift. A vortex suddenly appears, and Eleven jumps out to meet Ten in 1562. They’re later joined by the War Doctor.
Back in modern-day London, Clara discovers that Stewart and Osgood are also Zygons. Stewart and Osgood have a standoff with the Zygon versions of themselves, and Stewart is willing to sacrifice the few for the plenty. The War Doctor agrees that there’s no alternative and decides to sacrifice his people to save the universe. Clara joins the three Doctors and together they decide to put an end to Gallifrey and the Time War.
The episode, though a bit confusing, was incredible. At moments it felt almost cinematic. The depiction of the Time War was fabulous, managing to show chaos while simultaneously showing the Gallifreyan people’s humane side. This episode shows just how hard the Doctors’ choice was.
I must admit, I found the way they used the Zygon masquerading as Rose a little disappointing. I would’ve loved to see the real Rose as well. Heck, I would’ve loved to see the two interact.
However, the episode had many great moments, including many clever references for the diehard fans of the show, including a cameo by Tom Baker, who played the Fourth Doctor, and a peek at the upcoming Twelfth Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi. Using the original opening credits from 1963 was also a nice touch.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between the Eleventh and Tenth doctor. I loved the Sonic Screwdriver competition and their moments of synchrony. On that note, seeing three incarnations of the Doctor interact was great.
“The Day of the Doctor” was an incredible episode and was totally worth the wait. Bring on the Christmas episode!