While writing my article on The Day of the Doctor pre-party put on by BBC America and Nerdist Industries, I quickly realized that if I were to review the 50th anniversary episode itself, I would be unable to do so without spoilers. So, I put out the previous article without the episode critique and left that for the one you are currently reading. This is your last warning, major spoilers ahead.
When we last left the Doctor and Clara, they were trapped within his own timestream living out past adventures. I was extremely excited as this seemed like an ideal set up for the 50th anniversary celebration . . . which is why I was startled when there was no mention as to how they escaped and only a brief allusion to the events even happening.
In addition to escaping from last season’s cliffhanger inexplicably, there were several other events that happened since The Name of the Doctor. Clara had left her job as a nanny and is now teaching at Coal Hill Secondary School, which was Susan Forman’s (the Doctor’s granddaughter and first companion) school, as well as the first location shown in “An Unearthly Child” 50 years ago. Observant viewers will notice that Ian Chesterton is now the Chairman of the Governers of the school. Also, Clara is now able to operate the TARDIS doors with a snap of her fingers like the Doctor and seems to have had an adventure with UNIT that she cannot remember. It is quite possible that all of these gaps were intentional and will be filled in; however, since this was Matt Smith’s penultimate episode, the answers would need to be provided in the Christmas special. Due to the problematic nature of Series 7 skipping years between episodes and the constant frustration of the audience feeling as if they had missed the previous episode, I doubt we will get any such answers.
Despite these disappointments, The Day of the Doctor was a very good episode. Steven Moffat managed to write a fun adventure that gave satisfying answers to many of the mysteries surrounding the Time War. We now know what transpired and how the War Doctor used the Moment to end it. As with the previous anniversary episode, all of the Doctor’s previous incarnations showed up to save the day, as well as a brief apperance by the next one.
The story begins with Kate Stewart enlisting the help of the Doctor when figures mysteriously dissapear from paintings in a gallery. The paintings are no normal artwork, they are three-dimensional paintings from Gallifrey. It is rather hard to describe in words, but they looked spectacular in the 3D screenings. The escaped figures turned out to be the shape-changing Zygons and are linked to the Doctor’s past. In “The Shakespeare Code,” “The End of Time,” and “The Beast Below,” we had heard hints about the Tenth Doctor marrying Queen Elizabeth I, and now it is finally shown. After the Zygon homeworld was destroyed in the Time War, they landed on Earth. Finding Elizabethan England too primitive for their tastes, they implanted themselves into the paintings to wait until Earth was advanced enough to conquer.
While the Zygons linked the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, the War Doctor stole the Moment on Gallifrey to end the Time War. There are two ways to look at the Moment: either it is a supercomputer which gained sentience or it was infected by Rose Tyler when she was Bad Wolf and this is the remnant of her meddling with time in Series 1. For the sake of the story, it does not matter which one is true; however, I believe it is the latter. (As a side note, if you look closely, you can spot that, when her eyes glow, there is an image of a wolf in them.) As a supercomputer with a conscience, she will judge the War Doctor if he intends to use her. She decides to show him the man he will become if he chooses to kill the Daleks and his fellow Time Lords—uniting him with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors in the midst of their adventure. Of course, like every multi-Doctor episode, he must bicker and argue amongst himselves about everything from looks and mannerisms to sonic screwdrivers and TARDIS settings.
After resolving the Zygon invasion, they realize that they could take advantage of the technology usedto hide in the paintings to save Gallifry. With the help of all thirteen Doctors (including the War Doctor and the Twelth Doctor), they are able to hide Gallifrey, making it appear to be destroyed. Since the reboot, each of the Doctors have had their own arc when it came to his involvement with the Time War: the Ninth Doctor finally aknowledged the events, the Tenth Doctor grew to accept what he had done, the Eleventh Doctor fixed his mistake, and it appears that it must be left to the Twelth Doctor to search for the lost Gallifrey.
When it comes to the 50th anniversary celebration, I realize that the focus should be on the Doctor and not the companions; however, the lack of Captain Jack Harkness returning was sorely felt. I was willing to accept his omission until he was mentioned as a side plot device to keep the story moving. But, the mere fact of mentioning him drew attention to his absence and raised questions pertaining to what happened to him since “Miracle Day” and why he got rid of his vortex manipulator.
The episode did see the return of Kate Stewart and UNIT. As the daughter of Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart from classic Doctor Who, it appears that she has now inherrited the role of the Doctor’s liaison with UNIT. I was glad to see her return; since her appearance in “The Power of Three,” I have been hoping that she would become a reoccuring character. On the other hand, her assistant Osgood kept bumping me out of the episode for several reasons. The first being that she is wearing a multi-colored scarf reminiscent of the Fourth Doctor’s costume, and the Eleventh Doctor even comments on this. There was another reference to the Fourth Doctor (which I will go into more detail on later) that I felt broke the fourth wall and drew too much attention to itself. The other problem I had with her has to do with the fact that she needs an inhaler. (To Steven Moffat’s credit, this trait becomes crutial to the plot when she is emulated by a Zygon.) For some reason she constantly needs reminding to use it. As an asmathic myself, I can tell you that one never needs help rememberring to use an inhaler—asphyxiation is more than enough reminder. And, like everyone in television and movies, she uses it incorrectly. Just once I would like to see someone use an inhaler correctly onscreen.
So, back to the Fourth Doctor reference. Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor himself, makes his first onscreen appearance to Doctor Who since he left the show in 1981. He has returned to reprise his role in audio dramas, but never came back to the show itself. He showed up at the end of the episode when it is revealed that he is the Curator of the art museum. This would be fine in itself, but then they make such a big deal out of it that it drew attention to itself, and I lost my suspension of disbelief. There very well could be a plan and a reason for this; however, if there is not, it went on too long and started getting a bit obnoxious. The Eleventh Doctor mentions that he recognizes the Curator, and they imply that he could either be from the Doctor’s future or his past. Let’s start with the possibility of his future: Elizabeth I said she appointed the Doctor as curator of her museum, the Eleventh Doctor says he could see himself retiring to take over the museum, and the Curator vaguely agrees. Plus, the Curator mentions that, in his old age, he has decided to return to see some old faces [implying that before the end of his life, the Doctor gets the ablity to regenerate into previous bodies. If he is from the past, then things could get interesting. I have a theory that a Time Lord’s regeneration may not be completely random. It is possible that to regenerate a Time Lord may need some sort of genetic template for the new body (such as someone met in a previous encounter)]. This would explain why Romana II looks like Princess Astra, the Sixth Doctor resembles Commander Maxil, and the Twelth Doctor will be similar to Caecilius. Steven Moffat said that the latter will be addressed when Peter Capaldi takes over, and this seems like the most logical explanation.
As promised, the episode leaves the audience excited for the show’s future. There are still the mysteries surrounding the Doctor, Clara, and the Great Intelligence being trapped and released (if they did, indeed, escape and are not still imprisoned in his timestream). My prediction that Omega would be the villian in the 50th anniversary did not come true; however, the multiple references to him in the episode continue to give me hope in his ominous return. And, while we know the rest of the Time Lords will return, we do not know if they will be benevolent, malevolent, or a mix of the two. They could be grateful to the Doctor for ending the war or vengeful and twisted to evil by the war. In true Fanboy Comics tradition, we will just have to wait and see.