2013 was an incredible year for Whovians! We got a series of comic books dedicated to our favorite Time Lord, the incredible announcement that Peter Capaldi would be taking over the role of the Doctor, the release of An Adventure in Space and Time which chronicled the creation of Doctor Who, the discovery of episodes previously believed lost in time, and we got to see the Eighth Doctor blow our minds in “The Night of the Doctor.” And we’ve still got the 2013 Christmas Special to look forward to!
Of course all of that has led to “The Day Of The Doctor,” the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. For 50 years we’ve dreamed that the TARDIS would land in our yards and that the Doctor would whisk us away to an adventure in the universe. We are rewarded with an incredible 50th Anniversary Special. There are spoilers ahead, so beware!
So, last we left the Doctor and Clara Oswin Oswald, Clara had jumped into the Doctor’s timeline, thus making her the Doctor’s longest companion and perhaps the biggest hero in the entire Doctor Who mythology. She saves the Doctor in every timeline and in all time and space. Clara becomes the Souffle Girl, the Impossible Girl, and Oswin Oswald. “Run you clever boy…and remember me.” But now the Doctor and Clara must confront the scariest thing the Doctor has ever faced: himself. Or at least, the darkest version of himself…
After a joyous reunion between the Doctor and Clara, the TARDIS is picked up by UNIT. Literally. By a helicopter. This isn’t the first time UNIT has found the TARDIS in a field and retrieved it (they did it with the Third Doctor), only this time around, it is none other than Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart’s daughter, Kate Stewart who does it. Kate informs them that they have been summoned by Queen Elizabeth I (yep, you read that right). What are Elizabeth’s “credentials?” A piece of Time Lord art, a three-dimensional slice of time in a painting known either as “Gallifrey Falls” or “No More.” With that, we’re transported to the last day of the Time War where Arcadia is under attack and things aren’t going well for Gallifrey.
This brings us to John Hurt and the Eighth (Eighth and a half?) Doctor. As we saw in the mini-episode, “The Night of The Doctor,” the Eighth Doctor gave up being, well, the Doctor, in order to be a warrior. And there’s plenty of that on display during the scenes from the Time War, where Arcadia appears to be breathing its last breath, and Daleks are rounding up the Time Lords while hunting down the “Warrior” Doctor. The all-out destruction on display during these scenes of the Time War on Gallifrey could have supported an entire episode, but this is only where we start!
The Doctor is determined to end the war, even if it means destroying everything. Enter Rose Tyler. Or is it Rose? No. Not quite. Instead it is the interface to the most destructive weapon of all time taking the form of an image from his past…or an image from his future (you never can tell with Time Lords). The weapon says, “If you kill them all that will be the consequence. You live.”
Billie Piper is outstanding here and managed to steal every scene she was in. The fact that she wasn’t playing Rose Tyler made it even better. We got to see her in an entirely different context in Doctor Who, and it opens the door to future “Bad Wolf” appearances.
So, why did Elizabeth I send for the Doctor? Well, it looks like Elizabeth and the Doctor have some history! Like…some romantic history (wait… “The Virgin Queen” right?). Maybe Ten really was the King of England?! Anywho, they first have to deal with the Zygons. Ten’s dilemma of having to sort out the real Elizabeth from the poisonous beast covered in suckers is fine comedy, and he steps in it pretty seriously later in the episode.
Something appears to have gotten out of the painting. Something dangerous. Is the painting called “Gallifrey Falls” or “No More.” Suddenly, a vortex opens and the Eleventh Doctor tosses his fez through the vortex. Along with himself. That’s when Eleven meets Ten…and then they meet the War Doctor.
John Hurt was absolutely incredible! Instead of the brooding Doctor that we had come to expect, he presented the War Doctor as an incredibly complex individual driven by duty but with also a healthy amount of cleverness, kindness, intelligence, and daring. He is a man who is willing to take chances. A man who would rather not carry the burden of the Time War if there were another option. His interaction with Matt Smith and David Tennant is priceless. It is full of humor, sarcasm, and appreciation. “Why do you both act like children?”
When it comes time to make the final decision about Gallifrey’s fate, Eleven decides to change history and to freeze Gallifrey (like the painting), and allow the Daleks to destroy themselves. So now these three will change the course of their own history! When it’s pointed out that the calculations would take hundred of years, Eleven reminds everyone that he (or the First Doctor) started the calculations years ago…and every Doctor after that (and beyond!) continued on.
While the plan works, unfortunately none of the Doctors will remember any of this, so they still have to live with the guilt that they let Gallifrey burn. When John Hurt’s War Doctor regenerates, for just one tingle-worthy, breathtaking moment, it looked like we might get to see Christopher Eccleston. But sadly, there was no Ninth Doctor.
To make up for one Doctor’s absence, we do get Tom Baker who, of course, played one of the most beloved and iconic of all the Classic Who Doctors! The Fourth Doctor (ahem) we mean…the curator reveals that the painting isn’t entitled “Gallifrey Falls” or “No More” after all! It is “Gallifrey Falls No More.” So, is it really the Fourth Doctor? Who knows? And Who nose! The Fourth Doctor’s scarf made a prominent appearance throughout, and even managed to save a life!
When all three Doctors meet, it’s amazing. As expected, Matt Smith and David Tennant were hilarious together, with all of the physical comedy you might have expected. They really rekindled the magic of Classic Who episodes where the Doctor has encountered himself. In fact, Ten even says to Eleven, “You’ve redecorated. I don’t like it,” which happens to be the exact line that the Second Doctor said to the Third Doctor upon meeting in the TARDIS in “The Three Doctors” back in 1972. There were plenty of easter eggs like this for Doctor Who fans throughout “The Day Of The Doctor,” including one quick mention of Jack Harkness in regards to the vortex manipulator, which leaves us wondering if we’ll be seeing him in the Christmas Special.
Speaking of the Christmas Special, it’s got the tagline of “Silence Will Fall.” This should be incredible!