‘THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR’ REVIEW
Published: Friday, December 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, December 6, 2013 00:12
A single television show airing for 50 years is a tremendous achievement. As such, it deserves an equally tremendous celebration to make it all worthwhile.
Few shows encapsulate nostalgia as part of their fiction quite like Doctor Who, but when your show has featured a dozen men in the same role over several decades that’s bound to happen.
“The Day of the Doctor” recognizes that, and unashamedly balances that nostalgia along with promises for the future to create a 50th anniversary special worthy of the Doc¬tor Who name.
The two-hour “Day of the Doctor” special begins with a glimpse into something we’ve never been allowed to see. The Time War—the galactic battle that took place be¬tween the original Doctor Who series and the 2005 relaunch—is in full effect.
The Ninth Doctor, now revealed to be a secret incarnation played by John Hurt, readies himself to commit genocide against his enemies and his own species. As he wrestles with his conscience, we’re given glimpses of David Tennant and Matt Smith’s Doctors, living their single life in different points in time.
Events predictably bring the trio together to face enemies through time and space, and ultimately change the Doctor Who universe forever.
Throughout it all, the three actors make for a wonderful team. Hurt appears older and more serious, even as he portrays a more lighthearted personality than his younger cohorts. Smith revels in his “superiority” over his younger selves (going so far as to refer to them as “Grandpa” and “Sand Shoes”).
Tennant provides the greatest range of the three. At times, he’s the adventurous and just-a-bit-too-serious-to-be-serious. Other times, he brings the same sort of righteous anger only he really ever brought to the character.
The whole adventure is more bright than brooding. That’s a good thing, considering how dark and self-serious the episode could have been, given the setting. Instead, “The Day of the Doctor” constantly pokes fun at Smith and Tennant’s respective foibles. It’s a celebration of what makes Doctor Who great—the fun of it all.
There are serious moments. The Time War is handled with the gravity one would expect, though we never see anything more surreal than laser fights and terrified refuges—not the sort of creative imagery a “Time War” might conjure up in the imagination.
That said, the ultimate additions to the fiction, and the final reveals at the end of the special are just as surprising as they should be. That’s surprising in and of itself, considering how much info rabid Doctor Who fans tend to glean on a weekly basis.
After a relatively weak season, it’s great to see this year’s Doctor Who content go out with a major bang, rather than a whimper. My only concern now is how long it will be before we get more Who-related content after this year’s Christmas Special. The BBC is doing the show no favors by stretching its hiatuses the way it does.
After a cliffhanger like the one in “The Day of the Doctor,” Doctor Who fans deserve a speedy turnaround.