In Doctor Who, “The Day of the Doctor,” we finally get to see the Doctor’s biggest regret.
Please note: the following contains spoilers.
I don’t think I know of one single Whovian who was not waiting for “The Day of the Doctor” to finally get here. And now that it has, I want to relive it over and over and over and over. After all, it’s not every day that a television series turns 50. And fortunately for us, the fans of Doctor Who, we’ve been given these wonderful gifts all week long, leading up to what might be one of the most penultimate Doctor Who episodes of all time, “The Day of the Doctor.”
But why do I use that word, penultimate? Mostly, because this episode serves to show us what happened during the Time War, that hazy series of events that happened somewhere between the 8th Doctor and the 9th. It turns out that there was another Doctor (John Hurt, aka the 8.5 Doctor) and he was the one responsible for destroying both Gallifreyans and Daleks alike. But the Doctor’s timeline, as always, is wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey. So, obviously, the 11th Doctor ends up getting sucked into the 10th Doctor’s universe and the while 8.5 is pondering the destruction of his world, he meets his future incarnations. And after a clever talking to by Clara (such is always the case with the companions, who are sometimes smarter than the Doctor), all three decide to change their history, even though it’s something the Doctor always swears up and down he cannot and must not do. But this is Doctor Who, would you expect anything else?
Anyway, The Three Doctors (Part Deux, as I like to call them), come in and save Gallifrey by creating a stasis of time where it remains frozen. That’s right, kiddies. Gallifrey is still out there somewhere! And I’m pretty sure that we’ve just seen a hint of what Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor will be doing. (Or is it 13th, because it seems that 8.5 is now a proper Doctor, which would make him 9…. are you confused yet?) And that is exciting, because there’s a very good chance that we’ll get to see the Time Lords again, perhaps next season.
I really liked the use of Billie Piper as the user interface of the device that would wipe out Gallifrey and the Daleks. Bringing her in as Rose wouldn’t have felt right, especially with her history with the 10th Doctor, but bringing her in as Bad Wolf felt perfect. And it makes sense. This is why Bad Wolf has always been with the Doctor. It started right there at the end of the Time War.
Finally, the Zygons have returned to our television sets. We haven’t seen them since the classic days of Doctor Who. How much fun was that? Honestly, I think I might have liked to have seen a little more of them, but they were more of the side story than an actual part of the Time War. However, we know they’re out there and I’m guessing Moffat will be putting them to use again soon.
In true anniversary tradition, we got all 12 (13?) doctors saving Gallifrey and a nice ending scene where they’re all standing together (thanks, CGI). But even better? Tom Baker showing up at the end, which made this fangirl squeal like a Belieber. I also teared up. I will readily admit it. We’d already seen a nod to his Doctor in a very specific long scarf worn by another character, but that little bit, was true gold.
John Hurt should get his own series. I loved his grizzled version of the Doctor. He looked older, but at the same time, there was a youth in his eyes that the 10 and 11 didn’t have. Clara remarks on this, but it shows in Hurt’s performance. Of course, Tennant was brilliant and a reminder of why many of us still miss his take on 10. It hurts to watch Smith knowing that his future is short and it bugs me that he really never got a chance to really show us what he’s capable of as the Doctor. The majority of his episodes have been too companion-oriented and he was just finally starting to find his stride. And now he’s leaving us. Boo.
But leaving is what this show is about. Companions come and go, as does The Doctor. This is why the show has been around for 50 years and will probably exist for 50 more. And it should.
Okay, now for my problems with this episode. The 9th Doctor should have been there. He carried the burden from the Time War the heaviest of the Doctors in the new series. I do not fault the writers of this episode, though. Christopher Eccleston has been perfectly clear that he doesn’t want to return. But he should have reconsidered for this. His absence was felt, especially during the regeneration of Doctor 8.5.
My only other complaint was the cheapening of Tennant’s last line as Doctor, “I don’t want to go.” When David Bradley said it in An Adventure in Space and Time, it was heartfelt and the moment was perfect. This time, it was just thrown out there as a sort of joke, almost making light of the wonderful scene of Tennant’s regeneration. Why would you cheapen that experience? And having Smith utter, “He always says that,” just irked me even more. Don’t take that emotional moment away from me. Just because it’s in the series’ past doesn’t mean that it has any less of an impact.
That being said, though, “The Day of the Doctor” was a wonderful tribute to the 50 years of Doctor Who. Hopefully, some of us will still be around when the show hits 100. I certainly hope so.