In this magnificent, historic episode of Doctor Who, Ten and Eleven spend time comparing suits. They also find an elderly past incarnation of themselves who is only six inches tall for some reason. (Maybe there’s a ‘shrink’ setting on the sonic?) Numerous escapades ensue, including one where they lose midget!Doctor and must be careful not to step on him.
Just kidding. But that’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
I don’t feel like explaining the complicated, timey-wimey plot so here is an official summary for reference:
The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th anniversary special. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.
“The Day of the Doctor” was one of the reasons I began watching the show (I wanted to be caught up so I’d understand the plot.) It was also the first episode I saw when it was new – I’d been spoiled for nearly every big plot twist in previous series because they’d been out for so long. As you might expect, these things made me very excited for the special.
And by and large, what I knew would happen (from watching trailers) was quite enjoyable.
Billie Piper played The Moment wonderfully. When it was announced that she’d be in the fiftieth people went, “Aaaaaah, Ten and Rose!!!” and while I would’ve been happy to see that, I also worried that Steven Moffat (the head writer) would mess her up. He has issues writing female characters – they’re all essentially the same person with different names – and I didn’t want to see Rose turned into Amy. Or River. Or Clara. We already had Clara in the episode, anyway.
Sorry about that. I meant to write about The Moment and instead started complaining about Moffat. (But it’s fun! Perhaps I will write a post about that!)
Anyway, I liked that Piper didn’t play Rose – it would’ve messed up the continuity, too. She plays the interface of a bomb instead and I know that sounds silly, but it worked. She showed that she can play someone besides Rose Tyler. She was smart, and cute, and wasn’t afraid to challenge the Doctor.
Speaking of the Doctor, I loved the interactions between war!Doctor, Ten, and Eleven. I giggled at their teasing, their indignation that [insert incarnation here] was so ridiculous and clearly not as awesome as [insert current incarnation here].
Basically, I adore war!Doctor and wish we could’ve seen more of him. He’s probably my favorite now after Nine, Ten, and Three.
And speaking of Nine, I couldn’t shake the feeling that war!Doctor wouldn’t be a thing if Christopher Eccleston had agreed to reprise the role of Ninth Doctor. The writers needed a Doctor who’d been very involved with the Time War. I don’t see why they didn’t use Eight (more than they did, I mean) but whatever. It seems like one of the weirder things the show has done, pulling a Doctor out of nowhere.
I’m not too bothered about Nine, though. It was Eccleston’s choice, and they showed archive footage of him anyway. Eeeee, that was one of my favorite parts, and not just because of Nine. They showed all the Doctors. All the Doctors worked together (although most of them didn’t know it) and they all appeared at the end and Tom Baker had a cameo! I do think the fiftieth could’ve had more from Classic Who but it did include more than pessimistic!Engie had hoped for.
But enough of that stuff. That’s all stuff I expected. I’m not sure I know any Whovians who didn’t know that Ten, Daleks, Billie Piper would be back. And we were all pretty sure that the Time War would play a part.
But what the writers did with it… I never expected that at all. They did A Thing and for me it overshadowed everything else. It makes me not sure what I think about “The Day of the Doctor.”
Or rather, it’s been there all along.
But because meeting another incarnation of himself evidently causes amnesia, the Doctor doesn’t remember that until he lives those events as Eleven.
So, a quick recap: The Doctor’s home planet is Gallifrey. When the show was rebooted in 2005, Nine very quickly established that it was gone. He’d blown it up as Eight to end the Time War, then regenerated.
It’s kind of important to New Who, you see.
It was a huge change to make, a rather brave thing to do writing-wise, and I’ve hoped before that they never ever decided to go, “LOL JK ha ha ha ha no the Time Lords are back whee!” It would be frustrating.
And I am frustrated. Partially.
First of all, I dislike this trend of “LOL JK ha ha ha ha no not really! That never actually happened!” I’m not saying Davies and other writers never had problems with that, but it does seem to be a specialty of Moffat’s. He doesn’t like consequences, he’s not willing to follow through. (I have a lot of thoughts on this, so there’ll be a post on that quite soon.) He kills people only to immediately bring them back. This can happen in a number of ways – they come back to life but must go to another point in time, they die but live other lives with no memory of that one, they get saved. Literally. To a computer. Sometimes they’re merely revived, but that’s not very amusing for Moffat so he doesn’t do that often.
Bringing back Gallifrey is a huuuuge “LOL JK!”
Secondly, Moffat needs to watch “The End of Time Part Two.” You know. That one where Ten points out that in the Time War between Gallifrey and the Daleks, the Time Lords and Ladies were not innocent by any means. He talks of “…the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, The Could-Have-Been King and his army of Meanwhiles and Never Weres. The War turned into Hell…” Gallifreyans were not magical beings of glitter and happiness and kittens, oh no.
But all Moffat can say is, “Think of the chiiiiildren!”
Yes, the Doctor loathed himself for blowing up the planet and killing them all, but it ended the war and stopped more deaths from occurring.
Thirdly, I’m not totally happy with where this puts Nine, my favorite Doctor. Dad and I were talking about that the other day and he said he didn’t like Nine because he’s too snarky, but that is precisely why I love him. He’s deliciously snarky and sarcastic and angry and intense, all that stemming from what he did in the Time War. He’s furious with himself for destroying Gallifrey (and it makes his joyful moments that much sweeter because they’re rare). That defined his character, but now it makes him seem worked up over nothing.
Finally, I liked the Lonely God thing Doctor Who had going. I know some people disliked it, but the idea of the Doctor being so powerful and all alone because of that interested me. It said, “Even if you’re all alone, you’re gonna be OK. There’s still good in the world worth living for
Mr. Frodo.” It said, “Even if you screwed up, you’re going to be alright.”
Maybe this actually doesn’t change Nine (or Ten or early!Eleven) that much. No, he didn’t blow up Gallifrey. He didn’t really have a reason to be so angry and regretful – but he thought he did. He beat himself up over that, never let himself forget. If that isn’t equally tragic, that he hated himself for what he’d misremembered, then I don’t know what is.
And maybe this fixes the narrative inconsistencies that have existed since the reboot. Actually, it totally fixes them. For example, all the Daleks were supposedly destroyed along with Gallifrey – but barely halfway through series one, they start to come back.
But they were never gone. Many were destroyed, yes, but not all of them and not with Gallifrey because that planet made it through.
And maybe this will mean the Time Lords will come back. (This could finally connect Classic Who to New Who!) I want Twelve to spend series eight trying to find Gallifrey. I want to see a happier Doctor; that hasn’t really been a thing in New Who. Mostly, I want two things: I want Romana back as companion (because she’s not really dead, whee!) and I want the Doctor to realize that having Gallifrey back is not magical and glittery. I want him to see that the Time Lords can still be a problem, still make him work hard to stop them fighting with anyone else. I want him to see that even if Gallifrey exists, maybe he doesn’t need/want it after all and maybe he should run away in that blue box like he did hundreds of years before.
Sorry for going from happy to sad. But sad is happy for deep people, as they said in “Blink.”
Finally and most importantly, “The Day of the Doctor” was unusual, especially for a finale. (OK, I realize it wasn’t technically a finale but it does build heavily off the ending of series seven.) Finales are sad. Finales are dark. People die, companions leave.
Not this time. Or to quote the painting, “no more.”
Last night I rewatched my favorite episode with Nine, “The Doctor Dances.” It’s lovely because it introduces Jack, and is creepy, and is a Moffat episode from when he was good, but really I love it because of one little thing the Doctor says near the very end.
Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!
That scene does A Thing to me. I mentioned earlier that the angry Ninth Doctor’s rare happy moments are so sweet, remember? That’s what I was talking about. He is SO HAPPY there. He has the widest, cheekiest, most delighted grin you can imagine. He tells Rose, “I need more days like these.”
And he got them. Gallifrey falls no more, and everybody lives.
Yes, sad may be happy for deep people, but sometimes deep people want straight-up happy. “The Day of the Doctor” and the return of Gallifrey are not without their problems but overall I’m quite pleased. And happy.