Saturday, 29 March 2014

Series 7(?):Part 4 - The Day of The Doctor

Now we have finished the main body of Series 7, but we're not finished just yet. In addition to a second annual Christmas Special, we also have an additional special celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who to chew into. Alongside The Name of The Doctor, they collectively serve as a swan song for the Eleventh Doctor's tenure and bring a conclusion to the majority of the story arcs which ran through his era, such as The Silence, The Doctor's greatest secret, and the regeneration limit; some handled more successfully than others.

The Day of The Doctor - 9/10
"There's one life I've tried very hard to forget. He was the Doctor who fought in the Time War and that was the day he did it."

I went to see The Day of The Doctor at the cinema in 3D. The hype had been building up for months with the cliffhanger from The Name of The Doctor, the 50 Years trailer, plenty of teasing from Steven Moffat, and indeed the fact it was the 50th anniversary and being shown on the big screen all building to massive expectations. Despite the bar being raised higher than the recently featured Shard, I wasn't disappointed! This was a beautifully crafted episode and a fantastic anniversary celebration.

"Oh, he's cool. Isn't he cool. "I'm the Doctor and I'm all cool! Oops! I'm wearing sand shoes."

It begins in bombastic style with The Doctor hanging out of the TARDIS as it's airlifted by UNIT and taken to The National Gallery, where something has escaped the paintings. We're soon drawn into a centuries-old plot by the Zygons to take over a new world, and it takes the combined ingenuity of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctor to stop them. 

But that's not all. Also at the gallery are Queen Elizabeth's credentials for the message she sends The Doctor: A painting called either "Gallifrey Falls" or "No More" - a painful reminder of the day The Doctor ended the Time War. Yes, there's another Doctor involved in this plot! The Doctor who fought in the Time War is about to use The Moment: A weapon with a conscience and the face of Billie Piper. She sends him to his future to meet the men he will turn into, conspicuously skipping over Christopher Eccleston!

"Then that's your punishment. If you do this—if you kill them all—then that's the consequence. You live."

This is a massive story to tackle, and it had the potential to turn into a big splattered mess. But despite the criticisms I've leveled at him in the past on this front, Moffat flits between the three Doctors and two plotlines masterfully. I like how it feels like a relatively standard adventure with the extra twist of the Time War, too. It allows the episode to be both big and spectacular, but also serve as a reminder of why Doctor Who is so consistently good.

"There's two of us. I'm reversing it, you're reversing it back again. We're confusing the polarity."

The writing is also pretty spot-on. The interactions between the Doctors who are at the heart of the episode are a perfect mix of shameless self-flattery, throwing of shade, and almost erotic cleverness. While they initially are at odds with each other - particularly with the War Doctor - they eventually band together and form a fantastic timey-wimey team with the ingenuity to solve any problem. This is cleverly demonstrated as they set up a permanent sub-routine in the War Doctor's sonic screwdriver to work on a very complex calculation, so that in the 400 years between him and Eleven, the calculation has finished. Not only is this pretty brilliant, it's also an excellent example of foreshadowing. but we'll get to that when we get to it.

"The way you both look at me, what is that? I'm trying to think of a better word than 'dread'."

So The Doctors are all getting along and it's sugar and rainbows. The Zygons have infiltrated the Black Archive searching for advanced weapons, but Kate Stewart is right in there with them and is ready to blow up London if it means saving the world. Hinted to be reminded of the Time War, The Doctors put an end to this madness and force the humans and zygons to work together by making them forget which race they are. Now one issue I have is that the Zygon subplot stops here without a proper conclusion to move onto more interesting things. There's the implication this will be picked up on in Series 8, but I feel like this should have been a wholly self-contained episode.

"There's something those billion billion Daleks don't know. 'Cause if they did they'd probably send for reinforcements. This time there's three of us."

The War Doctor is satisfied with the men he will become and is ready to end the Time War. But Ten and Eleven join him this time, ready to accept him as one of them instead of pretending he didn't exist. The Moment shows them - and Clara, she's in this episode too, I think - all the children they're about to burn. Clara makes herself useful and manages to convince The Doctor to find another way (*cough* whywouldn'thebefore? *cough*). In a glorious scene which actually made me cry the first time I saw it, The Doctors contrive a plan to freeze Gallifrey exactly like the Zygons froze themselves in the painting. The calculations alone would take centuries, but don't worry: The Doctor started a very long time ago. All twelve of the Doctors surround Gallifrey with their TARDISes - no wait, all thirteen! Yeah, there's a glimpse of Capaldi here and the fandom collectively orgasmed.

"No sir! All thirteen!"

Back in the National Gallery, The Doctors part ways, with the War Doctor regenerating in his final scenes. Then, in the most wonderfully bizarre two minutes of cinema ever, the Eleventh Doctor is joined by the curator of the museum, played by Fourth Doctor Tom Baker. Among other things, the Curator reveals the true title of the painting Elizabeth sent as her credentials: "Gallifrey falls no more". The plan worked. Thus leaving The Doctor with a new destination: home.

"If I were you- Oh... if I were you..."

So where is that one point off coming from? Well, aside from the Zygon plot, there's only one thing - I feel there are a few instances of forced humour. The worst example is in the "Same software, different casing" sequence mentioned earlier: It's a brilliant set of scenes which finally show The Doctors working in harmony to come up with a brilliant plan. Then Clara just waltzes in and it turns out the door was never locked. In addition to undermining the scene before, it comes off as an excuse to give Clara something to do, and most critically isn't that funny. Though having said that, there are plenty of genuinely funny moments in the story too, and the more I watch the episode the less it bothers me. Indeed, I'm considering changing my score to a 10.

All things considered, The Day of The Doctor is a magnificent story and a fitting celebration. It's full of memorable moments and dialogue, a stellar cast with great chemistry, and cinematic direction. It made me proud to be a fan of Doctor Who, and it still does. Gallifrey Stands!

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