How do you properly celebrate the 50thanniversary of a show like Doctor Who? Some fans yearned for a tribute to the past, while others wanted something to push the show forward. There were calls to include every Doctor, every companion, every monster, and every single-appearance one-off character that ever appeared onscreen. Ok, maybe not, but there were a plethora of demands Whovians wanted to see met. But in the end there was only one person who had a say in how the 50thanniversary would be celebrated, Stephen Moffat, and it is apparent from the start that he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do.
In light of all the expectations placed up on it I think The Day of the Doctor was a complete success. It managed to glance back as well as look forward. Pay tribute, and offer promises for the future. Following in the themes of previous anniversary specials, The Day of the Doctor was great fun, first and foremost. With a predictably time-wimey script full of moments for fans to geek-out about, this could be seen as the best Doctor Who story ever. It was solid enough to hold together and not fall apart, while fanciful enough to keep us all glued to the screen with wide-eyed wonder.
Having the 10th and 11th Doctors together was pure joy, and adding in the War Doctor just felt perfectly natural, only adding to the fun. But beyond that, there was true progression of the Doctor Who story by filling in gaps in the Doctor’s past, all while setting his whole life on a different, more optimistic path.
The story was easily the best Stephen Moffat has written. Even with all the criticisms I’ve expressed toward him in the past, I can say without exaggeration that I believe he has given Doctor Who has a very bright future.
Moffat took a Doctor that was living in shame of the choices he’s made, and turned him into a man full of hope. This may even make him more dangerous than ever, but it certainly does fundamentally change who he is.
The Doctor now has a clear goal in mind, and the fans get a glimmer of hope for the return of the Time Lords. This special transformed the Doctor from a man running away from himself, to a man running towards his lost home. I think we can look forward to many amazing adventures where the Doctor goes on a quest to find Gallifrey. It seems clear now that we will get to see the Time Lords return to Doctor Who as a something tangible, not just a forlorn memory.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was getting a brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi as the 12th
Doctor! The internet is already abuzz with debate over how the Doctors are now numbered.
One of the Time Lords mentions “all thirteen of them” as they save Gallifrey, and that includes John Hurt’s War Doctor and
The debate is whether or not the next Doctor is the 12th
, but I don’t really think there is a debate at all.
Unless the situation is tackled in the show itself, I’m sticking to the perspective that the Doctors are numbered not by their physical incarnations, but by when they actually consider themselves to be the Doctor. Stephen Moffat has even said as much
, and technically, he’s right in his assessment that it’s just fans who label him a particular number. Let us not forget that during the Trial of a Timelord the 6th Doctor meets the Valeyard
, a future incarnation of himself. In this regard the War Doctor is just that, another incarnation, and Peter Capaldi will be the 12th
Doctor. But, arguments on both sides are convincing, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
For me the most touching moment of The Day of the Doctor was that of Tom Baker, the 4thDoctor himself, appearing at the end of the special. While he wasn’t appearing as the 4thDoctor per se, it seems as though the implication has been made that the Doctor can, when he wishes, take on the appearance of those he meets throughout his life. This seems likely as it has been said that Peter Capaldi’s appeared twice before in the Doctor Who universe, and him now playing the Doctor, will be addressed.
My one criticism is the apparent lack of conclusion to the Zygon storyline. I’ve now watched the special twice, and for the life of me I can’t put my finger on exactly how the Zygon threat was wrapped up. The last you see of them all three Doctors, Kate Stewart and co., and the Zygons, forgot who they were and began discussing some sort of truce. You even see the Osgoods figure out which one is really a Zygon, but then you never see any sort of official conclusion. If I were being objective I’d have to scream about how a major plot point just vanished, but I’m not being objective, and while I think it’s an incredibly stupid oversight I’ll forgive it for the sake of the whole…just barely.
As this post is supposed to be about the 50th anniversary special I don’t want to go too far off topic, but I feel the criticism of Moffat that has been surfacing since the special aired needs to be addressed. I’ve long since come to terms with the fact that Doctor Who just doesn’t work like other SciFi. It’s a show that inherently couldn’t work without an overabundance of maguffins and deus ex machinas. The reliance on these plot devices has certainly ratcheted up in recent years, but to think it didn’t exist during Russel T. Davis’ era, as well as Classic Who, is just silly. Most of the hate towards the 50th special, as well as at Moffat in general, comes from people who want Doctor Who to be more than it is. I certainly want it to be like other great “hard” science fiction shows, but it isn’t, and it probably never will be. And it’s from this perspective that I judge the show.
I think The Day of the Doctor was a spectacular tribute to one of the most spellbinding shows of all time.
It had a lot of hype to live up to, and I think it succeeded in all the areas that it had to. It celebrated everything about Doctor Who that all the Whovians of the world have grown to love, while setting the show on a course of adventure and hope that will carry it through the next fifty years. Some fans may have been expecting more, and for them I feel sorry. The Day of the Doctor was not a “celebration of all 50 years”, but a great episode made to be broadcast on a very special day. And in that, it was a great success. Gallifrey falls no more!