Monday, November 25, 2013

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: The Day Of The Doctor

At long last, the Doctor Who Fiftieth Anniversary Special is here! Broadcast five decades to the day after the very first episode originally aired on November 23, 1963. I bet nobody who caught the premiere back then ever dreamed they'd still be watching it fifty years later.

All in all it was a pretty good episode. Lots of nods to the past, and it's always fun to see various versions of the Doctor team up. For the record this is the fifth time the Doctor's teamed up with his past selves-- the previous gatherings occurred in The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors (not very original titles, are they?), Time Crash and now this special.

From the moment the Special was announced, many fans hoped and prayed for some sort of mega-adventure starring all twelve Doctors, similar to the various team up episodes of the past. While that would be amazing, there's no way in hell it was ever going to happen. It's just not possible or practical. The actors who played the first three Doctors have unfortunately passed away and the next four have aged almost beyond recognition. Add to that a grumpy actor who refuses to reprise the part, and it's pretty obvious to even the most hopeful fan that we were never going to get an all inclusive team up. Sad, but true.

There were lots of shout outs to Classic Doctor Who in the episode. The show opens with the original black and white title sequence and music, as a policeman walks past the I.M. Foreman scrap yard, exactly as the first episode did fifty years ago. We see Clara now has a job teaching at the Coal Hill School, which is where Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter, attended classes. The Coal Hill sign lists Ian Chesterton as the school governor. Ian was one of the First Doctor's original companions. And Clara rides past a clock that reads 5:16, a nod to the exact time the very first episode was broadcast fifty years ago.

In a similar vein, the access code for Captain Jack's Vortex Manipulator was 1716231163, which again is the exact time and date of the airing of the first episode. 1716 being military time for 5:16, 2311 is November 23rd (cause the Brits list the date before the month, dontcha know) and 63 for the year. And that's one to grow on!

In a very obvious shout out, Kate Lethbridge-Stewart's assistant Osgood is wearing an exact copy of the Fourth Doctor's iconic scarf. Lethbridge-Stewart has a line about "events that occurred in the 1970s or 1980s, depending on the dating protocol used." This is a reference to the Third Doctor era UNIT stories, which may or may not have taken place a few years in the future (from the time they were first broadcast, that is).

The Tenth Doctor's marriage to Elizabeth I was mentioned in The End Of Time and The Shakespeare Code. The Fall Of Arcadia was first mentioned in Doomsday. And of course the Tenth Doctor's line, "I don't want to go" were the last he uttered in that form in The End Of Time. The Moment, the ultimate doomsday weapon, was also mentioned in The End Of Time (that episode gets around!).

The Plot:
It would take ten or twelve thousand words to adequately describe the plot, so to put it as briefly as possible: 

The previously unseen and un-talked about War Doctor is the one who ended the Time War by destroying both the Daleks and the Time Lords. A time anomaly causes him to meet both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. Together they search for a better way to end the Time War.

Thoughts (Spoilers!)
• OK, enough with all the The Blank Of The Doctor titles. The Name Of The Doctor, The Night Of The Doctor-- it's getting confusing. Not to mention a bit repetitive. 

And as if all that wasn't enough, this year's Christmas Special is titled The Time Of The Doctor! Oy gevalt! 

• After getting a call from the Doctor, Clara races across town on her motorcycle while wearing a short skirt. Can you wear a skirt on a motorcycle without giving everyone a good look at your drawers? I freely admit I have little or no experience in riding a motorcycle in a skirt, so I have no idea.

• As Clara rides her cycle into the TARDIS, we get another cool continuous shot of someone entering it from outside. I love these shots, and I'm glad they finally have the technology-- and the budget-- to pull them off. It's much more awesome than cutting from outside to inside. I hope they keep on doing them.

• I really didn't get the point of the whole "carrying the TARDIS through London by helicopter" scene. It felt more like a big publicity stunt dreamed up by the BBC rather than a necessary part of the plot. You could have cut out the entire sequence and it wouldn't have harmed the episode one bit.

• Apparently everything the Time Lords make is "dimensionally transcendental." The TARDIS, the Genesis Ark and now even Time Lord paintings are bigger on the inside than the outside. Must take them forever for them to pee with bladders that are bigger on the inside.

• The War Doctor steals the Moment, the ultimate doomsday weapon which he wants to use to end the Time War. The Moment is a conscious, sentient weapon and takes the form of Rose Tyler's "Bad Wolf" persona.

It was a nice way to bring back Rose without bringing her back (since she's supposed to be living in a parallel dimension), if that makes any sense.

By the way, is a conscious weapon that tries to talk you out of using it a good idea? What if you needed to use it in a hurry? What if your sensors detected a big ol' squadron of Dalek suicide bombers heading for your planet? You hurry and fire up the Moment so you can destroy the Daleks plummeting through your upper atmosphere, but then it starts asking you if you're really sure you want to do this, and are you worthy to use it, and then KABOOM! It's too late and you and your planet are gone.

• Zygons! We finally get to see Zygons again for the first time since 1975!

• The Doctor's solution to the Zygon problem-- to wipe everyone's minds so no one knows if they're human or alien so they'll write up a fair treaty-- is a real theory. A philosopher named John Rawls postulated that if you could somehow apply a "veil of ignorance" to a group of people so they didn't know if they were rich or poor, they'd opt to create a society in which you could live adequately in either case.

• When the three Doctors are imprisoned in the Tower Of London, they determine they could use their sonics to escape, but that it would take hundreds of years for the device to perform the calculations necessary to free them. The War Doctor notes that he began the calculations on his sonic, so it should have had four hundred years to work on the problem and be finished on the Eleventh Doctor's sonic (did you get all that?).

It's a cool idea at first glance, but there's one big problem with it. 

First of all I'm pretty sure I've seen the Doctor's sonic destroyed at least once in the past few seasons (I'm thinking it was blown up in Smith and Jones). Whoops! Does it download its ongoing calculations into its replacement? 

• When the War Doctor enters his battered TARDIS at the end of the episode, he immediately begins to regenerate. Unfortunately the camera cuts away right before we get to see his face morph into Christopher Eccleston's. 

Eccleston's stated his reasons for not wanting to return many times before, and he's entitled to his opinions and beliefs. It's just too bad he couldn't have set them aside for one day for the fans. His absence cast a bit of a pall over the episode.

So I'm assuming that this regeneration had to take place shortly before the episode Rose. In that story the Ninth Doctor passes a mirror and comments on his appearance. That seems like something you'd do right after your face changed, not months or years later. 

• Great confusion surrounds the matter of if and how the Doctor ages. In the mini episode Night Of The Doctor, the Eighth Doctor regenerates into the War Doctor, and when he looks at himself in a mirror, we see he resembles a young (well, young-ish) John Hurt. 

In this episode, the War Doctor has an aged and haggard appearance, and looks like he's in his seventies at least.

Compare that to the Eleventh Doctor. There's numerous evidence that suggests he's been in his current form for hundreds of years, yet he doesn't look a day over 30. 

So why does one version age dramatically while another stays untouched by time? Did the stress of the Time War prematurely age the War Doctor? Or did the Time War last for thousands of years?

• John Hurt did a great job as the War Doctor. I enjoyed when he seemed appalled by his "immature" future selves. A nod to fans who like the Classic Series more than the Modern one, maybe?

• When confronted by Elizabeth's men, the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors aim their sonics at the soldiers. The War Doctor scolds them and says, "They're screwdrivers! What are you planning to do, build a cabinet at them?" I'm betting that's a dig at the way the Classic sonic was pretty much just a screwdriver, while the Modern ones are more like magic wands.

• As the various Doctors converge on Gallifrey in their TARDISes, we get a (very brief) cameo by the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi! Note that he appeared in extreme closeup, showing nothing more than his face. I assume this was done because the production team hasn't decided on a costume for him at this point in time.

• So it looks like the forgotten War Doctor has now been made an official real Doctor. I guess that means everyone after him has to move up a notch. The Ninth Doctor is now the Tenth and so on. So Peter Capaldi will be playing the Thirteenth Doctor? It sure looks that way to me. 

• Doesn't the Doctor's new solution to ending the Time War-- by placing all of Gallifrey into a frozen painting-- tromp (with big muddy feet) all over the continuity of The End Of Time? In that episode we learned that while Gallifrey was destroyed, the Time Lords weren't really wiped out. They were placed in a Time Lock by their leader Rassilon and were trying to break out. At the end of the episode the Tenth Doctor, with the help of the Master, sealed them back in the Time Lock. Now though the planet wasn't destroyed, it's inside a painting. Are the Time Lords in the painting as well, or are they still Time Locked somewhere? My head's starting to hurt.

• The Doctor decides to make it his new mission to search for Gallifrey. That's all well and good I guess, but didn't The End Of Time and various other episodes show us that the Time Lords were pretty much a bunch of assholes? Why would he want to free them?

• At the end of the episode the Eleventh, or I guess Twelfth Doctor has a moment with the curator of the museum. The curator bears a striking resemblance to an older version of the Fourth Doctor. But he's just a plain old human... OR IS HE?

So there you go. The Fiftieth Anniversary Special. Looking forward to the Hundredth!

1 comment:

  1. The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot (31 mins). Available shortly after the 50th was shown, written and directed by Peter Davidson. It is brilliant!

    Don't know what is viewable outside of the UK so have included links to BBC and Doctor Who TV website, plus the YouTube trailer.

    YouTube -

    BBC -

    Doctor Who TV -

    Enjoy if you can view it somewhere!


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