Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
110

Cult News

'Doctor Who' 50th: Digital Spy's 'The Day of The Doctor' review

By
"Though often caught up in violent situations, he is a man of peace. He is never cruel or cowardly. In fact, to put it simply, The Doctor is a hero."

'Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special 'The Day of the Doctor'.

© BBC

'Doctor Who's 50th special 'The Day of the Doctor'



The past, the present and the future – 'The Day of The Doctor' had it all. For any fan of the new series, Steven Moffat's 75-minute epic – which takes in old faces, multiple time zones, one flirty monarch, weapons of mass destruction on Earth and scenes of mass destruction on Gallifrey – is pretty much everything you could wish for.

It does everything that good drama should, while also championing Doctor Who post-2005 and its wild and wonderful lead character – but fans of the classic series, expecting a story that draws on everything from 1963 onwards, might come away feeling short-changed.

The three Doctors - Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt

© BBC

Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt



The story sees showrunner Moffat reap the seeds first sown by his predecessor Russell T Davies in 2005, employing the device of the Time War to give him two things. The first is spectacle... and what spectacle. Doctor Who has never been more epic, has never looked better than in the scenes set during Gallifrey's darkest hour.

But our writer also uses the Time War to tell a story about the kind of man The Doctor is. For eight years, we've known the story – The Doctor, when all seemed lost, once pushed a big red button that wiped out two races, including millions of innocents...

As a tragic backstory for Christopher Eccleston's haunted Ninth Doctor, it worked... but in the long term, it feels slightly wrong to have had The Doctor do something like that. Whichever way you look at it, The Doctor committed mass genocide – twice – and while he's never been the most straightfoward of heroes, those actions weren't even anti-heroic, they were just plain barbaric.

So here, at last, The Doctor finds a way – because that's what he always does. He finds a way to do the right thing. 50 years on from 'An Unearthly Child', Steven Moffat not only reaffirms who The Doctor is – who he's always been – but also sets him off on a new path.

David Tennant back at the helm of the TARDIS.

© BBC

David Tennant back at the helm of the TARDIS.



'The Day of The Doctor' feels like a celebration and wonderful summation of the past eight years of Doctor Who. It both revels in and pokes fun at everything that's been brilliant about the show over the past eight years – young and dashing Doctors, clinches with companions, Timey-Wimey terminology...

David Tennant perfectly recreates his Doctor – to the extent that it's initially quite surreal seeing him and Matt Smith interact. But once you've got over the shock of it all, they're brilliant together.

A great comedic double-act, of course, but credit to Steven Moffat for also pushing beyond the easy route of fun banter and silliness and giving his two Doctors some exchanges of real power – the scene where they clash in the Tower of London ("For once, I would like to know where I'm going." "No, you really wouldn't!") showcases the skill and power of both performers.

'Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special 'The Day of the Doctor'.

© BBC

'Doctor Who's 50th special 'The Day of the Doctor'



And in the absence of any pre-2005 Doctors – well, mostly – John Hurt, despite having no ties to the show previously, almost serves as a symbol of classic Doctor Who.

He's the sort of actor who might've played our Time Lord hero 'back in the day' – as the Tenth Doctor remarks, a "posh, gravelly" type – and while the nature of the story means his 'War Doctor' is somewhat muted in his early interactions with Rose / The Conscience of the Moment (Billie Piper), once he gets to go toe-to-toe with Tennant and Smith, Hurt more than holds his own against these Doctor Who veterans.

But even with Hurt (sort of) representing the myth and the legend of classic Who, you could take issue with the fact that this special gives short shrift to those other fine actors who've played The Doctor.

John Hurt as... Doctor Who?

© BBC

John Hurt as... Doctor Who?



Each nod to the past, from the blatant – Tom Baker's baffling but brilliant cameo – to the more subtle – references to 'The Three Doctors', that first glimpse of Coal Hill School – will have been lapped up by fans, but they feel like fleeting kisses to the past. The sequence in which all of the Doctors – including (squee) an uncredited Peter Capaldi – team up to save Gallifrey is wonderful, but so brief.

Your feelings about 'The Day of The Doctor' will likely depend on what you wanted to get out of it. For this writer and Doctor Who fan, as a celebration of 50 years in time and space, it falls just short of greatness.

But as a drama, it does all that you can ask for – it's funny, moving and exciting with blockbuster spectacle that more than justifies those cinema screenings - and as a summation of new Doctor Who, it's perfect.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...