Day of the Doctor; Review


If you have not yet seen the Anniversary Special, my suggestion would be to look away. In the words of River Song, "Spoilers, sweetie..."

I'm going to begin this review by stating, off the bat, that once I have published this, I will not respond to any comments. You Whovians can all comment to your heart's content, but I do not feel the need to revalidate my opinions.

The Day of the Doctor; A review and some existential thinking
Brittany Knapper



Ben Lawrence writes it true when he says that "the abiding point of The Day of the Doctor was that it was essentially the same show that came to life in grainy monochrome one November evening in 1963. Charming, eccentric, and very, very British, it is a unique part of [their] cultural life."That eccentricity is part of what makes Doctor Who such an overwhelming success.

The anniversary episode was not what I had been expecting. As a North American viewer, accustomed to Hollywood explosives and bigger-than-you characterization, I was admittedly put-off by the comedically humble tone of The Day of the Doctor. I came into the Special expecting epic battle scenes between the Doctor(s) and the Daleks, reminiscent of episodes like "The End of Time." I was also expecting for John Hurt's actualization to be more menacing - it was, after all, the vibe that writer, Steven Moffat left us with at the end of "The Name of the Doctor."

However, once the shock of Hurt's whimsical characterization set in, it was nice to see him foil the more ridiculous personalities of Tennant's Ten and Smith's Eleven. His interaction with Clara before the "Badwolf" version of Rose Tyler sent him back to his Moment is one of the most touchingly beautiful scenes in the Special. I actually really like Clara as the Doctor's companion, and it was lovely to see her character transform as she came to understand The Doctor more clearly. "When you talked about destroying Gallifray," she says tearfully, "I never actually pictured you being the one to do it." It is those profoundly moving moments that make me hail Steven Moffat as the brilliant writer he is.

The episode was true to the entirety of Doctor Who. While it would have been nice to have Eccleston show his face in more than a 2 second archive clip, more intensely developed battle scenes between the Doctor(s) and the Daleks (were we not all expecting it when they made their triumphant speech about how there was three of them and the Daleks wouldn't know what hit them?), it was wonderful to see Moffat weave so many of Doctor Who's unfinished storylines together and bring an era of menacing darkness to an end, creating, out of delightful necessity, a new adventure for Capaldi's Thirteen.

What is key to remember, is that although Moffat successfully recaptured the style of Davies' in his writing of Ten, Moffat is not Davies. In fact, Moffat's plans for Doctor Who's future are (and I suspect always have been) centered around this Anniversary Special. It was time (pun intended) for Doctor Who to return to its comically humble roots, and for The Doctor to remember who he was before Davies reinvented him. Moffat is finally calling The Doctor home - I suspect that was, intentionally, a bit of a jab at Davies.

I have no interest in discussing what could have been done better. Moffat chose to include what he did for his own reasons. I have full confidence that his unended Zygon storyline will be resolved later - note that the one Zygon knows who it is, it didn't have the asthma inhaler - just the Daleks probably did not destroy themselves, and the presumably 'dead' Cyberman in the Tower of London will make some trouble for earth during Capaldi's reign.

The truth is that those final words of Eleven, in the closing scene of the Special, signified a change in the story of Doctor Who. We are no longer asking the question, "Doctor who?" because The Doctor, himself, is no longer asking what kind of man he is. Instead, he is asking how to get home.

I propose to you, then, Whovian and critic alike, that in order for Doctor Who to remain "Charming, eccentric, and very, very British" it has to demonstrate a shift beyond "who am I?" to the question which has essentially plagued the great tales of British culture for so many years (cite LOTR, Chronicles of Narnia, the Arthurian Legends, Peter Pan, etc.,): "How do I get home?" Further, we are now facing a Doctor who has managed, after all these years, to have a homeland. Should he be able to unlock them from Time, he has another world to defend.

My question for Moffat is this: what happens when the Daleks make The Doctor choose between humanity and Gallifray? Perhaps that is a question for the 100th Anniversary Special to address. Perhaps that will be when Britain has moved beyond a nostalgic desire to save its homeland, and instead embraced that perhaps home really is where the heart is. It is the new post-modern condition: we are no longer a humanity struggling from the homelessness of modernism, but rather one who is forced to address the collaboration of multiple homes on who we are as people.

Perhaps that is why, when we are talking about hearts and homes, The Doctor has two.

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