It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years of Doctor Who. For me, it’s only been 3+ years. I’m a late comer to the Doctor. I started with Steven Moffat and Matt Smith. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of Doctor Who before, but I just hadn’t started watching. But when I heard that they were starting with a new showrunner and a newly regenerated Doctor, it seemed like the perfect jumping on point. And I’ve been a fan ever since. Using Netflix, I’ve been slowly (very slowly) making my way through the 9th and 10th Doctors and am finding myself becoming more aware of the Doctor’s history. This is how I found myself sitting on the couch this past Saturday and watching the 50th anniversary episode The Day of the Doctor. Let’s see what happened. Spoilers Ahoy!
NOTE: I won’t point out every callback and homage in the episode. That would take paragraphs upon paragraphs and I’d surely miss something.
The episode starts with Clara in a classroom teaching at Coal Hill School. After class a colleague runs up to her wondering if she’s alright since she received a call from her Doctor. Smiling she motorcycles over to the TARDIS and rides right into the door. While she and the Doctor are talking, UNIT summons them to the National Gallery (by means of a helicoptor latching on and carrying the TARDIS). The Doctor has a note from Elizabeth I (yes I said I). Sh left as her credentials a Gallifrey painting titled either No More or Gallifrey Falls. And she also confirms that the Doctor is her husband. The Doctor is lead to a secret room where the glass on some paintings have been broken…from the inside.
Meanwhile, on Gallifrey, the War Doctor (you did see The Night of the Doctor minisode, didn’t you?) uses a rifle to shoot “No More” into a wall and goes to an ancient weapon known as The Moment which will destroy galaxies and is so advanced that it has developed a conscience. It’s conscience, in this time, is in the form of Rose Tyler (during Bad Wolf). Rose decides that she can’t stop the Doctor from using The Moment, but she can show him the future consequences of his actions.
And we’re in Elizabethan times where the 10th Doctor is spending time with Queen Elizabeth I and being attacked by shape-shifting Zygons. The Moment opens up a time rift and three Doctors (10, 11 and the War Doctor) all end up in the forest with Queen Elizabeth I. It turns out that the Zygons are using Gallifrey art technique and putting Zygons into stasis in paintings until the 21st Century, where they will break out and take over Earth.
Back in the 21st Century, UNIT is fighting off Zygons and trying not to be taken over by them. It ends up with UNIT and the Zygons in a secret TARDIS proof room with UNIT ready to explode a nuclear bomb underneath London to save the World from the Zygons. The Doctor’s use their smarts to break into the TARDIS proof room and confront a leader willing to sacrifice millions to save billions. This leads back to what the War Doctor is planning on doing with The Moment and the Doctors are back deciding whether the right answer is to use The Moment to stop the Time War (killing billions to save the trillions).
The show, as promised by Moffat, is a look back (with its endless supply of nods and winks to prior continuity) and a look forward. The Doctors simultaneously change history and don’t change history and that will lead forward into the next great Doctor Who adventure (#SaveGallifrey). It was a wonderfully engrossing 75 minutes that captured everything that people love about the Doctor. We went traipsing around time and space while having witty banter and solving impossible problems with a screwdriver and a smile. Moffat does a wonderful job of capturing the nuances of the different Doctors and always has an interesting story to tell. As with most time travel stories, there are plot holes a mile wide if you look too deep into the story. But Moffat does a great job of misdirection, so that you don’t think about those holes until after the show is over. With a tremendous amount of fan service and an exciting new direction for the Doctor, this was an amazing story that made me happy to be a fan of the Doctor. Highly recommended.