Can you believe the Doctor is fifty years old? Having followed the Doctor since the Jon Pertwee years, with my favorite being Tom Baker, I suppose it’s been fifty years after all. The BBC didn’t disappoint with a 50th anniversary special in Fall 2013 that was simultaneously broadcast around the world, breaking records.
“The Day of the Doctor” begins with the cute chemistry between Jenna Coleman and Matt Smith as Clara and the Doctor. Soon we are introduced to UNIT, then quickly to a very cool 3D Gallifreyan oil painting—out of place and out of time—a key plot point. It seems that England has been keeping several 3D paintings safe in an underground gallery for centuries, but something has broken out of them. It’s up to the Doctor to discover exactly what is attacking England this time, and his journey takes him from modern day England to 1560 AD where we meet his wife, Queen Elizabeth I, then off to Gallifrey for the last day of the Time War with the Daleks. Along the way, we are reunited with the tenth doctor, played by David Tennant, introduced to the 8½th doctor played by John Hurt—the doctor who pulled the trigger and ended the Time War by destroying billions of lives—and entertained with Billy Piper, who plays the sentient galaxy eater with the unfortunate make-up job.
Unlike many big Doctor Who specials in the past, the 50th anniversary was wonderfully balanced with clever dialog, fast paced action, pathos, strong plot, and the actors just having fun with the roles. Aside from a silly scene where the TARDIS goes Dalek bowling, the special effects were top notch and the acting was entertainingly melodramatic as Doctor Who acting usually is. After all, how dull would the show be if they saved the Universe over and over again without theatrics?
Fans will enjoy the interaction of the three Doctors, like bickering siblings, while a delighted Clara watches from the sidelines. One particular highlight was the scene where Tennant and Smith spoke in unison while kicking their feet up simultaneously and crossing their arms, a reminder that the Doctor may look different, but he is essentially the same person after a regeneration. The other favorite scene for me was when the three Doctors made their dramatic entrance into UNIT’s secret TARDIS-proof bunker. The episode was filled with touches like this where the actors played the scene cool, but the characters used self-deprecating humor to keep the scenes grounded.
There was also an effort to utilize time and space as a tool to solve their problems with earlier solutions and mysteries providing the answers they needed to resolve things later on. This science fiction aspect is often lost in episodes of Doctor Who. What with all the running around space and dodging space monsters, there is often very little actual science being used. The Doctor is a time lord after all; It is nice to see these three sharp minds remembering that little tidbit.
I won’t spoil the ending or other major plot points, but I highly recommend “The Day of the Doctor” for fans of scifi television. Even if you aren’t usually a fan of Doctor Who, there is much in this episode to entertain you.
Release Date: November 23, 2013 (Worldwide)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: PG
Sexuality: 1 (kissing, mild innuendo)
Violence: 2 (scenes of war)