13 Doctors, 799 episodes: celebrating 50 years of the Doctor in style

Doctor-Who-50th_2714427bI THINK it’s safe to say that I could easily have written this review in three words. That. Was Incredible.

…Yet that wouldn’t be much of a review now, would it? 50 years to the day that Doctor Who first came to our screens, it is safe to say the show today is still very much how it was when it first set out; fundamentally British. The challenge here was to make an incredible episode, that not only explained the story of the ‘War Doctor’ but also represented the best of Doctor Who over the last 50 years.

This TV event was broadcast and viewed around the world simultaneously, with viewing figures said to be broken. 10.2 million watched on TV in the UK (37.4%) – that’s not even counting the cinema or online viewings. The hype and build-up to this TV event was immense, putting a lot of pressure on the episode to stand out and be something that not only took people by surprise but also at least meet the expectations of the viewers. Day of the Doctor was an inspired piece of entertainment, that certainly fulfilled and exceeded my expectations!

I have to say, hats off to Steven Moffat. In the past, it has been an up and down ride for him, a lot of criticism being thrown at him over the years since he took over Russel T. Davies’ tenure as lead writer, but, in this slightly longer episode, Moffat’s writing really paid off, especially with the tension and drama he created with it.

The seamless merger of three timelines in the form of Smith, Tennant and Hurt was miraculous and surprisingly worked really well. The ‘what the hell is going on’ opening where Smith was being flown across London while hanging from the bottom of the TARDIS was the perfect introduction to the madness of the rest of the episode. From there, we were dropped straight into a fast paced drama, where a  gathering momentum lead to reveals over the events of the Time War, including the role of John Hurt and how it was this incarnation of The Doctor that did the fateful deed.

One of the aspects I was most looking forward to with the 50th anniversary episode was being able to see Matt Smith and David Tennant play their respective Doctors side by side – I couldn’t wait to see how this played out. It was striking how you could see the differences between the two actors and also the different characteristics between the two Doctors. This was highlighted for me by the humour exchanged between the two, often using old favourites and trademarks related to each character. John Hurt also bought a lot to the role, with offering a much more stern and ‘warrior-like’ attire and personality to that of Smith and Tennant. He acted almost as their father figure at times, creating a few very funny moments when he’d be telling himself off. Or making fun of Smiths’ age!

It wouldn’t be Doctor Who without the assistants however, and this time there were two. Jenna Coleman returns as Smith’s companion Clara who continues to fit the role enormously well, having scenes with all three Doctors and also coming across as a anchor for the Doctors and who they really are deep down. Billie Piper returns as “Bad Wolf” (oh my god!!) who took on an image that only Hurt’s Doctor could see. Performing a rather different persona to that of Rose Tyler, she fulfils herself very well, adding an intriguing dynamic between herself and Hurt. It would have been nice to have had a scene with Tennant and Piper again though, alas we cant have it all!

Doctor WhoThere’s too much else to add into this review without giving too much away, but it’s fair to say between the Daleks, the Zygons, Gallifrey, all the Doctors (oh yes – ALL of them…) it truly was something special. On that last note, it has to be said that the little cameos in the episode: mostly with CGI, but Tom Baker was there, sans scarf, and even Peter Capaldi (we screamed when he appeared on screen) were just the perfect touch, really bringing in the entire 50 years of history in one of the best 5 minutes of TV this year, if you ask me.

The thing is, the story of it was a bit… pushing it at times, if you start to think about it too much it gets quite annoyingly impossible. There must be some convoluted plan in Moffat’s head somewhere, and I can’t wait until he reveals that all. He’s said before that Peter Capaldi’s character in the Fires of Pompeii episode will not be ignored either, so maybe there’s something there! Either way, it won’t be long before we find out, only having to wait for a month and not half a year as it usually is.

You’ve also got the horrible problem that now John Hurt’s restored to the Doctor’s timeline, Matt Smith was the 12th – the Valeyard… but the more you think about it the less incredible the episode becomes. So no more thinking about it.

I would strongly recommend you watch The Day of the Doctor, if you haven’t already. Even if you haven’t seen Doctor Who in a while or feel you have lost your way – even if you’ve never seen it before in your life, if there was ever an episode that would get you into it this would be it.

Bring on the Christmas special, where we will say a sad farewell to Matt Smith in what looks to be another epic Doctor Who episode from the small preview gave us after the 50th.