The day of the Doctor (50th anniversary special)
Clever boys. 85+%
As all Who fans (Whovians…!) would know, this feature length episode of the famous serial was screened around the world at the same time yesterday (6:50 a.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Savings time on 24/11/2013). In fact, perhaps in a first for the series, it even got a short run at the cinemas…and is still playing today, at least (25/11/2013). I passed on the opportunity to see it in the cinema – in 3D no less! – due to feeling trepidation at how good it would be plus having to fork out $25 for the ‘privilege’. Turns out that this episode is in fact one of the best ever, right up there (in my estimation) with the classics of the revived series, like “Blink”, “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The empty child” (that last one only got bumped in my estimation after seeing it in repeat some years later). No doubt there are many classic stories of the “Classic” series, but I saw them as a child and hesitate to list them here.
I’ll briefly deal with the plot before having my say about the revived series versus the Classic series. The revived series at some point began mentioning some cataclysmic war between the Time Lords and one of the Doctor’s great adversaries, the Daleks. It comes to light that in one regeneration, the Doctor ended that war (“The Time War”) by destroying every last Dalek as well as his own home planet (“Gallifrey” ) and people (“Time Lords”). This movie finally provides more information on that narrative which had only previously been alluded to. No doubt it is common knowledge that at least two regenerations of the Doctor feature in this movie (the current one, played by Matt Smith, and the previous one, played by David Tennant) due to the promotional art for this release…as seen in the graphic for this review. We also see the unDoctor (responsible for ending The Time War), played by John Hurt. This narrative device (i.e. multiple Doctors appearing together) has been deployed a handful of times, starting in the Classic series..actually, all of them were in that series…until now. Did come across information yesterday (i.e. 24/11/2013) explaining that this device was always assocatiated with significant anniversaries for the series. I do know that there is a (mutual?) admiration society between the creator of the classic “Buffy the vampire slayer” series (Joss Whedon), and the people behind the revived Doctor Who (Russell T. Davies, I think). In fact, I do remember buying some of the early “Buffy” comics which contined on the story from the final episode in that great tv series. One of those comics references Doctor Who via the inclusion of a blue police box in one scene. It would please me to think that Whedon would absolutely love this movie…but then again I do suspect that he would love even those episodes of the revived series which I undoubtedly hate.
On its own, “The day of the Doctor” is a terrific piece of entertainment. For those with a good knowledge of the Classic series and the revived series, it offers up many treats. Like the best of Whedon’s “Buffy” work, it is funny and witty and poignant. One of the best episodes of the revived series, no doubt.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten the bouquets out of the way, time for the brickbats. Part of the promotions for this movie feature the slogan “This changes everything”. That philosophy pretty much sums everything I hate about the revived series. Watching the revived series, I reflected on how it lacks compared to the Classic series. As I remember my childhood experiences watching the original series, I can now reflect on that and sum up the philosophy of the stories you got in that…”This changes nothing”. Davies’ philosophy seems to revise the history of the original series as well as making a franchise out of it, in the manner of Marvel Studios. He also pitched it more towards the American market, which was bad for it, I think.
For example, it seems to me that Davies had it in his head that the Classic series lacked strong female characters, so he would ‘rectify’ that. However, I feel like reminding him of the great Leela, from the Tom Baker years as the Doctor in the Classic series. Or Romana Mk.II, perhaps. Davies also seems to think that he could ‘rectify’ the absence of family for the companions in the Classic series. Watching Davies’ work it seems clear to me that the Classic series had it right all along…seeing as how boring and cringeworthy those scenes in the revived series were.
Don’t even get me started on those stories which had bits I wish I could get UNIT’s memory eraser to do its worst on me…episodes where folksy songs are sung to the glory of the Doctor (and Donna), that one where everybody on planet Earth chants the Doctor’s name and phones on him on their mobile phone. FFS!!
Nor does the Classic series have companions who usurped the importance of the Doctor…which the revived series does with monotonous regularity.
If I could define what I like the best about “The day of the Doctor” is how it rectifies its own missteps. With those above instances in mind, I wish we could have an “It was all dream!” resolution. This is the next best thing…well, close enough. I like what this movie has done and am favourbly disposed towards this series for its new journey. Now, if oly we can somehow off River Song from this journey…
Just in passing, I’ll note:
* Similar stories in the Classic series had the newer Doctors deferring to the First Doctor. I like how Matt’s Doctor is pivotal in this story.
* Didn’t like the Curator of the gallery aspect of the story…this seems an ill-conceived paradox which should have been avoided.
* It’s odd that the Time Lords (like the General and Hurt’s Doctor) use the word “God”.
* Also odd how Tennant’s Doctor calls the TARDIS “he”…after all, I think it may have been in his tenure that the TARDIS is personnified as female!
* The scope of “Rose” goes beyond what the narrative says of her.
* Marvellous eyebrow acting from Joanna Page as Queen Elizabeth I in her “body of a weak and feeble woman speech”. Page took a page from the definitive portrayal of QEI in “Blackadder II” by Miranda Richardson. Fortunately her character doesn’t go The Full Miranda, as that would be a fool’s errand.