TV & Radio
Doctor Who - The Day of the Doctor
It's as though somebody at the BBC has a time machine.
The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special Day of the Doctor arrived on DVD and Blu-ray 10 days after it aired on television.
Many, like the makers of The Doctor Who Podcast, will have seen this episode multiple times since its November 23 broadcast. Other more casual fans (yes I am a casual fan) only once before turning to the DVD or Blu-ray.
The memory of my first viewing includes my brother in law, an ice cream, a pair of 3D glasses and a cinema. My second viewing, computer in hand, was at home on the couch with my 6 year old daughter, who was supposed to be in bed, popping in and out of the room declaring she was not too scared to watch Doctor Who. I kept hitting pause, secretly delighted that she was taking such an interest in Doctor Who in its 50th anniversary year while her 7 and 3 year old brothers slept!
It was too dark, and I was too engrossed, to take notes first time around but I came away from the cinema strangely wishing I had not seen the episode because it was so good and nothing could repeat the experience of a first time viewing in 3D on Hoyts Te Awa's screen in Hamilton.
Matt Smith's, erm, 11th Doctor is swept up into an adventure with past versions of himself. David Tennant is back as the, erm, 10th Doctor and John Hurt introduced as the 9th. But, I hear you say, Christopher Eccleston was the 9th Doctor. Yes he was, but show runner Steven Moffat has made it abundantly clear that he was extremely frustrated that Eccleston would not make himself available to return for the special. So in steps John Hurt and, in the space of 70 odd minutes, Doctor Who history is rewritten.
Moffat was able to ret con Hurt into the show's continuity by having 8th Doctor Paul McGann regenerate into Hurt during an online seven minute special The Night of the Doctor.
Hurt, it is clear from the Series 7 finale, did something so despicable that all subsequent versions of the Doctor suppressed the memory. Fans have been speculating that it was the destruction of the Daleks and his own people, the Time Lords, in one fell swoop. But that's where the predictability of this story ends.
"Every moment in time and space is burning. It must end," Hurt's Doctor utters as he prepares to push the big red button that will end The Last Great Time War. But before he can a rip opens in time and space through which a fez, the favourite headgear of Smith's Doctor, appears.
Moffat spins a multi-layered tale. It skilfully weaves the stories of three of the most recent incarnations of the Doctors into one bigger fable which cleverly undoes the Doctor's back story.
From 1963 until 1996 the Doctor had been a renegade Time Lord, sometimes on the run from his own people for reasons he often kept close to his chest. From 2005 he was the last of the Time Lords, wallowing in self-pity for the sacrifice he made to end the war.
When The Day of the Doctor is done the Doctor is set on a new quest - to find his home planet of Gallifrey which he thought he had destroyed. Who better to send him on the quest than the legendary 4th Doctor Tom Baker?
The biggest question this raised is whether the curator played by Baker is a future incarnation of the Time Lord.
"In the years to come you might like to revisit a few, but just the old favourites," Baker teases in a goose-bump inspiring speech.
I got much more out of this celebratory story the second time around, mostly because I knew where its complex plot, which starts with the invasion of the earth by Zygons, was going.
There were many shout outs to past Doctor Who stories and so many great lines.
I loved Billie Piper's line to Hurt: "Look at you, stuck between a girl and a box. Story of your life?"
Hurt's line to Tennant and Smith were great: "Are you his companions? They get younger all the time . . . Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that? They're scientific instruments not water pistols. . . They are screwdrivers. What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?"
And, most telling of all, the rhetorical: "Do you have to talk like children? What is it that makes you so ashamed of being a grown up?"
His final line echoed Hartnell's last line, and is prescient of Eccleston. "Wearing a bit thin . . . I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time."
Tennant's critique of the ever changing TARDIS interior is reminiscent of previous multi Doctor stories where past Doctors pass comment on current Doctors and their mode of travel. "Ah you redecorated. I don't like it."
Finally we get to hear why the Doctor chose that name, rather than another.
"Never cruel or cowardly, never give up, never give in."
The most British of all Doctor Who moments comes at the end of the episode when the three Doctors land their version of the TARDIS alongside each other and have a good old chinwag over a cup of tea about their experience.
"I don't want to go," says Tennant as he leaves the party making it still Tennant's last line as the Doctor whichever way you look at it. "He always says that," Smith retorts.
The Blu-ray version comes with a lot of special features. The Last Day and The Night of the Doctor prequels, Behind the Lens documentary voiced by 6th Doctor Colin Baker, Doctor Who Explained doco and a couple of great trailers.
I'm hoping to still be around when the series turns 100, but before then I hope to catch the celebratory An Adventure in Space and Time which details the genesis of the show.