Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Day of the Doctor Musings

Let's get the obvious thing out of the way first. Coal Hill School has moved location at some point in the last 50 years. Either that or Ian and Barbara were extremely lazy - taking the car just to go round the corner. No wonder Susan had no problem with walking home, even on the foggiest of nights.
In 2013, Ian Chesterton is Chairman of the Board of Governors at the school, so he probably knows the new teacher, Clara Oswald.
The opening of The Day of the Doctor wasn't what I expected. First of all, we had the Hartnell opening titles - and no 2013 ones. This story's titles were simply played over the footage of the TARDIS being brought by helicopter to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. A couple of nice gags early on - my favourite being that the Tower of London ravens are battery operated. High visibility UNIT operations are put down to Derren Brown. We don't see him, but Malcolm is still scientific adviser.
We have two stories going on. One in the present day involving an invasion attempt by the Zygons - invading the present from the Elizabethan past via some paintings. This all proves to be a bit of a McGuffin of sorts - giving the Three Doctors the means by which they can change the course of events of the Last Great Time War, and therefore their own lives. It's the moment of the Moment that the story is really about. We all thought Billie was back as companion Rose, but she's really the device's interface with its user. It has selected an image from his future (Bad Wolf Rose) to reason with him. The Moment is a sentient device, hidden in the Omega Archives on Gallifrey, and stolen by the War Doctor. It basically makes you think about the consequences of using it.
The true nature of Billie's role is one of the big surprises. There are two others which should have got everyone dancing round the room - the appearance of the "Thirteenth" Doctor, and the Curator. Quite who the latter was we don't know. He implies he is an older Fourth Doctor but equally says things which contradict this.

Quite what the numbering of Doctors actually is, I am a bit lost. We were told beforehand that this wouldn't affect the present numbering, but Hurt was quickly added to the Doctor profiles image, and he clearly comes between McGann and Eccleston. We saw both regenerations - between this and The Night of the Doctor. Having now not used the Moment, he is also entitled to the name of Doctor.

The interplay between the Three Doctors very much reminded me of that particular 1972 / 3 story. Hurt took the Hartnell role (the exasperated "older" man who is not wholly impressed by his successors) whilst Tennant & Smith indulged in some Troughton / Pertwee friendly rivalry (even reusing the TARDIS redecoration joke).
Nice to see Moffat being a little self-deprecating ("timey-wimey" sounding childish etc). The increased amount of snogging in the new series was also referenced, but the War Doctor should have known about this - his immediate predecessor having started this (unwelcome) tradition.
That "game changing" phrase was bandied about prior to transmission, and I suppose this actually applies for once. The Time War arc has been wrapped up for now - Gallifrey frozen in time and deposited in a pocket Universe somewhere. The Doctor has had the burden of guilt lifted from him, and now has a new goal in life - to finally go home. Unfortunately, we might have to wait another 50 years to see the homecoming.

Bottom line: did I enjoy it? Yes I did. Was it perfect? No. I do think that casual viewers would have been confused. There were quite a lot of continuity references to plough through. I would personally have preferred it to have concentrated on a single story-line.
Was it a celebration of 50 years of Doctor Who? Partly. There were plenty of nods to the past - from the photographs of the old companions, Tom and the Zygons, props in the UNIT Black Archive, Hurt's TARDIS design, the events of The Three Doctors having a UNIT file code-named "Cromer"... We were also left with that wonderful image of all 12 Doctors standing together.
In a way, however, The Day of the Doctor was much more the End of Part One for "Nu-Who".

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