Six Smart Women Discussing Doctor Who

Disclaimer: Please don’t expect this to be a witty, intellectual review or for it to contain great insight into the show and the show’s history. It won’t. It will however be written with a lot of squeeing, happiness and love for a program that means a lot to me. I’ll talk about both the episode and the energy leading up to the episode so if you’re allergic to talk about fandom, fans and feelings best to just stop now.

If you haven’t seen Day of the Doctor then go watch it, I’ll wait.

Done? Good.

Let’s begin.

Now that I’m sure you’ve seen the program, I can dispense with the horrible summary that always begins every review ever and know that I can say whatever I please without risk of spoilers.

Let me get this off my chest first: those space battles between the Daleks and Gallifrey were awesome and combined with the war room scenes I had blissful memories of The Phantom Menace, something I didn’t think I’d ever say about Doctor Who. I’ll now continue for anyone still reading.

I went to see The Day of the Doctor in 3D at a local theatre. We arrived almost 3 hours early to no line and about 30-40 people already seated in the theatre waiting. This was a very interesting group of fans and amidst buzzing sonics and TARDIS dresses aplenty, a group of about eight fans had pitched in to get a cord to hook their iPad up to the big screen. So before the main event we watched Nightmare in Silver and The Name of the Doctor. A couple of theatre employees setup an impromptu costume contest, giving away movie passes to five fans dressed as various incarnations of the Doctor and a TARDIS.

Jon Pertwee, Patrick Troughton in the Five Doctors

Now to the story. I’ve proclaimed my love for multi-Doctor stories to anyone who will listen (Dimensions in Time anyone? Anyone?) so it’s not a surprise that that aspect of the story appealed to me outright. The first Doctor Who story I saw was The Five Doctors (a starting point I don’t recommend to new fans coming to the show) because we got to see the Doctor reacting to different incarnations of himself and saw what life in the TARDIS might have been like if say, Tegan had joined forces with the First Doctor. The plot didn’t need to be strong or even very interesting to keep my attention, and because we had many Doctors, it didn’t matter if one of them wasn’t exactly my favourite.

This brings me to the first big thing that surprised me: the amount I adored David Tennant’s Doctor in this story in combination with Matt Smith and John Hurt. We often say how “manic” the Tenth Doctor is but when compared to the Eleventh Doctor he’s a downright sloth! If David Tennant’s Doctor was compared to say, a puppy, then Matt Smith’s Doctor would definitely have all the attention span and energy of a ferret or a kitten high on espresso.

Perhaps it was this “toning down” of his character or the contrast between Doctors that made me enjoy the performance Tennant gave to us;  perhaps it was the fact Tennant was without a companion. The Tenth Doctor is very companion-dependant, and I think without a companion he becomes a more mature character. Yes, he did some showing off around Clara but not nearly as much as he would have if Rose was actually there to impress. I think it was an extremely smart decision to not actually have Rose come back, at least not the Rose we knew.

I know the Ten/Rose shippers are upset; I’ve seen a few comments on twitter and tumblr that they feel cheated and were led to believe that she would be coming back to interact with Tennant. I’m sorry they feel cheated but I feel the episode would have suffered if she was properly “there” as Rose.

That brings me to Billie Piper’s performance.

For as much as I like to express my displeasure with Tennant’s Doctor, I express doubly that amount with Rose. I know we are supposed to identify with her and she is the gateway into the Doctor’s world, but I’ve never seen her as anything more than an attempt at a love interest for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. I don’t feel she ever represented me and that feeling has extended to a lot of the companions in the new series (until Clara). However in this episode Billie Piper is representing ‘Bad Wolf’ and offers a face to the Moment’s operating system. Her performance is brilliant. She is sarcastic, mocking, fun, and perhaps even a bit on the darker side. She has a purpose and one she fulfills extremely well. Like the Tenth Doctor has Billie Piper’s Rose gotten a bit more mature? Is this simply Moffat flexing his writing muscles and bringing more to her character? I’m not sure, and I doubt I’ll ever know for sure, but I can say her performance hit me in a way that the original Rose didn’t.

This episode had something for everyone. Here comes the fangirling.

Day of the Doctor Opening

I’ll admit I stifled a squeal of glee (I was in a theatre after all) upon seeing the black and white opening and then again when they showed the I.M. Foreman junkyard sign and Coal Hill school. There was “I. Chesterton” on the sign! I was giddy, this was paying homage not just to the classic series but the very first episode of Doctor Who!

This whole episode was like a love letter and an apology all rolled into one. It was for all the episodes of the new series that may have seemed to be ashamed of or refused to acknowledge the classic series. There was a time when Doctor Who first came back that people were worried that new fans might not stick around if too many references were made to the classic series. Now they were confident enough they practically shoved those same fans directly into classic series references whether they understood or not. Classic opening, classic monsters, classic places and so many images of classic companions if you knew what to look for.

The 50th anniversary was designed to appeal to as many different people as possible. In Doctor Who fandom people come from many different paths. We have classic fans, new series fans and people who start with Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures. This is how fandom is created.

On Verity! I often talk of fandom and how it can influence and shape peoples’ lives as well as the show they love. Joining into a fandom can completely change how you view the show, for better or for worse. This episode managed to contain so much love for its fans and for the show itself and yet it somehow didn’t tip over into pandering. It felt like genuine love about a show the writer genuinely loved. There should be no doubt in your mind that Steven Moffat loves Doctor Who.

Even the extended format, simulcasting it all over the world and airing in theatres brought the fans together. I’m sure there were fans that have never before met another fan of Doctor Who now suddenly they were watching alongside other fans. It was more than just a UK thing. We had parties, celebrations, and marathons all over the world. We had expressions of copious amounts of pure love for a show that has aired for five decades.

Osgood (Scarf Girl)

This all started before November 23rd. Days before I started stalking the #doctorwho hashtag on tumblr and on many occasion my eyes welled up because of the stories people were posting there. Just like Osgood (scarf girl) keeps saying that the Doctor will save them, the show has changed us. I’ll be brief and I’m not doing it all justice but take a look for yourself. People were saying so many things including: the show helped build their self-esteem, helped them find friends and for some it gave them a reason to live.

Personally, Doctor Who has given me so many wonderful things including people I can’t imagine not having in my life. I happily sport a TARDIS tattoo because of it.

“Doctor Who day” saw my tumblr inbox fill with messages from friends wishing me a happy Doctor Who day and hoping I enjoyed the special. These people don’t even watch the show! The buzz about it was enough that even those in other fandoms couldn’t ignore what was going on.

That same buzz made me appreciate what I’ve been saying for a long time now; Doctor Who is my foundation fandom. I may go months without consuming anything relating to Doctor Who but the moment it’s brought up or I sit down and watch an episode I’m transported back to all the happiness it has brought me in the past.

As Stan says in early episodes of South Park, “I learned something today.” I don’t dislike the Tenth Doctor nearly as much as I thought I did. Watching the Tenth Doctor acknowledge his character traits and faults right along side the Eleventh Doctor gave me reason to reconsider some of the things I’ve said about his era. I may not agree with certain aspects of his stories, and I certainly don’t agree with his relationship with Rose, but he plays a key part of the Doctor’s personality. We need that regret and emotion about what he had to do in the Time War to mould the new regeneration just as I hope all this newly found happiness will help mould Capaldi’s Doctor.

It all boils down to this: I can only express through half-formed sentences and inarticulate noises how much I enjoyed this episode. I’m sure there were plot holes, issues with the characters and places where there could be improvement but I don’t want to talk about any of those things. I just want to enjoy all the happiness this episode brought me and share that happiness with anyone who would listen. This was an amazing episode and I think when I finish writing this I will watch it again. That makes viewing number 3, a number usually reserved for classic episodes and rarely done with new series episodes. Those stats speak for themselves.

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Comments on: "Episode 29 – Katrina’s Two Cents" (6)

  1. Kat, this is a wonderful piece. I’m so glad you loved the episode so much!

    I think it’s important in such a large and time-rich fandom as Doctor Who to keep an open mind about how we feel about particular incarnations and iterations of the characters or show. What you said about coming to a new appreciation of David Tennant’s Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose hit home for me – you never know when you’ll watch the one story at the right time that completely changes all your feels! (well, some of them)

    In recent years, I’ve come to a much deeper appreciation of the Sixth Doctor, largely because of his Big Finish plays (I know, desperately original response, right?) and what a lovely person he seems to be in interviews etc. I bring that to watching his stories, many of which I didn’t actually watch when I was young & inhaling the Classic Series because my Mum had an equally original bias against his Doctor back in the 80′s.

    Also in my 30′s I’ve been moving further and further away from Tom Baker, a Doctor who I generally enjoy watching and yet… more and more I felt that he was if not overrated then certainly over-talked-about, and while I still loved many of his stories, I became less and less connected to his take on the character. This has held true through his recent Big Finish renaissance – I pretty much listen to them for Mary Tamm and Louise Jamieson rather than Baker himself.

    But watching the special and his appearance in it, I got hit by SO MANY nostalgia bombs at once, I found myself loving him all over again, like I did when I was a kid, purely because my Mum (she seriously warped me, people) told me he was the best Doctor

    In short, Tom Baker made me cry last weekend, because I was so happy to see him. and I wonder now how I’ll feel about him as a Doctor next time I watch one of his stories. I’ll probably cry again. Damn it.

  2. Katrina,
    First of all, I really enjoyed this blog post you’ve written, as you covered a number of my thoughts, beginnings of thoughts, and feelings regarding this episode and other DW matters in general. I had originally missed every chance to see this landmark (in regards to the reboot series) until my sister played it on dvr for me to watch with my niece (who brought in to the DW fold). Just several hours earlier we had a very in depth and serious conversation regarding the show, the show runner, the writing (especially as it relates to grief in all facets), and a few other items that I’ll reference as I comment.

    My very first memory of DW was an episode with Tom Baker, which I only remember his appearance and nothing else, as it was a very long time ago, as I was a child and it somehow got shown on American Forces Network, Germany. My very first episode that I watched of the reboot was a Christmas Special with Matt Smith…the one with the man with amnesia who thought HE was DW. I have absolutely no experience other than a memory of Tom Baker, with the original incarnation of the series, so my need for the Time War and the destruction of Galifrey is not as long lived as yours and others, but when I realized that the subject would FINALLY be broached, I was immediately engrossed in the episode.

    As with many people, during my viewing of all the episodes with the Tennant/Piper pairing, I thought it was the greatest thing since breathing air. But this is probably due to me not having any true idea of the past relationships between DW and his companions from the original series, or a more informed perspective that I’m currently gaining from your show and Radio Free Skaro. I had zero baseline. As I progressed through the series, I looked back at the pairing as being akin to having a boy/girl friend relationship in 8th grade. Silly, sophomoric, and as you said, an excuse to allude to a romance for the Doctor.

    Which brings me to this point. In that pairing, a young under experienced actress in her early 20′s was playing a 19 year old girl, that was paired up with a classically trained actor who’s portraying a powerful, lonely, alien who hasn’t realized his full potential and power because he’s dealing with raw powerful emotions based on guilt. So I can also see how this type of “silly” relationship would be necessary for both parties involved. Now let me be honest, Billie Piper did a FANTASTIC job in this role; to coin a cliché, she put on a clinic. As it can often be in television serials of this nature, the minor roles can actually make or break the episode, so I believe it is a testament to her ability and her execution that she was put in that role.

    While I was very pleased, surprised, entertained, and in awe of Ms. Piper, what really had me pulled in was how extremely well all three actors did together. This is my first time seeing multiple doctors being used at the same time (remember I’ve yet to see classic DW), but it was still something special and great to me. I honestly can’t put to words any better than I have, and I still feel I’m not doing it any justice.

    As a fan that has been easily suckered in to each and every episode he’s viewed, I feel like I’m almost at peace. The issue of the Time War, the destruction of Galifrey, and the unresolved heart ache/break that DW felt, all felt like the big elephant sitting in the corner of the room that no one could talk about. Like a millstone hung around the neck of a Smurf. I can’t say how sick I had gotten of the references to it, the questions about it, and the vague dismissals from DW about it. THEY FINALLY CONFRONTED AND CLOSED THE DAMNED DOOR ON IT! I’m excited to see as time goes by, the approach taken to it, if any, and where DW goes from here.

    On the negative side, though, Katrina, I’m very curious as to what they’ll use in it’s place as a…issue/dark place for the doctor. I don’t believe that they can now have Matt Smith finish out his run as a generally happy go lucky bohemian DW without it seeming odd and out of place. Or have Capaldi start off that way and continue on that way for too long.

    Again, thank you for a very well done post.

    • Hi Mark! I think myself that we’re never going to get a totally angst free Doctor – but there are always potential new sources of angst along the journey! With Matt Smith/11 for example, there has been far more emphasis on the loss of Amy/Rory and the ongoing tragicomedy that is his romance/marriage with River Song. The Day of the Doctor is really the first time we’ve touched seriously on how the Time War Stuff continued to affect him. Likewise, the loss of Rose and then Donna were major touch-points for Tennant’s Doctor, as much as/rather than the Time War itself. The Doctor is always saying goodbye to people…

      Like you I think it’s great to see the door closed on this particular tragic backstory, freeing up the space for many future tragedies to come! Um. Possibly I shouldn’t have said that with quite so much glee… *pats poor Doctor*

  3. When I saw Tom Baker as the curator touch his nose, I knew. :)

  4. What a lovely piece, Kat. I find your thoughts on fandom particularly pertinent. I have always liked watching Doctor Who, but have only this year started taking tentative steps into fandom. I’m a more ‘passive’ fan; certainly not a creative one (I’m in total awe of all the amazing crafty fans out there), but I would say that being a fan has added to my life. Interestingly, the biggest benefit has been to my sense of identity as a person. It seems funny to me that the multiple faces of the Doctor have helped me to define who I am! (Maybe there is an essay in that idea; perhaps I can become one of the creative fans….)

    P.S. Tansy, I think you will find (at least in Australia) that Tom Baker is EVERYONE’S Mum’s favourite Doctor!

  5. I similarly find Tom Baker overrated/over-talked about/overexposed/over-defaulted. The same with David Tennant, but moreso. He’s enjoyable to watch, but I just resent that he’s “the only Doctor” or “the real Doctor” to so many people.

    However, when I think about the actors that are most integral to the history and longevity of the show, and cross off the ones that are no longer living, Tom Baker’s name is at the top of the list.

    Well, perhaps he’s second to William Russell, depending on how you rate importance. I still think the 50th should have had Eleven sitting down to tea with Ian and telling him how everything that he (the Doctor) is today is because of him (Ian) and Barbara. At least that happened in a comic, so I can’t get too upset.

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