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.
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.
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.
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.
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.