I think Steven Moffat has given my brain indigestion. Even sleep didn’t untangle the knots he tied in my mind last night. It seems that The Day of the Doctor is an episode that genuinely requires two passes – the first to follow the plot, the second to absorb the story.
The first viewing left me a little deflated – there were so many good things in there, but it hadn’t moved me (and as you will know by now, I cry at the drop of hat – be it a fez or a stetson). A rewatching has, however, had me reaching for the tissues…
I can’t tell you if this is a reflection on my diminishing abilities to keep up with the Moff’s timey-wimey plotting, or a change in the way the man writes.
(Spoilers of many things 50th-related below the line…)
It has been a good 50th anniversary. I loved The Night of the Doctor (though it has inevitably left me wanting more of the Eighth Doctor on screen). An Adventure in Space and Time made me sob (everything from “I don’t want to go” to Matt Smith’s surprise appearance). And I will take as much of the Tenth Doctor, and his ‘amazing hair’, as I can get (I’m sticking with the old numbers until teh internetz decide where we go with this sticky wicket).
It’s taken me until now to realise that, of course, The Day of the Doctor was always going to need to be bigger on the inside. And that that is why it needs more than one pass. It’s telling a huge story in terms of the Doctor’s personal landscape and at the same time honouring fifty years of Whoniverse.
The story, despite the back-and-forth timey-wimeyness and background Zygons, is a simple one: how the Doctor came to commit genocide on an unimaginable scale and how that atrocity shaped the man who has been on our screens since 2005.
I love that Moffat demands our concentration for his telly. You give even a tiny slither of your brain to Twitter and you will lose something – a big plot point or a small sly gag. Having said that, this did go in a logical straight line, if not a temporal one, and having substituted a gun above a fireplace for a Time Lord painting on an easel, fulfilled all my strict Chekovian requirements while finding a new solution to an old problem. I’m happy for “unsynced time streams” to take the blame for a happy ending (for Eleven anyway) that his previous incarnations can’t remember.
And while the story’s good, it’s everything else that makes my heart sing. We have more nods to the past than a parcel-ledge bulldog in a car on a cobbled street.
The first minute alone gave us a policeman echoing both the start and finish of An Unearthly Child, a Tardis-blue sign pointing to the Totter’s Lane scrapyard and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to Ian Chesterton (chair of school governers) on the school sign. (I’d love to know if Doctor Who used to air at 5.15 too – the clock that Clara rides past has to be significant.)
Then there are the ‘birds wheeling in an alien sky’ as the Doctor trudges across the desert with the stolen Moment, the “round things” on the War Doctor’s ‘desktop’ (and what looks like genuine adoration on David Tennant’s face for them), the well-worn “you’re redecorated – I don’t like it” line, and TOM BLOOMIN’ BAKER for goodness sake.
Other Things I loved:
- the joke about the ravens needing new batteries
- the return of Osgood – and her fabulous Fourth scarf
- sciencey flirting
- finding out why Elizabeth I was so furious with the Doctor back in The Shakespeare Code
- The Moment’s Bad Wolf Girl-shaped conscience telling the Doctor that he’s “stuck between a girl and a box, the story of your life…”
- “We’re going to need a new horse.”
- Puncturing Ten’s occasional pompousness. “I’m the Doctor, I’m 904 years old, I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Casterborous, I’m the Oncoming Storm, the bringer of darkness and you … are basically just a rabbit, aren’t you? Okay, carry on, just a general warning.”
- Making the Doctor his own companion and all the tetchy interaction between the Doctors, but especially the War Doctor taking the piss out of Ten and Eleven’s posturing with the sonic screwdriver (“What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?”) and “GERONIMO!” – “ALLONSY!” – “For God’s sake…”
- The wheeze and groan of the Tardis engine’s bringing hope to anyone who hears them, however lost, even the War Doctor.
- Thirteen Doctors… and I’m already loving the frown on the newest face.
- Speaking of which, the smile on John Hurt’s face in the moment before he regenerates is a lovely thing. As is the misplaced optimism about the conspicuousness of his new ears.
But none of this would mean a thing without the talents of the three leads. John Hurt is pure class, and a perfect foil to the boyish Tennant and Smith. All their Doctors have experienced a world of hurt, and each shows us in a subtly different way. My heart broke a little for Eleven’s vulnerability when Kate Lethbridge-Stewart unveils the Queen’s credentials and he reaches for Clara’s hand.
There’s a reason so many people say David Tennant is their favourite Doctor and it’s not just the handsome face and the amazing hair – it’s that combination of promoted fanboy and astounding talent which lifts him above the fantastic contributions of his predecessors. I do hope we’ll get another chance to travel with him – even if we do have to wait ten years or more.
As for Matt Smith, he’s been a brilliant Doctor from the word go (or, in his case Geronimo) and I’m dreading his leaving almost as much as I did David Tennant’s.
Was this a fitting tribute to a beloved character on his fiftieth anniversary? *Tenth Doctor voice* “Oh, yes!”
So, here’s to another fifty years and a trip to Trenzalore for Christmas. Don’t bother bringing the Scrabble…
Posted by Jo the Hat