DW 50th: The Day of the Doctor Review #2: Trust Them, They Are the Doctors…

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*Contains NO spoilers

As a rule, I’m always leery of stunt programming when it comes to TV specials.  Whenever some TV executive has the bright idea to create some sort of “Reunion Special” for a show that I like, my initial thought is always, “Why mess with a good thing?”  So when Doctor Who announced earlier this year that both David Tennant and Billie Piper would be back for the 50th anniversary special, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of trepidation to go along with my usual level of geeking out.  As a new school Whovian (no I haven’t seen all the black and white eps from the 70’s), Tennant is by far my favorite Doctor in the series.  And the thought of seeing him match wits and sonic screwdriver sizes with the current Doctor was quite promising.  Yet thinking back on Tennant’s run as the Doctor, I couldn’t help but think about how perfect his final story arc was.  And his final words, “I don’t want to go,” still cause it to get a little dusty in the TV room whenever I hear it.  It was the Sci-Fi equivalent of dropping the mic and walking off stage.  It was Michael Jordan hitting the last shot to win his 6th NBA championship.  And to bring Tennant back was akin to watching Michael Jordan getting outplayed by scrubs on the Washington Wizards.  Or so I worried…

image But as it turns out, thankfully, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Instead, the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor, proved to be a master class in both casting and storytelling, perfectly reintegrating the Tenth Doctor into the current storyline, but also leaving room for both Doctors to showcase their unique sensibilities.  Doctor Who has always had to perform a delicate balancing act of being both fantastical, and yet “scientifically” plausible (within the scope of Doctor Who Science, that is).  And often times, that requires it to downplay time travel paradoxes and such with a bit of Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey hand waving.  But in this episode, Steven Moffat embraces the time travel elements of the show, using the fact that there are three Doctors spanning centuries of time to great effect.

And about those three Doctors.  We really couldn’t have asked for a better trio to take part in this special.  John Hurt is remarkable as the “War Doctor”, showcasing a true sense of conflict in the decision he has to make to kill millions in order to save billions.  Matt Smith is his usual, cocksure and self-unaware character, able to toss off a fun quip in the face of a Zygon invasion.  But more than anything, what really made this special stand out was the return of the Tenth.  And what a return it is!  When he first comes on screen, romancing Elizabeth I in Renaissance England, it’s as if he never left us.  Tennant slips so comfortably back into his Chuck Taylors, dazzling with a mix of his usual charm and fast talking explanations.  And watching him banter with Smith throughout the episode reminded me of how much I miss Tennant as the Doctor.  This is no slight on Smith, who has done an outstanding job in creating his own unique take on the Doctor.  But seeing Tenant back and doing “Doctor things” reminded me of all the fun I had watching his various adventures with Rose, Martha, and Donna.

The episode is littered with Doctor Who easter eggs, which will fly right by the casual observer, but cause cries of enjoyment for a true Whovian (I’ve never seen a pair of eyes cause more screams of delight in my life…if you know what I mean).  And the story itself does an outstanding job of creating a plausible reason to bring the three doctors together, while still staying true to the Doctor Who canon.

The expectations for this 50th anniversary special were almost unfairly high.  Yet Steven Moffat and company somehow managed to find a way to please just about everyone.  There might be a better TV special episode that’s been created before.  But basking in the glow of the pocket universe that now holds Gallifrey, I really can’t think of another one.  And though some may argue that the special creates a bit of a paradox in itself (if Gallifrey never fell, how does that impact all that has transpired in the past), I’ll say to them, well it’s all just kinda Timey Wimey…stuff.

To see the other review and recap, click here.

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