Saturday, November 30, 2013

Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Special: "The Day of the Doctor" (#SavetheDay)

"The Day of the Doctor"
Original Airdate: November 23, 2013

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep – slowly and then all at once.”

While John Green’s poignant and oft-quoted line has been utilized to describe the deepest and most profound love… it also pretty aptly sums up how it feels to be in a fandom, doesn’t it? You never anticipate falling headfirst into a television series, but somehow – for a vast majority of us, at least – we DO. It’s this wild and wacky ride down a rabbit hole.

I started Doctor Who by complete happenstance when I was perusing television series on Netflix one evening. And the rest, as they say, is history. Recently, Doctor Who celebrated its 50th birthday, which is quite a feat, making it the longest-running science fiction series on television. It is with good reason that this series is so beloved: though the face of The Doctor has changed over the years, though there have been numerous monsters and companions and writers and showrunners, one thing has remain unchanged: this is a story about a mad man with a box who is desperately trying to save the world, but who also – more often than not – needs to be saved by the humanity he is attempting to protect. The Doctor may be the heart(s) of this series, but the companions are the soul and backbone.

“The Day of the Doctor” is the 50th birthday episode of Doctor Who, and it perfectly encapsulates everything that the series does: humor, heart, a touch of horror and – most importantly – humanity. It was quite effortful to attempt to review the nearly 90 minute episode, but I have decided to break my review down into categories, pinpointing the particular elements of the episode that wove so brilliantly into the fabric of the overarching story.

So, if you’re ready, grab your sonic screwdriver and let’s dive into “The Day of the Doctor”!

A Recap of Plot:

  • Eleven and Clara are picked up by Kate Stewart of U.N.I.T and brought to the Tower of London. The Doctor has been sent for, you see, by Queen Elizabeth the First (don’t worry about the timey-wimey nature, as Clara is). The pair are shown the queen’s “credentials,” by Kate – an oil painting of Arcadia, the second city of Gallifrey, falling. The painting, titled “No More,” stirs up emotions within Eleven as he reveals to Clara that he was there that day. That he, or rather the one incarnation he never speaks of, committed a horrendous crime.
  • The War Doctor (the incarnation between the 8th and the 9th Doctor) carves a message into the wall as he exterminates (HAHAHAHAHAHA, see what I did there?) some Daleks. The message reads “NO MORE,” but the Daleks are understandably confused. What does it MEAN? In the War Room, Gallifrey’s leaders are convening and the war looks quite grim from where Gallifrey stands. But someone has breached the Time Vaults, which is now their main concern, and stolen a weapon of mass destruction called The Moment. That person is The Doctor.
  • The War Doctor decides to end the war the only way he knows how – by using The Moment to destroy everything, including himself. The Moment warns that there are always consequences to actions like these… and his consequence will be that he survives the Time War. His consequence is to bear the burden of guilt all the days of his life. That’s a pretty hefty consequence, no?
  • We’re reintroduced to Ten as he and Queen Elizabeth frolick around in 1562 England where the pair encounter a Zygon – a shape shifting alien that’s rather unpleasant-looking. Ten is his normal, charming, endearing self in this special and as soon as David Tennant returned to my screen, I was reminded of why I missed him in the first place. Tenant brings such a clever boyishness to his role as The Doctor. He’s suave and charming and handsome and also brilliant. 
  • Queen Elizabeth runs away from the Zygon in the woods, only to have the Zygon assume her form, which means that Ten cannot tell which is the real Elizabeth and which is the alien (his timey-wimey detector is malfunctioning). At that moment, a time fissure opens (the same that just recently appeared in Gallifrey to The War Doctor and The Moment) and… a fez falls out of it. The fez in Ten’s time is from Elevn in the under-gallery while the fez from The War Doctor’s time is also from Eleven, but a bit later when he meets up with Ten. Naturally, everyone is baffled by the fezzes and I’m baffled by why anyone would own one.
  • Eleven doesn’t just throw the fez into the time fissure; he jumps in himself and comes face-to-face with… uh, HIMSELF as Ten.
  • The three Doctors are in 1562, approached by the Queen’s army for bewitching her. Eleven utilizes the time fissure in order to speak with Clara. But back in London, something sketchy is a-brewing with the Zygons. Namely, there ARE Zygons in modern London and that ain’t good. But all three Doctors have more to be concerned with: one Elizabeth has returned and demands her army to arrest and send the three Time Lords to a tower. Eleven’s excited about this for one reason: he can send a message to Kate and Clara by carving it into the Tower which – in the future – also happens to be Kate’s office. Lucky girl.
  • Osgood, who has been examining dust on the floor of the entrance to the under-gallery, realizes that it is made up of granite and other stones. This allows her to come to the realization that the things that escaped the paintings… well, they smashed the statues and are now hiding where the statues used to be. Sure enough, she’s right! Unfortunately for her, a Zygon assembles Osgood’s form.
  • Clara and Kate head to the Tower of London and, specifically, a place called the Black Archives. The storage facility is so secret that those who work there and enter have their memories wiped as soon as they leave (apparently Clara has been there too but does not remember it).
  • Back in 1562, Ten, Eleven, and The War Doctor are doing a pretty bad job of saving themselves as they attempt to utilize their screwdrivers to do something sciencey-wiency to the door. (I zoned out at the mention of atoms and sub-atomic levels. I was an English major for a reason, y’all.) But The War Doctor is sassily asking WHY Ten and Eleven can barely look him in the eye. It’s because, as The  Moment explains, to them, he has already committed genocide. 
  • Once they escape, it’s back to the future for the Doctors Three and Clara once the real Elizabeth explains that she killed her Zygon twin and needs them all to save the past. Er, present. … Future? So the gang is back to London and headed to the Black Archive to save the world from a Zygon invasion. As they do. Unfortunately over at the Black Archive, Kate and her team have confronted the Zygons and reveal that there’s a countdown clock: a five-minute warning that unless the Zygons abandon Earth, Kate will blow up the Archive and London with it in order to save the planet.
  • The Doctors and Clara cannot land the TARDIS at the Tower of London because it is TARDIS-proofed. But what they CAN do is utilize the status cube to insert themselves into the No More/Gallifrey Falls painting and emerge in the Archive. As Kate and Zygon!Kate argue, the three Doctors and Clara emerge from the painting with a plan: they initiate the Black Archive’s memory wiping technology so that no one in the room will remember if they are human or Zygon and will a) stop the countdown clock and b) negotiate a peace treaty. The plan works splendidly, of course.
  • The War Doctor tells The Moment that he is ready, and he returns to Gallifrey in order to wipe out his planet and the Daleks. But something happens… two somethings, really: Ten arrives in his TARDIS just as Eleven and Clara do similarly. They have come to be with The War Doctor, after recognizing the shame and pain with which they both buried that past version of themselves. And they shouldn’t have, they acknowledge, because The War Doctor is just as much a part of them as any other incarnation.
  • Eleven decides, as soon as Clara confronts him, that he made a promise a long time ago and that promise was to never give up or in and to be a doctor – THE Doctor – to those around him. Everyone celebrates because they’ve got a marvelous plan: they’re going to freeze Gallifrey just as the Zygons were frozen in the painting. Once they do, the Daleks will destroy each other in their own crossfire and Gallifrey will be tucked away and safe, albeit frozen in time. But it’s not just these three Doctors that are recruited for help – EVERY Doctor is enlisted (including the Twelfth Doctor!)
  • The Doctors return to present-day London, uncertain of whether or not their plan actually succeeded. But they tried and did the right thing and that, as The War Doctor states, is what matters.
  • As Eleven stares at his painting once everyone else has gone, the curator enters (IT’S TOM BAKER) and Eleven learns that the painting is not called “Gallifrey Falls,” nor is it called “No More.” Instead, it is called “Gallifrey Falls No More.” And this, of course, means that The Doctors Three have succeeded in their attempt to save their planet. And now, it is up to Eleven to go home.
First Watch Notes:

  • I must think like the Doctor because when I saw The Moment, I turned to my best friend Simi and said: “I feel like it needs to have a giant red button.”
  • Simi and I were quite good at figuring things out before they happened in this episode. However, I attribute Simi’s vocalization that the glass was broken from the inside to common sense. Or just a lot of crime show marathons.
  • I squealed and hit Simi’s arm when Eleven first came onto the screen with Ten.
  • Simi hilariously noted: “Couldn’t Osgood just tell the other tech about the statues AS they were escaping instead of waiting to tell him?”
  • “Think about it – Americans with the ability to rewrite history!” At that quote, Simi and I both said: “HEY!” and then followed it up with: “… but yeah, that’s true.”
Bring On the Laughs:
  • The scene with Ten intimidating a rabbit is one of the best things ever.
  • “Matchstick Man” is now my favorite nickname for Ten ever.
  • “One of them is a Zygon.” “Ewww – I’m not judging you.”
  • The War Doctor mistaking Ten and Eleven for the Doctor’s companions was PRICELESS.
  • “Timey what?” “I have no idea where he picks this stuff up.”
  • The Doctors discover a sciencey-wiency way to open the door… but Clara beats them to it by, you know, OPENING the door which had been unlocked the entire time. How many Doctors does it take to figure out that a door is unlocked? Apparently three.
  • “Oh, look! The round things!” “I love the round things.” “What ARE the round things?” “… No idea.”
Character - The Moment:

  • I really liked this concept for a weapon, to be honest, and it was a great way to get Billie Piper back without having to re-write canon (though of course Moffat is no stranger to that anyway). The Moment is a weapon of mass destruction with a humanized twist: it developed a conscience. And that conscience can judge you or talk you out of using it, which is why no one HAS.
Character - The War Doctor:
  • John Hurt FABULOUSLY portrayed this guilt-ridden, angry, frightened version of The Doctor who felt as if he had no choice but to destroy his own planet in order to save it. But he’s also sassy (pre-Nine WOULD be, wouldn’t he?) and comedic, too.

  • The Moment assumes the form of Rose Tyler-as-Bad-Wolf, presumably because it knows that this particular form will affect The Doctor. The Moment, however, gets a bit confused on the timey-wimeyness of everything (it’s okay, we do too) because this version of the Doctor hasn’t even MET Rose yet.
  • While in the under-gallery – a place where Queen Elizabeth kept “dangerous” art – Eleven and Clara discover that something has gotten out of a few paintings and it’s likely not good news. As he’s speaking, a time fissure opens up, which Eleven “almost remembers.” There’s a lot of that in “The Day of the Doctor”: time streams are crossed, the past and present and future all intersect and rather than try to explain it, or Moffat’s mind, I’ll just say that it’s all a bit wibbly-wobbly. Eleven seems to almost-remember his past as Ten, though Ten (and The War Doctor) will never remember their pasts (uh, futures?) with Eleven nor a huge decision they make at the end of the episode. It’s all timey-wimey.
  • In the Tower, Ten is interrogating The War Doctor, wondering WHY he sought them out. The Moment appears, visible only to The War Doctor, and instructs him to remain silent regarding her presence. The trouble is, The War Doctor doesn’t realize that what he hasn’t yet done has already happened in Ten and Eleven’s past.
  • Elizabeth reveals that the Zygons’ home planet burned during The Time War and they want to eventually inhabit Earth. But they must do so carefully. For instance, by utilizing a status cube (Time Lord technology to freeze a moment in time, as The War Doctor explains) to insert themselves into things like paintings, “so the Zygons are invading the future from the past.”
  • The Doctors – The War Doctor and Ten – won’t remember that they tried to save Gallifrey because of the time streams being out of sync. So that explains… oh, everything up until this point in the series canon-wise. Way to find a loophole, Moffat! (No, but really I commend him because he does this a lot. I think he’s starting to just write in timey-wimey addendums now.)
The Doctors Three:
  • The War Doctor – unaware that in Ten and Eleven’s universes, he’s already made the decision (THEY’VE already made the decision) to wipe out Gallifrey, appears in 1562 and the three Doctors meet. Ten is immediately confused and a tad agitated by the presence of the one face he wants least to see in the universe. BUT the most brilliant actor in this scene is Matt as Eleven. Go back to this moment and watch the utter pain and heartbreak on his face. It is SO palpable and gut-wrenching and makes me that much more sad to see Matt go.
Ten & Eleven:

  • I seriously enjoyed Tennant and Smith together SO much. They have an amazing rapport as each is quick-witted, sassy, and smooth as The Doctor. I would seriously watch an entire series with just them together. Can that be a thing that happens? As Kim tweeted a while ago, she feels like Nine and Ten are BOTH her Doctors; I feel the same about Ten and Eleven.
  • The scene in the Tower should earn these two all of the awards. And I love how The Moment describes them both – “The Man Who Regrets” (Ten) and “The Man Who Forgets” (Eleven). Ten was always full of self-loathing and – toward the end of his time on Earth – retreated back into intense darkness and despair. Eleven, conversely, carries the same amount of pain as Nine, Ten, etc. before him. That burden is difficult, nay, nearly IMPOSSIBLE to carry. So instead of remembering every waking moment of every day (which he claims not to do but as Clara explains later, must), he chooses to forget because it is less painful that way.
  • In the TARDIS, Ten and Eleven try to convince Kate NOT to blow up the whole city (I feel like  they’ve had to do this many times with many people) because it is a decision she can never un-do. In a bit of poignancy, Ten and Eleven realize that their current discussion applies to their decision to destroy Gallifrey as well.
Clara "Oswin" Oswald:

  • “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” What a fascinating and poignant way to open the special which centers around the Doctor’s biggest regret. We’ve had a lot of episodes talk about what it means to be a good man (see: “A Good Man Goes to War”) and I sincerely appreciate the opening being a thematic element, especially because it is CLARA who delivers the advice to her students and CLARA who is the one to save the Doctor from himself in the end.
  • What I love most about Clara (among numerous things) is that she is completely and totally unafraid to take control and save the day and The Doctor. When it turns out that Zygons were in the Black Archives with her and not Kate, the companion snaps Jack’s vortex manipulator to her wrist and teleports herself the heck out of there. Smart girl, isn’t she? I love Clara because she very rarely plays the damsel in distress. She’s quick-witted and intelligent and would much rather save herself and those around her than wait for The Doctor to do so.
  • It’s easy to forget that Clara has met every incarnation of The Doctor, with the exception of The War Doctor. But after the Zygons are stopped and treaties are negotiatied, Clara seeks out the old Doctor and gently begins to discuss The Doctor – HER Doctor – and how much sadness she sees in his eyes, how much regret she knows he feels for the day he destroyed Gallifrey. Clara is perceptive, too, because she’s the only one who recognizes that The War Doctor has yet to make that decision – that he can STILL change his future.
  • Can we just talk about the ways in which the Doctors complimented Clara at the end of the episode? This is the woman who – because of her decision to speak up and relationship with Eleven – saved an entire planet and prevented The Doctor from doing the one thing he regretted his entire life. So when The War Doctor departs, he tells her that he hopes to one day be half the man that she is. And when Ten departs, it is with a gesture of respect to the young woman as well.
Hurt & Piper:
  • These two actors were absolutely fabulous together. Admittedly, I was saddened by the fact that Rose/Bad Wolf wouldn’t ever have scenes with Ten or Eleven but The Moment-as-Bad-Wolf was just SO astounding. She and The War Doctor understood one another. She was always warning him, but never truly judging. She knew everything about him – absorbed his pain (you can see it on her face in their first scene right as she begins to talk about the children of Gallifrey) and channeled it back to him. They had such exquisite emotional moments together.
The Monster:
  • I know that Zygons are from Classic Who, but I found them a bit underwhelming, which I guess is all right in light of the sheer number of things that were happening in “The Day of the Doctor” to begin with. They seemed rather… meh. I know that they’re Classic monsters and that those who are Classic Who fans were excited to see their return, so I guess that’s really all I have to say. They served their plot point but otherwise I couldn’t have cared less about their presence in the episode. 
Continuity/Hidden Gems:

  • In “The Shakespeare Code,” Queen Elizabeth is older and not happy at all to see Ten. Chances are, that’s because he left after “The Day of the Doctor,” forgot about marrying her, and never returned. Whoops.
  • Ten has his timey-wimey detector that goes DING when there’s stuff (“Blink”) in this episode.
  • The episode opens with Elizabeth bestowing the role of curator of the gallery to The Doctor. And it is The Doctor that Eleven faces (it’s ambiguous, but I believe all signs point to Eleven facing a retired version of himself) in the gallery. The curator knows who Eleven is, and Eleven knows who he is because they never forget a face. 
  • What did you  notice in the Black Archives? Pictures of Rory, River Song’s famous red heels, Captain Jack Harkness’ vortex manipulator, those dreaded clamps from “Doomsday”? All in there!
  • When the curator (Four) tells Eleven that he will likely find himself visiting some of his old faces, though perhaps only a few “of the favorites,” it’s a nice nod to Tom Baker being, arguably, Classic Who’s most beloved Doctor.
Sassy Who:
  • “Again with the screwdrivers? What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?”
  • “That’s not the queen of England, that’s an alien duplicate!” “And you can take it from him; he’s checked.” “Oh, shut up.”
  • “Are you capable of speaking without flapping your hands about?”
  • “Is something funny? Did I miss a funny thing?”
  • “We don’t need to land.” “… Yeahhh we do. Kind of a bit. Try to keep up.”
  • “GERONIMO!” “Allons-y!” “… oh for God’s sake.”
Fangirl Time:

  • Let me just say that: 1) Tennant can still rock his pinstriped suit like nobody’s business, 2) Even in a fez, Matt could still get it, 3) Both of my Doctors in their glasses was almost too much to handle. Thank goodness that scene wasn’t longer.
  • Eleven/Clara is really cute and I’m totally aboard it. But I have to say that Ten kissing Clara’s hand and then wagging his eyebrows at Eleven as if to say: “This one’s a keeper and I wish I got to know her better,” made me giddy.
Whoops. There Goes My Heart:
  • The Moment-as-Bad-Wolf looking longingly at Ten as he passes by her. Ugh.
  • There’s a running theme throughout the episode of the children of Gallifrey. The Moment tells The War Doctor at the beginning that one day, if he uses the weapon on his planet, he will count all of the children that he massacred that day. So he asks Ten and Eleven what he needs to know: do THEY know how many children are on Gallifrey? Eleven claims that he doesn’t know, while Ten knows the exact number. He angrily approaches his regeneration, asking if 400 years is all it takes to forget the pain and horror of the terrible act he committed. 
  • The War Doctor, when Clara insists that Eleven’s regret can and should be eradicated by him, notes that it is regret that has saved planets. His regret saved the Zygons and London that very day. So perhaps, The War Doctor insinuates, regret is of the utmost importance.
  • “You know the sound the TARDIS makes? That wheezing, groaning… that sound brings hope wherever it goes. To anyone who hears it, Doctor. Anyone. However lost.”
  • Ten and Eleven place their hands on the weapon’s button, vowing that they will wipe out Gallifrey WITH The War Doctor. He will not be alone in his pain and decision. But… something stops them and it is Eleven who notices Clara crying in the background. She tells Eleven that even though she knew he wiped out his own people, she never pictured his face – HER Doctor’s face – doing it. The Moment then displays a projection to Clara and the Doctors, showing them what is becoming of Gallifrey. Clara still cannot believe it and she says: “Look at you. The three of you – The Warrior, the Hero… and you.” “And what am I?” Eleven asks as he approaches her. Clara responds: “Have you really forgotten?” to which Eleven answers: “Yes. Maybe. Yes.” (As he noted earlier in the special that he was unsure of who he was anymore.) Clara, beautiful Clara tells him that he is The Doctor and should do what he has always done for those around him.
  • The moment that The War Doctor utters “Bad Wolf,” Ten’s face just absolutely destroyed me because you could see his confusion and flicker of hope. Ugh.
  • Ten’s final line before he regenerated was “I don’t want to go,” so it’s only fitting that Moffat made his last line in the special the exact same thing. And by “fitting,” I mean that Moffat is cruel and terrible and I love him but also hate him. Ah, the life of a Whovian.
Memorable Quotes:
  • “Someday you could just walk past a fez.” “Never gonna happen!”
  • “We’re CONFUSING the polarity.”
  • “You’ve let this place go a bit.” “Ah, it’s his grunge phase. He’ll grow out of it.”
  • “Great men are forged in fire. It is a privilege of a lesser man to light the flame.”
  • “Equi-distance. So grown up.”
  • “Need a moment alone with your painting?” “How did you know?” “Those big, sad eyes. I always know.”
  • “Clara sometimes asks me if I dream. ‘Of course I dream,’ I tell her. ‘Everybody dreams.’ ‘But what do you dream about?’ she’ll ask. ‘The same thing everybody dreams about,’ I tell her. ‘I dream about where I’m going.’ She always laughs at that. ‘But you’re not going anywhere  - you’re just wandering about.’ That’s not true. Not anymore. I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours, the same as anyone’s. It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last I know where I’m going, where I’ve always been going. Home. The long way ‘round.”
Thank you all for reading this recap! What were some of your favorite moments from "The Day of the Doctor"? Hit up the comments and let me know! And, as always, have a great day! :)

1 comment:

  1. did you notice another figure climbing out of the painting with clara when the Doctors and clara climbed out in the black archive?