It all started as a mild curiosity in a junkyard. Exactly fifty years later, that curiosity reached such frenzied levels of anticipation for the anniversary, it was like the Second Coming with a sonic screwdriver.
For an episode described as ‘the most important day in The Doctor’s life’, the relentless hype and hashtagging certainly made ‘The Day of The Doctor’ feel like the most important episode in Whostory, even before a single second had been shown.
And when it was, whether you were in your sitting room or in the cinema, it was hard not to feel like you were watching something special.
Not perfect, not by any means, but special. Not simply because it was a world record-breaking TV show, but because whether or not what you saw was what you personally wanted, it was definitely exactly what was needed, for Doctor Who and fandom.
This was an episode far bigger than the sum of its considerable parts, and blimey it was big. A spectacular romp that visually looked to be galaxies away from the charming simplicity of ‘An Unearthly Child’ but which retained the excitement and soul of that first episode and every episode since.
That was largely down to the splendid performances of the main cast. Smith and Tennant whirred and chattered, while John Hurt was the sandpaper straight-man to their over-exuberance. Yet all felt like one man, united by the same shared pain.
Billie Piper confidently played the sexiest weapon of mass destruction this side of Star Trek, and Jenna Coleman continues to be the brilliant, unshakeable companion the show deserves. Long may she continue.
Between the performances ‘The Day of The Doctor’ proved to be a bigger-on-the-inside bag of fan-pleasing pic n’ mix that invited to you tuck in and enjoy the chewy sugary nostalgia. Mentions of Omega (surely only a matter of time now until he makes a comeback), past props, carefully-edited past Doctors, a brief flash of (prepare to take the bait, commenters) THE TWELFTH DOCTOR Peter Capaldi, and yes, the jelly baby among the pic n’ mix: The Cheshire Cat grin of the timeless Tom Baker materialising to take fans of a certain age back to a rose-tinted childhood.
It didn’t all work: those who give Hurt-like groans at Moffat’s timey-wimey inclinations likely droned their way through it; the Zygons were little more than rubbery distractions for Tennant to pull equally rubbery faces at; and Gallifrey’s return was a masterstroke of science-fiction nonsense.
But as science-fantasy as it was, Gallifrey has definitely returned. Moffat’s created a soft reboot of Doctor Who lore: made a monumental change without actually changing anything that stood before. Oh, that’s very him.
The only way you can please the entirety of Doctor Who fandom is to keep the show they love going for the foreseeable future. And Steven Moffat certainly has done that, not just by giving fans plenty to chew and argue over on forums for the next 50 years, but by giving The Doctor a new reason to keep doing the same thing he’s always done. A new curiosity. And that gives us all new reason to keep watching for the next 50 years.
Aired at 7.50pm on Saturday 23 November 2013 on BBC One.
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