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‘Doctor Who’: Our team’s verdict on ‘The Day of the Doctor’

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Dale Cowan: “Well… that was spectacular. Moffat haters be damned, he has created a well-structured, entertaining story that manages to please longterm viewers up to the most fairweather fans. A brilliant mix of fun, nostalgia and emotion with great interplay between Smith & Tennant – with John Hurt adding a further mix of comedy and gravitas – and an ending that creates wider scope for future stories. Fantastic!”

Matt Dennis: “It’s fair to say I was initially a bit overwhelmed by everything in ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Tom Baker, 13 Doctors, Zygons, UNIT, the return of Gallifrey… Boy, they really crammed a lot in, didn’t they?! But now the dust has settled a fair bit, I can confidently say that I was very, very impressed by what Mr Moffat served up for us.

“Smith, Tennant, Hurt were great together, the emotional moments were wonderfully done (I was close to tears as the three Doctors gathered around the Moment together), and for once the plot wasn’t rushed and squeezed into 45 minutes. It had a chance to breathe and to flow naturally, allowing for some great little character moments and cheeky references. It’s not 100% perfect, but it was fantastic. And it’s made me very eager to see what’s to come next – and with that, Moffat’s main goal for the special seems to have been well and truly achieved.”

Andrew Curnow: “I’ve been a Doctor Who fan all my life but if asked to distil that into a single 50th Anniversary Special I would have had no idea what to do. In the same situation, with one impossible script Steven Moffat found not just an answer, but the answer, with a story that does everything from marry off the Doctor and rewrite the Time War, to bring back Tom Baker and quote Terrance Dicks.

Doctor Who’s so huge right now, it will be many a year before it’s celebrated like this again, and consequently I’m glad to have enjoyed this anniversary, and this anniversary story in particular, as much as I have – and, to slightly misquote William Hartnell, I think if I live to be ninety, a little of the magic of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ will still cling to me.”

Malcolm J Stewart: “You can tell that Steven Moffat was really affected by ‘The Three Doctors’ at an impressionable age. So much of that episode paid homage to the interaction between those first three Doctors, with Hurt in full-on Hartnell mode, and it was here that the episode really scored. It was a cheeky self-indulgence to take the proverbial out of all those well-worn series tropes – Matt Smith’s flailing arms, Tennant as Dick van Dyke and the ubiquity of the sonic screwdriver – but the gags really hit their mark.

“The in-jokes were terrific – Operation Cromer a standout – and a real testament to the weight of history that the programme has built up over 50 years. In fact, so many of the best moments were those that paid homage both to the very beginning of the show and to the near future: the original title sequence and black and white glimpse of I. M. Foreman’s junkyard, and the briefest flash of Capaldi’s brooding eyes. No one over the age of 35 is ever going to begrudge a new glimpse of the great Sir Tom of Baker, particularly when, in an exceptionally clever twist that one could label ‘timey-wimey’ if that phrase doesn’t now appeared to be retired, he seems to be playing not the Fourth Doctor, but a future one.  An -nth Doctor who has revisited an old face and who has retired. The subtlety of that particular conceit is Doctor Who in a nutshell – heart-warming and mind-bending and far bigger, on the inside of the writing, than anything else on telly.

“But I am left with a feeling of – no, not a criticism. This was a colossal achievement, on a scale of ambition that the programme has never dared to, or had the resources to, do before. It stands as a remarkable production on its own terms, let alone as a proud testament to fifty years of storytelling. But… but… but… No one could accuse the storytelling of being linear or simple, and, in an episode that was so willing to puncture the pretentiousness of Doctor Who, it struck me that things still got pretty pretentious, and pretty complex, pretty quick.

“Maybe this is what happens when you set out to make a production that is gloriously epic. Maybe this is what happens when you take what was once a tatty, studio-bound but lion-hearted drama and you make it in a different 3D cinematic shape. But I do think that what is paradoxically true about Doctor Who is that when you play up to its mythology, when you seek to make an episode of Doctor Who that is on some level about being an episode of Doctor Who, that’s when, weirdly, you lose something of the very programme you are making.

“So it’s massive plaudits to Moffat and Hurran and Hurt and everyone for having the love, the ambition and the cojones to make ‘The Day of the Doctor’. I think they have masterminded a national event on a spectacular scale. But while I thought it was in many ways mind-blowing, I have to say: I’m really glad the show isn’t like that every week. Oh, and while I am pleased that Gallifrey rises, I’m not sure that I welcome the return of the Time Lords. Those guys were proper bastards!”

David Lewis: “Neither a disappointment nor a triumph, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was more a victim of its mortally overblown pre-transmission hype than any internal failings. With viewers commanded to #SaveTheDay almost on pain of death, this super-sized, simulcast, 3D behemoth had to be the Olympic Opening Ceremony, Christmas and the collapse of the Coalition all rolled into one. Not even the greatest Doctor Who episode of all time could ever live up to such unwieldy expectations – and this was a long way from being that. It felt like a Best Of… compilation that contained all the hits but none of the quintessentials.

“The strong parts – the glorious oneupmanship of Tennant and Smith, constantly taking the piss out of each other like small boys allowed to stay up past bedtime for a family party, Billie Piper being unusually splendid, Tom Baker’s twinkly-eyed loon of a Curator – weren’t exactly cancelled out by the weak – the rubbery crapness of the Zygons and their plot to do … whatever it was, the denigration of the Time War’s conclusion from horrific galactic apocalypse to friendly-fire Dalek cock-up, the modern Who tedium of overused old clips.”

Ian McArdell: “From the dramatic fall of Arcadia to the TARDIS swinging across London under a chopper, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ wasn’t short on ambition. Watching in the company of a few hundred fans, there were roars of laughter along with the odd cheer and it’s clear that John Hurt stole all the best lines. Any disappointment we felt, as hope still remained for even the briefest of Eccleston cameos, was easily swept aside with that magical Tom Baker appearance.

“One can’t help but feel sorry for the Zygons though. Having waited all those years for an on-screen return, they really were the B-plot. In fact, given their shape-shifting abilities, it is a shame that Messers Davison, Baker, McCoy and McGann were not called upon for some sort of cameo too.

“I also enjoyed the show in 3D a day later and some of the imagery was indeed breath-taking, with an introduction from Strax that will change the way I view popcorn forever. Highly entertaining, fully of nostalgic touches and hopefully not too complex to put off the average viewer, it should take its place alongside the other multi-Doctor efforts as a joyous romp – albeit one which you don’t want to think too hard about!”

Sarah Deen: “For stalwart Whovians, one of which I am not, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was probably everything you hoped it would be and more. It did succeed in seamlessly mixing in Old Who with New Who – the brief appearance of an old skool TARDIS was nice, and seeing all twelve – nay, THIRTEEN (the best part of the entire 75-minute show, in my opinion, was THOSE EYES popping up out of nowhere) – Docs in their respective TARDISes saving Gallifrey was great.

“However, they saved Gallifrey. This was the game-changer that showrunner Steven Moffat was talking about. Gallifrey exists now. It is frozen in a single point in time inside a painting called Gallifrey Falls No More. This means that everything you’ve ever heard about Gallifrey and the Doctor being the last of the Time Lords isn’t really true anymore. It’s like the final episode of Crossroads where everything that had happened turned out to be all in Jane Asher’s head.

“The Doctor is no longer haunted by the fact he is solely responsible for the genocide of his people, and post-2005 that was one of the things that made him more than just a fast-talking, insanely clever, wildly eccentric show-off with a superiority complex. Without that dark side of him, that haunted side; that is all he is. It puts doubts in my mind about Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. Will he be as fierce as promised now he has nothing to seek redemption for? Sure he’s “going home the long way round”, and yes, it does give the show an injection of life which means it can continue for another fifty years; but it’s a disappointing move. That said, I have high hopes for Capaldi that not even Moffat’s “reset” move can diminish.”

James Wynne: “I thought it would be nigh on impossible for ‘The Day of the Doctor’ to rival Mark Gatiss’ retelling of the show’s genesis as the pinnacle of the 50th celebrations. Stock full of the same nostalgic fervency that permeated An Adventure in Space and Time, the entire runtime was littered with an assortment of beautiful nods to Doctor Who’s long and illustrious past, and proved just as joyously overwhelming an experience.

“Sparkling with Moffat’s typical brand of acerbic wit, the dynamic of the three Doctors distinctly echoed that of…well, The Three Doctors’, with Hurt’s War Doctor assuming the authority role that Hartnell’s First Doctor did, ridiculing his two successors’ compensatory eccentricities and putting his mind more effectively to the problems that confronted them.

“Moffat’s script was brimming with unbridled affection for where Doctor Who has been, and an ardency to secure its future for decades to come. This culminated in a sequence that surely deserves to go down as the iconic moment of the show, as Doctors future (Capaldi’s cameo doubtless evoked reactions of unashamedly fangasmic magnitude the world over) and past join forces to rescue Gallifrey and its 2.47 billion children from the brink of extinction, and Moffat’s earlier deployed plot device of the sonic’s 400-year software analysis being completed in a perceived 2 minutes, comes to its fantastic fruition.

“It brilliantly ties the show’s beginnings, revival, and future into one “timey-wimey” whole. The Doctor has been trying to save and find Gallifrey all along, but it’s been buried in the recesses of his subconscious mind; a motivation he couldn’t fully discern, which has taken him the long way round on his journey back home, starting all the way back at that junkyard in 1963 as a “mild curiosity”.

“How would I rate ‘The Day of the Doctor’ out of ten? Thirteen!”

> Read our full review of ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

> Take a look at our Top 10 moments in ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

What did you think of ‘The Day of the Doctor’? Let us know below…

> Order the 50th anniversary special on DVD on Amazon.

> Order the 50th anniversary special on Blu-ray on Amazon.

Watch the 50th anniversary trailer…