I Loved It.
Absolutely Loved It.
Completely, And In All Time And Space, Loved It.
As a lifelong Whovian, I have been anticipating this special anniversary, the 50th to how we mere mortals judge time, for months and months. I parlayed my predictions of what would happen into a facebook note several days before the grand event, then set it up as a post here, to be published after the 50th aired.
And, as anyone who has read that post and seen the 50th can tell, I was about thirty percent right. Waaaay more than I thought I would be.
Now, as I discuss the magnificence of the 50th episode, the ninety minute special called The Day Of The Doctor, every part of this show will be dissected and revealed.
So, for those who haven’t gotten it yet, I AM SPOILING THE HECK OUT OF THIS!!!!
The John Hurt Doctor, breed to stop the massively catastrophic war between the Time Lords and the Daleks, realizes after a very long time that all this suffering and death must be stopped at any cost. He steals an ancient forbidden weapon from deep within Gallifrey called The Moment. It is powerful beyond powerful and even more dangerous since it is sentient. Hurt Doctor travels to a remote cabin and tries to get the weapon to work, but is quickly met by a mental projection of The Moment, taking the form of someone from the Doctors life, past or future. The Moment becomes Bad Wolf and decides to show Hurt Doctor what will happen if he goes through with this.
Opening time rifts, The Moment causes the Hurt Doctor to meet up with the Tennant Doctor and the Smith Doctor, who are each involved with their own adventures. Tennant was trying to catch some Zygons, who are shapeshifting about and trying to take the English throne from Elizabeth the First. Smith was in the 20th century with Clara and is called in by UNIT to solve the mystery of what came out of some ancient paintings. Turns out, these cases are related. As the Three Doctors strive to solve these problems, The Moment hangs around Hurt Doctor as an invisible Marley from A Christmas Carol, always poking and probing his conscience.
When the problems of the Zygons are finally dealt with by all Three Doctors working together, Hurt Doctor still decides to push the big red button and end the war with horrific consequences. Doctors Tennant and Smith show up and decide to work with Hurt, share the burden of this pain, finally realizing nothing can be done to save the day. Clara voices her objections, reminds the Doctor of who he is, and provides enough impetus for Smith to think up a new solution. All Thirteen Doctors, working together, use their Tardis’s to push Gallifrey into a parallel universe and freeze it in time. The Daleks end up destroying each other in the crossfire. In the end Gallifrey is safe and waiting to be found, giving the Doctor a new purpose in life.
And one of the amazing parts of this amazing tale is that not all I have outlined here happens in strict chronological order. The tale jumps around sometimes, with much comedic and dramatic effect. Or is it affect? One can never tell with time travel.
My joy with this story goes far far beyond the Easter eggs shown, or the history celebrated, or the even the epic tale of war being presented. The very personal, very troubling story of a man dealing with an impossible situation, and all the self loathing that accompanies it.
We first saw this with The Name Of The Doctor episode, when Smith talks to Hurt with disdain and suppresses that whole regeneration in his psyche. When the Three Doctors meet in The Day Of The Doctor, one of this first things Smith and Tennant do is activate their sonic screwdrivers at Hurt. The scene is treated with humour, especially with Hurt’s quick quips, but struck me right away as sad. Hurt is so reviled and demonized by the other two, that simply meeting him brings out a defensive posture from them. Talk about self hate. His probing questions and barded comments from the next little bit not only brings up the memories of what Hurt has done (or not done yet for him), but provokes sparks between the previously getting along Smith and Tennant. The theme of the question of how many children died that day on Gallifrey is something that vexes Hurt, a calculation Tennant has completed, and Smith has moved on from. As The Moment puts it, “The one who regrets and the one who forgets.” Many theories abound as to why the Doctor left Gallifrey in the first place, lo those many many centuries ago, but one of the top ones is that the grief over the deaths of his children and grandchildren was the main cause.
When Hurt decides to go through with his Doomsday scenario, The Moment delays him along enough from Smith and Tennant to arrive. The emotion and pain of realizing how unfair that have treated Hurt, who already knows this even through it is in his future, is crystalized with Smith declaring Hurt a true Doctor, a designation Hurt had always rejected due to his artificially born purpose. Being told that he did the best he could, facing a task far beyond what any other Doctor had faced, Smith and Tennant join in with the button pushing, all to share the burden, as it always should have been. Hurt replies with two words speaking volumes of this complex relationship, “Thank you.” These Three Doctors are slowly healing from the horror, with the ripple of this about to span all their lifetimes. The lesson Smith talked about of who the Doctor is cause Clara to reinforced their mantra, and quickly spreads the idea of how and who could save the day. The concept of all the Doctors working together may sound obvious, but for the Doctor it is not. Besides the time laws being brutally broken when different regenerations meet, the other problem is that each Doctor wants to live their own life, and when they have crossed paths, sparks fly and insults hurl. The Three Doctors, the episode for the tenth anniversary first showed this (and The Day of the Doctor slightly paid homage to), and The Five Doctors episode for the twentieth anniversary also featured this. Only the imminent destruction of Gallifrey could be enough to make all the Doctors rally together and put aside their natural animosity for the greater good. I am certain several excellent books/graphic novels/animated webseries/audio books can be made showing Hurt, Tennant and Smith gathering themselves together.
With the Doctors always bickering, it is fun for the fans to view these snarky bits between them. Hurt takes this concept to an excellent level, with wonderful dialogue provided by episode writer Moffat. It became obvious to me that Hurt’s humourous interactions were designed to be meta commentary on the series itself, with fodder being fed from the fans. Even a cursory glance of twitter, facebook, blogs and tumblr would provide plenty of ammo for these kind of asides.
Speaking of ammo and segues, I found the concept of The Moment absolutely fascinating. Here is a weapon of such immense destructive power that it does not want to be used. It knows all the badness it can accomplish, so it tries to stop its use. By any means necessary. Become someone you know and trust, all to talk you down. Make it so you will survive, causing a suicide run to be impossible. Giving you a guided tour of future you, all to sample the hurt you will have to live with. Even breaking time locks, hoping to change your mind. The Moment is a weapon that never wants to be a weapon. A concept The Iron Giant movie pushed all through its narrative, and the Man Of Steel had as a theme. Choice to not do death. The Moment has to do what it is told, but will try it’s darnest to prevent it. Can you imagine if every gun, every knife, every missile, could talk to the user, show them the future, and plead to not be used? Our collective history, our society, and our present day would be so different if all weapons had talking conscious. The Moment was incredible.
So many more themes and ideas and commentary permeate The Day Of The Doctor. The Zygons emulating people and taking on their characteristics, even admitting that the mind wipe did not quite work, harkens back to the issue of identity. The choice by The Moment of Bad Wolf as the representation to the Doctors. How far do you go in war, even an apocalyptic one? Why Gallifrey, these enlightened powerful people, only have their vaulted Sky Shields extended over the city core. Does the regular Gallifreyian not count to them as much? Multiple term papers can be written about Doctor Who, and this episode in particular offers a plethora of thinking points.
And this would be part of the point. Science fiction, especially good science fiction, can entertain and enlighten in equal measures. The Day Of The Doctor features humour, history and hope. But above all else, it provides thoughts for us to contemplate over endlessly.
And that is an amazing gift from our favourite Time Lord.
…is currently reading The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.