Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor

So, after all the build-up, anniversary hoopla and general Doctor Who-ness of this month, `The Day of the Doctor` arrives. It has been the subject of endless speculation as to its contents- some turned out to be true, some delightfully wide of the mark. For Steven Moffatt it must have been a daunting task to construct a tale that would pay satisfying homage to the past and also lay out something of a path for the future. The good news is that he’s done it with some aplomb in a production that takes some risks; both visually and conceptually, but emerges as one of those unique stories that will always stand out from its surroundings. It is the best thing he’s done since he took over the series.
Warning- Spoilers lie ahead.

It’s odd, this story though. Very odd. This might be the effect of watching on a huge screen in 3D but it’s not only that. The tempo veers back and forth. One minute we’re larking about in the woods with two Doctors and two Queen Elizabeth the Firsts, the next we’re watching Zygons emerging and looking even more horrific than they did first time round. We shift from seriously epic battles over Gallifrey which fizzle with a Star Wars like fury to lengthy dialogue scenes between John Hurt and Billie Piper. You expect the whole thing to coalesce but it doesn’t really; instead the Zygon gambit peters out to make way for a more philosophical ending. The lack of a real villain- unless of course you count the Doctor himself – is also unexpected. Rumours that Omega would emerge for the climax do not come true. 

What does happen though is something in the Robert Holmes tradition of sets of two characters sparking greatness from each other. The rapport between David Tennant and Matt Smith is so enjoyable you almost forget there’s an adventure with jeopardy to be had. They riff wonderfully on each other’s appearance mannerisms, Sonic’s (naturally) however these are not the stiff pretend arguments of `The Five Doctors` but a mix of mutual competitive respect. They are also very funny as well. In a way though we expected that; what we didn’t imagine was just how well John Hurt and Billie Piper would gel. Because she’s not actually playing Rose (The Moment’s consciousness or something just appears in that guise), Billie gets the chance to effectively play a different part altogether. She’s cheeky, clever and yet matches Hurt’s serious tones word for word. He is decidedly playful at times and we see what his Doctor could have been like. When the Three Doctors are together the repartee is even more sparkling; this is Moffatt’s forte and he is not top form. The gag about the cell door is brilliant.


Visually the whole thing is a triumph from the Tardis being winched in by helicopter complete with Matt Smith hanging from it to the war sequences, the Zygon appearances and some more surreal moments in a museum and what looks like an old barn. Director Nick Hurran includes just enough flourishes to establish a style but doesn’t crowd the actors in a production that seems to have longer scenes than any story for a long time.
There are lots of kisses to the past of course, all of them subtly done- a scarf here, a photo there- and as the main story is constructed from previous loose ends and old monsters, it feels satisfying. They even start with the old title sequence which is quite a declaration of intent. The barely re-designed Zygons show what an amazing creation they are while the Daleks here look better than they have for years. So in a sense the entire thing is nostalgic but also has enough forward motion and attack to stand up as an adventure in its own right.
In the last section they break out everything really with the cleverly choreographed appearance of all the Doctors joining together to hide Gallifrey – yes even Peter Capaldi’s eyes get a look in! It’s glorious stirring stuff of course but there is one more treat left for fans at the end when –gasp- Tom Baker returns to TV Doctor Who after about 33 years!  What a day! What a Doctor! There is a lot in this scene- it is written with a knowing wink to suggest he is actually the Doctor yet he could just as easily be an observant caretaker. Our amazement that he has finally returned is undercut by how old and frail he looks. Yet when he speaks it’s like the years fall away. The cake even has icing when we are privy to the Doctor’s dream depicted as something everyone will want a poster of!
There’s a lot to take in and a second or even third viewing will surely uncover hidden treasures but for now `The Day of the Doctor` is a triumph and a fitting tribute to the series’ past- and future.
Tom Baker is back, Back, BACK!! And look at the wall behind him!

No comments:

Post a Comment