For some reason there seems to be a split in the Doctor Who fandom over the fiftieth anniversary special and I really cannot see why. Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt all give stunning performances as the Doctor. Steven Moffat produced one of his best scripts as head writer too. Everything fitted in nicely and the blend between the classic and modern series was just right for the occasion.
As Matt Smith dangled over Trafalgar Square while the opening titles ran, we knew we were in for something a bit special. The show had pulled out all the stops to make it as eye catching as possible and that’s exactly what it was. All of the sets were beautiful; Gallifrey, Elizabethan England and seeing some old TARDIS control rooms was really special. The episode ran very smoothly. If you were vaguely familiar with the show’s background it was an easy story to follow, nothing confusing to take a casual viewer out of the episode. There were several nods to the classic series too. Coal Hill School where Clara taught was the location in “Rememberance of the Daleks” and appeared in the first ever episode back in 1963. Osgood’s Tom Bakeresque scarf was also seen for the first time as well as a sentimental look back at all Doctors at some point in their timeline. All of these features helped to make the episode so good and create the perfect balance for modern viewers as well as classic fans.
One of the niggles people have with this story is the Zygon’s disappearance towards the end of the episode. For a couple of years it was seen as a major plot hole that we never saw how they resolved their situation and what agreement the two races came to in the Black Archive. However, since series nine this can no longer be held against “The Day of The Doctor” as we were treated to the brilliant “The Zygon Invasion/Inversion”. I think Steven Moffat was always going to bring back the Zygons to resolve the arc from the episode, no matter what fans said, so to complain that the episode itself didn’t explain what happened to them is now an invalid argument.
Another bug bare that some have moaned about is the non-appearance of Christopher Eccleston. What can you do if the actor refuses to return? Steven Moffat originally planned Eccleston to play the War Doctor which would’ve been brilliant, but we wouldn’t have been treated to John Hurt if that did happen. And yes, it would’ve been much more fulfilling to get a full regeneration scene of John Hurt into Eccleston, but the show did their best to CGI the ninth Doctor’s eyes into the scene. It wasn’t Moffat’s fault or the fault of anybody else’s to do with the show that Eccleston didn’t return, it was completely down to the actor himself. So to hold that against the episode it just downright senseless.
The last more prominent complaint I’ve heard about the episode is that Billie Piper returned but didn’t reprise her role as Rose Tyler. If you think about it though, how would that have come about? The episode was 75 minutes long, so it would’ve taken far too long to work her return from a parallel universe into the script. Her performance as The Moment was faultless however and I think her return in a different role suited the episode much more than Rose would have. I can’t see how Rose would’ve had much impact on the story and her presence may have taken away from the three Doctors.
I think that this episode is so good because it’s so complex yet so simple to understand. There is a lot going on at different points in time but Moffat does an excellent job at making the episode gripping and easy to follow. It was the most we’d seen of the Time War and although even more would’ve been nice, what we did see really helped us understand the scale of the battle.
The scene when the Doctor is in the barn about to wipe out Time Lords and Daleks alike is the stand out moment for the three Doctors and Clara. It highlighted how passionately the Doctor felt about what he thought he did that day, as well as showing John Hurt’s incarnation why it was important to follow through with what he was going to do and that his future was bright. I think the tenth and eleventh Doctors’ more youthful personas were shaped from what they thought they’d done that day in an attempt to forget. Now Matt Smith’s Doctor knows what actually happened, Peter Capaldi’s older look reflects that he no longer has to hide behind a young face. The scene was also an important moment for Clara. She really helped the Doctor emerge from within and take control and find a more suitable solution. It was her who talked the eleventh Doctor into opting out of pushing the button and she really helped the Doctor get over his nightmare.
Overall, it’s very difficult to fault this episode. It’s action packed, it’s intense, it’s emotional, it’s everything Doctor Who should be. Although it’s hard to pick an all time number one Doctor Who episode, it’s easy to place this one near that mark at the very least. Everyone involved in the episode emerged with tremendous credit and it celebrated everything that’s so wonderful about the best show in the world.