Sunday, 24 November 2013

Whovember: 'The Day of the Doctor' Review

Matt Smith, David Tennant and John Hurt as the 11th, 10th and War Doctor

"Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame"

Poor Steven Moffat. The guy must have gotten about 20 minutes sleep in the last week. The sheer pressure of delivering the goods for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, one of the globes most iconic and cherised television shows can't be an easy weight to bear.

Fortunately however, it was alright on the night. Not just alright; it was supreme. Breathe a sigh of relief Whovians, 'The Day of the Doctor' is the perfect homage to the shows history whilst also setting the stage for the future. Geronimo!

I'll try and keep this review as spoiler-free as possible in order to avoid ruining anything for anyone. The premise for 'The Day of the Doctor' is fairly simple; the Doctor must face his darkest day - the day he ended the Time War. Across three different time periods (2013 London, Elizabethan England and Arcadia, Gallifrey), events are happening that draw together three incarnations of the Doctor to fight the same fight.

Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald
These strands converge into two parallel narratives - the End of the Time War and the arrival of the Zygons on Earth. The way in which the two stories begin to mirror one another leads into the finale; and what a cracking finale it is. Of course, in typical Doctor Who fashion, the conclusion stretches belief and barely makes a lick of sense, but what did you expect? This is Doctor Who, you have to think Doctor Who logic to make sense of it all. 

Something I liked best about 'The Day of the Doctor' was that it didn't try and cram in piles and piles of rose-tinted memories. It works because it is still relatively straight-forward and doesn't get bogged down in nostalgia. Don't get me wrong - the episode contains all manner of winks and nods towards the shows heritage; from a Fourth Doctor scarf to the mention of the Brigadier.

But whilst there are plenty of winks to the past, the episode isn't a big carnival of past villains, companions and objects. Moffat and co. aptly manage to steer clear of taking us all on one big nostalgia trip by presenting us with a story that actually moves the plot forward.

There are some little niggles that would have rounded off the rough edges (no actual Eighth or Ninth Doctor cameos, the latter especially would have been a cracking addition), but other than that, the episode is a rollicking good ride. It's funny, it's thrilling and most importantly, it doesn't tread water.

John Hurt as the War Doctor
The chemistry between the three Doctors is a real highlight - as you can expect, Tennant and Smith's Doctors both rib one another endlessly with the befuddled Hurt Doctor stood alongside. Moffat even had the audacity to squeeze in a quick sexual innuendo about compensating for size between Ten and Eleven.

Their acting then was great, Smith in particular once again proving his range as an actor. The only weak link I can find in the cast was possibly Billie Piper - I've never been much of a fan anyway so I'm a little biased. On the flipside, Jenna Coleman was charming and hilarious as Clara once again - fingers crossed her and Capaldi stay chums in the TARDIS for a while after Series 8. 

The final conclusion is something that will really gets pulses racing - Steven Moffat commented prior to the show airing that the 50th Anniversary would be as much about sowing the seeds for the shows future than being nostalgic. And so it is. The resolution is one that doesn't leave everything as it was - there are drastic changes in the Whoniverse which will impact the shows future. Best of all - it isn't the usual 'end of the world as we know it' ending. After 'The Stolen Earth', 'The End of Time' and 'Army of Ghosts', I don't think I can handle too many more of those.

The direction by Nick Hurran was superb, especially in the opening sequence featuring the Time War. For our first (and probably only) look at the Time War, Hurran's gritty and menacing tone was everything we as as fans had hoped for. The Daleks were back to being genuinely terrifying whilst the reintroduction of the Zygons was great. Let's hope they are brought back during Capaldi's reign. 

I've now seen The Day of the Doctor twice in 24 hours; I'd happily sit down and watch again. It's a fantastic way to round off the 'Time War' story arc that Russell T. Davies first introduced in 2005 whilst simultaneously giving the show legs into the future. It isn't perfect and probably could've been a tad longer, in order to draw some breath. The only sad thing is that it's over. No more 50th Anniversary. No more hype and speculation. And that just makes me a little sad.

At least until the Christmas Special ;)

I give 'The Day of the Doctor' - 9/10

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