OK, so its not a ‘true’ feature film, but I did see it at the cinema, and in 3D. And as a lifelong Whovian I’m going to write about it – so there! Note that if you haven’t seen it yet, this contains spoilers, sweetie.
The Day of the Doctor is of course (if you happened to miss the subtle and subliminal marketing by the BBC) the 50th anniversary of the world’s favourite Gallifreyan, watched – allegedly – by 50 million people around the world on Saturday night.
After a rather silly opening with the Tardis helicoptered into Trafalger Square, the story settles down into a clever Stephen Moffat-penned tale of the last days of the Time War, when the Doctor single-handedly wiped out (or maybe wipes out – time is so tricksy) both his own race of Time Lords and the Daleks. Matt Smith’s Doctor teams up again with U.N.I.T., where nepotism is clearly alive and well: it is headed up by the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and supported by a technical advisor (“nice scarf”) called Osgood, presumably the daughter of the technical officer Sergeant Osgood in the Pertwee era.
In a clever, if a bit irritating, side story the Earth is being invaded (naturally) by Zygons – suckery-wuckery shape-shifting creatures that have been hiding in 3D paintings since the 16th century in order to colonise Earth when it becomes ‘more interesting’. How the creatures are meant to take over Earth, unless they have otherwise hidden remarkable capabilities to massively reproduce themselves, is not clear. The Zygons are the archetypal ‘actor in a rubber suit’ which at first I found disappointing but – in retrospect – is a nice tribute to the slightly dodgy special effects of the original series.
Within the main narrative, the ‘War Doctor’, played superbly by John Hurt, is challenged by the ultimate weapon he intends to use to end the war – a sentient being that won’t let you hit the ‘big red button’ until you’ve really had a chance to think it through: possibly uncomfortable viewing for Tony Blair? The interface to the device takes the form of Billie Piper – someone from his past (“…or Future? – I always get those two mixed up”) – that does the conscience checking. Not Rose Tyler – but “Bad Wolf”, which is a great touch. “The interface is hot” says Hurt, touching the box. “Well, I do my best” purrs Piper, looking far sexier than any Weapon of Mass Destruction has a right to look.
Hurt’s Doctor’s penance for his act of violence is to be the sole survivor. In a familiar “Ghost of Christmas Future” storyline, Hurt is projected into Elizabethan England to be reunited (wrong word) with his two future selves, in the shape of Matt Smith and David Tennant and allowed to see what psychological damage his decision has caused. It is just a shame that Christopher Ecclestone – presumably the most damaged of the three – couldn’t be persuaded to join the party… an opportunity missed. But Hurt, Tennant and Smith bouncing off each other is a real delight, providing fantastic comedic moments.
A recurring motif in the episode is that you can solve any problem if you think about it for long enough. As the first example, a problem programmed into Hurt’s sonic screwdriver is resolved 400 years later in Smith’s version. Rumour has it that Matt Smith’s screwdriver said “42” only because William Hartnell gave it a knotty problem to solve 50 years ago! (A tribute there to Douglas Adams – yes, a Doctor Who scriptwriter/editor in the Tom Baker years).
The finale sees all twelve Doctors (“no – thirteen”) converge on Gallifrey to, if not save the day, defer it. This reveal of the thirteenth Doctor, in the shape of Peter Capaldi, was brilliant – just the eyes and those eyebrows glaring out of the screen. It is just a tragedy that the BBC chose to “announce” Capaldi as they did a few weeks ago – – keeping it a secret until those eyes appeared would have been a just brilliant reveal to the fan-base.
A particular delight was seeing Hurt regenerate into the essence – just the eyes – of Ecclestone.
And this was after the brilliant bit of viral marketing – “The Night of the Doctor” – where Paul McGann returned briefly in a mini-episode to regenerate into John Hurt. A nice closure, given that you had now seen every regeneration.
To top it all, the appearance of Tom Baker in the final scene was very touching. Its just a shame that jelly babies were not somehow involved – I suspect they must be in a deleted scene somewhere.
The episode is not without a few gripes. The Elizabethan segment features a hyper-annoying Elizabeth I (Joanna Page) who sides with the Zygons (under-cover?) for no readily apparent reason. And after the – granted spectacular – reveal of Hurt at the end of “The Name of the Doctor” there is absolutely no explanation of how the Doctor and Clara Oswald escaped the time stream, apparently without any consequence. While we’re on the subject of Clara, whilst Jenna Coleman is suitably decorous (reminder to self that I have a daughter older than her), she doesn’t actually get to “do” very much in the episode. I guess she is the catalyst for a final change of heart, but is not a very dynamic presence in the episode.
Whilst not a fan of 3D, the effect in this episode – at least on the cinema screen – are very effective, especially in regards to the 3D painting of Gallifrey. So a great effort that is (I think) entertaining to all and a grin-fest from start to finish for Who fans.
Fad Rating (General): FFFf
Fad Rating (Who Fans): FFFFf.