It’s becoming quite clear to me that I don’t particularly care for the premises of Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who stories these days. I love how he does them, but I’m rarely very keen on what… or indeed why, when I’m able to hazard a guess at it. ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is another example of this, and I’m going to do my level best to keep all such bitching in a separate, whining post.
Here, instead, is by appreciation of the how.
'Day’ is one of Moffat’s best episodes in ages, really funny, nicely celebratory, with a a solid emotional through-line and an amusing 'B’ story. Of course, sadly, the 'B’ story disappears near the end, without really tying into the story in a particularly satisfying w–excuse me, sorry, I’m being nice. Ignore that.
If one accepts that undoing the Doctor’s actions in the Time War is a worthwhile thing to do, then hell, this is as good a way to do it as any. And the checklist of amusing elements that Moffat has thrown together is particularly fun.
Kate and the UNITS
We’ve had several aborted attempts to make regular UNIT characters since the show returned: Kate Stewart seems to be the most successful so far. I found her a bit stuffy in 'The Power of Three’, but here she’s a bit more playful and ballsy: hopefully not just because she was playing the part while aware she was a Zygon.
Her underlings are good too, especially the bescarved scientist Osgood. Loved the scarf: a cute nod to the idea that UNIT staff could so easily become Doctor-fans.
Let’s take the three Doctors in chronological order. First: the new one (or the young one, or the old one, depending on how you want to look at it). I’m relatively (and possibly shamefully) ignorant of John Hurt’s work, so the fucking awful “INTRODUCING JOHN HURT AS THE DOCTOR” at the end of 'The Name of the Doctor was underwhelming in many ways. He is, however, excellent.
My fear from some of the trailers was that Moffat was doing the silly “the older-looking young Doctor is smarter than the younger-looking old Doctor” schtick from 'The Five Doctors’ again. He’s not, thankfully, but this not-quite-Doctor still gets to take down the sillier Doctors a peg or two.
While Eccleston is probably my favourite of the new Doctors (in part probably just because he was my 'first’ contemporary Doctor), watching this reminded me how much I missed Tennant. Watching even more of this reminded me how much I missed Tennant’s Doctor as written by Russell the Davies. Still, you can’t have everything.
In this sort of thing, I’m always keen for the current Doctor not to be disrespected, but there’s no danger of that here. Smith’s very well-served by the script, particularly in the moment when he brushes off the casualties of Gallifrey with almost callous indifference.
That said, I was disappointed that when he got a chance to try to freak out the assorted Elizabethan guards, he played it all for comedy instead of being genuinely freaky. But that’s a minor point.
Oh wow, eyebrows.
Of course, this makes a lot less sense after you’ve watched 'The Time of the Doctor’ and been advised of the correct Doctor-count. “All thirteen?” But hey, 'The Time of the Doctor’ makes almost no sense at all, so 'Day’ is still ahead by a considerable margin.
They’d better not fucking try to explain this later. As it is, it’s wonderful and ambiguous and interesting in the same way that the Time War used to be until 68 minutes ago. Even if you’re a cynical bastard like me, it’s hard not to have your heart do somersaults when you hear Tom Baker actually being the Doctor again, maybe, probably, in a way. God he’s good.
It’s certainly enough to make up for an odd intro to the scene where the Doctor seems to be keen on the idea of staying in one place for a long time. This seemed very strange to me then, but after Christmas, feels more like foreshadowing.
Or more likely, just an awkward way to lead into a good intro for Tom.
It’s been said a million and one times that Clara’s introduction, while intriguing, has somewhat harmed her character. 'Day of the Doctor’ goes a fair way to redressing the balance. She’s now comfortably slipping into a role of standard enthusiastic companion (say, the Sarah Jane archetype) but with a ridiculously comprehensive knowledge of the Doctor. That’s not too bad at all, though pointing that out makes me think she’d do even better with an extra companion who’s completely clueless. As much as I enjoy male companions, it might be time to try out a two-female team. It’d certainly help Doctor Who start passing the Bechdel test a bit more often.
They looked very nice, and as mentioned, Kate Stewart’s Zygon was particularly fun. And, er… I liked the bit when Osgood had her puffer stolen.
How little I have to say about the Zygons probably indicates how little impact they had. My main thought is: I desperately hope the early scenes with the shrouded figures do in fact contain Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as implied in 'The Fiveish Doctors (Reboot)’.
I know I’m supposed to be being nice, but, er, that’s a really awful special effect at the end there. It was especially bad blown up onto the cinema screen I watched the story on. Bad idea. And what’s up with Hartnell standing by himself? I can only assume they were all hanging out together before Smith’s Doctor arrived, but then the first Doctor had a Billy-fluff of the worst kind.
That’s all I’ll say for now. I have a rant a mile long that I’m trying to make less ranty. If you’d like the cliff notes:
- I, personally, hate the idea of telling a story where someone gets to go back in time to change their previous decision.
- And if you do tell that story, I feel like at least the character should pay a price. Or something.
- To quote Ben McKenzie from Splendid Chaps: that’s not a Time War. That’s a Space War.
- The Doctor’s unpleasantly chirpy for someone who just re-committed genocide.
All that and more when I come back and complain. I bet you can’t wait.