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Why DOCTOR WHO’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’ Remains Its Finest Hour

Why DOCTOR WHO’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’ Remains Its Finest Hour

As a Doctor Who fan, or even just a fan of sci-fi and TV history at large, the 50th Anniversary (which is already five years old, wow!) was inescapable and the anticipation for it and hoopla surrounding it were at a fever pitch. There was a massive convention in London (which I was lucky enough to attend), there were retrospectives and docudramas and every possible thing anyone could want. But there was still the question of whether the episode itself would be good. While I generally enjoyed it, the lead-up in series 7 had been met with hot and cold reception, though the finale, “The Name of the Doctor,” certainly got people in the spirit, and through a crazy curve ball in there by introducing John Hurt as the Doctor…what?!?!

Day of the Doctor 2

Since the 10th Anniversary special back in 1973, it had been established that on occasions such as that, past Doctors would show up and interact with each other, owing to both fun nostalgia and the fact that timelines are weird that way. This happened again in 1983, and attempted to happen in 1993 when the show was off the air (resulting in a beyond crappy 15-minute charity special that crossed over with EastEnders). This special in 2013, when the show was actually again and still on the air, was going to have to be massive. And for that, lead writer/showrunner Steven Moffat was going to need multiple Doctors.

Initially, he only had Jenna Coleman for sure, but soon he had Matt Smith, and David Tennant was pretty much a shoo-in, however the odds of getting Christopher Eccleston were slim-to-none (and, in fact, were none). Moffat had to think quick and came up with a crazy history-rewriting, yet totally logical way to have a third Doctor in the episode, by having the Doctor who fought in the Time War be a separate Doctor entirely, which was what John Hurt was, the unnumbered War Doctor. Moffat even gave fans a thrill by creating a short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor” which explains that the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) realized he could no longer be a conscientious objector and had to get involved, hence creating the War Doctor. Genius if you ask me.

Day of the Doctor 3

And so we got this episode, which is everything. Like, literally, it’s everything. The Doctor and Clara get picked up in the TARDIS by a helicopter which takes them to Trafalgar Square to meet with Kate Stewart of UNIT because of a strange painting found in the basement of the National Gallery. It’s a 3D painting called “Gallifrey Falls,” depicting the final day of the Time War. Then a portal opens up and the Eleventh Doctor jumps through and meets the Tenth Doctor in Ye Olde times when he’s wooing Queen Elizabeth the First whom he believes is a Zygon duplicate. Oh yeah, there are Zygons in this too.

While all that’s going on, we see the War Doctor with the secret weapon, the Moment, which we know ended the Time War by destroying both the Daleks and the Time Lords all at once. He travels to an isolated shanty and prepares to use the weapon, but a human personification of the Moment, using the Doctor’s as-yet-unmet Bad Wolf memory, appears and tries to show him the cost of doing such a thing, transplanting him to Elizabethan England as well, and puts the grizzled warrior up against “Chinny” and “Sand Shoes.”

It’s truly amazing to me that this worked, and worked as well as it did. The camaraderie between all the Doctors was hysterical and poignant, the re-writing of all the timelines completely makes sense and yet doesn’t negate the seven series we had previously, and it allowed Billie Piper to return without having to dredge up Rose Tyler yet again. It was glorious! And, perhaps fittingly, Clara got to be what the companion always is: the Doctor’s conscience, and the one who gives him another idea. Every layer works. It’s astonishing.

Plus, Tom Baker showed up. I mean, come on!

Share your thoughts of “The Day of the Doctor” with me below!

IMAGES: BBC

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor and the resident Whovian for Nerdist. Follow him on Twitter!

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