I’m so happy right now.
I was worried. I’ve been worried for a year! I was especially worried as the episode got going, and it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a huge multi-doctor episode. It was basically just David Tennant and Matt Smith, with John Hurt in kind of a supporting role. As it went on, I still thought it was a shame they weren’t doing much to acknowledge the whole past of the show, but it felt like a really good culmination of the new show since Eccleston, dealing with the persistent theme of the Doctor’s actions during the Time War and his guilt. Hurt’s not a supporting role, he’s actually the protagonist! They did that brilliantly.
It’s kind of an episode-within-an-episode. The outside episode is about Hurt and the Time War, and then the inside episode is about Zygons and Earth. The Zygon crisis nods back to the old show, with the Zygons themselves, a lovely reference to the Brigadier, and probably other things I’ve missed. It’s also an example for the War Doctor as he looks into his own future, trying to decide if he’s making the right choice, assessing his future selves for its impact. It also gives him the inspiration he needs for the big climax. Viewing the episode, they feel completely interconnected, all one story.
I’ve been criticizing Doctor Who season finales for years, about how they keep trying to be bigger and better, and in the process fall in on themselves and become less important. “The Day of the Doctor” is about rewriting history and the fate of Gallifrey and changing the course of a 50-year-old show, but it feels intimate, and that’s what I loved about it. In the end, it’s not a story about “saving the universe,” it’s a story about the Doctor, our Doctor, all of them. It’s about who he is, and that’s why we loved this show in the first place. The climax brings in all the doctors, all 13 of them, recognizing that every single one of them is important. All the other Doctors were brought in through clips, and I love that they did it that way because they made all those Doctors equally important and weren’t limited to just the actors who are still living. One former Doctor does get an extra scene at the end, and for me, that’s what brought this episode up from majorly awesome to the absolute best. He deserved that, and I loved his interaction with Smith, and it redeems his whole history of avoiding the show.
It’s a shame Christopher Eccleston didn’t return. I do think they would’ve needed an even longer episode to do that, because Nine’s reaction to Hurt would have been very different from Tennant and Smith’s. Hurt’s presence kind of rounds out the difference and brings in that darkness. For me, Nine was present through the whole story, even though he wasn’t onscreen. They also came up with a very clever way to keep history the way it was, and yet still save the day. The course of the show is changed, but it’s not the earthshattering horror of a change that I was kind of expecting at this point. It’s a change that opens up possibilities.
Doubtless some fans will be disappointed that Billie Piper wasn’t actually playing Rose, but I think the fact that she was in it recognizes that important part of the Doctor’s story. I do think the fact that Clara has seen all the Doctors was underused, but there wasn’t really room, and I hope that will come up again in the future. The banter between the three Doctors was spot-on. Plus, it’s kind of in the background here, but this was a sweet penultimate episode for Smith. I feel like now that he’s found some peace with himself, maybe it’ll be easier to say goodbye. We kind of went back to the beginning, with him hanging out of the Tardis over London, and we recognized his whole life leading up to now, and he got to meet Tom Baker. (I may write a more organized post about how the Doctors treat each other, what do you think?)
Brace yourselves, there’s only a month until the Christmas special!