SOD: Day of the Doctor
Starring: Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt
Written by Steven Moffat
People have been looking forward to the Dr Who 50th Anniversary Special for years, and especially so since we found out that David Tennant would feature an appearance. While watching, the episode did not disappoint: Tennant and Smith had fantastic interplay, the plot was quick and engaging, there were twists and turns, and all sorts of timey wimey Timelord technology we’ve never heard of before. It focused on the end of the time war and The Doctor’s struggles with the destruction of his own people, a setpiece throughout the reboot of Dr Who. I finished the episode and was satisfied: it was my Dr. Who fix, and it felt like the older Steven Moffat episodes that had engaged plots but that were understandable and that came to an end at the end.
Unfortunately the episode does not stand up well to prolonged thought. I suspect that there will be a sharp divide in people’s reactions to episodes split between classic Whovians and those who prefer reinvention (particularly Moffat fans). The end of the episode significantly changes one of the basic elements of the Doctor’s character, and unfortunately it felt very machinus ex deus. The Doctor no longer had to wrestle with the deep questions of sacrifice and responsibility, with a difficult moral dilemma: he simply got a way out. Just as the introduction of John Hurt as the Doctor was a way to bypass the character development of the 8th Doctor that would be required to turn him into the Doctor who ended the Time War, so this episode bypassed the dark decisions of the Doctor’s past and used some fairly shoddy “memory loss” as a cover for the previous 7 seasons.
In addition, Moffat followed his typical path of downplaying female involvement. Clara seems to perpetually do almost nothing in the episodes except follow after the Doctor. This time around, her only main action was to use the time vortex manipulator, which is disappointing considering how important the companions have been in past seasons. While Rose did make an appearance, it was as an interface to an object, which to me says something.
If you’re looking for a fun episode without a whole lot of depth, this is a perfectly fine entertainment, but if you love the history of Dr Who and want the character development to be strong and consistent, don’t watch the last five minutes of this episode.