Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thoughts on Day of the Doctor, Part I: Pulling Off 50 Years

As I write this, it has been less than eleven hours since I saw The Day of the Doctor, Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary special.

I wasn't quite sure what I was expecting, but what I got was not what I expected.

What happened first is that I wobbled in my chair and waved my hands around crazily. The source of this sudden seizure was that the episode's starting credits were the original title sequence—smoky black-and-white stuff with a modern Doctor Who and BBC logo. Then came another nod to the old series; the school at which Clara was teaching was in some way connected with one of the original companions, Ian. I don't know a whole lot about Classic, but I suspect it's the same school that the Doctor's granddaughter went to all those years ago.

It was a good start to an episode that was celebrating 50 years of Doctor Who history.

And the episode went on, introducing Queen Elizabeth I, Zygons, Daleks, and the Moment in the guise of Rose Tyler. (Some fans might have been disappointed that the real Rose wasn't actually in the episode. I wasn't particularly bothered by it. Rose wasn't a bad companion, but her storyline had ended, and I was glad they kept it that way.)

There are three major problems of the Moffat Era: one, bad pacing and/or plotting; two, “bizarre” plot-lines; and three, bad foreshadowing. The first problem is seen most prominently in episodes such as A Good Man Goes to War, The Wedding of River Song, The Snowmen, and The Name of the Doctor. “Bizarre” plot-lines are also seen in those episodes, particularly in The Wedding of River Song. And finally, bad foreshadowing is seen in such episodes as A Good Man Goes to War.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Day of the Doctor didn't suffer from any of these problems. The pacing throughout the episode was very well done and none of it felt rushed, and it wasn't any more bizarre than any other Doctor Who episode out there.

But as the episode began to draw to a close, I started to panic. At one point we stopped for a bathroom break and we only had twenty minutes left in the episode. The Zygons were just about defeated, but the Time War problem still loomed. “So far it's good,” I told my friend, “but Moffat needs to kick it into gear if he's going to shoot this thing up to epic.”

Two minutes further into the episode, and I began to relax a little bit. We finally got to the great Time War dilemma and things were starting to draw to a close.

And that's when he did it. What happened then was one of the most brilliant things Moffat has ever done in Doctor Who.

And the best part was that it was perfectly foreshadowed. The whole bit about the Zygons was, as one of the Doctors put it, the exact part of their timestream that they needed to see in order to make their decision properly.

Then they did it: they brought back Gallifrey, and all of the Doctors.

And when Nine appeared on the screen, if for two brief and fantastic seconds, I fell back in my chair and my friend fell off of his chair and crashed to the ground.

It was so well done that I am still marveling about it right now. Sure, the episode isn't perfect—I would have preferred a darker and more gritty type of episode. It was a little too light and it concentrated a little too long on the Zygons, but other than that I have no qualms.

Then the end—the end! Gallifrey was saved, and all thirteen Doctors!

And leave it to Moffat to top himself—not only did he do that, but he brought in Peter Capaldi for an instant, and started foreshadowing for Capaldi's run. 

Whatever is going to happen next, I'm more than ready for it

But what will the next part of Doctor Who history be like, exactly?  I'll dig a little deeper into the implications of Day of the Doctor for Capaldi's coming era, and more specifically, how Day of the Doctor ties in to The End of Time, in my next post.

Until then—allons-y!

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