I promise to try my best not to include any spoilers.
I suppose it’s somehow possible that the past weekend went past you completely unaware of its intense significance. No, I’m not talking about the assassination of one of America’s most beloved presidents, I’m talking about the on-going life of one of the world’s favorite fictional characters. Coinciding with the death of JFK was the debut of Doctor Who on British television sets. 50 years later and he found his way on to quite a few more screens that his predecessor (10 or 11 faces ago).
As with previous celebratory episodes of the series, the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who pitted different iterations of the same character on the screen together, including one which we had not seen before (outside of a brief moment of foreshadowing for this very episode) and well… a spoiler would fit in quite nicely here.
So, obviously, the world was excited. My friends (most of them) were excited. My wife was excited (a selection of treats including jammy dodgers, jelly babies, and fish fingers and custard was created for our viewing event). And yes…I was a bit excited. There were so many rumors going around about this thing, which of the previous 10 doctors were going to appear, which villains were coming about, what previous companions were going to join in, and a whole host of other murmurs regarding this single 75 minute episode.
So, perhaps I came into the episode with my hopes too high. As someone who’s been recently making his way through the original episodes, trying to fill out my geek card as well as possible, I was hoping for something that would work well as an homage to the entirety of the previous 50 years of story telling.
I was disappointed.
Although there were questions that were answered (in minimal fashion) that were initially asked back when the series restarted in 2005, it seemed that most of the series prior to that date was forgotten about. Sure, there were little head nods toward costume choices, character names, and pictures of companions; there were overt attempts to remind people that this show has been around for awhile, including a moment that would be too much of a spoiler as well as the final shot of the episode, which actually reminded me a bit of the old episode titled The Five Doctors.
But, heck, even this episode didn’t resolve it’s own storylines. All three of the doctor’s leave a tense moment with aliens who are in the midst of invading earth (aren’t they always?) to deal with their own personal issues. We never see how things resolve… the story line was really only there to show a monster that only appeared one time prior in the entirety of the show.
Overall, the episode had its moments. There were definitely some exciting bits in which little fanboy jumps of the heart occurred. But as a story…it was lacking, it was confusing, and more than that, it really didn’t do the series as a whole any form of justice. Instead of acting as an homage, it really only served as a launch pad for the new face of the doctor, so we have an idea of where his stories will be going.
I’m not saying that we needed Tom Baker back on the ground, sonic screwdriver in hand as he goes on a hunt for the ghost of Patrick Troughton. But I do think that a lot more could have been done to make this an actual anniversary episode for something that has spanned a half a century, as opposed to the precursor for next season that it really ended up being.
It’s totally worth the watch…but I’m not certain it was worth the attention the BBC gave it.
I know many Who-fans will disagree.
However, John Hurt fit into the role as (not) the Doctor perfectly, and it was wonderful seeing 10 and 11 share the screen. Just like previous multi-Doctor stories, they had the jabs at each other which brings joy to one’s heart. And…I think we can all rest a little bit easier knowing where the Peter Capaldi stories will be going, not trying to imagine him filling Matt Smith’s shoes.
If anything, the Day of the Doctor showed that this series has a lot of life left in its story, even if it didn’t do too much to highlight the life it has led.
Now…if you’re looking for a better bit of that, An Adventure in Space and Time is a fantastic look into the start of the series. I’d highly suggest that one.
Have fun out there!