Published on January 12th, 2014 | by admin
Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor DVD Review
Summary: Moffat and the production team should be congratulated in giving fandom more than what they expected and less than what they feared
Doctor Who The Day of the Doctor
Distributor: BBC / Roadshow
Running Time: TBA
Reviewer: Robert Mammone
According to the BBC, whether watching at home or at the cinema, an astonishing worldwide audience of 77 million viewers experienced The Day of the Doctor, the culmination of a year long celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary.
Showrunner Steven Moffat faced difficulties on two fronts – managing the expectations of a vociferous fan base that has somewhat turned against him in recent times, and the larger, wider expectations of a mass audience, most of whom grew up with the show over two generations. Thankfully, Moffat has the talent (and ego!) to cope with that level of expectation, and The Day of the Doctor was an entertaining romp from start to finish.
With Tennant and Smith at his disposal, Moffat constructed an episode that feels like a celebration of the new series only. Many fans called for all the living actors to play the role of the Doctor to feature. Which ignores the fact that including them all would’ve turned the story into an absolute mess. In addition, let’s not get away from the fact that the passage of thirty years hasn’t been kind to them all. That said, Moffat, a fiendishly clever writer, did manage to work a way for all living and dead actors to appear in the special, to the delight of the cinema audience of hardened fans I sat with.
In the absence of the classic era Doctors, Moffat instead celebrated the show itself. The opening minute featured the Hartnell title sequence, a dissolve from black and white to colour, and a tip of the hat to the opening shot of the very first episode in 1963, with a very modern day police officer walking past Coal Hill School.
The heart of the special lies in the dynamic created between Tennant and Smith on the one hand, and William Hurt as the War Doctor, on the other. Moffat evokes the banter and interaction of The Three Doctors, the tenth anniversary special, where Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton delighted audiences. Moffat also gives humorous voice to many fans complaints at the depiction of the new series Doctors as smug, skirt chasing Lotharios, through Hurt’s grumbling. Gently done, these are genuinely funny moments, charming as they are telling.
Of course, while there is plenty of light, there is also a great deal of shade in the depiction of these latter day Doctors. Beneath the one-upmanship, gurning and hand waving, Moffat portrays three incarnations burdened by how the Time War ended. While the depiction of Gallifreyan children gambolling in the sun is far too twee for your reviewer, it does bring the point home that the Doctor’s choice to destroy his people and the Daleks is a truly horrendous act.
Gifted an additional 30 minutes of screen time to fill, The Day of the Doctor is expertly paced. The direction is unfussy and the special effects, especially the Dalek invasion of Gallifrey is powerful and affecting. The supporting cast slot well into the story, with the highlight being Jemma Redgrave’s returns as Kate Lethbridge Stewart.
A feature of the episode is the emotion of it all. Whereas the classic series was all about the action and adventure, and very little about the emotional side of things, in today’s television environment, the reverse applies. Moffat uses this to great effect. The archival appearance of all the Doctors in the final action packed moments created a spontaneous emotional reaction in the audience your reviewer was a part. And while Capaldi’s cameo brought a cheer, it was Tom Baker’s appearance as the Curator and possible future incarnation of the Doctor, which brought the house down. To see him, eyes wide and sparkling, with obvious delight in his voice, was a wonderful, heart-warming sight.
With this script, Moffatt has unwound the Time War’s denouement, and in doing so, allowed the character of the Doctor to return to what many classic series fans have hoped to see – a character freed of unfamiliar guilt, and instead characterised by curiosity and not pursued by melancholy. While it is too late for a departed Matt Smith to take up these new threads, hopefully, with Peter Capaldi just now starting out in the role, we will see more of the classic era ethos of exploration and adventure in the years to come.
Either way, Moffat and the production team should be congratulated in giving fandom more than what they expected and less than what they feared, and for a birthday present fifty years in the making.
Audio: 5 stars
Visual: 5 stars
Special features – 3 stars – not up to the breadth and standard we’ve come to expect from the classic series range, but reasonably comprehensive in relation to the anniversary special itself.
The Last Day. A short feature released in the lead up to the broadcast of Day of the Doctor, badly written and badly realised. The money wasted on it would have been better spent buying the crew deluxe toilet paper.
Night of the Doctor. The triumphant, seven minute return of Paul McGann setting up William Hurt as the War Doctor. In that short time, McGann ably recaptures his Eighth Doctor, reminding us how short-changed we were when the 1996 telemovie went nowhere. Released on the internet, the clarity of the image and sound on a big screen television is breathtaking. Rumour has it that McGann may feature again in the upcoming eighth season…how apt!
Behind the Lens. With Doctor Who Confidential consigned to the dustbin of history, this short look behind the scenes of the making of The Day of the Doctor gives a glimpse of its making. Narrated by Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker, we see demonstrated the great love and affection for the show by all involved.
Two trailers are included, a short trailer for the episode, and a longer trailer, full of 3D imagery and computer rendering that heralded the beginning of the BBCs celebrations of the 50th anniversary. Well worth pausing frequently to tote up the number of references to the show crammed into it.
Doctor Who Explained. From the production team that brought us The Doctor Revisited; this documentary is a primer for the entire history of the show. Some elements from TDR are re-used, but there are new interviews included, with Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman) a particularly nutty delight. Slick and fun, it’s the best thing a new series fan could watch to get a feel for the early history of the show.