Day of the Doctor: Initial Reaction and Mini-Recap

We here at Leaky News are all still kind of reeling from the epicness that was the “Day of the Doctor.” As a 50th anniversary special, it was nearly perfect– a tribute to the past, an expansion of the Myth of the Doctor, a glimpse of the future. A full recap will come later (after we all have a chance to watch it again!) but here’s my initial reaction. I think I speak for most of my Leaky News colleagues on this, incidentally.

YOU GUYS THAT WAS SO EPIC AND AWESOME AND AMAZING AND I STILL CAN’T THINK COHERENT THOUGHTS BUT HOLY COW PEOPLE. BAD WOLF AND TIME WAR AND ELIZABETH I AND ZYGONS AND 3D PAINTINGS AND GALLIFREY AND FOUR’S SCARF AND JOHN HURT AND DAVID TENNANT AND RABBIT AND FEZ AND TOM BAKER AND TARDIS AND SONIC SCREWDRIVER AND 13 DOCTORS AND GALLIFREY AND AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

Ahem. Anyway, to recap what happened (and these are not necessarily in the order they happened, because with all the flashbacks I got confused and I’ve only watched it the one time, so sorry):

  • The opening credits were the original ones (or at least a recreation of them) from 1963.
  • Clara is teaching at the school that Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter, was attending in An Unearthly Child. She gets a message from the Doctor.
  • Clara rides her motorcycle right into the TARDIS control room.
  • The Doctor (Eleven, of course) and Clara are deciding where to go when UNIT picks up the TARDIS with a helicopter. After a phone call to Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (last seen in The Power of Three), the helicopter drops the TARDIS in Trafalgar Square.
  • Kate gives the Doctor a note from Elizabeth I and says that her credentials are inside the National Gallery; the credentials turn out to be a Gallifreyan 3-D painting depicting the last day of Gallifrey– the fall of Arcadia. The Doctor flashes back to the life he tries to forget– John Hurt’s Doctor, who I will afterwards refer to as the War Doctor because I’m still not at all sure how they’re going to deal with numbering from now on, and it’s just easier to refer to David Tennant as Ten and Matt Smith as Eleven until told otherwise).
  • The War Doctor appears on Gallifrey, where citizens are running for their lives and Daleks are chanting “EXTERMINATE.” He asks a Gallifreyean soldier to borrow his gun. But rather than destroying Daleks with it, he uses the gun to inscribe a message on a wall: NO MORE. The War Doctor leaves and steals The Moment from the Time Lord’s vaults– a weapon capable of destroying entire galaxies with an operating system so advanced it gained sentience.
  • The War Doctor takes the Moment to what appears to be an abandoned barn or shed.  As he wishes for a big red button, Rose Tyler appears. But it’s not actually Rose, it’s the interface of the weapon, who chose Rose from the Doctor’s future– not just Rose, though. The Bad Wolf, Rose with the Time Vortex inside her, able to manipulate time and space. She tells the War Doctor that while she can do what he wants, there will be consequences. She opens a time portal to let him see how this decision affects his future self. A fez drops out of the portal.
  • Ten is wooing Elizabeth I, she accepts his proposal of marriage, he accuses her of being a Zygon because he has a shape-shifter detector that goes Ding. They run from the actual Zygon (his horse) and split up. Ten and Elizabeth meet back up, but a second Queen Liz runs up. While Ten is trying to sort out which one is the real Elizabeth, a time portal opens up and a fez drops out.
  • Eleven and Clara go down to the secret vault of art that Elizabeth deemed too dangerous for public consumption. Eleven picks up a fez on the way to a gallery with more 3D Gallifreyean paintings. The glass is all broken from the inside. There used to be figures in the paintings, but they’re gone now. A time portal opens up. Eleven can kind of remember this. He throws the fez into the time portal, then jumps in himself shouting, “Geronimo!”
  • Elven and Ten meet and it’s the best thing ever.
  • Clara and Kate can still hear what’s going on. To test whether Eleven can get back through the time portal, he throws the fez in again. It doesn’t appear.
  • Instead, the War Doctor goes through the time portal, asking for the Doctor. A funny bit ensues when he realizes that Ten and Eleven are his future incarnations. They get arrested by Elizabeth I, who might be a Zygon, and thrown into the Tower of London. 11 scrapes something in the wall to help Clara get there. The three Doctors discuss the Time War and try to get out with their Sonic Screwdrivers.
  • Most of the UNIT people get caught by the Zygons and replaced by duplicates. Clara escapes by way of Captain Jack Harkness’s old Vortex manipulator. The Doctors, with the help of the Moment interface, figure out that the sonic screwdriver is the same software inside and, therefore, a calculation started by the War Doctor would be complete 400 years later in Eleven’s screwdriver, and might be able to open the door. Just as they’re about to try it, Clara opens the door. It wasn’t locked.
  • Elizabeth I takes them to the basement where the Zygons, whose planet had been destroyed in the Time War, are beaming themselves into the 3D Gallifreyan paintings in order to take over the world later.
  • Kate activates a countdown to set off a nuclear device and blow up the Black Vault (where tons of alien stuff is stored) to keep the Zygons from getting it. The Doctors try to get back (after Ten marries Elizabeth, no wonder she’s so mad in Shakespeare Code), but the UNIT base is TARDIS-proof. They get the idea of beaming themselves into the painting instead.
  • The three Doctors (and Clara) burst out of the painting and wipe the memories of all the occupants of the vault to make them negotiate a peace treaty. Clara talks to the War Doctor, trying to convince him that his future self will regret destroying the Time Lords more than anything. But it actually has the opposite effect she intends– he realizes that their regret over what happened is what makes them even more determined to solve problems without violence and death. He turns to the Moment interface and says he made his decision.
  • She takes him back to the empty shed, where the Moment device now has a nice big red button. He’s about to press it when Ten and Eleven (and Clara) show up– the Moment has brought them there, even though the event is Time Locked. They tell the War Doctor that he doesn’t have to do this alone–even though it’s the wrong choice, there were no right choices to be made, and maybe this is the best of the wrongs. But Clara isn’t having this. She talks to Eleven, her Doctor, as well as the others, about why they chose the name Doctor in the first place. They remember that it was a promise not to harm, but to help. Clara begs them to think of another way.
  • Elven does. Then Ten gets it. Then the War Doctor. They realize that they can freeze Gallifrey, the whole planet, in time, like the Zygons and themselves in the paintings. Gallifrey will disappear, the Daleks will kill each other in the crossfire, and everyone will think Gallifrey had been destroyed. But it will actually just be frozen.
  • The three Doctors get in their TARDISes and contact the Time Lord High Command (not the High Council or whatever it’s called that we see in The End of Time) to tell them about their plan. But they need more than just three TARDISes– they need all of the Doctor’s lives. And there they all are, from One to Twelve (Thirteen? Peter Capaldi, anyway), using archive footage, saving Gallifrey. It’s AWESOME.
  • The three Doctors are inspecting the painting known as “Gallifrey Falls” (or is it called “No More”?). They don’t know where Gallifrey ended up. They don’t even know if it worked. And after this, only Eleven will remember that they even tried. The War Doctor leaves and starts to regenerate in his TARDIS, becoming Nine.
  • Ten asks where they’re going, since he won’t remember all this anyway. Eleven tells him about Trenzalore. Ten leaves in his TARDIS, saying they need to find a way out of Trenzalore, because he doesn’t want to go. I burst into tears.
  • Eleven and Clara are about to leave when Clara tells Eleven that the curator of the collection wants to see him. Eleven says he would like being the curator. The curator shows up– and it’s Tom Baker.  In an awesome exchange, Tom Baker tells Eleven that the name of the painting is actually “Gallifrey Falls No More.” It worked.
  • Eleven has a new mission– to find Gallifrey, to be able to go home. In what I’d say isn’t a literal sequence, he walks through a door to join his previous 11 incarnations to gaze on Gallifrey. I burst into tears again.

So, it was awesome. I need to watch it again (and again and again and again), but a few questions remain. There’s still the problem of Rassilon wanting to destroy time itself from The End of Time. If Gallifrey comes back, they’ll have to deal with that. Do we need to start calling Nine Ten and Ten Eleven and Eleven Twelve, because the War Doctor totally reclaimed that title by the end. Was Tom Baker supposed to actually be the Doctor, or someone else? Where on Ten’s timeline did this take place (I’m thinking it’s between Waters of Mars and The End of Time)? How on earth is the Christmas Special, or anything else really, going to top this?

What did you think of The Day of the Doctor? Any more questions or speculation? How awesome would it have been to have had Nine there too? Sound off in the comments!

  • QED42

    I enjoyed it, they had a lot of baggage to deal with but did a pretty good job of balancing it all. It wasn’t as good as “An Adventure in Space and Time” (which is the best thing Who related in years) but it was still a pretty good episode even if it did have it’s faults. What it did manage to do was bring an end to over arching theme of The Doctor being guilty for what he did that we have had since the restart of the series and clearly frame a new “big problem” for the series to run with.

    Personally I think they needed a lot more time to truly do The Time War justice, a film trilogy would have been best but we have to take what we can get I suppose.