Unlicensed nuclear blogging device.
My take on the Anniversary Special. (copypasted from an Outpost Skaro thread)
I remember thinking, when word first got out of Tennant and Smith in the episode, that those two were going to be the best double act since Petwee and Troughton. As it turned out, they were, in fact, the best double act since Pertwee and Troughton. It was refreshing to do away with the “the Doctors don’t get along” angle in favor of more of a sibling-like ribbing sort of relationship. (I dunno if anyone else got the same vibe. I say sibling-like just because it reminded me a lot of how me and my brother get along.) Tennant’s character was simplified a little bit from his actual run (obviously, that’s what happens every time a Doctor comes back for a team-up) with his suave, womanizing ways being played up a lot more, but Tennant himself slipped back into the role like he never left. Seriously, watching it, he’d been onscreen for less than a minute before I just completely forgot this was a one-off return. It felt so natural, and you can tell SteeMo enjoyed getting to write for him again.
The real standout, though, was John Hurt. Now, I fully admit to having begun the Anniversary season fully on the “What The Hell You Can’t Just Drop A New Doctor On Us Out Of Nowhere” bandwagon, but having seen Hurt in the part, and with time, I’ve sort of relaxed back into my standard attitude of “Why The Hell Not The Point Of This Show Is That Anything Can Happen and After All Look How Much The Three Doctors Shook Up the Status Quo.” For my money, Hurt got all the best lines, and I enjoyed how much he often sounded like a curmudgeonly “Old Series” fanboy criticizing the excesses of the revival. (Best line in the episode: “Oh for God’s sake! Gallifrey stands!” I’m with the War Doctor; I’ve had quite enough of the catchphrases.) It was also interesting how much, in spite of Hurt claiming to not be the Doctor, when you get right down to it, he still very much was. He was built up as Grim and Portentous as he possibly could, but as we saw more of him, as world-weary as he was, the core Doctor characteristics were all still there, the curiosity, the wit, the frustration with the lack of big red buttons. Even the warmth and magnetism. In a single episode, Hurt gave us a complete, nuanced, and legitimate Doctor from beinning to end, which is testament to the caliber of actor he is. I now fully support the War Doctor, and I’m almost sad we’ll pretty assuredly never get to see much more of him.
Stronger plotline than the Five Doctors, not as good as the Three Doctors. Look, any discussion of plot in a Doctor Who anniversary episode has to be tempered with the understanding that at the end of the day, it’s just an excuse to get multiple Doctors in the same room. As long as it accomplishes that, without being too blatant (cough*FiveDoctors*cough) it’s in the clear. With that in mind, it’s impressive that this managed to keep as many balls in the air as it did. I think a lot of people, myself included, were surprised that this really wasn’t a universe-threatening bombastic space-opera epic of a story (like it was publicized as), but instead an introspective identity crisis for the Doctor himself. Good. It’s something we haven’t seen before. The Three Doctors gave us the bombastic epic, The Five Doctors gave us a fluffy museum exhibit. Existential crisis hadn’t been done before. The Doctors come together purely because John Hurt wants to make sure he’s not making a mistake. He then gets to briefly join in a traditional Doctor Who story for a bit, to remind himself of who he is before returning to the task at hand. It’s very meta, very Moffat.
As to the retcon…I’ll be honest, it made me very, very, very happy. It’s not that I was dissatsfied with the Time War and the destruction of Gallifrey as a plot point. This has to be seen in context. Pop culture as a whole right now is increasingly obsessed with death, darkness, destruction, and angst. Doctor Who has not been immune to this. The past season has been one long road taking the Doctor to the DARKEST, GRITTIEST, MEANEST, places he can go to, which is absolutely fine, but starts to get exhausting after a while. So as we reach the 50th, what does the show do? Doctor Who takes a good long look at itself, and decides, in contrast to everything else in the zeitgeist, to take a different path. It goes back to the single DARKEST, ANGSTIEST, MEANEST plot point in its history, and reworks it so it becomes an act of kindness and hope. It’s what the Doctor has always been best at. In the face of impossibly tragic odds, finding the clever, hopeful third option. He makes people better. He is after all, the Doctor.
As an out and proud anti-fan of the Rose Tyler character, but equally someone who enjoys Billie Piper as an actress, I was thrilled to get to have my cake and eat it too. We get Billie back, but not as Rose. I win both ways! The Moment Interface was such a fun and interesting in a long Moffat tradition of Weird Sentient Technology. Also, I swear that costume made Billie ten times as attractive as she ever was wearing a Union Jack.
Kate Stewart’s a good character, and Jemma Redgrave is a good actress, yet I can’t help but find her, well, kind of bland compared to her character’s father. Nick Courtney just had something about him that made him absolutely magical onscreen. This semi-self-aware twinkle that always shone beneath the military bluster. I’m sorry, but, Redgrave, as good as she is, doesn’t have that. She’s a poor substitute for the Brig. That’s not her fault, really, that’s just how good Courtney was.
Zygons! I was suprised just how much they were in it, honestly. I was expecting a token appearance at best, so it was a pleasant surprise just how much they were in it. They were updated perfectly, too. That is, they were really not altered at all, right down to the voice. I will admit to being seriously creeped out by the FX shot of a mid-transformation Jemma Redgrave as well, so kudos there. I guess it’s still a little sad we didn’t get more of them, as they were just that good, but hey. They’ve got those costumes now. The door is open for future appearances. So yeah. Zygons!
Tom. Fucking. Baker. That one caught me off guard. When Clara mentioned an “old man” looking for the Doctor, my first thought was that we were going to get the much-rumored David Bradley cameo. The reality was better though. Tom Baker as Tom Baker spouting first class Tom Baker nonsensical gibberish as only Tom Baker can deliver it. Tom Baker. I can’t stop replaying the scene. I’m seeing a lot of speculation as to who the character of “The Curator” really is. An alternate-timeline Fourth Doctor? A retired Doctor from the far future with Tom Baker’s face again? Another Time Lord? The Other? Just a crazy old man who looks like the Doctor? Veteran stage and screen actor Thomas Stewart Baker? Yes. No. All/None of the above. IT SO DOES NOT MATTER. In fact, the less we understand this character, the better the scene is. They LITERALLY wink at the camera, for crying out loud! The magic is that it defies explanation. And that it’s Tom Baker, in Doctor Who, in 2013. As the Doctor himself said,
So. The Day of the Doctor. 8/13 for Story, 12/13 for character, 50/13 for Impact. Nitpick all you like, I think, between this, Name of the Doctor, An Adventure in Space and Time, “The Five(ish) Doctors” and everything else from the pros, the fans, and everyone in between, this Anniversary has been thoroughly celebrated.
'Nebulous future doctor'? So you don't think it's the cho-je-esque projection that will eventually become the watcher?
I honestly am at a loss for why anyone would prefer an explanation other than “sometime around his 582nd incarnation the Doctor decided he really missed being Tom Baker, and so went back to that face and teamed up with the 309th Romana for a while, but she eventually left him to explore j-space and he decided to retire to curate the National Gallery for a few decades before getting distracted by a suspicious pigeon and inadvertently setting off on another several millennia of adventures in space and time.”
The pigeon unmasks to reveal Anthony Ainley. Roll credits.