Yes. I know what you’re thinking if you’re reading this.
It’s now 11th December and this all happened like last century in Doctor Who years. And time wibbles and wobbles for no man. So here, three weeks later, is what I thought of The Day of the Doctor.
It was pretty good. Yes. Pretty good.
Ok. It was pretty frickin awesome. In fact, as promised by Steven Moffat, probably over a year ago, the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who was THE most exciting time to be a Doctor Who fan.
Although I’ve been in the midst of starting a new job and moving house and have missed countless appearances of the cast on TV and radio, none the less, it has been really magical. I mean, when was the last time anyone went to the cinema and had to queue to get in? I thought that was just something they did in the 90s. And then to have that experience followed up by two Hollywood trailers that reference the very TV show you’re about to see, followed by a cinema etiquette film presented by Strax the Sontaran, followed by a humorous introduction to 3D by Matt Smith and David Tennant, which spookily features a cameo shot of the back of John Hurt. Basically, it was like Christmas had arrived a month early.
Even more so when Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo end up discussing Doctor Who appearing in the top ten cinema releases on their Radio 5 film review show. And not only that, they read such articulate praise for the film/episode from listeners. And then you learn it’s also made the top ten at the US box office.
Imagine if it had been playing all week.
It is true to say I am a bit confused as to how this now makes Matt Smith the 13th Doctor and not the 12th Doctor. And yes, it probably was a bit confusing for people not familiar with the show. And yes, all the best gags were references to things only devoted views and fans would remember. And yes, there was that dodgy shot of a black security guard just as Jemma Redgrave declared she was taking Clara to the ‘Black Archive’.
Apart from, and including the gags that only made sense to fans, it was a joy from start to finish.
Of course the budget and schedule of making a 75 minute episode on a budget of a 45 minute episode didn’t quite compare to the gloss of a three-figure multi-million dollar blockbuster. But unlike most blockbusters it packed all the thrills and emotion of a two and half hour film into a lean running time of less than 90 minutes.
There is a reason why TV writers are better writers than film writers.
Even to my own surprise, one of the best things about the episode was a great script and a great cast.
The twist that Billie Piper was not in fact playing Rose Tyler was something I grew steadily warmer and warmer to as the episode progressed. And she impressively held her own giving half of a two hander alongside John Hurt. And Hurt, himself, he did not. If you catch my drift. He made a surprisingly touching addition to the line of eleven wonderful actors who have previously been cast in the role. Or twelve if you count Peter Cushing. Or thirteen if you count Richard Hurndall. Fourteen if you count David Tennant’s prosthetic arm. And yes, apparently it is significant. Ask Steven Moffat.
What’s more, there was the lovely Joanna Page as Queen Elizabeth I. And this morning I learned that she co-starred with David Tennant in ‘Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger’. Put it this way: I was very tempted to then buy ‘Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger’. The two of them together on screen was that much fun.
If only more TV gave such fun roles to actors. Maybe that’s why the show has lasted for 50 years. I suppose it is important that people in it actually get to enjoy themselves.
And what is there to say about Smith and Tennant on screen together, especially with John Hurt in the mix. There’s a TV spin off waiting to happen with the three of them, no joke.
If I had to be really picky I could critique the narrative structure. I think what confused non-regular viewers was that there was two or three stories going on, on top of each other. And even I, with my Doctor Who knowledge and experience, wasn’t entirely sure which one I was supposed to be letting myself get involved with. Was it the mysterious threat from inside the National Gallery? Was it Queen Elizabeth I getting cloned by a Zygon? Or was it the enigmatic War Doctor stealing a mysterious box that he hoped would violently end the Time War?
You might argue that Hurt’s Doctor should have carried the story from beginning to end with Smith and Tennant cameoing in his story. But Doctor Who just doesn’t work like that. Matt Smith is the Doctor and it’s his show. And the ending needed to set him on his way to finding out from a mysterious curator that ‘Gallifrey Falls No More’.
Also, if the episode had begun with Hurt’s Doctor it would have been harder to have shoe-horned in the original black and white title sequence giving way to shots of Totters Lane and Coal Hill School.
No. Hands off. Leave it alone. The Day of the Doctor was perfect. No, bloody brilliant. Warts and all.