"Good afternoon. I'm looking for the Doctor." "Well, you've certainly come to the right place."
IN THIS ONE... On the final day of the Time War, the War Doctor teams up with the 10th and 11th Doctors to save Gallifrey. Plus, Zygons and Elizabeth the First.
REVIEW: Obviously, one of the most exciting things about this episode was that we'd finally see the Time War and just what the Doctor did to end it. This could have been a disastrous move, but Moffat constructs a delicate puzzle from everything that was established before, even using a formerly innocuous line like "the Doctor has seized the moment", revealing it as the Moment, with a capital M, and... was that the survivor from "Dalek" flying by the camera as Gallifrey "blew"? He manages to recreate the Time War from various lines of dialog, not contradict anything including the bits from The End of Time, and yet, retcon the whole damn thing. It's brilliant. Think of it, we've had this Big Huge Deal that's been talked about all through the new series, at that changed the Doctor forever, and in a single story, it's undone, opening up new avenues for story telling, without voiding the last 7 years of stories whatsoever. And while I didn't quite realize the first time around, Clara is at the heart of it. Three Doctors running around AND Billie Piper as the Moment/Bad Wolf (a brilliant idea for using the actress without bringing back Rose Tyler), and STILL, it's Clara who makes a difference. See, when the Doctor are taken to the end of the Time War, it plays like they finally accept that destroying Gallifrey was the only thing they could have done. The man who regrets and the man who forgets joining hands with the man who did and accepting him as a part of themselves. But as we're often reminded, the Doctor is different when he doesn't have a human companion at his side, and three of him, is still a companionless Doctor. And three Doctor around a big red button would, together, burn Gallifrey all over again. But Clara's there, and it makes all the difference. She asks him to be a doctor, not a warrior, and in so doing changes history. She's saved him once more. Not echoes in his time stream. Her. A great moment.
As multi-Doctor stories go, this is by far the best one we've ever had. The others always had rubbish plots and/or too many elements to check off a list, turning them into a spotter's guide of favorite actors or enemies. There's quite a lot going on in The Day of the Doctor, but it gels together nicely, and the Doctors have good chemistry, and the direction is interesting, favoring dissolves to overlay the overlapping lives of the Doctor. The tradition of Doctors competing with their other selves is kept up, though Ten and Eleven do seem to enjoy each other more than, say, Two and Three. It's really up to the War Doctor to comment on what the show's become and to act as a bridge between the classic and new series. He takes shots at the literal wand waving, the childish techy-babbly and the kissing, and it's hilarious. But it's not just bickering, there's also some great teamwork. Moffat, at his best, sets up the rules to his universe, lets us forget them, and puts them back into play. So the bit where the War Doctor's sonic is made to compute something for 400 years until it's Doc11's is quite clever, but a red herring (the Doctors are crestfallen when Clara just opens it from the other side). You laugh it off as a joke. But that's how the Doctors save Gallifrey at the end too, with the problem implanted in the War Doctor's mind and the solution finally becoming clear to the Eleventh whose technically had 400 years to think about it (Time Lords can probably run computations in some part of their brains they can section off from the rest, no paradox required).
It certainly doesn't hurt that the solution involves quite a lot of eye candy. After all, this is a celebration, so fans can look forward to lots of that, and fun references from the show's past as well. It's expected and required. 3D paintings of Gallifrey (another "rule" set up early and used to good effect), the return of the Zygons (they've hardly changed the design, which is cool), the Doctor's marriage to Elizabeth I finally revealed (it's got its moments, though his mission to seduce what he thinks is a Zygon impostor and easily the weakest part of the story), the original opening sequence, Clara teaching at Coal Hill School with the obligatory referencing of An Unearthly Child (it's jarring to come into this off Name's cliffhanger, but I've come to terms with it), Eleven using Amy's glasses, a UNIT scientist with a long scarf, Kate Stewart's back, "It's wearing a bit thin", that beautiful dream of the 12 Doctors standing together in a cloud, Peter Capaldi's eye stealing the show during the 13-TARDIS sequence, Tom Baker showing up as a the Undergallery's curator (see Theories) giving a soulful performance tinged with melancholy... I'm sure you have your favorite. Or if you're like me, several favorites. The only sour note for me, as far as references go, is Ten reprising "I don't want to go". A minor point, because Day oozes with cool stuff from the show's past, present and future.
THEORIES: So what was all that double-talk spoken by Tom Baker at the end of the episode? Well, I don't know if you noticed, but the wall of the Undergallery has distinctive hexagons with circles in them... roundels? Are we perhaps in a TARDIS? In THE TARDIS? Is the curator, in fact, a future version of the Doctor who's taken a familiar face from the first batch of regenerations, and come to give the 11th Doctor a cryptic message about his Trenzalorian destiny not being set in stone? (The other clue was the Capaldi Doctor's participation in the climax, of course.) If so, there were four TARDISes in this scene, three of them inside another. After all, the Undergallery is a mystery. It's a space Liz I obviously had access to, where dangerous artwork was stored, but we don't know how she even got her hands on "Gallifrey Falls/No More", do we? Did the Curator Doctor visit her to make sure these events happened? And if you need more evidence, there's the fact that Liz' letter names the Doctor as the new curator of the Undergallery. Maybe it's a duty he didn't take to right away, and maybe the Undergallery has been a room in the TARDIS all along (see The Invasion of Time for its first possible appearance).
REWATCHABILITY: High - It does so much, it could have easily fallen on its face. Instead, it's super-cool, funny and exciting, and changes everything without destroying anything. Great work.