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first reaction to “Day of the Doctor”

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

Spoilers for “The Day of the Doctor” behind the cut.

Really, it takes a Stephen Moffat to take a grand, extra long much-anticipated special and turning it in to a set-up for his version of a Christmas Special. I have only the faintest of introductions to Eleven’s character, and yet I still feel like he tore my heart out and stomped on it, knowing where this has to be going given Capaldi’s about to make his grand entrance.

It makes me a little more understanding about the Sherlock hiatus. We’ve made an artform about complaining when the new season is coming back, and really, our wait has been exceptionally long (just under two years), but we at least know what happens and are just left with the why. Waiting a mere month, knowing that Eleven is about to be Twelve… that’s just mean. But also, strangely, quite good. Just as it should be.

On that note, though, it’s worth noting. There’s a list of things that happened inside the Sherlock hiatus. The US govt shut down and started up again, the pope resigned, Twinkies and Harry Potter are both back, etc. And now: Gallifrey exists. Gallifrey !@#$ exists….

Anyway, back to the Who. I quite enjoyed all the Doctors coming together, particularly with the high command’s reaction to it (how else would you react to twelve doctors closing in on a firestorm and proposing what they did?). I would have liked to see more of Nine, but the few glimpses we got were really quite fun. The Elizabeth I scenes were just… weird, but also quite funny. Eleven picking up the Fez. Clara’s common sense. The strong pacifist message (which is hardly new but probably does more to flesh out the difficulties of putting that approach into action), the timey-wimey way they got out of the Tower, the philosophical resolution to the ticking clock, the way hope was so woven through it all: it was very impressive as fanservice to the Whoniverse.

(Art by reindeerwinchester @ Tumblr)

Taken as a dramatic whole, I’m not entirely sure I like it. I mean, if I’d encountered this as an episode I probably would be a little disappointed. It’s just a little too packed, so full of excitement it doesn’t have enough of the meandering bizarreness that makes Doctor Who so enjoyable. That’s okay, though, because it’s not supposed to be just any other episode, it’s a celebration of the shared experience that is Doctor Who.

I can see some room for concern in that, since the Doctor didn’t destroy Gallifrey, that seems to take away a lot of his interesting moral character, a lot of what kept him from being omnipotent and hence unapproachable. It also seems like it could make him less driven to avoid destruction – he could see himself retiring to become a curator, for instance, rather than saving the universe.  (My cousin Ian went into this point in more details in his own blog.)

The one real point of hope I see on that last point is that I’m not sure just how much of an impact this episode will have on the character as a whole.
I think you could make a strong argument that this show should be treated as something approaching an alternate reality, since the doctors won’t remember what they did when they get back to their place in reality. I’m no expert on the physics of timey-wimey stuff, but if the only people who actually remembers it happening is Eleven, and he is still formed by his experiences in the earlier regenerations, I can see him still being fundamentally the same character. That said, the ending does suggest that Moffat and Co. are going to take this change in outlook in a more substantive direction.

The other main criticism I had of the special was the way they handled Rose Tyler’s character. It’s not really Rose at all, so much as a form a piece of technology takes on to communicate with John Hurt’s doctor. So while we have Billie Piper in the same room with David Tennant for quite a few scenes, they’re not really interacting as Ten and Rose. That’s a real lost opportunity, though I get that that simply wasn’t the direction the show wanted to go. It just was disappointing because when I saw Billie Piper was going to be in th special I imagined someone who was more thoroughly Rose-ish.

At the end of the day, though, I think this is supposed to be more a celebration of the weird, fun, exciting, principled and still bizarrely Who-ish quality that draws so many people like myself to the show. This one is getting rewatched once I get caught up (except for a smattering of Eleven and Nine, I’ve still only watched the first three Ten series). Most likely before then, because even though I only got roughly half of it, I *still* loved what I got and want to enjoy it even more. The points that concerned me didn’t keep it from being a wonderful celebration of everything I love about Who; it just meant it was an anniversary special rather than a true Doctor Who episode. If you can accept that limitation, you’ll probably enjoy this immensely.

Actually, if you’re the kind of person who would be drawn to that kind of thing, I fully expect you already have. :-) Now off watch some series four. Allons-y!



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 25th, 2013 07:20 am (UTC)
Huh. It's weird to have Gallifrey back... I'm sure there'll be a ton of plot points spinning off of that. In the old series the Doctor spent a notable amount of time trying to avoid Gallifrey and its politics.

Good to be forewarned about Rose, though. (Yes, I saw the spoiler warning. I love spoilers. If the banter and acting isn't enough to keep me interested, not knowing what the Big Surprise is gonna be isn't going to help in the slightest.)

And in completely random other news... Saw this t-shirt, and thought of you :) http://cdn1.bigcommerce.com/server3400/v4eyu8t/products/1834/images/730/time_travel_Large__93517.1366148628.1280.1280.jpg (They also have "Keep Calm and Keep Running", and "Sherlock: British for yaoi.") :}
Nov. 26th, 2013 04:39 am (UTC)
I feel a bit at odds getting into Who, as it's such an established universe with people who have been fans for years, and I'm just discovering it. It feels a bit odd to think I'd have anything useful or interesting to say about it. But it's a really fun show that I've enjoyed watching, and I'm loving seeing the reactions of people who have been fans longer than me.

I hear you about spoilers. I actually like themm as well, because for me it builds anticipation. But I don't like being caught off-guard by them, and some people prefer to avoid them, so...

That t-shirt is awesome! Love the line. :-) And the Sherlock phrase is... entirely too accurate, really.
Nov. 25th, 2013 11:36 am (UTC)
I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am enough of a Classic Who fan to catch nearly all the references and allusions to past series. Even though I've never seen any of the "One" episodes, I've seen clips, and the opening with the black and white original logo and the junkyard and Clara teaching in the school where the First's "granddaughter" went got me completely hooked!

And to have Tom Baker, "my" Doctor, show up at the end, and looking so spry and hale was a delight! Even if I'd hated all the rest (which I didn't) that would have made up for it.

I kind of like the idea that Gallifrey was not actually destroyed, but that it won't invalidate the previous existences of Nine and Ten since they don't know that. It's very clever and timey-wimey, LOL!

The banter and chemistry between Nine and Ten (and the War Doctor as well, who kind of reminded me of First's grumpy persona) was totally fun. The Elizabeth sub-plot was bizarre, but then to me, romance for the Doctor is bizarre anyhow.

Did you see "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot"? That was totally hilarious!

(Peter Davison was my second favorite doctor before Ten came along.)

ETA: I totally hope we will be treated to lots of "War Doctor" fanfic now! I want to know his backstory!

Edited at 2013-11-25 11:38 am (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2013 04:30 am (UTC)
I'm so with you on the fanfic issue! I've never read any Who fanfic, though of course there must be loads - Sherlock has my reading habits' interest right now. I can only imagine what this episode must be like for a fan of classic Who, and am glad you enjoyed it.

Will have to look for that reboot. No, I didn't see it, but if you like it that much, it sounds worth a watch.
Nov. 26th, 2013 01:02 pm (UTC)
Here you are:


It's quite hilarious; even for those who don't get all the Classic Who in-jokes, there's plenty there for New Who folks to "get". (Moffat makes fun of himself big time, and even PJ makes an appearance!)
Nov. 25th, 2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
I thought it was very sweet and funny; a complete love-letter to fandom and to the heritage of the show. Ten and Eleven together I thought were a riot; perfectly offset by John Hurt rolling his eyes and demanding to know if they represented some sort of Doctor's mid-life crisis :-)

Like you, I have my reservations about the loss of the darkness and anger and grief that made Nine, Ten and even to some extent Eleven such complex and grown-up characters. But it's been pretty clear ever since Moffat took over that he regarded RTD-Who as a bit too adult and dark, and has been wanting to take it back to its roots as a children's programme which adults could enjoy, rather than the other way around.

But as Dreamflower and others have pointed out, the rather neat non-remembering device can be used to mean that for those of us who loved Nine and Ten, their characters can still stand as they are, since they're still scarred by what they believe themselves to have done. Maybe, with hindsight, it'll even add a layer of tragic irony to those performances, that they're tormented needlessly by memories of something they didn't actually do??...

I was rather expecting the philosopher in you to be jumping up and down about the shout-out to John Rawls! (not that I would assume you to be a Rawlsian, but the mere fact that the Doctors' Veil of Ignorance tactics have got half the blogosphere talking about philosophy is kind of cool...)

And the ending choked me up completely. All of them, going home. (But oh, Tom Baker, my heart hurt. My Doctor, my childhood Doctor... is old. That's hard.)

Edited at 2013-11-25 02:49 pm (UTC)
Nov. 26th, 2013 04:27 am (UTC)
I ended up trying to introduce the Rawls moment (and there's more subtle Rawls woven through the whole episode, really) to my ethics class today. As I said at FB, you haven't lived until you've tried to explain Who to a bunch of non-Whovians. I ended it with a boiled-down explanation, shook myhead saying no, it wasn't anything like that, and just had to move on. For the record, it was a student who brought it up, not me.

I find it hysterical that you and Dreamflower see things so different - same doctor, but different reactions. I've decided to go back and start the "new Who" properly, watching my way through Nine and then picking up where I had left off with Ten (beginning of series four). But even there, I know there's a whole world of references I won't get. It's a glorious franchise.
Nov. 26th, 2013 09:19 am (UTC)
I suppose, re Tom Baker, it depends where you're coming from. Dreamflower is of course right that considering his real age, he's doing great - and it was wonderful to see him and for him to have been given such a well-thought-out role.

But in my head, TB is still Four, with a mop of slightly-greying-but-dark-and-very-curly hair, running down corridors with that scarf trailing in his wake. (Unlike DT, TB hasn't done a lot of other high-profile TV work post-Who that I've seen. He's quite a well-known voice on radio, but his voice is pretty much unchanged from his Four days!)

So I think I wasn't quite prepared for how much he's aged; it was wise and wonderful and very bittersweet all at the same time. (As one of my FB friends pointed out: "That's because we are getting old, dear. And it's a damn' sight better than the alternative.")

In most other ways it sounds as though Dreamflower and I loved the episode for many of the same things!

Edited at 2013-11-26 09:20 am (UTC)
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