Doctor Who: Day of the Doctor
2013 is drawing to a close and nestled in between the traditional televised specials and the hype for the Christmas day movie releases was a celebration of another sort that has united sciences fiction fans in both the United States and Great Britain extending too much of the world. This special event is in honor of the longest running science fiction franchise in history, Doctor Who. This strange visitor from another time and space has been a main stay in Sci-Fi since it began as a kid’s show on BBC way back in 1963. Although there was a period of about 19 years contained within that hall century of entertainment the hiatus from regular television did not halt the progression of original stories concerning the enigmatic figure known as The Doctor’ is just underwent a shift in the primary distribution to print and radio. Then with the new millennium the Doctor once again rose like a phoenix regenerated not just in appearance and personality as was his nature but now as a serious Sci-Fi show with gravitas blended in with the perennial enjoyment and consistent sense of whimsy and wonder that has sustained the franchise engendering several generations of fans. To commemorate this auspicious golden anniversary the BBC put together a set of specials honoring each or the eleven regenerations the Doctor has undergone in his long career. The brilliance of the character and its fundamental premise is the race of the Doctor, Time Lords, are capable of regenerating into a new form different in appearance and personality affording the actor honor with assuming the mantle the means to completely reinvent the character to his own interpretation. In the BBC Special ‘Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor’ loyal fans and newbies were treated to a retrospective of the 11 actors that assumed the lauded mantle and placed their own indelible stamp upon their regeneration, their doctor.
In honor of this prodigious milestone the BBC and their division over here in the former colonies BBC America have been revisiting the numerous incarnations of the Doctor including a plethora of compilations, behind the scenes interviews and nostalgic musings with former cast members and a special summaries of each of the eleven canonical Doctors to date. All the DVD sets are released and reviewed elsewhere on this site. The grand culmination of this celebration is the special event; ‘The Day of the Doctor’. While the primary focus are the most recent pair, Doctor 10 (David Tenant) and the current 12th Doctor (Matt Smith), appearances of the single digit contingent are well represented. A true treat for all aficionados a previously unseen regeneration of Gallifrey best known Time Lord is seen. The dénouement will be the reveal long awaited the first appearance of the 12th Doctor. There was a lot of buzz on the net speculating which actor would be granted a sonic screwdriver and keys to the TARDIS. One imaginative photo on the net depicted a shot of BBC headquarters with white smoke billowing forth with the caption; "we have a new Doctor’ this is in jest of course but the truth is not that much less. The announcements of the new Doctors and new Companions is shrouded by security seemingly culled directly from MI-6
The somewhat debated eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann, had only one official television appearance, the aborted attempt to reboot the franchise on TV through a made for television movie. First aired in 1996 it was considered canon since the seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, is seen regenerating into this form. This Doctor did enjoy a relatively long tenure in radio plays and print. However, nothing peculiar to the TV canon was even fully revealed. When Christopher Eccleston took over in 2005 as the first of the new millennia Doctors a significant factor in his backstory and specific personality was held in the mysterious period between regeneration eight and nine. Eccles ton’s Doctor did explain in broad strokes to his companion, Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), that in order to end the Time War, the ultimate battle between the Time Lords and their most insidious enemies, the Cybernetic Daleks, he was forced to exterminate both races making him responsible for two genocides including his own kind. The central theme of this special feature length story is to fill in some of the gaps. We learn of a sentient ultimate weapon, "the Moment", a "galaxy eater". In a webisode prequel, ‘The Night of the Doctor’ we watch as the eight Doctor is forced to renounce his endeavor to stay out of this ultimate clash between the Time Lords and the mortal enemy of all life in the universe, the Daleks. After drinking a potion designed to control his regeneration the eight Doctor disappears in the familiar explosion of light to emerge ‘The War Doctor’ played by John Hurt, it is this warrior incarnation that his able to do the unthinkable to save all sentient life; past present and future, eradicate both Time Lords and Darks leaving the Doctor alone with the crush weight of this action.
This does breach the gap succinctly in a fashion that provides a foundation for the PTSD symptomology exhibited by the 9th Doctor and details as to what haunted him as 10 and 11. More than just a special one off story, a thank you gift for generations of loyal fans, this works exceedingly well as a truly tightly crafted piece of science fiction. Apart from the tropes and archetypes required of a story concerning the Doctor this episode is built on classic themes that are, no pun intended, timeless. The emotionally core of the story is one that has be explored a myriad of tomes in literature and is a personal favorite of mine for motivation; an examination of a reasonable man forced to confront circumstances not only beyond reason but that require him to abandon a life time of sensibility to effect a solution whose resolution lies beyond rationality. In cases where a human being is confronted with this situation he must bury his humanity to actuate the only resolution. In the case of the Doctor, a Time Lord with nine centuries of experience and contriving a reasonable solution must literally become a new Doctor, one created to the unthinkable, the War Doctor.
Doctor Who has only been in high definition since series five, the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith ) and his primary companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). To make this offering truly special it has been released in 3D. the effects are amazingly well thought out and executed. There is little that comes across as contrived; the illusion of depth is natural and integral to telling the story. This is not really intended for the novice Doctor Who fans; it requires a rather extensive familiarity of the entire Doctor Who epic to fully comprehend the nuances and the emotional interactions that perfuse the story. Still, as mentioned, it works so well as a science fiction story that everyone regardless of experience in this world will enjoy immensely.
Doctor Who Explained