Friday, August 29, 2014

Doctor Who--"The Day of the Doctor"

 Life has gotten in the way of many things in recent months.   One of the most vitally important is r3eviewing new science fiction offerings.  Hence, this extremely late review for “The Day of the Doctor” and the following episode to be posted next.  All of my old reviews have been moved to this new site.  All new reviews will be posted here with some bit of regularity.  Assuming, of course, life settles down to a manageable disaster as opposed to the chaotic maelstrom I have enjoyed lately,  Pray for me, if you are the praying type.
Speaking of damaged, haunted people, the fiftieth anniversary episode here centers around the never before mentioned War Doctor.  He is the Doctor who--no pin intended--committed the genocide of Daleks and Time Lords  that ended the Time War.  Originally, Christopher Eccleston was to reprise his role as the ninth Doctor.  But Eccleston insisted upon selecting the director for the episode.  He did not get his way, so he bailed.  I think that wound up being for the best.  The War Doctor--no numbering, because he never really got the chance to be  the ’Doctor” in a sense--is played by the great John Hurt with all the guilt-ridden weariness you would expect from one who has snuffed out billions of lives in an instant.  We have already seen how Eccleston plays such emotions.  Hurt has the opportunity to make it new and raw.
“The day of the doctor” also features the return of David Tennant and Billie Piper.  Tennant reprises his role as the Tenth Doctor.  Piper plays a manifestation created by the doomsday weapon the war Doctor plans to use to end the Time War.  Piper is not playing Rose Tyler, per se, but it is interesting the physical appearance of Rose is used to appeal to the War Doctor’s conscience even though he is unfamiliar with her beforehand.  It is handled well enough that I am not disappointed Rose does not make an appearance.
The Daleks are a necessary villain, but the episode also features the Zygons,  Those shape shifting critters have hatched a plot that crosses the centuries from Queen Elizabeth’s England, where we find the Tenth Doctor, into the current day.  If there is a weak aspect to “The Day of the Doctor,” it is the Zygon subplot.  It gives the3 three Doctors a chance to both banter with one another and beat each other up emotionally over their actions in the Time War, its efforts to parallel the destruction of Gallifrey with UNIT’s plan to destroy London as a necessary evil to save the earth falls flat.  The resolution involves making UNIT forget who is whom so they will not set off the nuke.  Okay, but what stops the Zygons from trying again once everyone’s identity has been sorted out?  Three Doctors working together, and that is the best they can do.
 But the main plot of the Tenth and Eleventh returning to aid the War Doctor on the last day of the Time War is excellent.  By calling on all the past Doctors and the Twelfth, they freeze Gallifrey in time rather than destroy it, allowing the Daleks to accidentally wipe each other out.  No one will know Gallifrey has been saved, but there is at least a chance it can be recovered at some point.  The story and its execution is worthy of a fiftieth anniversary special.
 Overall, "The Day of the Doctor” is great.  The resolution of the Zygons’ plan is weak, and made doubly so because it is meant to be compared to the War Doctor’s decision to use a doomsday device himself.  The previous Doctors appear on monitors, which some may find silly, but tom Baker appears in the flesh as a museum curator with some hints he may be the Fourth Doctor himself.   I have always had trouble accepting the return of Doctors who appear much older than at their regenerations, but I shall not pick nits.  Baker’s appearance is a nice touch.  “The Day of the Doctor” is a strong call for fifty more years of Doctor Who.

Ratings: **** (out of 5) 

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