In his latest Hollywood Hyperspace column, our man in LA Joe McCabe revels in a certain Time Lord's recent birthday...
Doctor Who ’s 50th Anniversary Special “The Day of the Doctor” debuted via Global Simulcast on Saturday. I was fortunate enough to watch it with one hundred other fans at YouTube Space LA, including my wife and colleague Sophia Quach, and fellow SFX contributor James White. Sharp-eyed US viewers who watched the show on BBC America could spot my smiling face in the centre background of the post-show (hosted by The Nerdist’s Veronica Belmont). Here – in no particular order – are the 50 things I loved about the entire experience, starting with the tremors that were felt throughout fandom the week before The Day of the Doctor” aired…
1. Night. Of. The. Doctor.
First things first (“but not necessarily in that order”) – without “The Day of the Doctor”, we might never have seen Paul McGann’s finest on-screen Who moment, or the closure that came with the Eighth Doctor’s long hoped for regeneration!
2. Canon Companions
Eight’s companions (from his many Big Finish audio adventures) are finally enshrined in the canon. He says their names aloud before he regenerates.
3. “The Last Day”
And without “Day...” we probably wouldn’t have this grim, gritty webisode about the fall of Arcadia either. Which needs to be made into a first-person shooter game pronto.
4. 94 Countries
That’s how many watched Saturday’s Guinness World Record-breaking global simulcast. In an age when pop culture has never been so fragmented, “Day of the Doctor” united us like few events have post-internet.
5. Chairman Of The Governors: I Chesterton
When the story begins (in black-and-white, like the show’s first episode), Ian, one of the Doctor’s first companions, is named – on a sign – as the chairman of the governors at Clara’s Coal Hill Secondary School. It's where he taught and where the Doctor’s granddaughter Susan was a student in "An Unearthly Child".
6. Headmaster: W. Coburn
Also visible on the Coal Hill sign – a tribute to the show’s very first script writer, Anthony Coburn.
7. 5:16 PM
That’s the time displayed on the playground clock that Clara rides past, the exact time at which the show’s first episode aired on November 23, 1963.
8. Clara’s Introduction
Gunning her bike straight through the TARDIS doors and back into Eleven’s hearts. A lovely visual accompanied by Murray Gold’s music.
9. Nelson’s Column
It hasn’t been shown onscreen nearly as much as other historic London landmarks (especially in Who ). Nice to see it get some love here.
10. The National Gallery
Ditto the institution right next to Nelson’s Column, which also serves a key plot purpose.
11. That Scarf
It had to appear somewhere, didn’t it?
12. Kate Lethbridge-Stewart Returns
The Brigadier's daughter is a no-nonsense chip off the old chap. Here’s hoping we see the new UNIT leader team up with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor soon.
13. Gallifrey Falls No More
Apparently this spectacular art piece really does appear in 3D on a 3D screen. Hmmm, perhaps I’ll actually invest in one someday.
14. Companions In The House!
Photos of past companions line the wall of UNIT’s Black Archive. Barbara, Tegan… Kamelion?! How many did you spot?
15. The Zygons Are Back
The best designed monsters of the classic period – and perhaps the only major menace not yet seen on New Who – return at last, and they look better than ever. Bile = beautiful.
16. A Rose By Any Other Name
After Rose Tyler’s perfect ending with Ten’s clone, it would have been anticlimactic to bring her back. So we get the next best thing – Billie Piper returns as a new character, the sentient doomsday McGuffin.
17. Secret Lovers
And without Rose, we get to see Tennant woo another companion, Queen Elizabeth I!
18. Some Kind Of Fairy Tale
Steven Moffat’s penchant for storybook-style damsels in distress is turned on its ear as Ten is endangered by the very maiden he romances.
19. Size Matters
The phallic screwdriver scene in which the Doctors introduce themselves plays just as well after having seen it in trailers.
20. A Tale Of Two Doctors
The chemistry between Tennant and Smith was just as great as we’d hoped it would be. Their subtle differences – like the way they approach the opposite sex – complement each other perfectly.
21. A Perfect Ten
Tennant’s performance in his later stories could be a little over-the-the-top. Here he’s much more measured and subdued, but just as funny and assured.
22. The Name Game
Moffat’s love of noms de plumes – Raggedy Man, The Girl Who Waited, Soufflé Girl – is exercised with Ten’s new names: Matchstick Man and Sand Shoes.
23. Three’s Company
“There are three of them now,” says Kate Stewart. “There’s a precedent for that.” There sure is – in the 1973 tenth anniversary story “The Three Doctors”, the first time the Doctors united.
24. “You’ve Redecorated. I Don’t Like It.”
The Second Doctor’s exact words to the Third in “The Three Doctors,” repeated by Ten to Eleven.
26. “I Am He and He is Me”
“Day of the Doctor” is certainly the first multi-Doctor story in which it feels like the Doctor is actually talking to himself. There’s a layer of psychological complexity that’s undreamt of in past anniversary shows.
27. Generation Gap
It would have been incredibly difficult to fit all of the other still living actors who’ve played the Doctor into Moffat’s already tight script (and impossible to fit the deceased ones) while making them look as they did prior to their regenerations. Fortunately, the War Doctor is on hand to speak for older incarnations.
28. Timey Wimey
Sorry, but I cheered when Hurt’s Doctor verbalised my contempt for this much-overquoted phrase.
29. Back To The Altar
Eleven married River Song, now Ten has a wedding of his own – to Queen Elizabeth I.
30. Kiss And Tell
New Who ’s penchant for puckering up is acknowledged by Eleven’s exchange with Hurt’s Doctor during Ten’s wedding.
31. Arrested Development
Ditto its affinity for sometimes saccharine levels of whimsy. Ten and Eleven are called out by the War Doctor for regressing to children in the wake of the Time War. Fortunately it’s a grace note, not a trip to the psychiatrist’s couch.
32. Clara’s Big Moment
As Hurt’s Doctor speaks for non-present past Doctors, so does Clara represent all companions when she speaks to Eleven’s conscience.
33. “I Love the Round Things”
The TARDIS’s original interior gets a funny, knowing shout-out from Ten and Eleven.
34. Peter “Eagle Eyes” Capaldi
Those peepers already have their own Facebook fan page. Understandably so, since they serve as the perfect teaser for Capaldi’s first appearance in the upcoming Christmas Special.
35. Thirteen TARDISs
There will never be a better excuse to have all past Doctors (plus one future one) unite on-screen in our lifetimes than in the big finale.
36. 8.5 Earns His Title
John Hurt’s War Doctor already feels like part of the family, and he gets a place of honour in this episode’s final shot.
37. Positive Energy
No longer running from the past, Eleven is now chasing after it – literally, in the form of the missing Gallifrey. Hopefully this mission continues with Twelve. If so, it will be the biggest ongoing shift in the Doctors’ mission/agenda since Doctor Number Three was exiled to Earth by the Time Lords.
38. Family Man
For the record, the idea that the Doctor was responsible for the death of countless innocents never sat well with me. He’s the hero of an optimistic family show, not a tormented brooding avenger. Eight years of a character who killed children being adored by children was enough, thank you.
39. Make Love, Not War
Though some have lamented we didn’t see more stories from the Time War, again, that isn’t what Doctor Who is really about. It’s an adventure saga, not a combat story.
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40. RTD Honoured
Of course it would have been awkward to remove the layer of gravitas created by Russell T. Davies – the man who saved Who – for Nine and Ten’s stories. So Moffat wisely preserves their memories of Gallifrey’s destruction.
41. A Warrior No More
Though Eccleston didn’t take part in the festivities, we see his features begin to form when the War Doctor regenerates. The regeneration chain is complete!
42. Capstone Cameo
“Why Tom Baker?” some may ask. Because he really is that important. The Best Doctor Ever takes one last bow. It’s the cherry on the sundae, folks.
43. Wide-Eyed Walls
The gallery room in which “Gallifrey Falls No More” is displayed has walls with a raised hexagonal pattern reminiscent of the classic TARDIS interior. It’s most visible (appropriately so) behind Tom Baker during his cameo scene.
44. That Last Shot
All the Doctors arranged in an arrow formation (with Smith, Tennant and Hurt in the centre), and the First standing above them all.
45. A Promise Kept
True to his word, Steven Moffat has created the perfect tribute to the last 50 years while laying the foundation for the next 50.
46. Happy Holidays
“Day of the Doctor” has a proper ending. In fact, if one was insane and never wanted to watch Doctor Who again, they could almost walk away satisfied now. But Moffat still managed to make the story a satisfying lead-in to this year’s Christmas Special.
47. “The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot”
“Day of the Doctor” also makes possible writer/director/Fifth Doctor Peter Davison’s star-studded short; hilarious for Who fans new and old.
48. From One Legacy to Another
Directly before “Day of the Doctor” aired in the States, BBC America shared 50 th Birthday video wishes from geek icons like Nathan Fillion, Richard Dreyfuss, and Star Trek ’s Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.
49. Forever Young
Fifty? Pfft. This franchise doesn’t look a day over five.
50. This One’s For You
Last but not least, I love that so many fans seem to have enjoyed the hell out of “The Day of the Doctor”. So please tell me now what you liked best on Twitter: @JMacabre