DOCTOR WHO: THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR Aims For Fun And Excitement As The Show Gets Cinematic For Its 50th

Simon Cocks, Contributing Writer

I don't think I've ever had a moviegoing experience quite like watching the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who in the cinema. 

That's not to say it's the greatest thing ever, just that the atmosphere in the screening was really something else. We don't really have event cinema like this these days. I certainly haven't seen something presented in this manner before. The mood was incredible, full of applause, big cheers and laughter. I'll probably be better suited to analyse the episode itself when I've got some distance from it, right now all I can think about is how that was just such a huge amount of fun.

I really appreciate how many secrets were kept about The Day of the Doctor, because every big moment earned a massive reaction from the audience. It's just so unusual to not have every plot detail teased out through endless promotion and overly revelatory trailers. For this event, the specifics were kept tightly under wraps and it was all the better for it.

Before the episode screened, a couple of pre-recorded segments aired that were specifically designed to warm up the fans. This all culminated in a really funny bit featuring both Matt Smith and David Tennant joking around about 3D glasses after Dan Starkey's Strax had provided the reminders of cinema etiquette in a much more lively way than usual.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this episode is just how unashamedly silly and fun it is. When I last wrote about the show, I was talking about how it had taken a dark turn and wondering if that's where it's headed. Thankfully, Doctor Who plays to its strengths here and Steven Moffat scripts his best installment in ages. Dreariness, foreboding and logic are tossed aside as The Day of the Doctor looks to charm with humour, an adventurous spirit and a message of hopefulness.

The plotting seems like it should be headed to a dark place after "The Name of the Doctor" but it just skips out the explanation that you may have been expecting after that episode's vaguely ambiguous ending and immediately returns to the Doctor and Clara having a bit of a laugh. I'm liking their new dynamic and expecting things to stay this way now that trust has been fully built between them. Anyway, we also follow stories featuring David Tennant and John Hurt as the Doctor concurrently, before they all merge and things become a bit bonkers.

The scope of this episode manages to appear huge (some of the effects in the Gallifrey scenes flashing back to the Time War are convincingly cinematic, and the 3D somehow works too) while still feeling just like another episode of Doctor Who. All three Doctors are wonderful, with the brilliant chemistry between Smith and Tenant providing the majority of the episode's most hilarious and memorable moments. Jenna Coleman is also excellent throughout, continuing to show that she may well be one of the Doctor's most resourceful and fearless companions.

What The Day of the Doctor pulls off is a rather remarkable feat. It manages to be an homage to 50 years of the show and a key piece in the narrative. I know some would probably like a stronger emphasis on it as an anniversary piece, but I think it gets the balance just right. It comes fairly close to being overstuffed, and it doesn't really needs every subplot or character it presents, but it's a hugely entertaining watch that reframes the premise of the show in a really interesting way. We get glimpses and hints of what's to come, and a good chance to look back at what has come before. 

The whole thing was a lot of fun to watch in the cinema, and I doubt I'll have an experience quite like that again anytime soon.

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  • fergus1948

    I seem to be the only person in the world who thought it sucked.

    Too jokey (but not funny,) no gravitas (just portentous pomposity,) no coherent narrative, embarrassing dialogue etc etc. Dr Who as ridiculous buffoon, pastiche dialogue strung together between bargain basement special effects, dramatic non-sequiturs etc etc. Just dreadful. Dear oh dear.

    But I appear to be alone :(

  • dallasga1972

    Yeah, you're alone all right, with your precious little Trout Mask Replica avatar. You do know that Vliet voluntarily quit "making music" because it was hurting his career as an artist, right?

  • fergus1948

    Congratulations on making the most non-relevant, nonsensical reply post ever.

  • Ulric Henry

    its pitiful when a person passes judgement on a narrative of a program with no true knowledge behind it. thats like walking into the middle of a series such as harry potter, lord of the rings, or star wars for example and not understanding becasue there is no prior knowledge. i have watch doctor before it became popular again at 15 im now 25, so that years of classic who i have on my whovian re sume.i dont know who you are fergus but you dont know what your talking about.

  • fergus1948

    Thanks for that Ulric. It's so sweet of you to pity me. There's nothing better than a patronising putdown from someone old enough (age 25) to know everything. If only I had your knowledge, wisdom and experience.

    (By the way I am 65 and have watched Dr Who since episode 1 in 1963. But clearly I am not possessed of your massive intellect or superior critical faculties. Please forgive me for having an opinion which is different from yours.)

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