Trying to create a storyline that celebrated and venerated 50 years of Doctor Who was always going to be a tall order. There are so many things fans would expect (or quietly hope) to see, and yet they would also be the first to complain if the story was not thrilling enough, or failed to live up to the show’s imperially high standards. A high stakes game, then, and the world was watching.
Luckily “The Day of the Doctor” delivered on all fronts. It managed to reference the past and celebrate the future, tie up loose ends and create thrilling new additions to the mythology. It’s a story that allows the Doctor to put the guilt of the past behind him without deleting any of the things he did while wracked with that guilt in the first place. It’s a story that forgives the Doctor for having to do a dreadful thing, then reminds him exactly who he is, all twelve—no, thirteen!—of him.
1. The original title for the story was “The Time War.” This, it was felt, might’ve given too much of the game away before the story had even got started, and so the title was changed during production.
2. There are an astonishing amount of hidden references to Doctor Who—classic and modern—littered throughout the story. Never mind that all 13 Doctors make an appearance, there’s Foreman’s scrap yard, where the TARDIS was first discovered in 1963, Coal Hill School with Ian Chesterton (the Doctor’s first companion) as the chairman of governors; Headmaster W. Coburn (a combination of W for Waris Hussein, who directed the first ever episode, and Anthony Coburn, who wrote it)… and that’s all in the first few minutes.
Also: The activation code of Captain Jack Harkness’s vortex manipulator is 1716231163. Which is the time and date of broadcast (17:16 on the 23rd of the 11th, 1963, using the British convention of arranging dates in day/month/year order) of “An Unearthly Child,” the very first episode of Doctor Who.
3. There are also nods to the future. Particularly the quote Clara is teaching as her lesson draws to a close at Coal Hill. It’s from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher that we will later find out—in “Deep Breath”—she’s so partial to he was the poster she had on her wall as a teenager. And what does the quote say? “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Which would be a decent response to the question the Twelfth Doctor asks her at the end of “Into the Dalek,” namely: “Clara, be my pal. Tell me: Am I a good man?”
The Day of the Doctor airs on BBC America tomorrow, September 5, at 8/7c as part of The Doctor’s Finest.
To find out what the other 7 facts are, head on over to Anglophenia’s website or click right here.
If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you’re going to die. So they’ll talk. They’ll gloat.
They’ll watch you squirm. They’ll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.
So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
Sorry, I just felt the need to put this here. The whole idea that the Doctor “wouldn’t do that” in regards to the Time War was brought up in a conversation, and I once again became irrationally angry, because my bitterness about the 50th anniversary apparently knows no bounds.
The Doctor is a good man. That’s not the same as nice, or innocent, or incapable of making tough calls. He’s shown time and again his ability to do that. He does that BECAUSE he’s a good man, and because he is willing to pay whatever personal cost is necessary to save others, even if it means centuries worth of self-hatred.
To say that he “wouldn’t do that” doesn’t make the Doctor better…it makes him weaker, it makes him corruptible, it takes away his power to be the Doctor. The Doctor is no longer willing to sacrifice anything that means something to him, hoarding it selfishly and damning the rest of the universe in the process. That’s not the Doctor I know, and it’s certainly not a good man.