Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor Review

Written by Derek Smith

November 29, 2013



Doctor Who has grown to be one of my favorite TV shows of all time. I truly appreciate Steven Moffatt and his creative team with the phenomenal job that they have done in bringing this classic TV show back to life since 2005. I’ve previously written on my personal blog of how much I appreciate the show for its clever storytelling while not over sexualizing it and covering it with explicit language and gory violence like most Hollywood shows do nowadays. Moffatt and company have come so far while fascinating a now dedicated fan base of all ages and no matter how impossible Doctor Who’s storylines seem to be, the show is showing no signs of stopping any time in the near future.

I had the blessing of being able to watch the episode three times total, twice on my TV at home, and once in 3D at my local theater(which was awesome). I can easily say that I thoroughly enjoyed it each time I watched it without experiencing any kind of boredom or weariness.  The experience was beyond memorable and I fully intend on buying it on Blu-Ray when it comes out on December 10th.

Plot Summary:

“The Day of The Doctor” takes place immediately after the episode “The Name of the Doctor” where John Hurt is revealed as the Doctor (or War Doctor) who endured the great Time War that took place before he regenerated into Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor of 2005. In this episode, we have 3 storylines being woven into one thanks to the seemingly omniscient Moment device, the instrument of Gallifrey’s destruction, taking on the image of Rose Tyler because it knew that she was the most important person in the Doctor’s life. By offering him a chance to see what this massive decision will do for his future, it opened a hole in time in three places, the time of the War Doctor’s decision, present day with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and 16th century England where David Tennant’s doctor is present with Queen Elizabeth I and currently battling the Zygons. Smith and Hurt then both jump through the portal to join Tennant in England. Through a series of events, Tennant and Smith are given the opportunity to look back on the War Doctor with much dread because of the heavy regret that they carry from that day. This allows all three to talk amongst one another about their memories of the Time War which bring them back to the decision, that the War Doctor still hasn’t made yet,  whether or not to destroy Gallifrey for the sake of the universe. This leads all three Doctors to come together to change history: save Gallifrey by freezing it in time with their TARDISes, allowing the Daleks to destroy each other in their own crossfire, which doesn’t rupture their timeline. The story element of regret that has been present since Eccleston is finally closed with redemption. It’s a beautiful way to cap off this current chapter in the Doctor’s existence, opening a new chapter going forward.

The Fez makes a return as well.

Additional thoughts:

  • It was so good seeing Tennant again. On top of that, he and Smith worked so well together on screen, providing countless laughs and cross references to each other’s time as the Doctor. You could tell they thoroughly enjoyed working together for this anniversary special. Their on screen performances also gave a great visual on what it means for the Doctor to regenerate. While they are still the same person, their personalities are completely different. For example: Matt Smith made a few funny references to his disapproval to Tennant’s style by calling him “sandshoes” while Tennant made fun of Smith’s large chin by calling him “Chinny.” It was very enlightening as a Whovian who still didn’t completely get that concept.
  • I’ve always said that I don’t think I’d ever like an elderly Doctor because the show is too fast-paced. I was leery of how John Hurt was going to be amongst the exceedingly younger-looking versions of himself. He proved me wrong with a very strong performance, and I thoroughly enjoyed the “grandpa” dynamic he brought amongst the already comical conversation amongst the Doctors. He always made fun of their sayings and quirks, criticizing them for “not acting like grown-ups.” He sold the despair on-screen when he found out that his future incarnations had such goofy personalities. I don’t know if I’d buy him as a long-term casting as the Doctor, but his casting on this special occasion was executed perfectly.
  • Billie Piper’s role was perfect. To be honest, I figured they were going to bring back Tennant and Piper through some weird alternate universe portal since there is a Tennant clone along with Rose Tyler in an alternate universe. Instead, they include them in a clever way for the sake of fan service that doesn’t re-open a finished storyline.
  • I wish they would have had more closure with the Zygons. They were simply dropped off the plot line half-way through without a statement of closure. We are to assume what happened by the way they were left, but even then, nothing was even mentioned.
  • The biggest issue I had with the storyline was how Queen Elizabeth I was used in the storyline. We find her as being naïve to the Zygons and their shape-shifting abilities, then after a couple of scenes when she poses as their leader, she somehow could explain everything about the Zygons plans while fluently educating the Doctors about their technology on an intellectual level equivalent of the Doctor himself. I found that weird, even though she is displayed as a strong-willed, intelligent character. I’m sure that it could be explained, but I found it to be a small hole in the storyline.
  • There were a couple of notable cameos made firstly by the famous 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, as the museum curator. It’s been widely speculated what exactly his purpose was/the meaning of his words of wisdom to Matt Smith, but I simply see it as fan service for arguably, the most popular Doctor of all time. Another was made by Peter Capaldi, the successor to Matt Smith coming this Christmas. We only saw his eyes, which was enough to make me geek out in my seat. What’s worth noting is that Capaldi was labeled as the 13th Doctor, due to John Hurt being the official 9th Doctor, making Eccleston the 10th and so on. With that said, I’m interested to see how they approach Capaldi after he makes his exit when he finishes his time as the Doctor. I have no doubt they will find some loophole to keep the Doctor’s regenerations going. I trust Moffatt and his storytelling brilliance to come up with something that will blow our minds.
  • Seeing the episode in 3D was a treat. They pulled all the stops to use as much 3D effects as possible, from the Dalek’s eye pieces crossing the screen, to the Doctor pulling out his sonic screwdriver. It was definitely one of the best 3D features I have ever seen. Plus, the theatrical intros were wonderful. We were opened by receiving a short lecture on theater etiquette by Strax which was very entertaining. This transitioned into another intro with Matt Smith and David Tennant double checking to make sure there weren’t any Zygons in the theater while poking fun at each other. After the closing credits, there was about 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes content on how the 50th anniversary special came together and what it means for Doctor Who as a whole.
  •  I could go on and on about all the easter eggs in the episode, but I will just let you google those. That’s a whole other 1200 words of geeking that I could do.


The Day of the Doctor is truly a special experience for any Doctor Who fan. With the number of cameos, reappearances, easter eggs, and all-out goodness, this is a must see for Whovians young and old. A chapter of Doctor Who has ended with well-deserved redemption and opened up a whole new chapter for years to come. I for one plan on buying this on Blu-Ray upon its release and watching it plenty of times more.

I proudly give Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor a 9.5 out of 10.


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