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The Day of the Doctor Reaction

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I'm somewhat late to the reaction party due to traveling and now staying with family, but I want to post my thoughts about The Day of the Doctor.

[Spoilers for the Day of the Doctor. There is squeeing here, but also some critiques and grouchiness]The quick version is that while I really enjoyed the episode, finding it funny, moving, and well acted, I still really wish Moffat had found a different story to tell.

I'm going to talk about the episode as it stands first, with lots of but not exclusively squee, and get into the reasons I wish for a different story at the end.  Opening with the original-original title sequence was the perfect beginning.  Going to the same school as in The Unearthly Child was also a really nice choice, although it is somewhat random that Clara is now suddenly a teacher.  (How did she and the Doctor get out of the time stream cave or wherever they were at the end of The Name of the Doctor?  Did they remember to retrieve Vastra, Jenny, and Strax from Trenzalore?)  I liked the shot of Clara riding her motorcycle straight into the TARDIS.

Tennant and Smith were so much fun playing off of each other as the Doctors.  (I cackled when Ten sees Eleven's sonic and says "Compensating?"  My thoughts too, Ten!)  I've never heard the term "sand shoes" before.  Is that something people call Converse-type shoes?  It seems like Converse would be a really lousy choice to wear on sand because the little vent holes on the side would lead to a ton of sand in your shoes really quickly!  But I digress.  While I am often tired of Moffat's endlessly repeated hat jokes, I did really enjoy all of the throwing of the fez through the time portal things.  The War Doctor got some good lines as the grumpy grandpa voice of the classic Doctors.  I was amused at all three Doctors placed in a room, coming up with all sorts of intricate technical solutions to get out instead of just trying the door.  (I also enjoyed how the tactic of early incarnations starting the calculations so they are ready by Eleven's time was introduced here and then reused later in the episode.  Nice plotting there.)

Kate Lethbridge-Stewart is excellent, and I was super excited to see her again.  I appreciated that science girl Osgood was a continuation of the tradition of having ardent Doctor fanboys/girls in UNIT (which we earlier saw in Malcolm in The Planet of the Dead).  Hooray for the Four scarf!  I liked Osgood for being an avatar for the fangirls, but I do really wish that when the Zygon decided to taunt her Moffat had found some other words to put in its mouth besides feeling jealous of her pretty sister.  Are we really going to perpetuate the stereotypes that (a) geeks are unattractive and insecure about it, and (b) all girls really just want to be pretty?  *sigh*  While I was not pleased with the way Queen Elizabeth I was portrayed as lovesick in an adolescent sort of way, I did like it when she took out her Zygon duplicate and then successfully impersonated it to the other Zygons.  (On the topic of Zygons, I was amused that the first one we encountered was posing as the horse.)

The concept of a weapon of mass destruction with a mind and a conscience was SUPER FASCINATING, and I loved Billie Piper's performance as the Moment.  She is just so great.  I really liked that the Bad Wolf rippled back through time to help the Doctor with this end of the Time War in addition to that time on the Game Station.  I was deeply relieved that the War Doctor had to forget her, so that Nine's relationship with Rose was just as it seemed (the Doctor falling for an ordinary Earth shopgirl), not turning her into a Clara-like Moffat mystery girl who is more plot device than person.  Despite all of that I liked about Billie's role, it broke my heart that Ten didn't even get to interact with or even SEE Rose's likeness.  This was better than the worst-case "clingy girlfriend" scenarios I'd worried over when the casting was revealed and I thought about how Moffat might write Rose Tyler.  Still, I wish we'd gotten one last chance to see David and Billie acting together.  I missed some lines in the scene where everyone was in the gallery together near the end because I'd just realized that Ten and Eleven wouldn't get any interactions with the Bad Wolf girl and my brain went all white noise for a few moments.  Oh well.

I enjoyed the aspects of the episode that paid tribute to the show's history.  The brief moment in the coral-struts console room caused my loudest squee of the episode, though the brief glimpse of Peter Capaldi came a close second.  And what a joy to see the montage of all the Doctors for the Time War sequence!  The Tom Baker scene was lovely.  I'm not sure it made much sense, but it was just really sweet.  I'm glad to see that at least one of the classic Doctor actors got some screen time.  The name-check of Captain Jack Harkness also pleased me, though not as much as actual onscreen Captain Jack would have done.

I definitely enjoyed the experience of watching episode. The plot was much less of a hot mess than a lot of Moffat's episodes for the past two series.   The look and special effects were lovely.  So if you take the general outline of the plot as a given, this was very good.  But I think it was a mistake to tell this story.

I mentioned in my discussion of "The Night of the Doctor" that I thought the Time War was best left entirely offscreen, and nothing in this special changed my mind about that.  Scenes of Gallifreyans running and screaming while stuff burns and a couple Daleks roll past do so much less to convey the scope and horror of this war than, for example, Nine's reaction to discovering the survival of a single Dalek.  I also mentioned that I disliked the concept of the War Doctor, and that opinion stands.  John Hurt gave an excellent performance, but I really wish they'd persuaded either McGann or Eccleston to play the part of the Doctor who fought the War.

And then there was the climax, the saving of Gallifrey.  If that scene had happened in a fanfic, I would be clapping my hands in delight, but I think it was a mistake for canon.  I have a LOT of thoughts about this topic, and this entry is already long enough that I think I'll make a second post to discuss why I think that Gallifrey should have stayed lost.  The very condensed version is that I think having the Doctor be the last of the Time Lords is part of why, as much as I really do like Classic Who, I find New Who to be more interesting.  I think the Time War is the big dark cloud that makes every time the Doctor earns a silver lining so much more meaningful.  I hate that all the grief and guilt we watched him live through over that now feels cheapened because he was operating under a delusion.  (The End of Time already made things weirder, but at least there the bottom line was that even if Gallifrey wasn't actually blown to bits it was irretrievably gone.)  I understand why other people are glad of this change, especially those who are old school Who fans.  Fair enough.  I'm glad you're happy.  I'm glad the Doctor is happy.  But I think from a storytelling perspective Gallifrey should have stayed lost.

I am turning into one of those crotchety fans who always complains that the show was better Back In My Day.  Still, as often as I vehemently disagree with Moffat's decisions as showrunner, I am still deeply in love with this concept of a man who changes his face, his magical blue box, and the brave women and men who choose to see the universe with them.  Ups and downs are going to happen in a show that goes on this long.  Even if there never again comes a Team TARDIS I love quite as much as Nine, Rose, and Jack or Ten and Donna, I love knowing that they were part of a story that goes on and on.  Who knows what the future will bring?  Maybe for the 60th anniversary Eccleston will agree to guest star.


And in the mean time, there is always The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, which is practically perfect in every way.  If you have somehow missed this magical half hour of RPF written by Peter Davison, starring Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and cameos by bazillions of others both expected and surprising, go watch it right now.  You'll be glad you did. 

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
ladymercury_10
Nov. 28th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
How did she and the Doctor get out of the time stream cave or wherever they were at the end of The Name of the Doctor?
I was confused about that, too.

I was amused at all three Doctors placed in a room, coming up with all sorts of intricate technical solutions to get out instead of just trying the door.
That was really clever, and it was hilarious when Clara just pushed the door open as they figured it out.

The End of Time already made things weirder, but at least there the bottom line was that even if Gallifrey wasn't actually blown to bits it was irretrievably gone.
I never understood how Gallifrey was simultaneously time-locked/blow up/inside the Master's head, and why being pretend-blown up and frozen somehow makes it savable now confuses me too.
tardis_stowaway
Nov. 28th, 2013 06:46 am (UTC)
"The End of Time" never made much sense. "The Day of the Doctor" has apparently decided to entirely ignore it (aside from a dig at Ten's "I don't want to go.") TEoT made such a big deal of eeeevil Time Lords, but if TDotD made any acknowledgment that the leaders of Gallifrey were crazypants, I missed it. The Night of the Doctor mentioned Time Lords gone bad, but now all of a sudden it's a good thing if Gallifrey is apparently retrievable?

I don't expect Doctor Who to maintain perfect continuity, but I find it slightly perplexing and frustrating when major points of canon from just a few years ago apparently get chucked out. But of all the episodes to ignore, I suppose TEoT was pretty stupid in its Time Lord plot. Oh well. Maybe more will be explained later.
ladymercury_10
Nov. 28th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
Haha your icon is great.

Yeah, it's hard to tell if they're retconning or ignoring or handwaving it or what, which is a bit frustrating.
reverendjmg
Nov. 29th, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
Dude! The fact that they ignored The End of Time (with its interesting development of the mysterious character of Rassilon) took away all my old-who-fangirl joy at Gallifrey being restored. I had this whole backstory built up in my head where the Time War had driven the Time Lords to be so desperate that they resurrected one of the shadiest--but most powerful--historical figures from their past in order to help lead them out. I mean, how bad do things have to be before you bring someone back from the grave to be your totalitarian dictator? I'm guessing pretty bad, and I'm guessing at that point you're fighting back pretty viciously yourself, even if the Daleks started out as the aggressors. But this episode completely bypassed any of the moral questions of who's the bad guy here, choosing instead to make the Time Lords out to be bumbling and innocent, and ignoring the fact that genocide, even of an evil race like the Daleks, isn't something to wholeheartedly celebrate--a lesson the Doctor has come face to face with TWICE before the Time War, but which Moffat chose to forget.
skalja
Nov. 30th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
Well, General Whatsisface and his second did make reference to the High Council being sequestered somewhere else and their plan having "already failed," so it was definitely handwaved but not ignored. Presumably while DotD was happening the newly-returned Master was busy taking over the High Council, or some such.

I am utterly convinced that at least part of the sunny optimism of the ending is that Moffat is laying ground for either himself or whomever is showrunner when they decide to return to Gallifrey to give the Doctor a severe "no, they're still a bunch of assholes*" reality check. Probably in the form of President Master.

Which, as much as I enjoyed the sunnily optimistic ending and do think it's ultimately a good thing that Gallifrey's back, is one of Moffat's biggest problems as a storyteller. He can juggle all the narrative/thematic/moral elements in the short term, or play a long game, but he can't seem to do both at once, or at best has mysteriously lost the ability since the end of series 5.

*Romana and a couple of others excepted, obviously.

Edited at 2013-11-30 12:49 am (UTC)
tardis_stowaway
Nov. 30th, 2013 05:26 am (UTC)
I mean, how bad do things have to be before you bring someone back from the grave to be your totalitarian dictator? I'm guessing pretty bad, and I'm guessing at that point you're fighting back pretty viciously yourself, even if the Daleks started out as the aggressors. But this episode completely bypassed any of the moral questions of who's the bad guy here, choosing instead to make the Time Lords out to be bumbling and innocent, and ignoring the fact that genocide, even of an evil race like the Daleks, isn't something to wholeheartedly celebrate--a lesson the Doctor has come face to face with TWICE before the Time War, but which Moffat chose to forget.

I agree very much with this! As things stood before, the Time War showed us that war tends to draw even the side that started out "in the right" towards evil, and the ultimate endpoint was MUTUAL destruction. No one won, because war has no true winners, just damaged survivors. In contrast, The Day of the Doctor essentially tells us that genocide is an acceptable and expeditious path to victory. Even when the opposing side is the Daleks, I don't think that is a good message. As you point out, the Doctor has in the past refused to exterminate the Daleks. Here, I don't recall the slightest hint of conflicted feelings about it.

While I never loved The End of Time, I think it's cool that you (with your superior Classic Who knowledge) found that it led to interesting headcanons about what happened to bring Gallifrey to that point!
iwouldbegood
Nov. 28th, 2013 06:05 pm (UTC)
I cackled when Ten sees Eleven's sonic and says "Compensating?" My thoughts too, Ten!
Haha, yes! Definitely one of the best parts of the episode. Two such brilliant actors and so much charisma and chemistry!

I agree about Osgood and Moffat's stereotypical way of writing. Not that we aren't used to it by now, but still quite infuriating.

The plot was much less of a hot mess than a lot of Moffat's episodes for the past two series.
I thought so too. Some things about how Gallifrey was saved made no sense, but sometimes I just choose to ignore logic and trying to figure things out and focus on the parts I liked :p

I am looking forward to and dreading Christmas in equal measure...
tardis_stowaway
Nov. 30th, 2013 05:49 am (UTC)
I agree about Osgood and Moffat's stereotypical way of writing. Not that we aren't used to it by now, but still quite infuriating.

Yeah. I'm not surprised by it, but I am still mad.

. Some things about how Gallifrey was saved made no sense, but sometimes I just choose to ignore logic and trying to figure things out and focus on the parts I liked :p

This is true. Doctor Who often falls apart under really strict logical scrutiny. Still, there's a difference between episodes where there's a lot of hand-waving or you realize later that something doesn't quite work, and episodes where the plot holes are actively distracting. Luckily, this special more or less made it into the former category.

I am looking forward to Peter Capaldi, but trying to keep my expectations low for the Christmas special itself.
reverendjmg
Nov. 29th, 2013 10:29 pm (UTC)
I was kind of amused by how neatly they sidestepped the 12-regeneration-rule. "All 12 of him!" "No, all 13!" And thus the series is saved for another 50 years.

On the other hand, they missed a great opportunity for a great storyline. The episode where the Master breaches the 12-regeneration-limit is one of my favorites. Though maybe they'll still do something like that.
skalja
Nov. 30th, 2013 12:13 am (UTC)
Wait, but doesn't 12 regenerations mean 13 Doctors? So presumably the "oh no how will the Doctor survive his regeneration limit?!" storyline comes when Peter Capaldi's Doctor leaves.
reverendjmg
Nov. 30th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
I was thinking about this snippet of dialogue from an old Who episode:

"I am nearing the end of my 12th regeneration." "And that is the end for a Time Lord."
reverendjmg
Nov. 30th, 2013 12:49 am (UTC)
I guess I always interpreted "regeneration" in that quote as referring to a life--as in, Doctor One = the first regeneration. But now that I think about it that's sloppy thinking on my part. The first "regeneration" in the sense of life would be just generation.
skalja
Nov. 30th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC)
We need a dictionary of Time Lord slang, clearly.

Also, speaking of Old Who, I've started watching from the beginning! One episode a day, although technically I'm two behind already... so I've just started The Daleks.
tardis_stowaway
Nov. 30th, 2013 05:32 am (UTC)
This is how I interpreted the regeneration limit too (12 regenerations=12 changes=13 faces), but it occurs to me that I don't think I've seen any of the eps where this is discussed, so I don't know. I suppose we'll see soon enough whether the Christmas special addresses it.
joking
Dec. 1st, 2013 03:05 am (UTC)
Also part of the reason I wish Gallifrey stayed lost is that the Time Lords aren't interesting. I've watched enough of Classic Who to know this. There's not much point having them around.
tardis_stowaway
Dec. 1st, 2013 10:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I hope the future show won't spend too much time dealing with Time Lord society.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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