Megan Miller ’17/ Emertainment Monthly Staff
November 23rd was certainly the Day of the Doctor for Doctor Who; with a full week of marathons on BBC America leading up to it, as well as special documentaries about the show’s long fifty year history, a special starring David Bradley as William Hartnell as he worked on the original series of the show, and, of course, the 50th Anniversary episode, titled “The Day of the Doctor”.
It began with the original show title card and title sequence, followed by the shadow of a man who seemed to be the First Doctor. Though it turned out to be a police officer, he passes signs with names like Foreman and I. Chesterton, call backs to a few of the first companions, Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, and Ian Chesterton, Susan’s schoolteacher, fantastic because we see from the start that I. Chesterton is now Chairman of the Governors at Coal Hill, the same secondary school that Susan went to in the first episode ever. Now the schoolteacher is Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who gets a call from her “Doctor” with an address, where she meets him on her motorcycle on the side of a country road, riding through the doors of the TARDIS.
Though the plan is initially to have cocktails on the moon, the police box is picked up by a helicopter working for U.N.I.T., headed now by Kate Lethbridge Stewart (Jemma Redgrave). Though they believed the ship was empty, something the Doctor (Matt Smith) is not happy about, she gives him a letter from Queen Elizabeth the First and shows him the Queen’s credentials, a painting of Gallifrey during the Time War. Within a further gallery they find other paintings that detail other 3D images, pockets of time in a picture. Through other pockets in time that appear in the gallery with them, the Eleventh Doctor goes by himself to England in 1562, where he runs into none other than himself—the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), who has been wooing Queen Elizabeth I (Joanna Page) and discovered that people close to the Queen are Zygons, an old enemy of the Doctor, and a regeneration of the Doctor called the War Doctor (John Hurt), whom he has tried to forget because of his role in the Time War. The War Doctor has just come from facing the decision to let the universe burn or letting his own people burn, using the weapon called “the Moment”. He converses with the interface of the Moment, in the form of the Bad Wolf, aka Rose Tyler with the TARDIS’ consciousness in her head (Billie Piper), who creates time rifts to show the Doctor who he will become if he lets his people burn.
The three of them find out that Zygons have taken over the palace where the Tenth Doctor is and the Tower of London and palace where the Eleventh Doctor came from. Though they initially get locked up, they are saved by Clara and are then consequently saved further by the queen. They make their way into the Tower of London, the TARDIS-proofed Black Archive, where the Zygon have taken over and pretend to be each other. They arrive just in time to prevent the destruction of London, and fix the conflict between the humans and Zygons.
While the conflict is fixed, Clara and the Bad Wolf make the War Doctor question himself regarding creating the Time Lock, and even when he returns to the button to press it, he does not know what he will do. At that moment Ten and Eleven arrive, along with Clara, and though they are initially resolute in pressing the button together, it is ultimately Clara that asks them not to, when the Bad Wolf shows them the people on the planet who will die.
There are so many spoilers in the end that I’ll pause here for a moment, but the Doctor will certainly never be the same now that he knows exactly how the Time Lord ends.
Spoilers ensue, read on at your own risk…
Using all thirteen regenerations (including an appearance by Peter Capaldi, the Twelfth Doctor), the Doctor surrounds Gallifrey with all of his TARDISes and with centuries’ worth of calculations, pulls it into a stasis cube, and the entire planet disappears. The Daleks, now firing on themselves, destroy each other—in theory at least. Ten, Eleven, and the War Doctor are not entirely sure if it even worked as they say their goodbyes.
Realizing they won’t remember this encounter, they leave one by one from the original gallery, in front of the painting of the Time War. The War Doctor is the first to go, knowing that he won’t remember that he tried to save Gallifrey, but feeling as though he is once again the Doctor. As he flies away, he begins to regenerate, understanding that it was coming. Though Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor, does not make an appearance for the scene, the War Doctor does begin to look like him as he goes.
Ten asks very nicely about what is coming for him, and Eleven, for once, obliges; he explains about Trenzalore, his final resting place, and though Ten seems optimistic about changing the future, as he steps into his TARDIS, he turns back and says, “We need a new destination, because…I don’t want to go.” Cue the sound of the breaking hearts of millions of Tennant fangirls. Also screaming.
The only Doctor left stares at the painting, and Clara asks if he needs a moment alone with it, because she evidently “always knows”. She also says that the curator was looking for him, to which he says to himself that he could be the curator of the gallery. The curator replies, “I really think you might,” and steps out to reveal none other than Tom Baker, the Fourth and oldest living Doctor. Their incredibly genre-savvy conversation comes ridiculously close to breaking the Fourth Wall. The most important piece of information that comes from this conversation is that the assumed titles of the painting, “No More” and “Gallifrey Falls”, are actually one title: “Gallifrey Falls No More.” The Doctor realizes that Gallifrey is lost (shhh!) but it still stands, and realizes that he could now go looking for it.
The end of the episode sees a much happier Doctor, walking out of his TARDIS onto a cloud to take his place in a lineup, what Steven Moffat, the head writer, referred to as a “curtain call”, of every Doctor that was until now. And in this lineup, he announces that he is “going home, the long way round.”
Yes, you are, Doctor, and wherever you do choose to go, we will go with you.