Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special Review “The Day of the Doctor”

Where to even begin? I think it’s just about impossible to overstate how much expectation “The Day of the Doctor” had to live up to. Not only was this special a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, but it aimed to provide the biggest link between the original run of the series and the revival yet. Plus, it answered a question that’s been in fans’ minds going all the way back to the revival’s premiere in 2005: how did the Time War really end?

So, needless to say, there’s more in this episode to talk about than one review can go into; that’s for countless internet articles and fan analyses that are sure to be published in the next few days. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts on the two big questions I had going in. Is this, on its own, a great episode of Doctor Who? And, does it serve as a proper celebration of the series’ anniversary?

Right away, this episode was about nostalgia, for fans both old and new. The classic opening and the visit to Coal Hill School were treats for the decades-long fans, while the return of Kate Stewart provided a familiar face for the newer viewers. Of course, as events moved forward, the familiar faces became more prominent and exciting, starting with the return of Rose Tyler, though not as one might have expected. The lead up to this special basically credited five main characters, and though they all had a chance to shine, projection Rose was perhaps the most superfluous. Her introduction was a lot of fun, but after that, it felt like she was there just as a constant reminder of the choice the War Doctor had before him. Still, I can’t deny it was nice to see her.

Speaking of the War Doctor, John Hurt fit right in among his more-practiced counterparts. Though he’d done horrible things in the Time War, there were still shades of the Doctor in him, and as a result, he made for a fun addition to the trio. Again, this was an unexpected, but welcome, development. Though the other Doctors regretted their time as him, they weren’t as hostile towards him as I would’ve expected, allowing for their interactions to be much more playful. Of course, this was helped by the return of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, who slipped right back into the role that helped make him – and the franchise – famous. And, as always, Matt Smith killed it as the Eleventh Doctor.

Though it would’ve been nice to see Chris Eccleston again, I doubt his inclusion would’ve added much. The trio of Doctors showed all of the emotions he’s gone through in the 400 years since the Time War, from trepidation to regret to a begrudging acceptance. Their scene in the tower, though brief, brought all of the drama it needed to because the Doctor’s guilt over the Time War has been built up over eight years now. It was also a joy to learn that, though he wouldn’t remember it for four centuries, the Doctor did manage to save his people after all.

Truthfully, some of the best moments in this episode were the callbacks and Easter eggs. From the archival appearances from every past Doctor to the Tenth Doctor’s last line to the surprise cameo at the end, this episode was filled to the brim with references. Was it pure fan service? Sure, but if a show can’t indulge in fan service on its biggest anniversary, then when can it? Every reference was fun and well-timed, making for a joyful celebration.
And really, that’s the best way to describe “The Day of the Doctor,” as an absolute joy. It had something for every type of fan, from the continuity-obsessed to the lovers of big adventure. Even if it might not be the greatest Doctor Who story ever, it was a more than worthy way to celebrate 50 years of time-travelling hijinks.

What did you think of the anniversary special? Let me know in the comments!