Sir Kenneth Branagh has paid tribute to the late television star.
The Day of the Doctor lives up to Doctor Who 50th hype
Matt Smith and David Tennant in The Day of the Doctor. Image: BBC
It's the long-awaited 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, where incumbent Time Lord Matt Smith joins forces with predecessor David Tennant for a wild journey to rewrite their tragic past...
Most things. But above all, it was suitably ambitious and the interplay between Smith and Tennant was jubilant and hilarious.
What didn't work
There was the odd misstep and the plot got a little silly (ignoring The End of Time explanation for Gallifrey's fate?), but it would be churlish to criticise too harshly.
A television show celebrating a half-centenary is rare, but doubly so for a drama that began life as a Saturday night schedule filler in 1963.
In fact, it's worth remembering Doctor Who is the first show to cross this particular milestone.
Hype and expectations for this anniversary special were sky-high, but no matter what your opinion is of showrunner Steven Moffat, he has the imagination, capability, and beating fan-boy heart to ensure a rousing spectacle with zip, wit and humour.
"Hype and expectations for this anniversary special were sky-high."
And despite criticism Moffat tends to favour plot gymnastics over heartfelt emotion, I was heartened to find The Day of The Doctor built on relatable issues of regret, loss, hope, heroism, teamwork, and redemption.
Condensing a 70-minute plot into a paragraph is tough, but the upshot is that Doctor 11 (Matt Smith) and Doctor 10 (David Tennant) meet in an Elizabethan forest after a time portal was opened by their mutual "black sheep" predecessor, The War Doctor (John Hurt).
Unbeknown to them, he had yet to fulfil his destiny and erase homeland Gallifrey for the greater good as the infamous Time War reached a crescendo.
The story was an examination of The Doctor's regret and guilt over doing such an unthinkably terrible thing, while weaving in present-day obstacles involving "stasis-paintings" and shape-shifting Zygons.
The dream team
The hook of this special was seeing Smith and Tennant interact together as differing incarnations of the famed Gallifreyan, and it proved to be the delight everyone expected.
The script had a huge deal of fun poking fun at each character's foibles, appearance, and mannerisms - too numerous to recount comprehensively.
"There were plenty of in-jokes and treats for Whovians."
However, I particularly enjoyed Hurt's Doctor mistaking his future selves as "companions", later commenting on the amount of kissing they do, and the scene where the 10th and 11th Doctors compared their phallic sonic screwdrivers. Tennant's is a grower, not a shower.
Given this episode was also celebrating a huge birthday, there were plenty of in-jokes and treats for Whovians.
The opening shot echoed the first scene of An Unearthly Child, although the current Doctor's companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) has become a young teacher, whereas first companion Susan was the prodigious schoolgirl. How times change!
Most excitingly, there was an unexpected glimpse of Doctor 12, Peter Capaldi; a wonderful way to involve all 13 incarnations in the grand multiple-TARDIS conclusion, and a touching surprise cameo from the legendary Tom Baker as a future-Doctor in apparent retirement.
The Day of the Doctor was an impressive marshalling of Doctor Who' s rich history, indelible iconography, and grand tradition, buoyed by excellent performances.
Epic and respectful, yet never slavish to the past and instead looking toward a future it just helped secure for another half-century.
- Verdict: A superb slice of drama; gripping and absorbing.
What other reviewers said
The Guardian - "We weren't disappointed. Although we did get very confused."
The Telegraph - "The main strength of the episode was the way in which the Time Lords had to navigate difficult moral issues."
What people on Twitter said
@rainy101 - "I loved every second of that. Lived up to the hype and some. #DoctorWho50th #savetheday"
@tigershuffle - "Made me blub! much to my 11-yr-old's amusement. That was absolutely amazing #DayoftheDoctor"
@matthewnoonan17 - "This is so well made, it looks like a movie #DoctorWho."
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