Life can be only understood by looking backwards; but it can only be lived forwards. In that lies the central conceit of The Day of the Doctor. Beneath its Saturday night tea time family viewing trappings lurked a mature and astute piece of drama that was both bold and audacious in its execution. There are, after all, very few shows that tackle the idea of a mass murder of children on a Saturday night.
With its hard to explain timey-wimey plot somewhat akin to a Christmas Carol, The Day of the Doctor introduces a marvellous John Hurt as the mysterious War Doctor. Hurt’s inclusion brings extra acting gravitas to episode and elevates it above its peers. Like Hurt the rest of the lead actors are on fine form. Both Matt Smith and fan favourite David Tennant sparkle in their witty interchanges, it’s as if they were born to play the same role. The casting of Billie Piper as someone who isn’t Rose was a masterstroke, allowing Steven Moffat to skilfully bring back the most popular of modern companions without ruining the beautiful ending she was given over seven years ago at Bad Wolf Bay.
Having over 50 years of heritage to draw upon allows The Day of the Doctor to manage to stay on the right side of homage and not descend into a parody of its former self. Nods to both the past and future of Doctor Who are abound throughout the episode, permeating into the script, characters and design.
The show deserves more than one viewing to pick up on all the little references, from a pair of River Song’s shoes in the Black Archive, to the reversing of the polarity and a pair of a never before seen eyes piloting the TARDIS.
All that was missing was a customary bag of Jelly Babies offered by the famous face who crops up five minutes from the end.
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