Imagine Alex Kingston in the guise of River Song saying, “Spoilers,” in that sing-songy way of hers.
In The Day of the Doctor, the very first Doctor (John Hurt), the one responsible for saving the universe and causing the destruction of Gallifrey in the process, meets his Kobayashi Maru. In priming the weapon to do this, a weapon so sophisticated it has developed a conscience (Billie Piper), the Doctor is connected through a time funnel with the tenth (David Tennant) and eleventh (Matt Smith) regenerations of himself. While engaged (literally) in trying to save Queen Elizabeth the First from shape-shifting Zygons, the three doctors realize that Gallifrey must perish in order to save the universe. In a nice parallel, UNIT agents realize they must destroy England to save the world from the Zygons. The solution to a win-win scenario is clear: all characters–UNIT and Zygon, and all Doctors–must come together to save themselves. Smith’s Doctor uses a memory wiping device in the bowels of UNIT’s storage vault to make both human and Zygon forget they are human and Zygon respecfully to keep them honest during negotiations. As for the Doctors, they enlist all iterations of previous Doctors and their TARDISes (TARDI?) to freeze Gallifrey in a moment in time. To the Daleks firing on the planet it will seem as if the planet were destroyed and they’ll wind up firing against themselves. In this way, the Doctor lifts a huge weight from his shoulders as he no longer regrets killing all of his kind, though he must live without knowing if what they did saved or destroyed them.
The Day of the Doctor might be better named “A Dr. Who Carol”, as the present Doctor meets two past iterations of himself and one future iteration. Like Dickens’s Carol, each iteration of the Doctor is held up for consideration by another. The very first Doctor–known as the “War Doctor”–realizes he has choices he didn’t know existed, barring the use of timey-wimey things he could only do with the other Doctors. The tenth and eleventh Doctors–cleverly dubbed “The One Who Regrets” and “The One Who Forgets”–learn they must accept their past, because at the time in question, there really was no other option. At the end, a previous (I think–I’m not up on my Who trivia) Doctor , number gives number eleven hope that his solution to the unwinnable scenario was the right one, and that Gallifrey lives on, but as more than a memory of a moment in time.
I have to admit–I’m a reluctant Dr. Who fan. I never cared for the series in the past, finding it too silly and fantastic for my sci-fi sensibilities. When my husband told me they’d revived the series, I had no interest to watch. When he insisted I watch I liked it, but not to fanatic proportions. I found the ninth Doctor, my first Doctor (Christopher Eccelston) rather arrogant. Then he regenerated into Tennant and I was hooked. The episodes are not consistently exciting, or even interesting, but The Day of the Doctor was one of the best, if not THE best, Who episode yet. William Hurt plays the War Doctor as the reluctant hero. Tennant and Smith are wonderful together playing parts more alike than not, Tennant channeling his inner Hamlet in contrast to Smith’s child-like, devil-may-care attitude. I liked the Torchwood nod, allowing Who companion Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) to escape from the Zygons with Captain Jack’s device, as well as the return of Rose (Piper), even if only as a facsimile of the original.
Though Tennant is still my favourite Doctor, I’m looking forward the Christmas special next month, though without Tennant and after this episode, it has a tough act to follow.