BLU-RAY REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Day Of The Doctor
50th Anniversary Special Reunites 10th &11th Doctors Plus A New One....
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I’ve been talking about Doctor Who on Figures.com now for a few years, and I have to imagine that by now you’re all watching, right? Who is an incredible worldwide phenomenon grown from a small British sci-fi show that began fifty years ago. With that major anniversary in mind, BBC created this year’s 50th Anniversary special episode, The Day of the Doctor! Normal operating procedure for the show is a regular season plus Christmas special each year, so this was an event unto itself, but they took it so much further than that. Day brought back characters and actors from the past, made major adjustments to the overall Doctor Who story while steering it toward the future, and became a world record breaker with simultaneous broadcasting in 94 countries. Now the anniversary celebration comes home on Blu-ray (the episode in both standard and 3D format for use on 3D enabled devices!) and DVD so you can add it to your Doctor Who collection!
If you recall, Doctor Who’s Series 7 (read our review HERE) ended earlier this year with the titular character (played by Matt Smith) and companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) learning of a secret and suppressed non “Doctor” regeneration in the Time Lord’s past. Day of the Doctor (written by executive producer Steven Moffatt) then opens with the two summoned to a U.N.I.T. facility holding an incredible three-dimensional painting of the fall of Gallifrey during the Time War. Nearby are more stasis cube paintings, though these seem to have missing figures who may have escaped from them. During the ongoing investigation a time anomaly appears, and Clara remains behind as the Doctor enters it.
Meanwhile, we catch up with the so called “War Doctor” regeneration (John Hurt) as he seeks to win the Time War against the Daleks. To do so he steals a doomsday weapon guaranteed to annihilate both sides of the conflict, but in order to get it to work he must prove his intention and the ability to live with the consequences. The weapon chooses a template through which to communicate with him, the “Bad Wolf” version of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) from his future regeneration. To show him what he will become upon making the decision she opens the time fissure, sending the War Doctor to 1500s England where the 10th Doctor (fan favorite David Tennant) is frolicking with Queen Elizabeth I. The same rip in time drops off the 11th Doctor, and the threesome meet briefly before being locked in the Tower of England! In addition to the doomsday device and the choice to eliminate Gallifrey and the Daleks, the Doctors have to contend with a generational invasion of Zygons in London, bringing back yet another classic alien menace with a new spin.
I won’t spoil the ending of the special for those who haven’t seen it yet (what are you waiting for?), but I will say that while there’s a lot of the typical “Doctor saving the day” aspects the story goes much further than that. For one, it takes what we know to be “fact” about the Time War and adds a significant new wrinkle that leads directly into the future of the Doctor’s overall story. Naturally, it’s awesome to see the various Doctors interacting, especially with the return of David Tennant. The three learn about each other and reveal some feelings and motivations that underpin the entire Who saga and how this seemingly immortal character deals with the major events in his life/lives. And while you’ll have to wait until the Christmas episode in a couple weeks to see the 12th Doctor (played by Peter Capaldi), there’s a neat nod to his existence for the sharp-eyed in this special.
The Day of the Doctor has a runtime of 75 minutes, and with the stellar cast you can’t help but wish there was more. The story, though, is pretty neatly tied up by the end and presents a solid story. For those who preferred Tennant’s Doctor the episode is bittersweet, reminding us of why we loved him but marking his farewell once again. Hurt is excellent as always, and Piper seems to have a lot of fun reprising the Bad Wolf persona. Smith embodies everything we’ve come to know from his version of the Doctor and stands on his own, though he’ll be taking his leave during the next special. The one who got the shortest shrift here was Clara, only appearing in a few scenes. Production values are top-notch for Who, with a bunch of new locations and special effects. In particular the stasis cube 3D “paintings” were very cool, and it’s always fun to see Gallifrey in all of her glory. There also weren’t a ton of aliens in this special, but it included some fun scenes with Zygons and of course the Daleks in the Time War.
There are DVD and Blu-ray versions of “Day” available, and the latter includes the now-standard second disc with DVD version as well. There are some pretty cool special features including a comprehensive 50 year catch up, two mini-episodes that lead into “Day” (including one that shows how the 8th Doctor became the War Doctor), behind the scenes featurettes, and several trailers. The Blu-ray also comes with a lenticular slipcase mirroring BBC’s 3D presentation of the episode as well as bonus pack of 50th Anniversary trading cards. If you haven’t seen Day of the Doctor, or really if you’re any sort of serious Who fan, you should pick it up right now; it’s crucial viewing before the upcoming Christmas special and requires multiple viewings to catch all of the little details. Whether you prefer DVD or Blu-ray BBC has you covered!
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of BBC America