Trying to create a storyline that celebrated and venerated 50 years of Doctor Who was always going to be a tall order. There are so many things fans would expect (or quietly hope) to see, and yet they would also be the first to complain if the story was not thrilling enough, or failed to live up to the show’s imperially high standards. A high stakes game, then, and the world was watching.
Luckily “The Day of the Doctor” delivered on all fronts. It managed to reference the past and celebrate the future, tie up loose ends and create thrilling new additions to the mythology. It’s a story that allows the Doctor to put the guilt of the past behind him without deleting any of the things he did while wracked with that guilt in the first place. It’s a story that forgives the Doctor for having to do a dreadful thing, then reminds him exactly who he is, all twelve—no, thirteen!—of him.
You can read BBC AMERICA’s recap of “The Day of the Doctor” here, but before you do, here are your 10 points of interest:
1. The original title for the story was “The Time War.” This, it was felt, might’ve given too much of the game away before the story had even got started, and so the title was changed during production.
2. There are an astonishing amount of hidden references to Doctor Who—classic and modern—littered throughout the story. Never mind that all 13 Doctors make an appearance, there’s Foreman’s scrap yard, where the TARDIS was first discovered in 1963, Coal Hill School with Ian Chesterton (the Doctor’s first companion) as the chairman of governors; Headmaster W. Coburn (a combination of W for Waris Hussein, who directed the first ever episode, and Anthony Coburn, who wrote it)… and that’s all in the first few minutes.
Also: The activation code of Captain Jack Harkness’s vortex manipulator is 1716231163. Which is the time and date of broadcast (17:16 on the 23rd of the 11th, 1963, using the British convention of arranging dates in day/month/year order) of “An Unearthly Child,” the very first episode of Doctor Who.
3. There are also nods to the future. Particularly the quote Clara is teaching as her lesson draws to a close at Coal Hill. It’s from Marcus Aurelius, the Roman philosopher that we will later find out—in “Deep Breath”—she’s so partial to he was the poster she had on her wall as a teenager. And what does the quote say? “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
Which would be a decent response to the question the Twelfth Doctor asks her at the end of “Into the Dalek,” namely: “Clara, be my pal. Tell me: Am I a good man?”
4. The dialogue in which the three Doctors remind themselves of the Doctor’s core principles is based on this section from the 1976 book The Making of Doctor Who by former Who script editor Terrance Dicks: “He never gives in, and never gives up, however overwhelming the odds against him. The Doctor believes in good and fights evil. Though often caught up in violent situations, he is a man of peace. He is never cruel or cowardly.”
5. As the true name and circumstances of John Hurt’s character had to be kept totally under wraps, he was named on the call sheet for his first day’s filming as “Omega.” This was the Time Lord villain battled by the First, Second and Third Doctor’s in 1973’s 10th anniversary adventure “The Three Doctors,” a reference guaranteed to get fan tongues wagging should the secret have leaked out. The same trick was employed when Paul McGann turned up to film his prequel “The Night of the Doctor.”
6. In Steven Moffat’s first draft, Clara rescued the Doctors from the Tower of London by pretending to be a witch and scaring their jailor. The door the three Doctors were attempting to open was the entrance to the Black Archive, and inside the archive itself was a photo of Peter Cushing, who played a (non-canonical) version of the First Doctor in the movies Dr Who and The Daleks (1965) and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD (1966). Kate Stewart even referring to those movies as being the work of the Doctor’s former companions, which is partly true (in a timey wimey way) since the second one starred a young Bernard Cribbins.
7. The section in which all of the Doctor’s previous selves report for duty uses audio and video footage taken from episodes from all eras of Who history. The First Doctor’s face is from “The Daleks”—with the voice provided by mimic John Guilor—while the Second Doctor’s face comes from “The Tomb Of The Cybermen” and voice from “The Seeds of Death.” The Third Doctor’s face comes from “Colony In Space” and his voice from “The Three Doctors.” The Fourth Doctor’s face is from “Planet of Evil” and the Fifth’s is from “Frontios” while his voice from “The Five Doctors.” Both the Sixth Doctor’s face and voice come from “Attack of the Cybermen” and the Seventh’s come from “Battlefield,” while the Eighth’s face comes from the 1996 TV movie Doctor Who. Which just leaves the Ninth Doctor, whose face and voice came from “The Parting of the Ways.”
8. Despite there having been a lot of music composed especially for “The Day of the Doctor” by Murray Gold, the production team elected to use some well-loved musical themes for certain sections. This meant some of the music came in handy for future broadcasts. So the theme called “Song for Four,” which had been intended for the moment when the Curator meets the Doctor towards the end of the story, was instead used in “Deep Breath” when the Twelfth Doctor and Clara return to the modern day and she receives a phone call from the Eleventh Doctor.
9. All three of the main Doctors in this story regenerate soon after it is finished (as far as we, the viewers are concerned, anyway): The War Doctor almost as soon as he gets into his TARDIS; the Tenth Doctor must have experienced these events while on his “farewell tour” in “The End of Time,” as he arrives talking to Ood Sigma about Queen Elizabeth I at the beginning of “The End of Time,” which ends in his regeneration; and the next time we see the Eleventh Doctor, he’s heading for Trenzalore.
10. “The Day of the Doctor” was shown at the same time around the globe on November 23/24, 2013. It was shown in 94 countries and in 1,500 theaters worldwide. The Guinness Book of World Records certified it as the largest ever simulcast of a television drama.
“The Day of the Doctor” airs on BBC AMERICA on Saturday, September 5 at 8:00 pm ET.
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