“Doctor Who” turns 50

Jacob Stocking ‘15
Review editor

 

On November 23, 2013, the science fiction television series “Doctor Who” celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. For a show to maintain a fan base for that long is quite a feat, so in order to honor to the occasion, a 76-minute special called “The Day of the Doctor” was produced.
“Doctor Who” is about the adventures of an alien called the Doctor as he travels through space and time in a machine called the TARDIS, which is perpetually disguised as a 1950s police telephone box.
One of the genius ideas that has kept the show going for so long is the Doctor’s ability to “regenerate.” Regeneration happens when the Doctor is at near-death, and it causes his whole body to change and his personality to be altered slightly. The beauty of this is that it keeps the program alive with the same main character but allows a change in the lead actor, thus keeping the show fresh. Eleven actors have officially portrayed the character, with the twelfth taking the reigns soon.
The original series of “Doctor Who” aired from 1963 to 1989, before going on a prolonged hiatus. Fan demand for the show was still strong, but it wasn’t until 2005 when it was permanently revived, and finally achieved international acclaim.
One of the traditions of previous anniversary episodes of “Doctor Who” was to have past incarnations of the Doctor team up. On that front, “The Day of the Doctor” does not disappoint.
The Doctor pair-up in question is the current Doctor (Matt Smith) and his predecessor played by fan-favorite David Tennant. The two Doctors team up to deal with the threat of both the Zygons, a shape-shifting group of aliens that hasn’t appeared in the series since 1975, and another more dire threat that serves as the backdrop of the special.
Along the way, they meet up with a previously unknown past version of the Doctor referred to as the “War Doctor.” The reason this incarnation was never spoken of was because he did something so heinous that his future selves tried to forget about his existence.
The War Doctor (John Hurt) is actually one of the most interesting parts of the special. This reviewer fully expected him to be a clichéd “dark” version of the main hero, but his character goes in a very different and unique direction.
From start to finish, the special is non-stop excitement, mixing humor and action as “Doctor Who” typically does. As part of the celebration, there are numerous in-jokes and references for fans of the series, but they are subtle enough that it doesn’t alienate people who won’t catch them. A few surprise cameos are also sure to please long-time fans.
There are, of course, a few flaws, though they are minor. It was nice to see the Zygons again, but their presence did feel a little forced. It would also have been nice to see more of the Daleks, the Doctor’s most famous enemy, as they only make a token appearance in the special.
As far as its place in the series, “The Day of the Doctor” is very important. The special concludes many plot threads that have been going since the show came back to TV, as well as setting up some new ones for the future.
“The Day of the Doctor” will not disappoint viewers. It is an almost perfect way to commemorate the past 50 years of a sci-fi classic.