Well, that was sufficiently awesome. The 50th anniversary hour and half special of Doctor Who, the British sci-fi show that has now taken the U.S by storm, was every bit as fantastic as any Whovian could ask for.
On an aesthetic level, the show flexed its extra budget, featuring some impressive cinematic moments and an overall improvement in the special effects department. The Dalek invasion of Gallifrey felt properly epic in scale, and was spectacular to finally see unfold. However, the loveable sense of cheese was present in the rubber suited Zygons, an alien foe that never managed to feel like anything other than a distraction from the main event.
The center of this episode revolved around the Doctor’s moral dilemma: to activate a device that will save the universe from certain destruction but also wipe out his people and home planet. John Hurt’s Doctor travels in time to meet his two future selves, and must make his decision based off seeing how the action will affect his life afterwards. The last day of the Time War is something frequently discussed on the show, and the writers did a great job of portraying how the different Doctors dealt with it. Narrative aside, the real highpoint of the episode was getting to watch the three Doctors interact with one another. Things turned from comedic to tragic on the turn of a dime in these conversations, and to see the varying personalities of the Doctors mesh and clash with each other never failed to captivate the imagination and make the inner fan boy woop with excitement. The episode was jam-packed with references to the classic show and new show alike, and the writers managed to walk the thin line between pure fan service and an actual story arc very well. This was an episode for huge fans of the series, and it was it was best felt in the little moments when Matt Smith talks with Tom Baker, when Tennant puts on the fez, and just the sheer joy of seeing three Doctors whip out their sonic screwdrivers together.
The 50th made a lot of bold decisions story-wise, decisions that echo through the past, present, and future of the show. By saving Gallifrey, the writers also will have to deal with the change this will have on the Doctor, a character whose personality has been so strongly shaped by the destruction of his home planet and people. It seems change is indeed on the horizon for the Doctor as a character and the tone of the show in general. Only time will tell if the writers are up to the monumental task, but regardless, it’s exciting to see them taking risks and moving the narrative in new and exciting directions.
After Smith’s lackluster final season as the Doctor, the 50th was a welcome reminder of the things this show does best. The zany humor, convoluted but clever plot lines, and the surprisingly dramatic moments that make up Doctor Who is a formula that isn’t being done as well anywhere else on TV. With a new Doctor and new major story arc about to come in, it has never been a more exciting time to be a Whovian. So grab your fez, your 3D glasses, and don’t forget to bring a banana, because it’s bound to be a wild ride.