‘The Day of the Doctor’ – Who’s the daddy

Christian Butler

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After an uneven few series, Steven Moffat has delivered the best episode of Doctor Who since he became the head writer of the biggest show on the Beeb. And what a time to do it – it’s only the much hyped fiftieth anniversary.

When the show was revived in 2005, it was established that the Doctor had wiped out the entire Time Lord population to end the ‘Time War’ against the Daleks. After years of cryptic references, ‘The Day of the Doctor’ finally shows us how the ‘War Doctor’ (played by John Hurt) came to make the decision – with a little help from his future selves, Matt Smith and David Tennant.

On one level, the episode was overflowing with fan service, which went from the sublime (starting with the original time vortex from 1963, ending with a cameo from Tom Baker) to the ridiculous (‘nice scarf’, ‘nice glasses’, ‘nice fez’, etc). On another, it welcomes both newcomers and old-school viewers to the dynamic storytelling that makes Doctor Who the best Saturday night a family can have in front of the telly (you heard me, X Factor).

Like many Whovians, I was pushed to the limits of my fandom by Moffat’s obsession with convoluted plots, leading to an abundance of plot holes and deus ex machina. ‘The Day of the Doctor’, however, finally returns Moffat to his ‘Blink’-best, striking the perfect balance between visual spectacle and mind-bending sci-fi, with a final twist that promises to change the format of the entire show.

In a period when samey American cable dramas dominate the attention of the critics and the blogs, ‘The Day of the Doctor’s’ record-breaking simulcast in 94 countries proves that Britain can still create quality TV drama on a world-beating level, and without losing a lick of what makes it quintessentially British.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

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