“The moment is coming,” warns Rose Tyler in the latest trailer for “The Day of the Doctor,” the 50th-anniversary special of British science-fiction serial Doctor Who. The show follows the adventures of the famous Doctor, a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, and his many companions. The new 76-minute episode, written by Steven Moffat, will delve into the Doctor’s past, including the devastating Time War between the Time Lords and their nemeses, the Daleks. It’s been six months since the last episode of Doctor Who aired, and “The Day of the Doctor” promises to be a wild ride, hopefully worthy of the milestone.
The special will continue the adventures of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman), and features an array of guest stars. David Tennant and Billie Piper will reprise their roles as the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler; neither has appeared on the show since “The End of Time.” Also, Fourth Doctor Tom Baker told the Huffington Post on Tuesday that he will appear in the special, but didn’t specify his role. And as if the special weren’t timey-wimey and paradoxy-woxy enough, John Hurt will play a darker, forgotten incarnation of the Doctor. The preview mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor” revealed how the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) regenerated into The War Doctor, created to fight the Time War. Additionally, Joanna Page will costar as Queen Elizabeth I—but let’s keep the “Virgin Queen” jokes to a minimum.
Despite the star-studded cast, the special has been criticized for not including more past incarnations of the Doctor. One such critic is Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor himself, who said in an interview at the Hurricane Who convention earlier this year that he would not be included, and neither would the other surviving doctors. McGann’s appearance in “The Night of the Doctor” may put Baker’s remarks into question, but considering Baker’s lack of playing coy—far from Tennant’s knowing smile—I would rather take them at face value than harbor false hope. Adding to the disappointment, Christopher Eccleston, who portrayed the Ninth Doctor for the show’s revival in 2005, turned down an invitation to appear in the anniversary special. John Barrowman (the charismatic Captain Jack Harkness) and Freema Agyeman (companion Martha Jones) also denied their involvement.
While the prospect of seeing Ten and Rose again is absolutely thrilling, it’s rather disheartening to know that actors who have played a significant role on Doctor Who in the past will not be appearing in the 50th-anniversary special. Perhaps a parade of all the Doctors and their companions would be a bit more boring (not to mention dangerously paradoxical) than whatever outrageous adventure Moffat has cooked up, but such a milestone should honor the show’s entire history, not just the past decade. While previous Doctors are certainly getting more media attention with the impending anniversary, the producers are not doing them justice by excluding them from the special itself.
The hype for Doctor Who is approaching critical mass, with trailers and online clips teasing the special without giving too much away. At this point, the biggest plot twist seems to be the role of John Hurt’s lost regeneration, although I wouldn’t be surprised if Moffat had some more tricks up his sleeves. The infamous showrunner has been condemned for his portrayals of female characters and his overly complicated story arcs, but Moffat has always been good at suspenseful, self-contained episodes like “Blink” and “Silence in the Library”/“Forest of the Dead.” “The Day of the Doctor” promises to be bright and shiny and exciting—hopefully a step up from the relatively dull Series 7.
I trust Moffat about as far as I can throw him—this is the man who called Rose a “clingy girlfriend” and relegated her to the sidelines in “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances.” His shortcomings are many and varied, but I’ll wait to pass judgment on “The Day of the Doctor” until after I see it. If nothing else, Rose’s glowing eyes in the trailer seem to prophecy the return of the Bad Wolf, the single greatest storyline in New Who, and that gives me hope. And I’ll cling to hope, because the name of Moffat tends to fill me with revulsion. We’ll find out soon enough whether this enterprise was worth caring about.
“The Day of the Doctor” will air simultaneously on BBC affiliates around the world at 7:50 p.m. GMT on Saturday, Nov. 23, exactly 50 years after the premiere of “An Unearthly Child,” the very first Doctor Who serial. The anniversary special is also being shown in 2D and 3D in cinemas across Europe, the Americas, and Australia, with a number of theaters around Los Angeles participating. Unfortunately for 5C students who want to see the special on the big screen, both Monday night screenings at Ontario Mills are already sold out. I’m content with watching the episode on television on the off-chance that it’s terrible. BBC America has created a “Doctor Who Takeover Schedule,” which includes marathons of New Who episodes as well as behind-the-scenes specials, culminating in “The Day of the Doctor” at 2:50 p.m. and 7 p.m. EST (11:50 a.m. and 4 p.m. PST). Brunch date, anyone?