Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor Blu-ray Review
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 12.19.2013
The Doctor Who franchise celebrates its 50th anniversary with The Day of the Doctor. The Doctor meets encounters some of his previous incarnations all for one mysterious purpose. Jeffrey Harris checks in with his official review of Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor on Blu-ray.
”Clara sometimes asks me if I dream. ‘Of course I dream,’ I tell her. ‘Everybody dreams.’ ‘But what do you dream about,’ she asks. ‘The same thing everybody dreams about,” I tell her. ‘I dream about where I’m going.’ She always laughs at that. ‘But you’re not going anywhere. You’re just wandering about.’ That’s not true. Not any more. I have a new destination. My journey is the same as yours. The same as anyone’s. It’s taken me so many years, so many lifetimes, but at last, I know where I’m going. Where I’ve always been going. Home. The long way round.”
- The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor
The longest running sci-fi TV show in history, Doctor Who, celebrates its landmark 50th anniversary with The Day of the Doctor, a new adventure starring Matt Smith as The Eleventh Doctor evocative of previous anniversary specials that would pair up the latest regeneration of the time-hopping, heroic Gallifreyan with his past personas. We constantly hear the rule of the Doctor not being allowed to alter or go back into his own timeline, but one thing we know that if Doctor Who ever introduces a rule, at some point it will be broken.
The Doctor is called in by UNIT’s Kate Lethbridge-Stewart (Jemma Redgrave), the daughter of one of the Doctor’s greatest allies and friends Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. There’s been a mysterious occurrence at the Under-Gallery underneath the National Gallery in London. The glass housing Time Lord paintings has been mysteriously broken, almost as if something from inside the paintings broke out. This is actually the harbinger of an invasion of Zygons, an alien species that have not been seen in the series for years and get their first modern update for the show. The Zygons are dangerous creatures that can shapeshift and almost perfectly mimic the form of those they capture, and they are here to colonize the Earth.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg. In the season finale of season seven of the show, we got a glimpse of a mysterious, unknown iteration of the Doctor who likely played some part in the dreaded Time War. This figure, credited as The War Doctor (John Hurt), was a man whose deeds were so terrible, who could no longer carry the title of Doctor. This special takes us back to the final day of the Time War, the day when the Doctor ended it all by wiping out his home planet and entire race. The Time War risks destroying the Universe itself, so The War Doctor sees no other option but to utilize a weapon of mass destruction called The Moment to wipe out Gallifrey and the Daleks in one fell swoop. This is the dreaded sin and event that brought Doctor Who to where it is today. The Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), the first Doctor of the revived series was shattered and devastated by the events of the Time War. So in part, this special not only addresses all these events, but even more so fills in the blanks to the return of Doctor Who in 2005.
The Moment weapon has a catch though. It is a machine so powerful that its AI became sentient and grew a conscious. Before The War Doctor can activate it and end the Time War, the AI manifests itself in a very familiar form, that of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper). Just to be clear, this is Billie Piper playing a computer AI taking the form of Rose Tyler, not actually Rose herself. You see, The Moment is so powerful it can recognize figures from The Doctor’s memories that he’s never even encountered yet at this point. How does that work? Wibbly wobbly. Timey wimey. Time isn’t a straight line! It’s a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ball! And so our deus ex machina solves that issue of the Doctor not being able to alter his timeline by opening up rips in the space-time continuum, allowing The War Doctor to convene with not only The Eleventh Doctor, but The Tenth Doctor as well (David Tennant). We pick up with The Tenth Doctor in his period between his own TV specials, The Waters of Mars and The End of Time. One might especially appreciate that The Tenth Doctor actually references events of this story as a throwaway line at the beginning of The End of Time. The Doctor is having a bit of a romance with Queen Elizabeth herself in the 16th century, this is actually when the Zygons originally invaded England. And so our three Doctors finally meet, and they face the Zygon invasion. But even more so, can Eleven and Ten stand idly by before The War Doctor commits the most regretted sin of his life.
Finally getting to see Tennant and Smith onscreen together and interact with each other is incredible. Hurt is more than up to the task of playing off their banter, despite being the “youngest” of the three. His dialogue about the way Smith and Tennant point their Sonic Screwdrivers like “water pistols” was especially hilarious. I found it a good-natured way of mocking how the Sonic Screwdriver had essentially become a weapon for The Doctor in the new shows.
I was curious how Rose Tyler would be brought back into the fold, and I was happy to see that this character was in actuality not Rose. Rose’s story had more or less been completed, so using Piper in this way is much more effective. Now of course there’s the issue of Eleven and Ten resenting The War Doctor for his actions, when the Doctor has always been quite hypocritical of proclaiming, “I never would.” The Doctor has, and he likely will again. It was The Tenth Doctor and Donna Noble who were in fact in pretty much the same shoes as The War Doctor in “The Fires of Pompeii.” They pulled the trigger on the Volcano that destroyed Pompeii. They did it for the greater good. Many died as a result. This has always been a problem to me that writers of Doctor Who will at times ignore the Doctor’s actions when it suits them. But ultimately that is small pickings here.
The rest of the cast is great. Jemma Redgrave is a very underutilized supporting character as Kate Stewart. Jenna Coleman is adorable and fun as Clara Oswald, who has done a tremendous job as being more than just a companion but also being both a guardian angel and a conscious for the Doctor.
The new iterations of the Zygons here look great, especially because they are all done with practical makeup and effects. At times the Zygons do play like a bit of an after-thought, but there invasion is actually not the biggest thing at stake.
Now in particular, the resolution of this story raises just as many questions and seems to present as many problems as it appears to solve. But if all these things are thoughtfully addressed, it will be worth it. The end of The Day of The Doctor does perfectly set the stage for what will be the next season of the show and the next regeneration, The Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi). There are two other tremendous cameos in this story, one of which is a great feel-good moment for longtime fans of the franchise, that I’m sure everyone will love if they do not already.
The Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
The Blu-ray version for the 50th anniversary special is presented with a 1080p resolution and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Picture quality for the show is bright, crisp, and pristine. The production values, sets, and location look especially sharp, even with the rather bright lighting. CG visuals and effects like the Time Lord art are also impressive for a show of this type. The HD transition has been very good to the show, and Doctor Who has been looking more cinematic and sharper than ever I think since The End of Time two-parter. The Day of the Doctor is no exception.
The Rating: 9.5 out of 10.0
The audio mix for the special is presented in a DTX-HD 5.1 surround sound track. Optional subtitle tracks in English, French, and Spanish are also available. The music score and sound effects all sound crisp and clear. The dialogue audio is also very clear, so no real complaints here.
The Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
The Extras And Packaging
The 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is a 2-disc set, one for the Blu-ray (both 3D and regular) and one for the DVD. The set is packaged in your standard Blu-ray clamshell case. The slip cover features a 3D lenticular image of the cover art. The Blu-ray version includes the following special features
Behind the Scenes
Doctor Who Explained
This was a quick turnaround release, so there isn’t very much in the way of extras here unfortunately. There are two short Mini Episodes that set up the special: “The Last Day” and “The Night of the Doctor.” “The Last Day” offers a new soldier’s point of view of the Gallifreyan city of Arcadia right before the Daleks invade. It’s a creepy, short sequence that gives an interesting expansion of Gallifreyan culture and a look at their military. Of course, even more special is “The Night of the Doctor,” which offers an amazing return appearance by Paul McGann as The Eighth Doctor. I love Paul McGann’s work, so getting to see a short story that showcases his regeneration was awesome. This was something that was long overdue.
Behind the Scenes is a quick, 14-minute making of featurette narrated by Colin Baker, actor for The Sixth Doctor. This was a good, little overview of the special with new interviews from the principal cast and crew. One of the more especially fun moments was seeing producer Steven Moffat acting like a kid in a candy store and a total fanboy on set and breaking his own policy of taking pictures with the actors.
Doctor Who: Explained is a 47-minute special produced by the BBC taking a look at the many iterations of the Doctor and his companions as well, featuring new interviews with the cast and crew of the show both recent and past.
In terms of extras, what is available is good, but there is not very much. Sadly, The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot did not make it onto this release. It definitely would’ve been a welcome addition to the extras to give the set a bit more bang for its buck. The aforementioned special was directed by The Fifth Doctor actor, Peter Davison. It was a hilarious comedy spoof in which Davison, depressed by his lack of inclusion with the 50th anniversary special, comes up with a scheme for himself, The Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, and The Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy to crash the special and get an appearance. It’s basically a 30 minute spoof mixing Monty Python with Curb Your Enthusiasm, and it’s filled with some tremendous cameos with celebrities having a good sense of humor and a laugh at their own expense. It would've been a great addition to this release.
Also, two short Trailers for the special round out the special features for this release.
The Rating: 6.0 out of 10.0
The 411: Just bear in mind, if you pick up this set individually, you are not really getting it for the boatload of extras. This was a quick release, so there's unfortunately no audio commentary or some more comprehensive special features. But since this special is 80 minutes and double the length of your typical episode, it's not as if you are paying for a 2-disc set of a single episode release. The story told here is excellent and has a lot of cheer-worthy fan moments that will likely not disappoint any Whovian.