The Birthday of the Doctor: A look at the 50th Anniversary Special

By the Corsair’s Closet‘s Liz Carlie, the ‘Mad Woman with a Box’

The Day of the DoctorThe Day of the Doctor has come, and you are ready.

You eagerly take your seat, heart racing just a little with equal parts fear and excitement. You expect so much, and yet have no real idea what you’re in store for. The seconds tick by until the moment comes when that familiar music hits and the screen fills with the words you’ve been waiting for…the face you’ve come to know and love, the face that never lingers for long.

Yes, it’s the Day of the Doctor, but I’m not talking about the 50th anniversary special, not yet. Since that first fateful afternoon in 1963, when British audiences were whisked away into the TARDIS with William Hartnell’s first portrayal of The Doctor and Carol Ann Ford’s Susan Foreman, the Doctor’s granddaughter, Saturday has become a day dedicated to the British institution of Doctor Who. Spreading across the Pond, and the globe at large, it has earned itself an international following, and in recent years a place in mainstream culture that grows with each passing year.

The fear, the anticipation, the unabashed joy experienced by every fan that has ever sat down to watch an episode makes every Saturday the Day of the Doctor, a day worthy of note…a day laid aside specifically for a celebration of the mad man with his box, plucking ordinary folk such as ourselves out of the world for a dizzying whirlwind adventure spanning all of time and space. While this Saturday, November 23, 2013 was a Day of the Doctor like any other, it was unique in that this week’s episode marked the 50th anniversary of what has become a television legacy, holding its own Guinness World Record as the most successful science fiction television series on the planet. This special, The Day of the Doctor, was simulcast across the globe, making this the first time in history that Whovians worldwide have been able to experience their own Day of the Doctor at the exact same time.

No matter who your Doctor is or was, no matter whether you’re a fan of Classic Who or the new generation, today was the same for everyone who ever lost their heart and imagination to a mad old man and his big blue box…today, for all of us, was The Day of the Doctor.

 WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR TO FOLLOW. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE EPISODE.

 Having attended one of the national theater showings of the special with my co-host, Kristine (aka, Time Siren), as well as Krypton Radio heads Gene and Susan, I can honestly say the experience was enriched not only by a theater full of costumed fans and a chorus of sonic screwdrivers glittering in the dark, but by the special introductions provided. Warnings against recording or texting during the special were provided by our favorite Sontaran, Strax, and a special introduction to the 3D aspect of the screening was given by the Tenth Doctor and the Eleventh Doctor, sniping hilariously at each other about chins and wrinkles.

We won’t discuss the Zygon detectors hidden in the 3D glasses. To my horror, I discovered that Gene and Kristine had been replaced by these vile shapeshifters. I escaped with my life, and remain fairly certain that the genuine articles accompanied me out of the theater…I hope.

Despite the spoiler warning, I won’t give a full recap of the special. As a Whovian, relatively new compared to some, for me the viewing of any Doctor Who episode is something special, something you can’t capture fully in words. To try takes far too long, because the experience of Doctor Who is a difficult thing to encapsulate.

All fans of Doctor Who know about the Time War, the battle between the Time Lords and the Daleks that would have ripped the universe to shreds had it gone unchecked. The Doctor, our noble hero, ended the Time War by locking it away for eternity, effectively destroying his people and his home. For the greater good, he orphaned himself, becoming the very last of the Time Lords. This is a weight he has carried for hundreds of years, a burden he has borne and suffered beneath even in his most lighthearted moments.

Today, in The Day of the Doctor, fans got their first look not only at the Time War, but the man the Doctor became in order to finish it for good. That man, the one fans have come to know as the War Doctor, was given the chance to see the consequences of his actions by meeting his future selves. Not only did he come to terms with his choice, but with their help, ended the Time War…and in a move that will change the complexion of the series for a long while to come, gave the Time Lord Victorious new hope for the future as he begins his search for the home he was able to save, now lost instead of gone for good.

Yes, it was a wild romp that, perhaps, could have had a more keenly honed plot. Yes, there was fan service at every turn.

Yes, that’s precisely what this was supposed to be.

The entire special was a deliriously joyful and unapologetic celebration of the show’s fifty year history. Without changing the landscape of the show’s past, it gave the show new meaning and, in terms of character development, changed nothing about the past, but everything that the past meant to the Doctor as a man, a Time Lord, and a living being. We saw the Doctor’s oldest, most painful wound heal within the context of this special, along with a fun-filled adventure that answered exactly the right questions about the Doctor’s past for such a bright and happy remembrance of the beginning of the Doctor’s great adventure through space, time, and our lives.

Some of the highlights of the special included tons of priceless interaction between David Tennant and Matt Smith (fezzes and spectacles and sonics, oh my!), a special appearance by Billie Piper, and ended with a climactic gathering of all of the Doctor’s regenerations, including his future twelfth incarnation, banding together as one to prevent the destruction of Gallifrey. The episode’s gentle, radiant denouement involved a special cameo by the most recognizable of the Doctors, Tom Baker, and revealed to us that the efforts of all of the Doctors was not in vain: Gallifrey is safe, waiting to be rediscovered, and the good name of the Doctor is, at least in his own mind and heart, forever restored.

A name that is not a name, but a promise. A promise we learned the full meaning of today, one which encapsulates the essence of why Doctor Who has endured for fifty years, and why each and every person, no matter who their Doctor might be, aspires to be as great and as good as a funny little man with a big blue phone box.

The name of the Doctor is a promise to never be cruel, or cowardly…and a promise to never give in.

Did you see The Day of the Doctor at home, or in the theater? How did you feel about it? What was your favorite part? Hit me up on Twitter to share your thoughts in feelings, or talk to me here in the comments section! Either way, be sure to tune in this Wednesday at 4PM PST to hear a very special episode of The Corsair’s Closet, celebrating the special and giving further in-depth reviews of the broadcast, the theater experience, and our personal feelings about The Day of the Doctor.

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The Corsair’s Closet  features Elizabeth Carlie as the Mad Woman With A Box and Kristine Cherry as the Time Siren. The pair co-host Krypton Radio’s wacky and high-energy Doctor Who-themed cosplay show in which they get their geek on by squeeing about Doctor Who, cosplay, pop culture, and fan creativity.

The Corsair’s Closet airs with a new episode each Wednesday at 4PM Pacific, repeating Friday at 4PM.

 
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About Elizabeth Carlie

Liz Carlie, the Mad Woman with a Box, a regular book reviewer for Krypton Radio and a regular guest on 'The Event Horizon'. She has been in and around science fiction fandom for years, and works with the American Red Cross on blood drives at science fiction conventions all over Southern California.

One Comment

  1. This was exactly a love letter to the fans. And this one, at least, is happy. Great review, Liz Carlie.

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