The year leading up to the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special has been filled with rumors, speculation, and outright craziness, but everyone involved in the production has done a good job of keeping the official details under wraps. An early leak spoiled the identity of John Hurt’s character for those who sought it out or were unlucky enough to stumble across it and get spoiled. But that big secret was only going to remain a secret until the seventh season finale last May anyway, and while there are plenty of things we strongly suspect, very little has been confirmed by official sources. Now we can add one more item to that meager list: the BBC has released an official synopsis which teases a lot but reveals very little.
The synopsis’ details don’t completely spoil the episode, obviously, but if you want to go in knowing as little as possible, now is the time to…
Flee! Spoilers and speculation below!
Now then, here’s the skinny:
The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th anniversary special. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.
The first two elements of that synopsis were previously unknown. The third part, however — the “ancient battle” — is almost certainly the devastating Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks, a conflict that very nearly drove both species into extinction. While John Hurt has been confirmed to be a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor, nothing official has been revealed about where he fits into the Doctor’s timeline. However, the evidence seems to point strongly toward him being a regeneration between Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor and Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth — call him Doctor 8.5, or “the new/retroactive Ninth Doctor.”
If that’s the case, the connection to the Time War would make perfect sense. We already knew that the War was recent enough for Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth that he was still very much bearing the emotional scars of it. It was presumed that either the Eighth or the Ninth Doctor was the one who lived through that conflict, with a regeneration tucked in their somewhere. Instead it seems very likely that John Hurt’s Doctor is the one who most bore the weight of the Time War…and made some very controversial decisions during it, based on the Eleventh Doctor’s comments about him in the “Name of the Doctor” finale last spring.
The other two settings/storylines are the first we’ve heard of them. Assuming the Time War is indeed the crux of “The Day of the Doctor,” presumably those two elements will tie into it somehow. Since David Tennant is returning as Ten alongside Matt Smith’s Eleven, I’m betting each of them will be involved in one of those stories at the beginning, only to find themselves teaming up when they dovetail into the much larger issues involving John Hurt’s Doctor. All in all, an intriguing setup for an epic 50th extravaganza.
Here’s some other exciting news: if the remaining two and a half weeks before the premiere of “The Day of the Doctor” are more than you can bear, you’ll be getting two new webisodes to help tide you over. Doctor Who TV first reported on the minisodes, and has revealed that the two short videos will be titled “The Last Day” and “The Night of the Doctor.” The former is set to run 3 minutes and 57 seconds, while “Night” will clock in at six minutes and 54 seconds.
The titles make a nice narrative progression leading up to “The Day of the Doctor,” and there’s definite biblical resonance as well — the story of the Last Supper leading up to the betrayal and crucification of Jesus. We certainly wouldn’t be the first to point out the messianic qualities of the Doctor.
There’s no word when the minisodes will air, but Digital Journal astutely theorizes that one of them might premiere during the BBC’s annual Children in Need charity show on Friday, November 15, a week before the anniversary special airs
“The Day of the Doctor” will be simulcast around the globe on Saturday, November 23.