The secrecy surrounding Doctor Who’s much-anticipated 50th anniversary episode has been slowly lifting over the past year. After rumors piled upon rumors, we eventually learned that former Who actors David Tennant and Billie Piper were going to return as the Tenth Doctor and Rose Tyler, respectively. We learned that John Hurt had a role, and eventually the shocking news of just who (ahem) he was playing. Now we can tick off one more bit of important info: the episode’s name. As seen in the newly released poster above, the 50th anniversary episode will be titled “The Day of the Doctor.”
WARNING: SPOILERS AND SPECULATION BELOW!
“The Day of the Doctor” follows up quite nicely on “The Name of the Doctor,” the season seven finale that left us with one hell of a closing image this past May. That episode teased but avoided revealing one of the Doctor’s greatest secrets: his true name. But in typical Steven Moffat fashion, it didn’t cop out so much as change the nature of the question. As the Time Lord explained to Clara in the episode’s final moments, his true name isn’t important; “the Doctor” is the name he chose. As he said, it’s a promise of sorts, a mission statement and an ideal to strive for: he’s the Doctor, and he’s here to help.
Should we then assume that that bit of narrative sleight-of-hand with the title will be repeated in some way for the 50th anniversary? There are plenty of questions going into the special episode — How will the Tenth Doctor and Rose become involved? What the hell did John Hurt’s “forgotten Doctor” do that was so bad that the Time Lord has done his level best to forget he existed? But for those keeping score, we should add another one to the list: what is the “Day of the Doctor?”
The poster offers a few intriguing clues as to what we’ll see in “The Day of the Doctor,” and they’re lurking in the center of the poster, with Hurt’s Doctor right at the nexus, as you’d expect. You can see a pair of Daleks — not surprising since they played a major role in the oft-referenced Time War that many believe will be central to the 50th anniversary episode — as well as what looks like one of the TARDIS’ doors in the background on the right.
More intriguing is the element to the left of Hurt: the words “BAD WOLF.” Long-time Who fans will recall that the phrase was central to the first season’s overarching plotline. The words appeared over and over throughout Eccleston’s only season, and it was eventually revealed that they had been scattered throughout the time stream as a warning for the Doctor. That action was courtesy of a temporarily empowered Rose Tyler, all hopped up on reality-warping TARDIS juice after staring into the heart of the Doctor’s iconic vessel.
What, then, are we to make of the appearance of “BAD WOLF” in the new poster? It makes sense given the presence of Rose Tyler in the upcoming adventure, but the “BAD WOLF” events unfolded seven years ago, and seemed at the time to be entirely wrapped up. What does “BAD WOLF” have to do with the Time War, or with Hurt’s role, or with the “Day of the Doctor?” Could Rose Tyler, momentarily gifted with nigh-godlike powers, have sent out one more warning that we are only now discovering? Could that warning have been about the Doctor all the subsequent incarnations of the Time Lord seem eager to forget?
Before we wrap up, one more small mystery. Yesterday former Doctors Peter Davison, Colin Baker, and Sylvester McCoy (Doctors Five, Six, and Seven, respectively) were spotted outside the BBC TV Centre, engaged in, apparently, a protest. They were holding up sign reading “No Classics? No 50th!” and “Have a heart, Classic Doctors want a part!”
There are a couple of things that could be happening here. It could be exactly as it appears: the former Doctor Who actors are miffed at not being included in the 50th anniversary special and decided to voice their dismay in a public display. I don’t think anybody would blame the guys. They’ve repeatedly voiced their willingness to be involved in some way, but — as far as we know — the only former Doctor joining Matt Smith in the special is David Tennant. Much as I love Tennant, it doesn’t seem like much of a celebration of the show’s five decades if you’re only going back one regeneration (especially since Eccleston had no interest in participating). If this was a legitimate act of protest Davison, Baker, and McCoy, that’s terribly sad and the BBC powers that be should feel like a pack of dicks for not doing right by the actors who carried the show’s torch long before it was trendy.
On the other hand, it could all be a stunt. As the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so having the actors appear without warning to stage a public “protest” would guarantee extra attention directed toward the show, even from publications that otherwise might never grant a single column inch to Doctor Who. After all, everybody loves a scandal.
And assuming that it is a publicity stunt, I’m holding out hope that it could be a hint of things to come. Could Moffat and the BBC be pulling a fast one on us? Could it be that the older Doctors do indeed have a role in the anniversary special, and that all their denials and feigned frustration have been part of a long con to keep us off the scent? While the actors’ age and physical changes would make it tricky to bring them back in the role(s) that made them famous, this is a show about time travel for god’s sake, so I have no doubt Moffat and his writers could come up with some timey-wimey explanation for it all. Hell, even if the three just appear in some minor way, it would still be an appropriate tip of the hat to the show’s enduring legacy.
All I know is that the wait until November 23rd just got even more unbearable.