It seems like we’ve been waiting forever to see the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special…I guess some people have technically been waiting 50 years, but whatever. Anyway we’re finally within spitting distance of The Day of the Doctor. We’ve been teased with an amazing trailer and by accounts we’re in for an epic adventure come November 23. Just how epic? Who executive producer Steven Moffat says it will change the course of the Doctor’s life forever, and will begin “chapter two of his life.” For a show celebrating five decades of life, that’s a bold statement.
Moffat sounded off about The Day of the Doctor in a recent issue of SFX (as reported by Doctor Who TV), explaining that “This is where the story starts. This is where he finds his mission, he finds his destiny.” And he’s just getting started. Moffat continues:
We’re not fibbing — this one is going to change the course of the series. And it’s very rare in Doctor Who that the story happens to the Doctor. It happens to people around him, and he helps out – he’s the hero figure who rides in and saves everybody from the story of the week. He is not the story of the week. In this, he is the story of the week. This is the day of the Doctor. This is his most important day. His most important moment. This is the one he’ll remember, whereas I often think the Doctor wanders back to his TARDIS and forgets all about it.
Of course, one of the things many fans are most looking forward to is seeing the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors — David Tennant and Matt Smith, respectively — will play off of each other onscreen. While Moffat has only been showrunner since the beginning of Smith’s era, he wrote for Tennant extensively while Russell T Davies was still at the helm, so he’s obviously got a lot of experience working with each of the Doctor’s voices, eccentricities, and viewpoints. So what will it be like when they’re in the same TARDIS together? Moffat says:
I wrote it as the friction version. When you’re talking to yourself there are no limitations, there’s no holding back. You wouldn’t be kind or courteous. At the same time, because they are two loveable, madcap, caffeinated Doctors, they’re also quite fanboyish about each other. They think it’s quite cool. They’re not broody, upset Doctors — it’s more ‘There’s two of us! Brilliant!’ But that’s mostly in the playing, because they were having such a good time together that they brought that out. They get giggly with each other. It is, by lovely accident, a tremendous double-act. They’re naturally funny together. Enough alike and enough dissimilar. Matt said it was like Laurel and Laurel, as if Hardy didn’t show up — except he does in the form of John Hurt!
I’m not even going to attempt to dissect the Laurel and Hardy metaphor for any serious John Hurt clues. It’ll just give me a migraine. (One thing we can be sure of, however: Who is, most definitely, on first.)
Honestly, it’s kind of remarkable to see the show hit its 50th anniversary, especially with me having recently begun revisiting its humble beginnings. If you’d told anybody back in ‘63 that the show would still be alive and kicking in 2013, I’m pretty sure they would have laughed at you. Even if they were one of the people actually making the show. Perhaps especially if they were one of the people making the show.
Moffat, in the meanwhile, isn’t limiting his bravado simply to grand declarations of the anniversary special’s narrative import. He says The Day of the Doctor will help ensure the show survives to have a 100th anniversary. In an extract from The Doctor: His Lives and Times (shared by TennantNews), Moffat plays up the stakes of The Day of the Doctor even further:
My intent was to move it forward, to have a show that’s equally about the next fifty years of Doctor Who. Attaching the word fifty to anything…I almost tried to rip the logo off saying ‘Why is that good?! That show you’re watching is really old!’ Why is that a good thing to say? It’s about proving we’ve got many, many more stories to tell, and in a way, being able to say the story really starts here. People ask me how am I going to please the regular audience and I say I’m actually on a recruitment drive to get the people who’ve never watched it before to watch Doctor Who. That’s what matters. There are some people out there who’ve never watched it before, God help them. You want them to think, ‘Oh I’ve been missing out, I’m going to join in now.’
If you’re going to celebrate Doctor Who, you’re celebrating the Doctor — well, why not tell his story? What’s it like for him? What’s it like being him, what defines him, what defines what he is? How do you make that might moment in his life? What would be the Doctor’s most important day, what would be the show that would change him as a person for ever, alter the course of his life?
That’s what’s big enough to do for the 50th, rather than just a parade of the greatest hits. Never mind that space badge one; this is the adventure that he really remembers, and thinks, ‘That was the day everything changed.’
Well, he doesn’t lack for ambition, does he? It remains to be seen if it’s of the hubris variety. Will The Day of the Doctor be able to win over new fans for Doctor Who? It’s certainly possible. I never would have predicted in the ‘80s that it would eventually become the pop culture phenomenon it has. Then again, if major changes are in store for the series in the name of attracting new viewers, that could be a double-edged sword. Consider the Abrams Trek movies: they’ve definitely given the franchise a higher profile and made it more accessible for non-fans, but it’s also pissed off a lot of the loyalists. Hopefully The Day of the Doctor won’t run aground on those same rocks (although, it’s worth pointing out, there is already a vocal subset of Who fandom who would like to light Steven Moffat on fire.)
The Day of the Doctor will premiere on November 23, simulcast around the world. Geronimo!