Daleks, Time Lords & Limp Lettuce

Underwhelmed Face

Underwhelmed Face

“Totally underwhelming”.

There, I’ve said it. Don’t hate me. But that’s what I think about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. Let’s be honest, The Day of the Doctor was a bit like eating a salad with no vinaigrette – it was a bit lacklustre. And it’s a shame because it all started off so well…

Dumpa-de-dum, Dumpa-de-dum, Dumpa-de-dum, Diddley-dum…

First of all, we were treated to the original opening titles – the very same ones that introduced Doctor Who to world back in 1963. It was wonderful to see those iconic swirling patterns in all their black-and-white beauty flickering across the screen.

Likewise, hearing Ron Grainer’s eerie masterpiece made me do a little bit of a geek wee – that pulsing electronic baseline and swooping organ-like melody still stands the test of time 50 years on. It’s my all-time favourite TV theme tune, piping Juliet Bravo and Treasure Hunt to the post.

More nods to the past then followed with a knowing wink given to die-hard fans by way of references to the junkyard at Totter’s Lane and the Coal Hill School (both of which featured in the show’s first-ever episode, An Unearthly Child).

Gripping Stuff

We were then catapulted across the stars to the Doctor’s home-world. Here we got to see the oft-quoted Time War between the daleks and the Time Lords. And credit where credit’s due – the invasion of Gallifrey was spectacular. The shots of the dalek fleet pounding Arcadia and the Capitol were a veritable feast of pyrotechnics and CGI wizardry.

Let’s not forget the superb dialogue in the Time Lord high command which injected a real sense of foreboding, desperation and urgency – the likes of which I haven’t felt since I visited the Churchill Cabinet War Rooms in London.

The trailer really did showcase all the best bits…

Not So Hot

However, from there on in it all went a bit pear-shaped. What followed was about 30 minutes of padding which went something like this…

  •   Supposed light relief courtesy of an asthmatic boffin in comedy glasses and, for some strange reason, Tom Baker’s scarf
  • Lots of running around the bowels of a rather studio-looking art gallery 
  • Redundant appearances from old foes the Zygons who, let’s be honest, were far more menacing back in 1975
  • A distinctly wooden and Welsh-sounding portrayal of Elizabeth I which frankly should be consigned to the far reaches of Barry Island, never to be seen again

Perks Up Again

Fast-forward through all this fluff and you get to some good stuff towards the end of the episode. We discover that John Hurt (who out-acted Tennant and Smith with just a raise of an eyebrow) is actually the 9th Doctor, which I’m guessing means we need to shunt Messieurs Ecclestone, Tennant, Smith and Capaldi back a digit each. Plus we get to see all the incarnations of the Doctor come together to save Gallifrey via some rather cool computer trickery.

Would You Like A Jelly Baby?

One thing I’m sure most fans will be waxing lyrical about is the appearance of Tom Baker. While I appreciate this nod to the classic series, the cameo kind of left me cold. After all, my Doctor was Peter Davison and so I didn’t really feel the connection.

Feel the Peter Davison love...

Feel the Peter Davison love…

On A Level With American Life

In short, The Day of the Doctor is no Caves of Androzani, no Talons Weng Chiang, no Blink. It had its moments but in general felt a little bit flat. It reminded me how I felt when Madonna released her American Life album – I was desperate to like it but just couldn’t, try as I might. Testament to this is the fact I’m really not that bothered about watching The Day of the Doctor again on catch-up. Normally I would have seen it about five times by now.

Happy Birthday To Ya!

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The fact that Doctor Who is still going strong at 50 is one hell of an achievement. So, despite the rather limp lettuce outing ce soir, let’s raise a glass to everyone’s favourite time-travelling hero.

Happy birthday Doctor Who – here’s to the next 50!

(And hopefully some better scriptwriting)

PS: Did anyone see the embarrassment that was the Afterparty on BBC Three this evening? Stephan Moffat‘s face on the live link with One Direction in LA kind of said it all.

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