24/11/2013

Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor (2013)

Film: Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor
Release: 2013, Theatrical
Starring: Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt
Directed by: Nick Hurran
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: In 2013, A strange man in a blue box is brought to the royal british gallery to receive a letter written by Queen Elizabeth the 1st. In a time forgotten, another strange man in another blue box is contemplating a horrible sacrifice for the sake of the universe.


Hans' thoughts:

50 years running, the science fiction adventure series Doctor Who produced by BBC has made a roaring comeback after it's series revival starting in 2005. The Doctor, of course, is a timelord - a super-intelligent alien from an ancient race with remarkable life-spans and technology. Throughout his adventures he's fought countless of strange beings and universe threatening catastrophe, somehow being personally connected to planet Earth and always bringing along one or more human companions to show them the wonders of time and space. When a timelord dies, he regenerates and gains a completely new face - which is the core reason for why the show has run this long. Whenever an actor felt it was time to find new ventures, he could be replaced by someone else and as such The Doctor has become comparable to James Bond. Everybody has their favorite incarnation and companion, everybody has their favorite villain and adventure. Everybody has a 'first' Doctor. Personally I was very late to the party, not jumping on the series till the introduction of Matt Smith in the 11th incarnation. He's the current Doctor (slated to be replaced this Christmas by Peter Capaldi) and the movie revolves around him meeting the 10th incarnation played by David Tennant, and a previously unknown incarnation played by John Hurt. Having such a strong legacy, it's no wonder that this is probably one of the most anticipated events of 2013 - with the special even being screened in cinemas worldwide. So how does this actually hold up?

Because of the announcement that some of the classic Doctors would not make an appearance despite the movie being announced to have different incarnations meeting each other I went into this with some degree of wariness. Fortunately, I was legitimately surprised by how good some of the moments and how overall great this movie turned out to be. It is not often you have something that builds up a great amount of hype and actually manages to live up to expectations. I found all actors involved to do a great job, Matt Smith is tried and true as the Doctor and David Tennant was able to jump straight back into the role in spite of the time between now and his last appearance as the adventurous timelord. Newcomer is of course John Hurt, portraying an all new incarnation of the time-lord and playing a character with a lot of weight on his shoulder - who exactly he is, and where he fits in would be too much of a spoiler to disclose here but suffice it to say that he makes for a really good incarnation more than living up to the series. The one I feel did the best job of portraying The Doctor is Matt Smith, channeling this fun loving yet weary character much more strongly than the goofball adventurer of David Tennant but that also has to do with the difference between their characters (Yes, The Doctor is one character yet more at the same time). 

Companion-wise we have the return of Clara, played by Jenna Coleman. We have recently seen her introduced as "The impossible girl" and she does a very good job her, while I understand why she's included (this serves as special episode and fits into series continuity after the episode "The Name of The Doctor") she thankfully takes a backstep to let us have fun with the interaction between The Doctor and his other selves. We also have a return of Billie Piper in an unexpected appearance, she was announced to appear in the episode months ago but I don't think anyone would've expected her to show up in this version. Piper, I have to say, does a much better job in this than I feel she has done in any other of her appearances. I was never a fan of the Rose Tyler character so I was pleasantly surprised that she doesn't become the focal point of the story and has a much more reserved performance than the highly emotional Rose from her initial run on the series. The supporting cast, while sparingly utilized all do a very good job at portraying their individual characters but I feel the movie definitely would have benefited from instead using more established characters as opposed to introducing new ones - there are characters long time fans would quite frankly be baffled do not show up to assist our time-travelling heroes. However, there exists room to expand upon some of them in the future so I'm hoping they will make a return to more traditional episodes so we can actually get to know them. On the story side there exists a bit of a schism when it comes to kind of high stakes we're used to, while fans of the series will recognize The Time War as being a great event that very much defines the character there is not much in the way of urgency when it comes to the danger our characters face. While there are certainly shots of Daleks encountering civilians and causing distress the foes that dominate the film are the alien shapeshifters known as the Zygons, a minor monster race that has only appeared once or twice in an episode many years ago. 

I certainly like the creatures but one can't help but think that Daleks, or indeed any other more well-known Doctor Who villain would make much more of an appearance in this 50 years anniversary special. Cybermen, The Master or The Sontaran race is not included at all and you have to stop for a moment and wonder if, aside from the actual Time War event, any of these dangers couldn't have been handled by a single incarnation of The Doctor. The Day of The Doctor takes some time to get up and running but once it finally gets going there is fun and games all around, Tennant, Smith and Hurt have surprisingly good ping pong between them and, while sparingly used, the other actors of the movies all turn in a very good performance. I recommend this to fans only however, if you are only passingly acquainted with the series you will have a hard time keeping up with who's doing what and why their lines are significant, references to 50 years worth of sci-fi is spread throughout the movie so if you don't know who The Doctor is you'll likely be a tad confused. However, for fans this is a loving tribute to what has become an icon of the genre and one that I hope we will continue to follow for years to come.
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