That was amazing. You know why it was amazing?
Because the Doctor can go home, now. That’s the big birthday gift Steven Moffat has given to the Doctor and to us: an end to the great regret, an end to the darkness that was driving the Doctor, the darkness that drove Eleven to breaking point. It was either this or give up. And that’s not something the Doctor does. The Day of the Doctor reminded us — and himself — of just that. After centuries of mourning, the Doctor can feel hope again, can move out of the shadows, into the light. An arc that began in 2005, with the Doctor coming to face the things he has done, slowly but steadily breaking apart his own soul, has come to an end.
“You know the sound the TARDIS makes? That wheezing, groaning? That sound brings hope where ever it goes. To anyone who hears it, Doctor. Anyone. However lost. Even you.”
What’s important is that this hasn’t entirely retconned canon. Nine and Ten are still going to be who they are — this Ten is the Ten right before going to The End of Time. Remember what he said to Ood Sigma? He married Liz the First just before going to the Oodsphere. The End of Time will happen, and Ten will die thinking he’s lost everything. What might have changed is that there might be the tiniest sliver of a chance that the Master is still alive. If Gallifrey made it, and he made it back in time, into a spot where the Daleks couldn’t get at him, then perhaps he’s safe. Perhaps.
I love how they embedded Rose — not as from directly within the Doctor’s past, which I had feared. She wouldn’t have been able to cope very well with the thought of losing another Doctor so soon, and it would have added a layer of friction to the enterprise that would have made it difficult to pull off the celebratory tone. Instead, imbued with the power of the Moment and the Bad Wolf, she showed the War Doctor what he needed to see. The man that regrets, and the man that forgets. Ten and Eleven’s argument is so powerful because that’s who they are. Ten wants to know where he’s going, until he realises that Eleven won’t tell him not because it’s too dangerous, but because it’s too painful. Eleven forgets because he cannot handle it any longer, because he has locked himself away out of fear of himself, out of fear of crumbling apart at the pain that he feels.
In the end, the three Doctors got to show off. They got along splendidly, all 13 of them did, and that’s the point. Yes, they’re different faces, but it’s one man. The entire show wouldn’t have worked, wouldn’t have survived, if there hadn’t been all of these brilliant faces portraying this wonderful character. That’s what we celebrated today: the show, the fandom, everything. I watched at the cinema one town over, and there were so many people cosplaying, and everyone was excited. We were laughing, gasping, crying together. This show has united so many people across the globe, just as the Doctor does. He unites the Universe, unites himself. 13 faces, but they’re all the same man. The same madman with a box, who will never give up hope.
Eleven saw what 8.5 couldn’t, because he’d made himself a warrior, caught in bloodshed and desperation. Nine was too raw, Ten too caught in his grief. But Eleven, the man who tried so hard to forget — who did forget, Eleven found a way out. The idea growing in his mind ever since that day, and now that day has changed. Yes, it should have been impossible. But that word doesn’t exist in this Time Lord’s vocabulary.
Rose, embodying the Moment’s conscience, showed him what he needed to see. Himself, in the future. And now, living on isn’t the punishment for his actions, it’s the reward. As Ten said when he had to leave her behind at Bad Wolf Bay — she made him better. She showed Nine that there’s a way out, made Ten more human than any Doctor has ever been. And now, together with Clara, she’s saved them all. Clara, who shook her head, Clara, who figured 8.5 out, figured out that there was a way to save him from what he thought he had to do, saving him from that life of misery. The Doctor says he sees everything, but this time, he didn’t. Clara, here, did what Donna once did for Ten, against the Racnoss. Sometimes, he needs someone to stop him. She’s saved all of him, by jumping into his time stream, she knows who he is and what he can do. She and Rose, they were the ones who didn’t give up hope; and that’s another thing that Doctor Who has always been about. Without his companions, who is he, really? By learning from Ian and Barbara, the very First Doctor has become a kinder, gentler soul. They were the first ones to change him, and that story has repeated itself over and over. The story of his life isn’t just between a girl and a box. It’s the story of learning what it is to be human, too.
There were so many lovely nods to the past 50 years in this — what got me most right away was the inscription on the board outside the school. Headmaster: I. Chesterton. Ian, companion to the First Doctor, working with another companion from the next generation, and neither of them know it. Which gets me thinking — did the Doctor give her a hint..?
I will also have you know that the tears truly started when Peter Capaldi made a surprise appearance. All 13 of them, saving Gallifrey. Tom Baker at the end, as the National Gallery’s curator, was the icing on the cake.
We know that there will be more to this, we know that this isn’t it. Finding Gallifrey will not be easy, and this Christmas, Eleven has got to deal with his own graveyard, again. I’m a bit confused as to where exactly in his time stream these events lie, shouldn’t he still be fighting to get Clara out of his time streams? In any case, Trenzalore is waiting, and now Eleven isn’t just the madman with nothing to lose. He’s the madman with everything to lose. And that makes him more powerful and more dangerous than ever. Twelve will be born, and after Nine being born out of blood, anger, and revenge, because 8.5 won’t remember what he did, and Ten being born out of love, so very human, and Eleven being born all alone, in grief and despair, Universe may know what will become of him. But I still choose to hold on to this hope. Gallifrey falls no more.
Next: The Time of the Doctor, introducing Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor.