Title: Doctor Who Special “The Day of the Doctor”
Released: 2013
Series:  Doctor Who

Hello fellow Whovians! I hope you were able to catch “The Day of the Doctor” this past Saturday during the simulcast—How cool was that, BTW? I feel so connected!—during one of the numerous times it re-aired on TV, or at one of the special showings at a movie theater. (If you’re waiting until this evening to watch it on the big screen, do pop in tomorrow and join in the discussion once you’re out of your self-imposed no-Internet cone of silence!)

If you haven’t seen the special yet, don’t keep reading. There will be spoilers, after all. And, although “The Day of the Doctor” was pretty much a stand alone episode, you can check out Julie’s excellent series 7 recaps here if you need a refresher on what happened with Eleven and his crew before the Day began. (Thanks so much for recapping that seriously difficult season, Julie.)

Before we get started, however, I want to make sure you’ve all seen “The Night of the Doctor,” one of the minisodes that was released online as a prequel to the special. It fills in the hole between the Eighth Doctor and the one played by John Hurt, who I’ll refer to as 8.5 from now own. I’ll give you a moment to check it out, or watch it again if you like. (It’s SO good.)

And now, as my Doctor would say: Allons-y!

Let’s Go Poke it With a Stick

The special opens with the First Doctor’s opening titles and music. It’s a lovely way to highlight where the show began. We immediately move to a school where Clara has apparently gotten a job as a teacher. She’s teaching her class about Marcus Aurelius, and has written a quote of his on the board: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” (Now that I think about it, there was some serious foreshadowing here.) Clara receives notice that the Doctor’s left her an address, and she rushes off on her motorcycle to meet up with him. She finds the TARDIS by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, and drives right into the control room.

If you’ll excuse me a moment of irrational dislike—SHE DRIVES INTO THE CONTROL ROOM. Ugh. I won’t take the time to delve into my intense disapproval of Eleven’s choice in companions post-Ponds, but I really cannot abide the way Clara always acts so entitled around the TARDIS and the Doctor. Episode 7.13 kind of explained it, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Sorry. Back to the show.

Eleven is, of course, not surprised to see Clara, but it’s apparently been a bit since the two have been together. He asks her if she’d like to go on an adventure right before the TARDIS is airlifted by a helicopter like it’s a toy in one of those claw machines.

Cut to U.N.I.T. Headquarters at the Tower of London and the classic vworp noise, which happens to be the ringtone of one Kate Stewart (daughter of longtime Doctor companion The Brigadier). (I have that noise as my main text tone. Can I get a job at U.N.I.T.?) A steretypically nerdy assistant who happens to be wearing a scarf very similar to the one made famous by the Fourth Doctor hands Kate the phone and tells her that the Doctor is calling. Kate answers the phone and tells Eleven that they’re bringing the TARDIS to the National Gallery, as there’s something very important he needs to see.

When the TARDIS arrives at the gallery, Eleven and Clara are met by a U.N.I.T. contingent. Kate announces that she had the TARDIS moved on a direct order from Elizabeth the First (yes, the First) and that Elizabeth’s credentials are inside the Gallery. (For those of us who aren’t British or veteran anglophiles—myself included—when Kate asks Scarf!Assistant what their cover story will be this time, her assistant says “Derren Brown.” It turns out that he’s a British illusionist à la America’s David Blaine. I obviously need to brush up on my British pop culture.)

As Eleven and Clara walk through the gallery, they discuss the fact that he used to work for U.N.I.T., which is a nod to the Third Doctor, who spent most of his run “stuck” on Earth and working for the agency. They finally reach “Elizabeth’s credentials,” which turn out to be painting of the fall of Arcadia, Gallifrey’s second city. The painting is called “No More” or “Gallifrey Falls”—no one’s quite sure which—and utilizes Time Lord technology to make it seem bigger on the inside. Eleven is quite thrown by the painting, and begins talking about the other him that was there at the battle, the other Doctor that he doesn’t like to talk about. We zoom into the painting and see the back of 8.5 (!) before cutting to flashback scenes of the actual battle.

The battle is horrendous. The Dalek fleet surrounds the planet. Gallifreyan citizens are running for their lives amidst the rubble, fire and Daleks shouting “EXTERMINATE.” 8.5 asks a soldier for his weapon and begins firing it into the side of a mountain, spelling out the words “No More.” The Daleks sense his presence on the planet and being to go after him, but he escapes in the TARDIS—smashing into/destroying a bunch of Daleks on his way out. Meanwhile, in the Gallifreyan War Room, the leaders of the Time Lords are trying to figure out a way to win/end the war. They’re distracted by the fact that the Doctor seemingly popped by for a bit of graffiti and then left, but then one of them notices that there’s been a security breach. The Omega Arsenal, the warehouse of the worst weapons in all the universe, has been broken into, and The Moment—a sentient weapon that can destroy entire galaxies—has been taken. By, obviously, 8.5.

8.5 travels to a desolate desert planet to use The Moment. He sets it up in a shack, but is surprised when a woman appears (Billie Piper). Although it looks like Rose, The Moment is merely projecting a familiar form onto its interface. The two have a discussion about what 8.5 is about to do, and he admits that he doesn’t believe he has a future, that he has no desire to survive. The Moment says that if he goes through with destroying Gallifrey and the Daleks, living will be his punishment. In the midst of this extremely heavy moment, a fissure in time (that looks a whole lot like something out of Sliders) opens and a fez pops out. (Love The Moment’s response here: “K, I wasn’t expecting that.” It’s such a great example of the silly/serious Doctor Who dynamic.)

Back at the painting, Eleven reads a note from Elizabeth in which she calls him her husband (uh, whut?), and then Kate leads the way into the Under Gallery, a secret portion of the National Gallery that houses items too dangerous for public consumption. As they’re walking away, another of Kate’s assistants (Male!Assistant) gets a phone call, during which he looks very confused. “But why would I take it there,” he asks the person on the line. (Why, indeed.)

At the entrance to the Under Gallery, Eleven, Clara and Kate come upon a painting of Elizabeth … and the Tenth Doctor. Cut to England in 1562, where two figures astride a white horse come racing out of the TARDIS to the cry of “Allons-y!” The two figures turn out to be Ten and Elizabeth, who go on to have a picnic, at which Ten proposes (!). Elizabeth immediately accepts, causing Ten to jump to his feet and declare her a Zygon. While Ten is waxing poetic about how awesome he is (which is a tad narcissistic, but all completely accurate, btw), his horse shifts into a Zygon. When Ten finally notices that he’s made an incorrect assumption about Elizabeth, they both run into the forest, where Elizabeth is accosted by a Zygon, and it copies her form. The two Elizabeths have an argument about who’s the real Queen when another time fissure opens. And yet again, a fez pops out.

Back to the gallery, where Eleven, Clara and Kate walk through a hallway filled with statues covered in sheets and a floor covered in stone dust. Eleven questions the dust, but they keep moving, into another gallery. Eleven find a fez and and puts it on—the “man” has never found a fez he didn’t like—and then head into a room where three Time Lord paintings hang, the glass from which has been shattered … from the inside.

While they’re talking about the paintings, another time fissure opens. Eleven looks annoyed at first, but then tosses the fez through and follows right behind. He lands in the forest, at Ten’s feet. The two can’t quite believe their eyes, and proceed to have a sonic-off. They then have a bit of amazing banter about who they are (Seriously, who can I petition for more Ten+Eleven episodes?) and what they’re both doing in the same place. Clara yells through the fissure to see if Eleven can get back through, but neither Ten or Eleven are sure. Eleven tosses the fez through as a test, but it ends up at 8.5’s feet, not back in the Tower. Kate leaves Clara in the gallery, and as she walks through the hallways, a Zygon in the shadows shifts. (*dun-dun-DUUN*)

In the forest, Ten and Eleven have an argument about what to do next. As they’re attempting to reverse the polarity of the fissure—accidentally “confusing” the polarity instead—8.5 pops through. Ten and Eleven look shocked and a bit disturbed. 8.5 asks where he can find the Doctor, and hilariously assumes that Ten and Eleven are actually companions. It’s not until the two show 8.5 their sonic screwdrivers that he realizes that there are now three of them in one place.

The Queen’s soldiers surround the three Doctors in the forest and Eleven tries to get the soldiers to believe that the time fissure is witchcraft. He tries to get Clara to help, but she’s super lame and doesn’t play along. Elizabeth shows back up and orders the Doctors to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. Strangely, Eleven seems to think that’s a wonderful idea. Kate agrees, and calls Eleven a genius. She tells Clara to come with her and heads back to her office, which, of course, happens to be in the Tower.

8.5., Ten and Eleven are put into a cell, where Eleven sets to scratching at one of the cell’s pillars and 8.5 tries to sonic the door. Back in the hallways full of stone dust, Scarf!Assistant and Male!Assistant are doing tests. Scarf!Assistant notices one of the statues moving. Uh oh! Turns out, the Zygons destroyed all of the statues and took their places in order to hide. (Some of you might have foreseen this; my husband called it way before it actually happened.) The Zygons copy both of the assistants, but Scarf!Assistant gets away.

Kate leads Clara through U.N.I.T. and into the Black Archive, a top-secret storage unit under the Tower, where she heads quickly for a Vortex Manipulator (bequeathed to them by Captain Jack Harkness on the eve of one of his many deaths). Kate mentions that the Doctor’s never given them the activation code for the manipulator, but it turns out that’s what Eleven had been scratching onto the pillar. Clara notices that the assistants have entered the archive, and then Kate reveals that she’s actually a Zygon. While Kate’s shifting back into Zygon form (which is SUPER GROSS), Clara grabs the manipulator and the activation code from Kate’s phone and pop! She’s off in time.

Back in the cell, the three Doctors are discussing ways to get out, and lamenting the fact that their sonics won’t work on the primitive wooden door; trying to figure out how to disintegrate it would take centuries. The Moment appears and tells him to ask them the awful question: How many children died on Gallifrey that day. Eleven says he doesn’t know, but then Ten says, “2.47 billion.” Ten gets mad at Eleven for forgetting, but Eleven says he’s moved on, and that Ten does not want to know what’s in his future. As they argue, 8.5 says he doesn’t know who either of them are. The Moment says to 8.5 that Ten and Eleven are what 8.5 becomes if he destroys Gallifrey: The Man who Regrets and The Man Who Forgets. (Damn, son.)

She then offers up a hint of escape, that all of the sonic screwdrivers are actually the same device. 8.5 realizes that the calculation started in his screwdriver would have been completed in Eleven’s. As they’re all marveling over how clever they are, Clara comes in through the door, which was unlocked the whole time. Elizabeth comes in soon after, and says that she’d left it open because she was curious about what they’d do once they escaped.

Scarf!Assistant finds the real Kate alive in the gallery as Elizabeth leads the Doctors into the Zygon center of operations. There, she reveals that the Zygons are transferring themselves into the paintings in the past in order to come out in the future. Ten berates Elizabeth for being stupid, smelly and revealing the Zygon’s plan to them, but Elizabeth turns out to have been the actual Elizabeth the whole time. She’s been masquerading as the Zygon commander in order to figure out their plan. She agrees to let the Doctors get back to the TARDIS, so long as Ten keeps his promise of marrying her before he leaves. (Which, hilariously, he does.)

8.5., Ten, Eleven and Clara head into Ten’s TARDIS, which starts switching about due to all three Doctors being in there at once. One switch brings up the “round things” from the First Doctor’s control room, which, adorably, both Ten and Eleven love. The control room finally settles into Eleven’s version, and the gang heads to the present-day Black Archive. In the Black Archive, the Zygons are discussing how much they appreciate the humans’ vault of nasty things when the humans they’ve copied walk in. Human!Kate turns on the self destruct of the archive that would, once the countdown ends, set off a nuclear bomb under London. (Also, for the first time, we learn that Scarf!Assistant has a name: Osgood.) Eleven calls into the archive and tells Kate that she’s doing a very bad thing. Ten pipes in that choosing such a course of action is something she’ll never forget. Kate hangs up on them both.

8.5 suddenly realizes that landing the TARDIS is not the only way they can get into the archive, and mentions Cup-A-Soup. The Doctors all look at each other with a gleam in their eye. Cut to the scene from the gallery earlier in the special when the assistant gets that confusing phone call; it’s Eleven calling and telling him to have the “No More”/”Gallifrey Falls” painting moved to the Black Archive.

Back to the present, where Human!Kate and Zygon!Kate are arguing about the detonation. 8.5, Ten and Eleven, in the meantime, have traveled to the moment depicted in “No More”/”Gallifrey Falls” and blast a Dalek through the glass and into the archive. They follow behind it with some serious swag. Clara follows after, and finally has a good line: “And also, the showing off.” The Doctors try to talk Human!Kate into turning off the self-destruct. When she doesn’t listen, they make it so that no one knows who’s human and who’s Zygon in order to force a peace negotiation. While this is going on, 8.5. sneaks off into a quiet spot to contemplate all that he’s learned from Ten and Eleven. He talks with Clara about Ten and Eleven, and ponders how many worlds they’ve saved because of their regret over his decision. The Moment appears and tells him it’s time. When Clara turns to ask who he’s talking to, he’s disappeared.

8.5 returns to the shack and is about ready to activate The Moment. He has a final conversation with her about how extraordinary Ten and Eleven are, even after the terrible decision he’s about to make. As he reaches to activate her, both Ten and Eleven appear in their TARDISes. (Clara tags along, of course.) 8.5 tells them to leave him be, to go and be the Doctor he isn’t. Ten and Eleven make him see that even though he might not believe it, that he is the most Doctor of them all. When Clara starts crying, and Eleven asks her what’s wrong, The Moment sends them to the fall of Gallifrey to experience the end for themselves. It makes them think that they made the right decision, that there was only ever one decision to make.

But then, thanks (begrudgingly) to Clara, a light bulb goes off in Eleven’s head, and he changes his mind. The three Doctors craft a plan to make Gallifrey disappear into a moment of time in a pocket universe, forcing the Daleks to destroy themselves and making it look like Gallifrey was destroyed, too.

The three Doctors call into the Gallifreyan War Room and explain their plan. And while they’re explaining, all of the other Doctors “make an appearance” to offer their help. (My god, THE FEELS.) They park their TARDISes around the planet, work some timey wimey business, and Gallifrey winks out of existence.

8.5, Ten, Eleven and Clara meet up one last time in the Under Gallery, looking at “No More”/”Gallifrey Falls.” 8.5. is the first to leave, and as he goes, he realizes that he won’t remember any of what happened. Regardless, he happily goes off into his TARDIS, and we see him start to regenerate as his TARDIS fades. (Hello, Nine!) Ten’s the next to leave, but before he goes, he asks Eleven to tell him about the future, what Eleven didn’t want him to know, since he, too, won’t remember. Eleven tells him about going to Trenzalor, to their tomb. Ten tells him to get a new destination.

Clara heads into the TARDIS to give Eleven a moment alone with the painting. As she enters the TARDIS, she tells him that an old man was looking for him, possibly the gallery’s curator. As Eleven comments that he’d possibly like to be curator one day, an old man appears. Eleven seems to recognize him immediately, and when we see his face, it turns out to be Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor). Eleven says he never forgets a face, and the curator comments that in future years he might find himself revisiting a few of the old favorites. The curator then comments on the painting, that the true name of it is not “No More” or “Gallifrey Falls,” it’s “Gallifrey Falls No More.” Eleven realizes that this means that their plan worked, and that his next mission is to seek out Gallifrey (quite possibly a foreshadowing of what Twelve will do once Eleven’s time is up).

The special ends with Eleven standing amidst the other Doctors and a voiceover saying that he’s finally going where he’s been headed his whole life—home. (A bit cheesy, yes, but it’s pretty powerful seeing them all standing there together.)

Best Doctorisms

8.5: “Why is there never a big red button?”

Ten: “It’s a machine that goes ‘ding.”

Ten: “Also, it can microwave frozen dinners from up to 20 feet and download comics from the future. I never know when to stop.”

Ten: “Ohhh, very clever. Whatever you’ve got planned, forget it. I’m the Doctor. I’m 904-years-old. I’m from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Castabra. I am the oncoming storm, the bringer of darkness and you are basically just a rabbit, aren’t you. OK, carry on. Just a general … warning.”

Eleven: “I’ve never seen it from the outside. It’s like a special effect!”

Eleven: “Listen, what you get up to in the privacy of your own generation is your business.”

8.5: “Why are you pointing your screwdrivers like that? They’re scientific instruments, not water pistols!”

8.5: “Oh, the pointing again. What’re you gonna do, assemble a cabinet at them?”

Eleven: “I demand to be incarcerated in the Tower immediately with my co-conspirators Sand Shoes and Granddad.”

Eleven: “See, Clara, they’re stored in the paintings in the Under Gallery, like Cup-A-Soups, except you add time if you can picture that, nobody can picture that, forget I said Cup-A-Soups.”

8.5: “Is there a lot of this in the future?”

Eleven: “It does start to happen, yeah.”

8.5: “Great men are forged in fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.”

Eleven: “You might say I’ve been doing this all my lives.”

Ten: “I don’t want to go.”

Eleven: “He always says that.”

Made My Two Hearts Swoon

When The Moment is mulling over the fact that it’s taken Rose’s face and form, she says it’s an important form from his past/future. I could just be reading into it—perhaps Billie was the only one of Nine or Ten’s companion actors who were available—but I totally think that this was a hint at the fact that Rose was probably the most important companion ever, at least when it comes to the Doctor loving someone.

During the first scene with Ten and Eleven together in the forest, they both put on their glasses to look more closely at the fissure. They turn and look at each other and make an “ohhh, lovely” noise that made me giggle with glee.

Matt Smith’s face when he’s talking with Tom Baker at the end of the special was absolutely delightful. The childhood glee in his eyes was palpable!

You Didn’t Blink, Did You?

During the attempt to freeze Gallifrey in time, all of the Doctors come to the planet to assist—all thirteen of them. A glimpse of Peter Capaldi’s eyes can be seen right before the end of the scene.

(And here are a few more of the special’s easter eggs.)

Phewf. That was quite the special! As someone who got really upset with the direction the show was headed in the latter half of series 7, this special went a long way toward bringing back my trust in Moffat. I just hope this trend continues into the Christmas special and the new series with Peter Capaldi.

But enough about me—I want to know what you thought! Let’s discuss in the comments.

Oh, and I’d also be curious to know what you want from Whocaps in the future—a full rundown of the episode? Just the high points? Nothing but GIFs? Let me know.


Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.