Rather than write a review, I have random thoughts to share and questions that need answering. The special made me having FEELINGS, and I bet I'm not alone.
Spoilers after the image.
Things I liked:
- It never seemed fair to me how the Doctor destroyed his race and the Daleks to rid the universe of them and that the Daleks eventually came back. Their return didn't make his actions entirely pointless but suddenly, he was only responsible for wiping out the Time Lords. That seems like an even more difficult burden to bear. For that, I'm happy Gallifrey was saved.
- This is not something I say often, but I enjoyed the role Billie Piper played. I was so very worried we'd get more of the Rose Tyler and 10th Doctor ooey gooey love crap (can you tell I have feelings about their relationship?). As it was, she delivered a wonderful performance as the Moment. I liked her and John Hurt playing against each other. Plus, she named herself Bad Wolf girl. Is that why the phrase is stuck in the 9th Doctor's head? Hmmm.
- At first I wasn't a fan of Clara being the voice of reason to the three Doctors. Why couldn't they stop themselves without her aid? But it occurred to me her talking sense to the Doctors illustrated one of the key points about Doctor Who - well at least the modern series - having a human companion is just as important as having the TARDIS to travel through time and space. Humanity makes the Time Lords more grounded and try as they might to be like humans, they're not quite there.
- Matt Smith, David Tennant, and John Hurt in all the things together, please. They made a delightful trio. And honestly, seeing the older version of the Doctor against the younger ones is making me so happy were aging up for the next incarnation. It's time.
- The 3D paintings. Those were just neat.
- Watching all the Doctors sweep in to save Gallifrey made me cry. It was one of those happy fan moments that make you cheer and feel warm and fuzzy and ecstatic. But! Why did the past Doctors show up? And as a friend pointed out to me yesterday, if the 13th Doctor showed up, why didn't Doctors 14, 15, 16, and beyond show up too? We don't know the faces for those Doctors, but they could have showed a ton of TARDISes and the Time Lords could have said they're "all" here instead of mentioning a specific number.
- This goes back to the mini episode prequel "The Night of the Doctor." Watching the 8th Doctor regenerate into the War Doctor was awesome and mind-blowing, actually. But when we see John Hurt in the minisode he looks much younger than when we meet him in "The Name of the Doctor" at the end of series seven and in the 50th special. How fast do Time Lords show age? It doesn't seem like it adds up.
- The whole bit in the Tower of London was wonderful, and I thought the bit about the sonic running calculations for 400 years was clever. However, does the sonic screwdriver now work on wood?
- I can't take the way they portrayed Queen Elizabeth. I do appreciate that we now know why she was so angry at the Doctor, but the fact that they wrote her as this sort of giddy girl who kept getting insulted by the 10th Doctor wasn't my favorite. Just personal preference.
- Why didn't they let us know what happened with the negotiations with the Zygons? I guess it will come up in a future episode and maybe wasn't so important right now.
- I mentioned I'm happy they saved Gallifrey, and I am. Moving forward, the Doctor is free of his guilt about the genocide and can approach the world with an air of hope. It's an ideal time for the change since he's regenerating soon. However, that guilt and despair has been a driving force of the modern series. The Doctor has been tortured and filled with regret. Fresh from the Time War, the 9th Doctor is an example of all of those intense feelings. I'm not saying this change lessens Eccleston's amazing performance, but it does make you look back at the past seven series a little differently. Sure, none of the Doctors until 11 will remember they saved Gallifrey, but the audience knows.
"Great men are forged in fire. It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame." - War Doctor
"Never cruel nor cowardly. Never give up. Never give in."
"I'm The Oncoming Storm, the Bringer Of Darkness, and... you are basically just a rabbit, aren't you?" - Tenth Doctor
"Imagine. Americans with the ability to rewrite history? You’ve seen their movies." - Kate Lethbridge Stewart
"I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time." - War Doctor
"Oh the pointing again. They're screwdrivers! What are you going to do? Assemble a cabinet at them?" - War Doctor
Oh, for God's sake!" - Eleven, Ten, and War
"I know where I’m going, where I’ve always been going: home, the long way round." - Eleventh Doctor
“You know the sound the TARDIS makes? That wheezing, groaning? That sound brings hope wherever it goes. To anyone who hears it, Doctor. Anyone. However lost. Even you.” - Rose/the Moment
At the end of the day, creating a 50th anniversary special to celebrate a show as vast and rich as Doctor Who was an impossible task. You can't make everyone happy, and you have to balance a certain amount of nods to the history without compromising the story. For that reason, I'm happy more Doctors didn't appear. I would have loved to see the full regeneration into the 9th Doctor, but I understand why they didn't go that route. I think "The Day of the Doctor" was probably among the best stories we could have gotten for the occasion. Well done, Steven Moffat, well done.