The 23rd of November is rapidly approaching. In less than three weeks, the Day of the Doctor will be upon us, as one of the greatest television juggernauts of all time celebrates its greatest occasion yet. That’s right, the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who is now (at the time of writing, anyway) only 16 days away, and excitement levels are through the roof and beyond. Given that we are now so very, very close, I reckon it’s high time that we review what we know so far, and maybe address some of the speculation and theories that are going around.
No time like the present, eh? Incidentally, there will of course be potential spoilers ahead, so…be warned.
“The Doctors embark on their greatest adventure in this 50th anniversary special. In 2013, something terrible is awakening in London’s National Gallery; in 1562, a murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England; and somewhere in space an ancient battle reaches its devastating conclusion. All of reality is at stake as the Doctor’s own dangerous past comes back to haunt him.”
The above is the official synopsis, recently released, of The Day of the Doctor, and it is a most intriguing one indeed, particularly considering that it is essentially all we know about the episode. That said, let’s go bit-by-bit through it.
The “something terrible awakening in London’s National Gallery” part of the synopsis is our primary mystery, as we know practically nothing about that. We have, of course, seen several shots set in London, particularly those involving UNIT and, of course, the now-famous “Doctor hanging from the TARDIS” scene, but very little else, particularly anything relating to a gallery. What we do have to go on, however, is that paintings are involved somehow. Some time ago, now, Matt Smith revealed in an interview that paintings were something important to the plot, and recently, set pictures of a large painting of what looks to be the Tenth Doctor have turned up on the internet. So what can we take away from this, then? A message hidden in the paintings, perhaps, guiding the Doctor on some quest? Seems likely, but then it could be anything else, really, who knows?
“A murderous plot is afoot in Elizabethan England” is, of course, probably the most straightfoward aspect of the above. We’ve already seen multiple shots that show scenes set in that time period, shots featuring the Tenth Doctor, Zygons, and Queen Elizabeth herself. This is, of course, a lovely little thing to include, given the already-established…history between the Doctor and the Queen, and I imagine we shall certainly see that expanded upon. How this will tie into the overall plot, we don’t know, but presumably it has something to do with the paintings, given that the above-mentioned painting of Ten seemed to show him in Elizabethan attire. That said, it does remain to be seen.
Finally, and most intriguingly, we have our “ancient battle” in space, and “the Doctor’s own dangerous past”, and here is where things become very murky. This is where our Day of the Doctor guest star enters the picture, no doubt: the forgotten incarnation of the Doctor, as played by John Hurt. At this stage, it is all-but-confirmed that Hurt will be playing the incarnation set between Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor and Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth, making him an incarnation who fought in the legendary Last Great Time War. This, I think, is where the excitement levels begin to explode. Indications, both from the synopsis and everything else we have seen, are that we will, at long last, see some of this unimaginable conflict on our screens (definite evidence of the lofty heights that the special is shooting for). We know that Hurt’s Doctor renounced his name due to committing some horrific atrocity, something which the Doctor never wants associated with himself, and given that the synopsis references a “devastating conclusion”, it is rather safe to assume that this action was, indeed, the Doctor’s infamous use of the Moment to end the war, destroying Gallifrey, the Time Lords, and (mostly) the Daleks alike. How this forgotten incarnation plays out, of course, is something that none of us know anything about yet, but I think I speak for many people when I say that the most eagerly-awaited part of the special is seeing it happen.
Three big but apparently-unconnected incidents. That’s what we know about the 50th special’s plot. Suffice it to say, seeing how it all comes together will of course doubtless be some brilliant, mad solution, as is Doctor Who’s style. Personally, I actually don’t really have any big theory as to how it’s all going to come together, but I imagine many of the readers do (throw them in the comments)!
The cast of The Day of the Doctor is certainly an all-star one, even just from what we already know. Main billing goes to Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman as our current TARDIS duo of the Eleventh Doctor and Clara Oswald, our former TARDIS duo of David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler, and of course, John Hurt as our very mysterious incarnation of the Doctor. Seeing these five together on-screen is going to be a treat, no doubt, with plenty to look for. How Eleven and Clara have developed since the stunning conclusion of The Name of the Doctor, where exactly Ten and Rose stand at this point, the interplay between the Eleventh and Tenth Doctors, and naturally, how they deal with the appearance of the forgotten incarnation.
Aside from that, we know very little about the cast in general. Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart, still heading up UNIT. As mentioned above, Queen Elizabeth will feature, as played by Joanna Page. After that…not much else, really! A few background characters that we haven’t met yet, largely, one of whom is particularly intriguing. An “Arcadian refugee”, apparently. Keen-eared watchers will remember that the Fall of Arcadia was a major battle of the Time War, adding more credence to the speculation that it will feature heavily in the special. Who else will be included among the cast? Suppose we shall have to wait and see! There will, of course, doubtless be a whole host of cameos and brief appearances.
Another aspect of The Day of the Doctor that we know remarkably little about, but can still comment on! Thus far, two major aliens are confirmed to make their appearance in the 50th special.
The first, of course, is the Daleks. This should come as no surprise, the Doctor’s oldest foes were inevitably going to turn up somewhere in this momentous episode, but it’s nice to see them all the same! Filming shots have shown the Daleks engaged in a furious battle, with explosions everywhere and Daleks being blown to pieces wherever you look. It is assumed that these shots take place during some unknown part of the Time War. If this is true, then we’ll be seeing the Daleks at the absolute height of their power, more so than we have ever seen before, and that is a most chilling and yet exciting prospect.
The second monster making its appearance is a somewhat more surprising one: the Zygons! Last seen in 1975’s Terror of the Zygons, these terrifying shapeshifters have been hugely popular, despite their sole appearance. Having been mentioned briefly in several episodes, such as The Pandorica Opens or The Power of Three, it’s a very nice thing indeed to see the Zygons make their proper return. What will they be up to? Given that they feature during the Elizabethan portion of the plot, at least, it’s probably a fair bet to say that they’re intending some dastardly scheme involving Queen Elizabeth.
Aside from those, we can probably assume that a host of other monsters and villains alike will make brief cameos in the special, as befitting such an occasion. Zygon creator Robert Banks Stewart said in an interview that the Cybermen are to make an appearance, which is no major shocker either, particularly following their recent impressive upgrade in Nightmare in Silver. If the Time War features, then we can most likely expect to see the Time Lords again, as it’s been quite some time since they last made an appearance. From there on out, the sky’s the limit! Sontarans, Silurians, Ice Warriors, the Master, Weeping Angels, Draconians, the Silence, Autons, Rutans…anything and everything could or could not turn show up!
There we have it, largely! Most of what we know for certain about The Day of the Doctor. I have to say, despite the flood of leaks that Doctor Who has unfortunately suffered this year, they’ve done an absolutely remarkable job of keeping the most important episode of the year (and likely, ever) under wraps. There are too many theories to list, too many ideas to even bring up, too many little points that could turn up to even mention. All we know is that whatever happens, this episode is going to utterly blow us away, probably rendering all of our ideas moot and giving us new, unthought-of answers in return (and that’s just the way we like it)!
P.S. Stay tuned, as this Saturday will give us our first official trailer for the special! Watch this space for more!