TV Right then here we are. It’s the evening after the night before, Adele’s on, and I really don’t want to be here, which I appreciate isn’t the best way to start any review, but when it’s a review you really don’t want to write, it’s probably perfect. You know when … I mean when … well … there we are. See, can’t even get my words out. But yes, if ever there was a time when I didn’t want to be sitting at a keyboard tapping away it would be now. There are certain moments in a fans life when they’re facing up to the fact that having made a promise earlier in their life, they want to do everything in their power to break it. So when I promised myself of all people that I’d review my way through all broadcast nuWho (and it’s spin offs), you know as a bit of a challenged, I’d be faced with something as patently unreviewable as The Day of the Doctor.
Oh no I mean it’s reviewable. I could sit here and knock out ten paragraphs relatively easily given the episode's general richness, metatextuality and all of that sort of thing, but the point is, I don’t want to. Even though I wasn’t with all the people throughout the country in cinemas dodging spectral Dalek stalks and multiple sonic screwdrivers and in my usual spot at home alone in front of the television I won in the competition, the experience was so, well just so, and the episode, well just, so, that I don’t want to spoil things by picking it apart. I probably will. When I watch it again (which I haven’t yet), I’m sure I’ll be looking for things to dislike, moments which are gloriously brilliant because they’re so gloriously wrong, the nuWho equivalents of Sarah Jane falling down a short incline. But in this moment when I’m still enjoying the glow of the memories of squeeing for an hour or so I just simply can’t or won’t.
How do I put this into words? It’s a bit like trying to review a party. Imagine, and yes, I know there are people who're keeping quiet becuase this is their job, but this is really talking about the rest of us, imagine if you’d been to a very good party and then someone the next day asked you to write a review. For a start you’d essentially have to relive the thing, memories of conversations and dancing and the snacks, if there are snacks, bubbling back to the surface (in various ways) and although this obviously isn’t quite the same, especially since it’s entirely possible to experience this party in HD on a screen somewhere, possibly in 3D, by piecing together your memory of the experience, you’re bound to find the flaws, because life’s like that. No moment is perfect, there are always flaws, because perfect moments are generally unreliable because they’re supported by a scaffold of hopes, dreams and possibly alcohol.
Parties, especially if they’re the kinds of parties I used to be invited to when I used to be invited to parties tend to go something like this: the uncertainty of whether drinks will be supplied by the host or yourself so that when you bring a bottle of wine as a present, you’re wrong and you end up drinking water from the tap all night because you don’t drink wine. There are the people too, the friends you know will be there, those you hope will be there, the old friends who’ve decided to surprise everyone and those who haven’t shown and you know will be regretful and always wonder about what they might have missed. There are the decorations which dazzle, the music some of it familiar, some of it not. Plus there’s the after party which are rarely a good idea, followed by the taxi back to someone’s flat when all that’s left is to giggle at each other’s jokes and hope the night won’t end.
Yet despite all of that, the following morning, even if you have a hangover you’ll be smiling because all you can remember are the good things, the general feeling of belonging to something and if not that the images, when everything became slightly unhinged and you’re sure you saw someone walking around in a rubber outfit wearing a crown or some such. But if you do remember something that doesn’t quite make sense, like the person who’s behaviour’s disappointed you or when everything you thought about someone else is turned upside down or someone you’ve had your eye on is unexpectedly married, then what you have to do, and what I’m going to do is not worry. Forget about it. Leave it to one side and above all, don’t analyse. If I’ve been guilty of anything in my life it’s overanalyses of everything, especially conversations, especially conversations with other people and it’s never done me much good.
Do you feel the same? I wonder if you do. Certainly the people who have reviewed The Day of the Doctor, particularly the professionals, have been all mentally over the place, partly because for the first time, they watched it for the rest of us, the entire globe it felt like, all watching Doctor Who at the same time, which is magnificent. Some of those are barely reviews too, either lists or a three paragraph synopsis or what amounts to an observational piece that wouldn’t be out of place on the late, lamented Home Truths. I’m not just saying this because he’s a friend, but the best review I’ve seen so far is from Neil Perryman and Sue his wife in space, who live blogged the episode on The Guardian’s website because it captures the experience of watching the thing, of attending the party. That’s also true of this piece from the New Yorker that captures the reaction of fans in a downtown bar.
So if this isn’t a review, if I am, forgetting about it, how does this manifest itself, in other words, if I was to give myself the latitude to mention anything I might have mentioned in the review that this isn’t, what would that be, what should we be forgetting, how do we cope? Well, obviously it’s Gallifrey, of course it is. No longer a ball of smouldering rubble, it’s now, utilising one of the preventative strategies from another Time War in the Eighth Doctor novels, sitting in a pocket universe somewhere waiting to be discovered and the Doctor is absolved of his survivor guilt and for extra measure no longer a child murderer, which until last night, I hadn’t ever consider he would be, because in the classic series, although Romana mentions being a Time Tot, I didn’t consider the implications of that. The mythology which underpins nuWho has changed fundamentally. Moffat himself says so to Buzzfeed of all people.
At which point, narratively speaking, nuWho should unravel because it’s been retconned. We can’t watch any of it again with the same eyes. The survivor guilt of the Ninth or Tenth Doctor (this is going to be confusing) which underpinned that first season is now the product of a faulty memory and considering that the Ninth (or Tenth) Doctor is there at the end helping to carry Gallifrey into that pocket universe, a really faulty memory. The End of Time makes practically no sense now. I mean it didn’t make much sense before (White-Point Star) (the drumming, the constant drumming), but how can Gallifrey be dragged through time out of a timelock if it’s in a pocket universe, and well, Gwen’s face in Torchwood’s Miracle Day’s End of the Road. You know the one. The one which is swiftly followed by an expletive. As retcons go, and this is a retcon, it’s an especially juicy one.
Yet, and oh yet, you can forget about it. I know you’ll be wanting some reasons, so here are some reasons. Firstly, Doctor Who isn’t like other franchises and the brilliance of Doctor Who is that unlike most other franchises, reboots, retcons and mythology changes are inbuilt. From The Time Meddler to The War Games to The Deadly Assassin to, well, make a list, across its fifty years, the show hasn’t just changed its lead actor, the ship, and the way it tells its story, it’s changed that story. Across the format, no single item of Doctor Who has an internal consistency, everything contradicts itself and the reason its lasted fifty years is because it’s entirely capable of that. Six years into the original series, the otherwise mysterious Doctor was given a race and a home planet, massive paradigm shift. Now, audaciously, eight years into the new series, we have something approaching the same thing.
It’s not quite the same thing, because it seems to change the narrative of what we’ve seen before. Genesis of the Daleks is probably a better example in which, thanks to the Doctor’s meddling, all of the Dalek stories beforehand happen in a different way if at all, because he’s set their development back a thousand years, which is why whenever someone attempts to put together a chronology of the Daleks its all over the place. On a smaller scale, Mawdryn Undead messes up the dating of the UNIT stories of the seventies even further because the Brig is supposed to be working in that blasted school at the same time as when the original production team assumed he should be still fighting the Bok, giant maggots and the like. One of the ref works, the Radio Times 20th anniversary special, I think, when explaining various bits of mythology is filled with the qualifications, “Before Mawdryn Undead” etc. Retcon, after retcon.
None of which makes Doctor Who impossible to watch. We don’t rewatch the Pertwee era trying to work out if Day of the Daleks “happened” or if The Green Death happened in the same way, or at least we shouldn’t and we shouldn’t treat the everything leading up to The Day of the Doctor any differently. Some people will and some people already are. I’ve seen “Moffat has ruined Doctor Who” type comments online, people clutching the Russell T Davies era like a sacred relic, which it obviously is because it’s the reason I’m not writing this review, but they’re getting Doctor Who wrong. Moffat’s looked at the past few years and decided the soulful last of the timelords business has run its course. As he said to Buzzfeed, the Doctor needs a new goal, whatever his face looks like, even if as he doesn’t say, it turns the series into Red Dwarf, the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Ulysses 31 and both versions of Battlestar Galactica.
Secondly, you can forget about it if you treat the narrative of the show in the same way I do, with the reboots, retcons and mythology changes not just inbuilt but hardwired into the narrative of the show because of all the time travel, because, sigh, time can be rewritten. My post back in July explains this in greater detail, and better than I’m about to, but essentially, everything before The Day of the Doctor happened as is because in that version of history the Doctor think he killed all the children. Now we’re watching a version of history where he doesn’t. There’s possibly different version of The End of Time in which the Tenth/Eleventh Doctor regenerates for slightly different reasons which we can only imagine (unless someone produces an audio). In some ways it strengthens the earlier narrative because it now has an undercurrent of the Doctor not just learning to deal with his own whimsiness again but also why he was wrong.
Like I said, if I’ve been guilty of anything in my life it’s overanalyses of everything, and I think that’s just expressed itself again. Sorry about that. But isn’t that also true of parties, even if you’re not in the hypothetical situation of being asked to write a review, you simply can’t help yourself and can’t help rationalising what happened? Unless this is just me and my neuroses. Or Jeff Goldblum’s character in The Big Chill who says, “I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They're more important than sex” and even though Tom Berenger notes that nothing is more important than sex, Jeff replies “Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?” I haven’t been able to go five minutes probably especially when faced with something as secretly complex as The Day of the Doctor or my feelings about, well, no indeed, let’s keep that for another time.
All of which apologia should explain why I’m not reviewing The Day of the Doctor in the hopes that I can keep the memory of last night locked, wishing that Tennant could be Doctor at the same time as Matt Smith for real, jumping up and down and squeeling and pointing at the screen when Capaldi’s eyes appeared, of coring at the sight of Tom, the Dunkirk spirit on Twitter during the aftershow on BBC Three and then giggling for a solid half hour during The 5(ish) Doctors Reboot, more than I have at anything comic all year and the general feeling of belonging to something in a way which I never really did when I was flirting with religion in my mid-teens or at the kinds of parties I used to be invited to when I used to be invited to parties, even though I was in my usual spot at home alone in front of the television I won in the competition. Why would I want to spoil that?