'Doctor Who' 50th Anniversary Special Recap: 'The Day of the Doctor'


Whovians across the world have been waiting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Doctor Who" with the 76 minute special, "The Day of the Doctor." With a week dedicated to the longest running sci-fi series on television, the special was aired in a global simulcast, so that fans everywhere could share the experience together. It will be the longest episode since its return eight years ago and was aired exactly 50 years to the day of the very first episode, "An Unearthly Child."

Popularity of the show began to rise when it came back in 2005, after a hiatus, but the show really took off in the United States when David Tennant stepped into the role. It became an even larger phenomenon once Matt Smith took over as the eleventh Doctor. With celebrations world wide, even a limited 3D theatrical release, "The Day of the Doctor" has promised to be a game-changing episode. And what an episode it was.  If you've yet to watch the special, hide you eyes. Spoilers.

The special opens the original theme song and a silhouette of the first Doctor walking, which morphs into a police officer. We see Clara at her new job, a school teacher. A colleague rushes in at the end of her class, asking her if she is alright, as her Doctor called. She asks if he left an address and takes off on her motorbike. We then see Clara zipping down an empty highway towards a waiting TARDIS. She pulls inside and greets the Doctor with a smile. They discuss where they should go this time, when all of the sudden, the TARDIS begins to shake. It isn't on, so it shouldn't be moving, when we see that a helicopter has picked up the time machine and is carrying it over London.

A young girl, Osgood, in a very familiar scarf runs up to UNIT agent, Kate Stewart, with a mobile phone in hand. The young girl apologizes that it's a call on her personal phone, but the ringtone (the TARDIS) means that the Doctor is calling. Kate takes the phone to speak with an agitated Doctor. She apologizes to him, not realizing that he was inside the TARDIS when they began the transport. She lets him know that she is having the TARDIS brought directly to the museum, where strange things have been happening. Once on the ground, she hands the Doctor a sealed envelope directly from Queen Elizabeth herself. Queen Elizabeth the first, that is.

Kate, Clara and the Doctor enter the museum, to validate Elizabeth's "credentials," which happens to be a painting of Gallifrey. The painting, titled either "No More" or "Gallifrey Falls," depicts the fall of Arcadia, or the last day of the Time War when the Doctor ended the lives of the Daleks and his own people. The painting appears to be in 3D, which is a trait of Time Lord art, always bigger on the inside. Staring at it, the Doctor takes old hold of Clara's hand and tells her that the painting is a slice of real life that houses the part of himself he never talks about.

We are then taken inside of the painting, where the Time War rages on. Fire and fear run rampant, and the War Doctor appears. "Soldier, I need to use your gun," he says to a young man, who hands over the weapon without question. The War Doctor begins blasting a message into the concrete wall that reads "NO MORE." At this point, the Daleks sense their enemy and seek him out to destroy him, however, the TARDIS appears in a Deus Ex Machina sort of way, and knocks them all over. The War Doctor then blasts them all, ending their cold and unfeeling lives.

The members of the Gallifreyan High Council rush around, knowing that their time is ending yet still trying to find a way to save their race. One member states that they've tried everything to defeat the Daleks, when another states that they haven't tried everything just yet. There is an interface, an "eater of worlds" that can stop the Daleks, however, it has gained sentience, its own personality, and there is only one person that can use this ultimate weapon to destroy the Daleks and end the Time War. The War Doctor.

Standing in a vast and nearly empty desert, the War Doctor walks to an old looking barn carrying a burlap sack. Once inside, he takes out the contents and reveals a sort of Gallifreyan symbol-adorned Pandora's Box. He hears a noise outside, becomes worried and goes to the door to check. A girl, Rose Tyler in fact, appears and sits on the box. She tells him not to worry about the noise, it's just a wolf. He tells her to get off of the box, and after a brief chat, he discovers that she IS the interface. The weapon that will end the Time War.

He wonders why she looks the way she does and she tells him that she chose this face because it suits his past, or his present, she confuses the two, but there is no difference between them; she IS the Bad Wolf. She warns him that he will face consequences of ending the Time War, and he tells her that he has no intention of surviving it. The Bad Wolf lets him know that his consequence is surviving and carrying the memory of what he had done with him, forever. She asks him then how many children are on Gallifrey at the moment, and he says he's never taken the time to count them. She mentions that someday, he will lay awake at night and count them. Every single one. Suddenly, a time fissure opens within the walls of the barn and a fez falls to the floor.

Back in the museum, the eleventh Doctor opens the letter from Queen Elizabeth I, naming him the curator of the under gallery. Kate takes him to see a portrait of the Queen and he is surprised to see himself, in his tenth form, standing beside her. In her letter, she calls him her husband.

Going back in time, we see the tenth Doctor and Queen Elizabeth having a splendid day out together, riding on horse back and having a picnic. They discuss his life, when he proposes to her. She happily accepts and then, using "a thing that goes ding," he then calls her out for being a shapeshifting alien from outer-space, a Zygon, or a big, red rubbery thing covered in suckers, to be precise. Confused, the Queen demands to know what he's talking about, when suddenly their horse shifts into its original Zygon form. The duo split up and run into the forest, where the Doctor encounters an innocent rabbit and Elizabeth is unfortunately caught by the Zygon.

Hearing Elizabeth scream for him, the Doctor runs towards her. When he reaches the sound of her voice, he discovers that there are now two of her. One is the actual Queen Elizabeth and the other is a Zygon copy, but which one is which? His "thing that goes ding" is malfunctioning, so he can't use it to detect which one is the true Elizabeth. Suddenly, a time fissure appears, and yet again, a fez pops out.

Kate takes hold of the portrait, swinging it open to reveal a secret passageway which leads to a gallery that contains art that the Queen had deemed too dangerous for public consumption. The Doctor notices that the ground is made up of ground dust. He turns to Osgood and asks her if she is "sciency." She nods and he tells her that she is to analyze the stone dust and have a report, in triplicate, on his desk in the morning. He also tells her that he wants a desk.

The rest of the group continue through the gallery of dangerous art, when the Doctor sees a fez contained in a glass case. Becoming excited, he takes it out and places it atop his head. Clara rolls her eyes and tells him that someday he'll be able to pass up a fez, though it is obvious that today is not that day. They come to a wall of paintings and a floor covered in broken glass. Kate tells them that the paintings used to have images inside of them, but now they're simply landscapes. The Doctor notices that the glass has been broken from the inside, meaning that whatever images were inside of the paintings have found their way out. Another time fissure appears, and the Doctor seems to recall what comes next. He tosses his fez inside and, with his signature "Geronimo," jumps in after it.

Upon his landing, the eleventh Doctor comes face to face with his prior incarnation and both Queen Elizabeths. In disbelief, the Doctors have a stand-off, culminating in the drawing of their Sonic Screwdrivers. The tenth Doctor implies that his future self is compensating for something, however, their squabble is cut short when the time fissure once again opens.

In the present, Kate and Clara reach out to the Doctor, wondering to whom he is speaking. He tells her not to worry, he's just talking to himself. He tries to throw her the fez and return to the museum, but the fez doesn't reach her. It appears to the War Doctor instead. When the tenth and eleventh Doctors realize there's an issue with the time fissure, they try to reverse its polarity. With both of them attempting this feat, however, they are canceling out each others attempts, and the War Doctor comes through, looking for the Doctor.

Not knowing what else to do, the dual Doctors point their Sonic Screwdrivers at him. Alarmed, he lets them know that these are scientific tools and not water pistols, so they should use caution. They are then surrounded by the Queens Knights, stating that the Queen has been bewitched by the Doctor. With the time fissure still open, the eleventh Doctor reaches out to Clara, calling her the "witch of the well." She tells the Knights to leave the men alone, or she would transform them into frogs. She asks the Doctor what is going on and he just tells her that it's a "timey wimey thing."

The War Doctor turns to the tenth and wonders where on Earth these phrases are coming from. The tenth Doctor states that he has no idea. Briefly frightened, the Knights back off until the "Queen" appears. The trio is then hauled off to prison, where they wonder how and why they have ended up together. The Bad Wolf silently watches them from the corner.

Clara follows Kate to her office inside the Tower of London, and leads her to the Black Archives, the most guarded and well kept secrets in the universe. As they walk, Kate reveals that the whole Tower of London is TARDIS proof, meaning that it can't get inside. In the museum, Osgood discovers that the stone sand is made up of numerous different kinds of ground stone, none of which are from within the building. At this point, the Zygons reveal themselves and attack. One makes itself into a copy of Osgood and tries to attack her, but luckily she escapes. Kate and Clara stop in front of a glass case; inside of it rests the vortex manipulator of UNIT Captain Jack Harkness. When Kate and Clara step inside of the vault, Kate shows herself as a Zygon copy. Thinking quickly, Clara grabs the vortex manipulator and disappears.

Inside the prison cell, the Bad Wolf reveals to the War Doctor that the other Doctors have no idea that he hasn't ended the Time War yet, which is why they have been so cold and keen to have forgotten him. He asks them both if they have ever counted the number of children that were on Gallifrey the day the war ended. The eleventh Doctor says that he hasn't, but the tenth Doctor reveals the exact number. He then turns on his future regeneration, stating that it has only been 400 years and how could he forget such a thing. He tells the eleventh Doctor that he would like to know where he's going, and the newest incarnation nastily corrects him, telling him that no, he wouldn't.

From her perch, the Bad Wolf names them the man who regrets and the man who forgets, and informs the War Doctor that the moment is coming and his decision needs to be made. She also states that the Sonic Screwdrivers may have different cases, but they all still have the same hardware, with slightly different levels of upgrades. When the War Doctor voices this realization, which means they'll be able to Sonic their way through the wooden door, Clara simply walks into the room. Demanding to know how she just waltzed in, she lets them know that the door was unlocked all along and asks why they never thought to just try opening the door.

It is then that Queen Elizabeth appears and lets them all know that she intentionally left it unlocked, because she wanted to see what happened when they tried to escape. They follow her to a sort of  hive, where she tells them that the Zygon's home planet has been destroyed and that they are trying to invade the future from the past, by way of the paintings, which act as holding cells. She also reveals that she is, in fact, the true Queen Elizabeth and she intends on helping to save the planet and return the TARDIS, once the tenth Doctor makes good on his promise of becoming her husband.

The King Doctor, along with the other two incarnations and Clara, get inside the TARDIS and try to head back to present day London to stop Kate from destroying England to save the rest of the world. Their efforts are stalled when the TARDIS tries to compensate for the three of them being in there at the same time. Once it stabilizes, the tenth Doctor comments that he doesn't like the "redecoration" that the eleventh Doctor has made.

Eventually they arrive in the alleged "TARDIS proof" tower of London and force Kate and her Zygon copy to stop the countdown, which can only be halted by her voice. She says that they should understand where she's coming from, since they made the same decision during the Time War to sacrifice the lives of some to save the lives of many. They all tell her that they made a mistake ending the Time War, at which point Kate and her copy cancel the detonation and begin to come up with a treaty.

Clara tells the War Doctor that she knows he hasn't ended the Time War yet, she knows that the eleventh Doctor regrets it every single day, and she can see the difference in both of their eyes. Her Doctor has got old eyes, while the War Doctor has such youth in his. He tells Clara that, all things considered, it is time for him to grow up, and informs the Bad Wolf that he is ready. In the blink of an eye, he is gone.

Back on Gallifrey, he has his hands on the big red button he had been wishing for, preparing to end the Time War and the lives of billions. He calls the other two Doctors extraordinary men, while the Bad Wolf reminds him that he is also the Doctor. He refuses the name, saying that great men are forged and he is not a great man. Gently, the Bad Wolf tells him that the sound of the TARDIS brings hope to anyone who hears it, including him. Turning to face the sound of the TARDIS, two appear, and the tenth and eleventh Doctors step out, apparently ready to stop him from destroying Gallifrey.

He places his hand on the red button, once again, when they both walk over to him. They tell him that he has always been more of the Doctor than any of them had, especially on the day where no one could get it right. But on this day, he wouldn't have to face it alone, and done in the name of the many lives they are failing to save, they all place their hands on the button.

The eleventh Doctor notices Clara crying. She says that despite knowing otherwise, she has never pictured her Doctor wiping out his own people. The Bad Wolf then shows them the reality surrounding them, the people of Gallifrey running for their lives, but the Doctors say that there is no other way to save the universe. Clara reminds the Doctor that the name he chose was a promise, and asks what that promise was.

"Never be cold or cowardly. Never give in or up."

With a billion billion daleks surrounding Gallifrey, the Doctors change their minds about destroying Gallifrey. Before, he made the choice alone, but now he realizes that the Bad Wolf had been showing him the way all along and with three of them to stop the war...just this once, everyone lives! They contact the Gallifreyan High Council and let them know that the three of them plan on using their TARDIS' to freeze and move the entire planet of Gallifrey and all its inhabitants, to a secret and safe location.

The eleventh Doctor tells them that they would be frozen, but they would have hope. All of the past Doctors show up, as all of their lives had led to this moment. We see all twelve incarnations, when a voice booms, "NO. Thirteen," and a brief glimpse of the Doctor's future self shows up to join the fight. The High Council tells the Doctors to follow through with their plan.

Back in the museum and staring at the painting of Gallifrey, the trio wonder if their plan worked.  Considering that their time streams are out of sync, the War Doctor states that he won't remember that he tried to save Gallifrey instead of burn it. With only a fleeting sadness, he perks up and states that he is the Doctor again, if only for a moment, and steps into his TARDIS. Once inside, he begins to regenerate, saying "Of course. I hope the years will be less conspicuous this time." With just ten and eleven left in the museum, the newer Doctor tells his past self that he has been to their grave on Trenzalore.

"Trenzalore?," he wonders aloud, "We need a new destination, because...I don't want to go."

"He's always saying that," the eleventh Doctor tells Clara as his former self takes off in his TARDIS. Seeing his eyes, Clara leaves him alone with the painting for a moment and lets him know that the old curator had been looking for him as she steps out of the room.

"I could retire and be curator of this place!" He states to what he thought was an empty room.

"You know," a tired voice replies, "I think you might." The curator steps through the doorway and comes face to face with the Doctor. Not being one to forget a face, the Doctor realizes that he is standing in front of his fourth regeneration. He wonders if their plan worked, and the curator, lets him know that the true title of the painting is "Gallifrey Falls NO MORE."

The eleventh Doctor takes this to mean that they did indeed save Gallifrey and that his next adventure is to go and find it. Continuing to feign ignorance, the "curator" tells him that he has no idea if the plan worked, but "if I were you...or maybe if you were me...who knows? WHO. KNOWS." With an enormous grin, the eleventh Doctor takes off through the doors of his TARDIS. Standing together, all incarnations of the Doctor stare towards Gallifrey, and now it is time for the Doctor to take the long way around and go home.

This episode is definitely a game changer, as it has rewritten 50 years of history with the revelation that Gallifrey has been frozen all along. With immense humor, especially between Tennant and Smith, the anniversary special also featured a great deal of heart(s) by paying tribute to all of the Doctors.

Immediately following the commercial free episode, fans were treated to a short and bittersweet sneak peek of the Christmas episode, which will feature the first onscreen appearance of the four most terrifying Who villains (the Daleks, Weeping Angels, Cybermen and the Silence) together in a single episode.  The episode is set to air on Christmas day, 2013, and will be Peter Capaldi's first appearance as the Doctor, aside from a cameo in "The Day of the Doctor." Jenna Coleman will be sticking around for another season as Clara, however, the Christmas special will also be Matt Smith's last.

Here is a quick look at the Christmas special, compliments of BBC...