8 Reasons "The Day of the Doctor" Made Me (Almost) Completely Forgive Steven Moffat

By Natalie Nichols in Daily Lists, TV
Monday, November 25, 2013 at 6:00 am

3. He Showed Us Something We've Always Wanted to See

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We learned from the Eighth Doctor short "The Night of the Doctor" that the War Doctor was born because the universe needed a warrior more than a doctor. So it seemed pretty clear that, as many fans suspected, Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor is the one who emerges from the Time War, somewhat scathed. Moffat gave us an explicit confirmation of that in "Day" when War, his work now done, steps into his TARDIS and begins to regenerate.

"I hope the ears are a bit less conspicuous this time," War muses as the regen-ergy takes over. The transformation doesn't show us Eccleston's entire face, but all we really need to see is War's eyes lighten up to that familiar Nine blue...and we know what's coming. Too bad about the ears, though.

2. He Let Tom Baker Still Be The Doctor...Perhaps

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Four days before the special aired, Fourth Doctor actor Tom Baker mischievously revealed to the Huffington Post that he was indeed in the episode. "The BBC told me not to tell anybody," he confided, "but I'm telling you straightaway."

That was very exciting news, but I wondered how that could be? I figured Baker was having a little fun with the reporter, perhaps referring to old footage of his character that would be used. How wonderfully wrong I was! Instead, at the end of "Day," as Eleven sits gazing at the Arcadia painting in the secret Undergallery below London's National Gallery and musing that he could be the curator of this place one day, we hear a familiar voice say, "You know, I really think you might."

And there he is: a white-haired Tom Baker, aka the Curator. Eleven recognizes him, and the Curator hints with a chuckle that perhaps he was Eleven...or perhaps Eleven is him. Baker gives us a little taste of Four's many classic mannerisms, and also drops a detail the Doctor needs to know, which is that Gallifrey is indeed still out there somewhere. And that leads us to the last, best reason to forgive Steven Moffat...

1. He Fixed RTD's Greatest Mistake

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"Time can be rewritten" has been a recurring mantra for Moffat, usually followed by the caveat that this rule doesn't apply to so-called "fixed points in time," such as the death of Rose Tyler's dad, the demise of companion Adric, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, the fate of Bowie Base One on Mars, Jack Harkness's existence and the Eleventh Doctor's death at the hands of River Song on the shores of Lake Silencio.

Apparently, however, the biggest moment in the Doctor's history was in fact not fixed. When Russell T. Davies revived the series in 2005, we learned that the Doctor's people, the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey, were all destroyed in the Last Great Time War with their archenemies, the Daleks. Now the Doctor was the last of the Time Lords and, worse, he himself had brought about their destruction, burning his home planet along with the Daleks because he had no other way to end a war that would consume all of reality. Cue the angst-ridden regret and core self-loathing that has become an undercurrent of the modern Doctor's personality.

As much as I loved the rebooted show, I always hated that conceit. In the Classic Series, the Doctor never got on too well with the Time Lords. He didn't like their policy of sitting around observing events and never getting involved. They didn't like his insistence on trying to change things. He left Gallifrey in his stolen TARDIS, and whenever he got near it the Time Lords seemed to be putting him on trial, banishing him...or, on the occasions when they decided something did need to be done about a problem, using the "Renegade Time Lord" to maintain plausible deniability for their interference, as in the Fourth Doctor story "Genesis of the Daleks," when they attempted to stop the Daleks from being created by trying to force the Doctor to thwart their creation on the planet Skaro.

Some people have complained that "The Day of the Doctor" has undone all of the key events of the Doctor's life post-Time War (and along with them, all of that angst). But we're specifically told that War and Ten (and, by extension, Nine) will not remember that they actually tried to save Gallifrey instead of destroying it - and will never know if they actually succeeded. Thanks to the Curator, Eleven does know that Gallifrey is out there somewhere, so I suppose Twelve will too. At the end of the special, the Doctor proclaims that he now knows where he's going: home. I'm not sure how I feel about the possibility that the Doctor will now devote all of his time to finding Gallifrey, but I guess these days there always has to be a big arc.

That said, I think it's fantastic that Moffat rewrote the Doctor's story. By showing us the suffering of the people of Arcadia, especially how the children are helpless in the face of potential burning death, he's underscored just how horrible RTD's mistake was: a giant handwave that conveniently rid his Whoniverse of the Time Lords but was horribly, unforgivably cruel.

Now Moffat has opened the door to chucking out all that pain and agony, and I could not be happier. He's given the Doctor back hope, and changed his view of himself to the one I prefer. I've always hated the whole "the Doctor brings death and destruction everywhere he goes" bit, because as we know, he only stumbles upon bad stuff that would have happened anyway. It sucks that he gets blamed for doing evil when he's only trying to fix things, and it was even worse that he began to think there was some truth to that perception. RTD made a big mistake, and Moffat fixed it, and for that I'm willing to wipe the slate clean too. Bring on Series Eight!

More from Natalie Nichols:

10 Reasons to Both Anticipate and Fear "The Day of the Doctor"

Ten Reasons Peter Capaldi Is - and Isn't - a Good Choice for Doctor Who

Nine Things From Doctor Who Series 7 (Part Two) That We Stil Need to Talk About

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