I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this episode did not go at all the way I expected, and I couldn’t be happier about it. When I heard Capaldi was cast as the next Doctor, I had very specific expectations of what that Doctor would come off as (Malcolm Tucker, anyone?). I pictured the story here ending with the inevitable destruction of the Time Lords and Daleks and the 11th Doctor being brought back to a dark mental state as he must once again relive the horrors of the decision he made so long ago. But, that’s not at all the way this went.
We start off being acquainted to Clara’s new life in London as a school teacher, but not all things change as she runs to the Doctor the moment he calls for her. No sooner do they plan their next trip than the entire TARDIS is kidnapped by UNIT and brought to the museum where there is a message and a new mystery waiting for the Doctor.
At the same time, we see the events that unfold in the last moments of the time war. The War Doctor (John Hurt) has decided that he cannot abide the violence of the time war anymore and steals the last forbidden weapon of the Time Lords in order to put an end to the war. The final weapon is a galaxy eater, and is so advanced it has taken on a consciousness of itself and judges the user of the device. Meanwhile, the 10th Doctor finds himself in medieval England courting Elizabeth I, while trying to uncover the identity of a shapeshifting alien who may or may not have taken the shape of the queen.
Events are set in motion that put the three Doctors together in medieval England, at which point, the War Doctor reminds the other two that the screw drivers are scientific instruments, not water pistols and it makes no sense to point them like weapons. The three eventually team up to save the world from the invasion of the shape shifting aliens, while simultaneously showing the War Doctor what he becomes if he decides to use the device. In Doctor Who fashion, the Doctors manage to come up with an idea to negotiate a truce between the aliens and the humans, and to re-write their own history so that the War Doctor never detonates the device. Instead, in a moment of wonderful nostalgia, all 13 Doctors (yes, 13!) surround Gallifrey in their TARDISs and displace Gallifrey to save it from annihilation by the Daleks. Seeing all the doctors make their way onto the screen one by one, and the quickest of shots of the next doctor, brought a joyful tear to my eye.
So the Doctors manage to change the course of events for Gallifrey and save the Doctor from the unspeakable act that has haunted him for centuries. Though, because of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff, the War Doctor, the 9th, and the 10th will not remember the change in history, and it is only the 11th Doctor who becomes saved from the guilt of what no longer happened. The true genius of the decision to take the episode in this direction is how it ties in with the casting of Peter Capaldi as the next Doctor. As I said above, I originally figured he would come out as a darker Doctor who is once again plagued by the decision he had to make. But no, it seems that Capaldi’s Doctor can once again be a more mature Doctor, one who isn’t afraid to show his age and intelligence again, because he is no longer guilty of what he did. This my whovian friends, is an adventure I cannot wait to be a part of, but for that we must wait until the Christmas Special. I hope all of you enjoyed the special as much as I did, because it was something truly wonderful. Or, to put it more simply, as the 9th Doctor would say incessantly, “FANTASTIC!”