The Doctor Who anniversary weekend

Well, what a couple of days.

When it was announced that Day of the Doctor would be shown in cinemas as well as on TV last night, I felt a brief stab of disappointment that there would be none in Belgium (our local big cinema does do these simulcasts sometimes; I guess they may simply not have shown enough interest). But then I looked at the map of cinema showings and realised that the German venues included Cologne, which is less than two hours' drive from our house. (And failing Cologne, there were other options in Bonn, Düsseldorf, and the Ruhr.) Clickety click; tickets booked, as soon as we had found a solution for little U's weekend.

So we set off before lunch yesterday, to have time for some tourism before the show. My plans did not completely work out here, in that the weather along the border was pretty misty so I abandoned my idea of eating at the Drielandenpunt and we just pressed on to the Cologne suburb of Hürth, where we grabbed a Chinese meal beside the Park-and-Ride and then rode on in to the city centre.

Actually we should have come either a bit earlier or a bit later. By the time we'd looked at the most obvious tourist sights (the Cathedral and the Basilica of St Ursula) the museums were closing and we still had quite some time to kill. I was also feeling the aftereffects of not enough sleep during the week, notably (and entirely my own fault) staying up late talking to and on Thursday night before an early morning flight home, so we abandoned my original plan of driving back immediately after the show and booked a hotel (there was a Ramada across the road from the cinema complex in Hürth).

(By the way – wasn't An Adventure in Space and Time really fantastic? One of those bits of Whoviana that you could safely show to a non-fan and expect them to get the appeal of the show. Sure, it's a shame that David Whitaker got merged with other characters, and that we did not see Hartnell actually acting at the height of his powers, but the story was at least as much about what the show did to Hartnell than what he did to it. I watched it at and 's, and then came home and watched it again with Anne and F on Friday.)

The cinema is part of the massive Hürth Park shopping complex, and we found food without difficulty at their in-house restaurant. They were showing Day of the Doctor in three different screens, and ours, which was the emptiest when I booked it, was full on the night, so I guess that all three sold out. Sitting beside me were three young women speaking Russian to each other, who gasped with appropriate appreciation in all the right fannish places(such as "Bad Wolf" and "I don't want to go"). I wondered how far they had come to watch it. Probably not as far as us on the night, anyway.

We cinemagoers also got a lecture from Dan Starkey as Strax about cinema etiquette, showing unfortunates who had been arrested by the Sontarans for using their mobile phones or for trying to record the event, but also rejoicing in the eating of popcorn; followed by Matt Smith and David Tennant demonstrating the 3D while bantering with each other. (It's perhaps a little regrettable that the 3D glasses were not returnable, at least not where we are; I can't imagine that we'll ever use them again.)

And then on with the main feature. Well, I liked it a lot.As everyone has been saying, John Hurt slipped into the part of the missing incarnation utterly smoothly, and in just the right way, portraying a veteran in his own incarnation aware that there would be others to come, and mocking the future Doctors very effectively. I was also relieved that Tennant dialled it down a bit; I felt he sometimes pushed too far in his own stories. And Smith seemed totally energised by the experience, though he must have already decided to go when it was being made.

I was actually glad that Billie Piper didn't play Rose again (and delighted with the way the script covered that); she actually does well when she gets decent material to work with. Jenna Coleman is a delight. I liked the UNIT subplot (Yay, Jemma Redgrave and Ingrid Oliver!) more than the Elizabethan subplot, but enjoyed both (Joanna Page excellent, if improbable, and softening one of the stupider lines from The End of Time). I remembered the Zygons fondly, and indeed rewatched Terror of the Zygons last weekend to refresh myself; the negotiating the deal moment was perhaps a bit contrived in plot terms, but theoretically sound from the diplomatic perspective. And the shedding of the Time War baggage, both in terms of plot and in terms of liberating the Doctor from what we now know was more than just survivor's guilt, and possible reintroduction of the Time Lords and Gallifrey is excellent for the future of the show's storylines.

Not to mention the fan service:

A terrific way of including the former Doctors (who did Harnell's voice, by the way?)

Just one look from his eyes, but already we know it will be different.

I was spoilered for this, which is probably just as well as I don't think I could have remained dignified otherwise.

In the global scheme of things, this was one of Moffat's better Event episodes and probably the best anniversary special. (I know that Moffat has declared that there is only one previous anniversary special, The Five DoctorsThe Three Doctors, Silver Nemesis, Dimensions in Time and Zagreus, plus perhaps one or two others.) He has always been good at witty banter, and at identity confusion; he hasn't always been as good at fitting these things to the frame of a wider show, but he did it this time, and I'm a happy fan.

And then we came home, picking up little U en route, and watched The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, written and directed by Peter Davison, produced by his daughter Georgia Tennant, in which the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Doctors all try to get into the 50th anniversary special, with hilarious consequences and many brief appearances from special guest stars (the scene with Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Ian McKellen is particularly funny). This link doesn't work on my iOs devices but does OK with Windows; the whole thing is 30 minutes and great fun.

I have to admit that in this household, levels of fannish squee were raised to well beyond the expected maximum when F and I realised that some of the footage had been taken at the Slough event that we had attended in August. We had thought at the time that the cameras were taking footage for the announcement the following day of Matt Smith's successor, but we were wrong. And then,OH GOOD LORD, behind the large bloke with the Tom Baker scarf, at 08:04 into the show, I spotted a familiar face – the one I shave most mornings:

Coming slightly more into view, with F beside me:

And the scene closes with a clear shot of F (who has noticeably grown taller in the 3 months since this was shot):

So that was an utterly unexpected bonus to a fantastic weekend. And we have Christmas to look forward to!

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