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Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor

directed by Nick Hurran

starring Matt Smith, David Tennant, John Hurt

BBC America

We are now four years into the reign of the latest Doctor Who (Matt Smith). He teams up with two previous Doctors (David Tennant - Dr. #10 and John Hurt - The War Doctor). If you're a fan you've already stood in line, bought the commemorative t-shirt, and deconstructed the whole thing on some web page I'm not cool enough to visit. If you're not already a fan, I'll say this is a pleasant if slightly confusing story about a time traveling, self-regenerating Time Lord who flits about time and space in a multi-dimensional British Police call box saving us from unspeakable cosmic disasters. As Sci FI goes, it's pretty rational.

The Doctor first appeared in a 1963 BBC children's series with cheap special effects and stories that were well written and well-acted. As that generation grew up it never really abandoned the show and today there's a huge fan base. The Doctor had a great gimmick - if killed, he could regenerate himself but with a different look and different quirks. My introduction to the show was watching Tom Baker (Dr. #4), he was the curly haired guy with the long scarf. Normally we only have one Doctor at a time, but if you contemplate time travel theatrically, it makes sense you might run into yourself at any number of places: Publix, Disneyland, the Battle of Waterloo, you get the idea. The show featured a collection of aliens, the most notable being the Daleks. Imagine making an R2D2 'bot out of a cardboard box and a toilet plunger, and then powering it with your younger brother running about screaming "Seek! Destroy! Exterminate!" We are many SFX generations removed, and while Daleks appear the main bug-eyed monster here are the Zygons, they can morph into exact replica of humans, providing hours of entertaining confusion.

I'll ignore the bones of the story, I can't really do it justice in the space available, but it does set up a decent sequel and I'm sure there will be a bunch of collectables available at a comix store near you. Stylistically we see flashes of Star Wars and Dune and a half dozen other big time SFX films, but they are all tied into a coherent style flavored with great British humor and fun supporting characters. Besides the Doctors mentioned above there's Clara, the Doctor's female assistant (Jenna Coleman), the curvy Elizabeth I (Joanna Page), Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) as the head of the mysterious GHQ organization and Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) the girl Friday with asthma. While the locations aren't quite Bond-grade exotic there some nice film work in Trafalgar Square and The Tower of London while the 3-D paintings might have come directly from the Hogwarts Collection. There was a "Making Of" trailer after the main movie, between that and the main film we get a glimpse of all the Doctors in one form or another. There were laughs and cheers I didn't connect with, and I had one question - what's the deal with the Fez? I suppose someone will enlighten me in detail, but no matter - this is an enjoyable yet intellectual sci-fi excursion with more attention paid to plot and character than most of the exploding planet films we see these days. Be a fan or become a fan, it's all great fun.

www.bbc.co.uk