Now that we’ve finally gotten our first footage from the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, let’s see if we can suss out what might be going on aside from the appearance of the mysterious John Hurt Time War Doctor.
There’s a good number of hints strewn about the trailers, some callbacks to the classic series, and one still that is hiding something totally baffling. (The Dalek fleet also makes an impressive desktop wallpaper, just saying!) Join me for some spoilers and speculation!
Update! The BBC released a second trailer this evening, so I’ve updated the post with screencaps and speculation from that. (You can watch them both here.) Click any of the below photos to enlarge them.
This is most likely the opening of the episode. Clara is on her motorbike speeding along towards Eleven’s TARDIS.
Huggggs! Oh, also Doctor something is up in modern day London at the National Gallery.
But maybe don’t fall out of the TARDIS while trying to get there?
Since when does the TARDIS need a helicopter to bring it anywhere? Something has possibly happened to the ol’ girl while in flight. Or maybe U.N.I.T. picked it up via helicopter in the first place?
(All that aside, this is a really nicely composed shot. Both the foreground and background statues appear as if they’re sitting in judgment. Flying the copter to get that precise an angle shot must have been extremely difficult.)
This amuses me so much more than it should. Shortly after this must be the scene where the Doctor and Clara are shown the Time War painting from Queen Elizabeth the I’s collection by the woman wearing the huge scarf. (We’ll find out her motives a little later on in this post.)
Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, Eleven, and Clara being shown something in the basement of the Gallery.
Kate, Eleven, and Clara enter a nondescript room containing...an opening into the Time Vortex, perhaps? Eleven tosses his fez at it. “I remember this. Almost remember.” Possibly he recalls being the Tenth Doctor and seeing a fez falling out of a hole in time and space.
Which brings us to a terrified Queen Elizabeth the 1st running through the woods in the year 1562. But why is she scared?
Zygons! Set photos spotted Zygon costumes during the filming of the Elizabeth and Tenth Doctor scenes so it seems likely they’re menacing the British monarchy during the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign. If only someone who previously regretted that his televised adventures didn’t include Zygons would come to the rescue!
On a horse, even! It’s blurry, but you can make out the Tenth Doctor running out of the TARDIS on a white horse. Does this episode take place after “The Girl in the Fireplace”? Or does he go back and get Arthur?
However the Zygon situation is resolved, this is where Eleven finds the Tenth Doctor. “Hello, Doctor. I’m the Doctor,” Eleven presumably says. Ten asks him to prove it and the screwdrivers come out.
While Queen Elizabeth watches.
Because it’s not weird enough, the John Hurt Doctor chooses that moment to also seek out his other selves.
“You’ve certainly come to the right place...” Ten and Eleven look very worried and oh you just want to give them a hug because this John Hurt guy...he is TROUBLE.
I mean, look at him. He could be saying, “No Mr. Bond...I expect you to DIE.” so easily here.
Oh wait, before we head over to U.N.I.T. we need to check in with the Mutual Admiration of Spectacles Society.
With three Doctors present most likely Eleven has some explaining to do in regards to just what is going on. Eleven reveals U.N.I.T. put him on to the two of them and Ten probably remembers that they go to U.N.I.T. since he has John Hurt’s memories. But John Hurt doesn’t know that yet and probably there’s some wacky predestination stuff happening that Ten and Eleven don’t want to mess with so off they go to have U.N.I.T. explain what two-thirds of them already know.
They might also choose to just take one TARDIS to avoid having three of the same TARDIS in one spot. Which would make this scene next:
“You’ve redecorated! I don’t like it.”
Ten and Eleven confront Kate Stewart...times 2? And what’s that on the corkboard there? More information being correlated about the Doctor? (Also, interesting that there’s an alien gun with a spotlight on it and a timer on the back wall that isn’t moving.)
Whatever’s going on with U.N.I.T.’s involvement, the Doctors don’t look happy. Did anyone call the That Was Unwise Brigade? Because they’re here.
The HQ of present day U.N.I.T. Double Kate Stewart is present here as well and the actress we’ve previously seen with Eleven and Clara in the National Gallery is in the background on the right. Since she’s with U.N.I.T., she might be sporting the Fourth Doctor’s actual scarf. (He might have left one behind, we don’t know!) It’s also likely that she is U.N.I.T.’s resident Doctor expert/historian and that she may have been the one to first recognize the significance of the painting of Gallifrey found in the National Gallery’s collection.
U.N.I.T. is being attacked in this brief clip, too. Is this the doing of the Doctors, or something else? Whatever’s going on, it seems like the Doctors have gotten all the pieces of the puzzle that they need. We’re off to the Time War!
A massive Dalek fleet attacks Gallifrey.
The Gallifreyan citadel, previously seen in “Gridlock,” “The End of Time,” and “The Name of the Doctor,” under bombardment from the Dalek fleet.
This attack could possibly be taking place before the events of “The End of Time,” since those previous episodes show Dalek ships in ruins outside of the city and the Time Lords already know that the Doctor has “The Moment.”
Time Lords hustling through some green lasers, with support from Gallifreyan troops.
Presumably an attack on the city surrounding the citadel. [io9’s analysis theorizes this may be the Fall of Arcadia.] There’s a billboard visible in the middle there and for some reason it’s really weird to consider Gallifrey as having advertising.
A Gallifreyan trooper battles Dalek ground forces as refugees escape.
A wide overhead shot of the street the refugees are on. Note the Gallifreyan wall symbols in the top right. A Dalek is about to explode in front of that.
DID ANYBODY CALL FOR A DOCTOR OR PERHAPS A COLLECTION OF DOCTORS? Not sure which Doctor’s TARDIS is smashing through a wall and decapitating Daleks here. It’s possible that all three Doctors head back to their respective phone boxes and use their combined power to punch through into the Time War.
Here’s the John Hurt Doctor inside of his TARDIS! It’s an interesting mix of the white of the classic series TARDIS interiors and the new series. You can see the coral circling the classic platform.
Close-up of the panel of John Hurt’s TARDIS.
“Allons-y!” It’s good to hear that again. I’m probably going to name my first child that.
We’re seeing Eleven do this on someone else’s screen—note the white semi-circles on the top right and bottom left of the screen, with the colored indicator dots. As pointed out in the comments below, this is most likely Ten communicating with Eleven TARDIS to TARDIS so they can synch up their jump into the Time War.
Looks like they made it. Eleven, John Hurt, and Ten on Gallifreyan ground during the Time War.
“The Moment is coming.” Rose talking to the John Hurt Doctor. She might mean “moment” in lower case but that seems doubtful considering how The Moment has been hinted at as an ultimate weapon capable of stopping the Time War.
A very banged-up TARDIS and a single set of boot prints trailing away from it. As we'll see, they belong to the John Hurt Doctor.
The John Hurt Doctor facing a lone house in a desert on Gallifrey, his boot prints behind him. Is this where the Doctor grew up
with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru? Is this near the Untempered Schism?
The John Hurt Doctor inside the desert house amidst ruined playground equipment. (Is that a tire swing on the right there?) He's facing The Moment. Guess who can’t resist a great. big. RED. button?
Time to back-pedal a bit and consider Rose’s role in “The Day of the Doctor.” In this screencap she appears to still possess her Bad Wolf abilities and is in the same desert house that John Hurt and The Moment are. How does she know about The Moment? What is Rose’s agenda here?
Here’s a shot of Rose on the same set, waving happily. Not sure if the ring signifies anything in-episode. It might just be Billie Piper’s own wedding ring? (On her index finger, though?)
Here's Rose for a third time in the same desert house set, but darker and with a TARDIS parked inside of it. Rose is a definite wild card in this plot and the fact that we don’t see her with Ten is worrying. Is this a remnant of Rose left over from her Bad Wolf experience? Is she essentially only there in spirit? Does she only exist in that house?
If that's the case, where is she in this screencap?
Clara seems to be sporting the same kind of vortex manipulator that Captain Jack and River Song use. Does she get it from one of them? Will we get a surprise appearance from either of them? Maybe she just stole it from U.N.I.T.?
Quite aside from all the hullaboo about the Time War and the show’s 50th anniversary is the fact that only one month later we’ll be saying goodbye to Eleven and hello to Twelve. (Or goodbye to Twelve and hello to Thirteen, as the case seems to be.)
It seems likely that Eleven’s final episode will wrap up the lingering Fall of the Eleventh/Silence arc but after that we don’t know what Moffat has in store for Capaldi. (Aside from rumors that his debut will be a Dalek two-parter and Jenna Coleman staying on as Clara.) Now that we’ve seen footage from the 50th anniversary special, however, it’s possible that Steven Moffat is using “The Day of the Doctor” to create a backdoor that would allow the show to easily bring back some old enemies.
Take The Master, for example. The last time we saw him was as he re-entered the Time War along with Rassilon during “The End of Time.” As stated in that episode, Gallifrey jumped out of time during the final day of the Time War, so it stands to reason that this is where it jumped back to, now with John Simm’s Master in tow.
“The Day of the Doctor” most likely takes place before that jump, since it depicts the Doctor obtaining “The Moment” spoken of in “The End of Time.” But we don’t know how or when the events of “The Day of the Doctor” end, and we don’t know how Ten and Eleven escape back out of the Time War. It’s quite possible that John Hurt shoos his future incarnations away just before he Pushes The Button.
And if that’s the case, then Ten and Eleven may depart Gallifrey after John Simm’s Master has been deposited there. And if The Master happens to spot a familiar phone box? Well, the Eleventh Doctor might find he has a very interesting stowaway. And wouldn’t that be one hell of a cliffhanger to end the 50th anniversary special on?
The Master isn’t the only one hanging around the Time War, either. Ten did admit to trying to save Davros during the war...
Only two weeks until we see for sure!
Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com, resident Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. recapper, and sometimes Doctor Who writer. You could bother him on Twitter if he could remember what his username was.