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Digital Subscriptions > Doctor Who Magazine > 500 > The Day of the Doctor

The Day of the Doctor

Expectation and excitement ran high in the buildup to Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary – and it didn’t disappoint! This was the Doctor’s greatest day...

The Day of the Doctor


Is The Day of the Doctor the best story of all time? According to DWM readers in 2014, yes; but of course, you may not agree. One thing is beyond question, though. This story was the biggest challenge ever faced by Steven Moffat, writing the most important episode since the series’ return. It had to celebrate 50 years; it had to encapsulate the series in a single episode. It had to include as many past Doctors as possible despite at least three of them being contractually unavailable. The weight of expectation was massive. As far as the BBC was concerned it was the biggest television event since the Olympics; as far as Doctor Who fandom was concerned it was far more important than mere sport. Steven had so much to live up to... ... and he did it. He delivered a story that did everything asked of it and so much more. He didn’t just tell another Doctor Who story; by basing the whole premise around the idea of the sacrifice of billions of innocent lives, he told possibly the most dramatic Doctor Who story of all. It’s not just the best Doctor Who story. It’s Doctor Who’s biggest success story.

▪ The episode opens with an abridged version of the original black-and-white title sequence used from 100,000 BC (1963) to The Moonbase (1967), along with the original arrangement of the theme tune.

A policeman walks past a sign for IM Foreman Scrap Merchant and past Coal Hill School.

▪ An obvious homage to the opening of the very first episode, An Unearthly Child (1963), which begins with a policeman checking the gates of the same scrap merchants. The Doctor returned to Totter’s Lane in Attack of the Cybermen (1985) and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988); the junkyard’s signage and the spelling of its proprietor’s name were inconsistent on these occasions; by contrast, the sign in The Day of the Doctor is practically identical to the gate from An Unearthly Child.

▪ Coal Hill School also featured in An Unearthly Child and Remembrance of the Daleks. It would go on to become a feature of the 2014 series and the setting of the 2016 spin-off series Class.

▪ The school’s sign identifies the Chairman of the Governors as I Chesterton – presumably the same Ian Chesterton who taught there in the 1960s – and the Headmaster as W Coburn – the W being a reference to Waris Hussein, the director of the first serial, and Coburn being a reference to Anthony Coburn, its writer. The school’s coat of arms of two dragons segreant with a St George’s Cross shield was established in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Hold on tight! The opening stunt over Trafalgar Square is recorded.

▪ The sign also gives the location of the school as Shoreditch; its location was specified in Remembrance of the Daleks. Of course, it may not be occupying the same premises as the school in An Unearthly Child and Remembrance of the Daleks; in those stories the school is a drive away from Totter’s Lane and the building looks considerably different (as it was shot at a different location). In Remembrance of the Daleks its signage names it ‘Coal Hill Road School’; as it’s now just ‘Coal Hill School’, maybe it’s no longer on Coal Hill Road?

▪ The shooting script (dated 27 March 2013, with the working title 50th Anniversary Special) doesn’t mention the policeman or the junkyard sign; these and other references were added during the course of production.

Inside, Clara (Jenna Coleman) has just finished teaching a class when Tom (Tristan Beint) interrupts with a message “from your Doctor”.

▪ Tom is named as a tribute to current DWM editor Tom Spilsbury.

▪ Clara quotes from book 10 of Meditations by second-century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius; note that as well as setting up the theme of the episode, it introduces the phrase ‘no more’ and alludes to previous references to the Doctor being ‘a good man’ (such as in A Good Man Goes to War (2011)). Clara’s reading of the quote was added during ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording).

Clara heads off on her motorbike.

▪ The school clock gives the time as 5.16pm, the time that An Unearthly Child was scheduled for broadcast on 23 November 1963. The shooting script specifies that the motorbike is the Doctor’s anti-grav motorcycle from The Bells of SaintJohn (2013).

“ I started a very long time ago. You might say I’ve been doing this all my lives...”

▪ The date of the story isn’t specified on screen, but it occurs over a year after 2011 (The Impossible Astronaut (2011) begins in April 2011 and The Power of Three (2012) lasts a year) and before In the Forest of the Night (which is implied to take place in 2016).

She finds the TARDIS in a windswept valley and rides through the doors into the console room.

▪ ... put on your 3D glasses now! A feat previously performed by a police motorcyclist in the 1996 TV Movie, the spectacular shot is not actually specified in the shooting script, which simply has the scene being shot from the side as ‘the motorbike disappears into the police box with comical speed’ followed by the screech of tyres.

The Doctor (Matt Smith) is reading a book called Advanced Quantum Mechanics. Clara clicks her fingers to close the TARDIS doors.

▪ A neat trick when you’re wearing motorcycle gloves. The doors became fingerclick-responsive in Forest of the Dead (2008).

▪ The Doctor is wearing Amy Pond’s spectacles, acquired in The Angels Take Manhattan (2012). The book the Doctor reading is a mock-up designed to resemble an entry in the Teach Yourself Series published by the English Universities Press from 1938-73; note the police box on the cover!

Clara arrives in the TARDIS in style.

Suddenly, the TARDIS takes off – being lifted by a helicopter! The helicopter pilot informs ‘Greyhound’ that ‘Blue Eagle’ is airborne.

▪ The helicopter uses the call-sign ‘Windmill’, a prefix used for UNIT helicopters in Doctor Who and the Silurians (1970) and The Mind of Evil (1971), while ‘Greyhound Leader’ was used by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart in Robot (1974-75) and Terror of the Zygons (1975).

Policeman on patrol.

At the Tower of London, Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) is informed by her assistant Osgood (Ingrid Oliver) that the Doctor is calling her on her personal phone.

▪ The Tower of London was established as a secret UNIT base in The Christmas Invasion (2005).

▪ The shooting script specifies that the caption should be ‘UNIT HEADQUARTERS’; in the finished episode it’s ‘U.N.I.T THE TOWER OF LONDON’, maintaining the convention established in The Invasion (1968) that ‘UNIT’ is missing its fourth full point.

▪ Kate Stewart had previously been introduced in The Power of Three as the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. Osgood may or may not be related to the accident-prone Sergeant Osgood of The Dæmons (1971); she is described as ‘a madly enthused but brilliant woman in a big scarf [...] (Suspiciously, the scarf is a bit Tom Baker)’.

A little light reading.

▪ Stewart mentions Malcolm, presumably Doctor Malcolm Taylor who worked as a scientific advisor to UNIT in Planet of the Dead (2009).

▪ There is a popular superstition that if the Tower of London ravens fly away then the British crown will fall, which is unlikely to happen if they are battery-operated robots – or, as Kate refers to them in The Power of Three, “ravens of death”.


The Doctor’s calling from the phone in the TARDIS exterior door. He slips and hangs onto the bottom of the TARDIS as it descends into Trafalgar Square.

▪ Although previous stories have established that the TARDIS has an interior phone, it is disconnected at this point; the Doctor later tells ‘Handles’ to remind him to patch the telephone back through the console unit in The Time of the Doctor (2013).

Gallifrey Falls.

The Doctor is greeted by Kate and Osgood. Kate tells him she is acting on sealed orders from Queen Elizabeth I and her credentials are inside the National Gallery. Their cover story is that this is a Derren Brown stunt.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

The biggest issue ever to celebrate 500 editions of DWM! Contents include: Interviews with Tom Baker, Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat; a message to readers from new companion Pearl Mackie; a letter from the Doctor; a 20-page celebratory comic strip, The Stockbridge Showdown by Scott Gray, drawn by a host of guest artists; an exclusive look at Mark Gatiss' 2001 pitch for Doctor Who; Peter Capaldi answers questions once put to William Hartnell; Fact of Fiction on The Day of the Doctor; competitions to win HUGE prizes; a bonus 116-page section looking back at the history of DWM, featuring every single cover and commentary from the editors; plus News, Reviews, Coming Soon, Wotcha... and LOTS of surprises!

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