Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/the-day-of-the-doctor-review-f13db857eb4
Before I start getting into things that people could categorize as spoilers, here is my overall impression of The Day of the Doctor. It was a very very good episode, and well worthy of its status as the 50th anniversary special. David Tennant and Matt Smith are amazing together; their collective silliness is one of the things that I love so much about the show. But their characters would probably never stop talking if John Hurt wasn't there to keep them grounded. There was a wonderful moment when he questioned their apparent need to talk like children (timey-wimey) and I thought that was a brilliant bit of social commentary about internet culture.
Now who should watch it? It is well suited to anyone who has been watching Doctor Who since they started it back up in 2005 (aka New Who), but obviously fans of Classic Who will get even more out of it. I'm happy to say that this episode has reinforced my desire to get into Classic Who even more.
I dragged +Kaelyn Olson along and afterwords asked her how it was from the perspective of a non-Whovian. She told me that as long as someone has the basics of Doctor Who (regeneration, Daleks, etc) they should enjoy it. That being said, this probably isn't a great jumping-in point for newcomers. If you are going to introduce someone to the series, either start at the beginning of New Who or wait until the upcoming Christmas Special, when the Twelfth Doctor will be introduced.
One issue we had was that apparently BBC's idea of "simultaneously broadcast in all regions" doesn't include an online live stream. Couple that with the fact that my campus doesn't have BBC America meant that we had to go and find an alternate source to watch it from. Seriously, BBC, you're only hurting yourself by not making this available online. Think of all the ad revenue you miss out on when people try to get it legitimately and then discover that they have to go with the shady route.
Time to talk about more specific things from the episode! If you are hardcore about not knowing things before watching something, stop reading now. I'll try to avoid talking about things that I would consider spoilers.
I haven't appreciated a lot of the big, sweeping, universe-changing things that Steven Moffat has done with Doctor Who since he came onto the scene; it started with the changing rules on how the Weeping Angels work in The Time of Angels, continued with The Wedding of River Song retconning a fixed point in time, and the last straw for me was the finale of season 7 when Moffat shoehorned Clara (a character he created) into the rest of the Doctor's existence, going all the way back to the First Doctor. He seems to think that upping the stakes and blowing our minds by breaking established rules of the series is a good substitute for meaningful character development and relationships.
That being said, I really respected how he handled bringing multiple Doctors together and dealing with the ending of the Time War, something that we have heard a lot of vague statements about, but not much that was concrete. I can't think of anything else that would have been appropriate, given that it is the event that separates Classic Who and New Who. Moffat didn't make up new rules, but cleverly used the situation of having three Doctors from different points in their timeline to solve the obstacles presented to them.
I'd say my message here is pretty clear: if you don't watch Doctor Who, get going now! And if you are already into the series, watch The Day of the Doctor as soon as humanly possible!