The Day of the Doctor (novelisation)

Doctor Who, which follows the adventures of the Time Lord who goes by the name of Doctor, is one of the most successful sci-fi shows in the world.

2013 marked the show’s 50th anniversary, and a special feature-length episode, The Day of the Doctor, was broadcast simultaneously around the world on 23rd November, the date the very first episode was broadcast in 1963. The script was written by Steven Moffat, who stepped down last year as the show’s lead writer and executive producer after eight years in the role.

This year, Moffat novelised The Day of the Doctor.

The Day of the Doctor
novelisation cover.

This is how the story goes: the War, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors (the John Hurt, David Tennant, and Matt Smith incarnations, respectively) join up and save Earth from an alien invasion, with the Tenth Doctor marrying Queen Elizabeth I in the process. They then unite with their other incarnations to save their home planet Gallifrey from destruction at the end of the Last Great Time War by putting it into a pocket universe. Gallifrey was previously considered destroyed by the entire universe, including the Doctor himself.

The novel is told from various points of view, mostly the War, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctors. The chapters are presented out of order, with Chapter 9 not being included (a nod to Christopher Eccleston, who declined to return as the Ninth Doctor in the episode). Each chapter is introduced by the Curator, who was played by Tom Baker in the episode.

It includes great interactions between the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, and presents excellent narration about the inner conflict of the War Doctor, who contemplated destroying the Time Lords (along with Gallifrey) and the Daleks to end the Time War. He was close to doing so until the Eleventh Doctor suggested saving the Time Lords and Gallifrey, but still destroying the Daleks.

The novel also includes several differences from the episode. The wedding between the Tenth Doctor and Elizabeth I wasn’t included in the novel, only mentioned in passing. The desktop of the TARDIS console room didn’t ‘glitch’ when three Doctors, each from a different time zone, were inside. None of the Doctors, except for the First, War, Tenth, and Eleventh, showed up via holograms in the War Room on Gallifrey; the Twelfth Doctor physically appeared in the Room.

It includes new scenes as well, including one between the Tenth Doctor and River Song before the main events of The Day of the Doctor but after Forest of the Dead. There are new scenes with the Tenth Doctor and Elizabeth I leading up to their picnic date, which was their first scene in the episode. And new scenes were included explaining what happened while all the Doctors were putting Gallifrey into the pocket universe. More excitingly, the last chapter is a completely new scene told from the point-of-view of the new Thirteenth Doctor (played by Jodie Whittaker), who made her debut in last year’s Christmas episode.

Various things are expanded on in the novel, as well. For example, in the episode, the Eleventh Doctor tells the War and Tenth Doctors they won’t remember the events of The Day of the Doctor because three of them together put their timeline out of sync. He doesn’t elaborate further in the episode. (For those who aren’t Doctor Who fans, all incarnations of the Doctor are the same person, just at different points in time). In the novel, a little more information is provided:

‘However hard the Doctor concentrated, two of them standing together played havoc with the timelines and made it all but impossible to form lasting memories […] the timelines were tied in a knot and [the Doctor’s] memory was all over the place.’ (p. 99)

In other words: if you time travel to a point of meeting yourself results in your younger self’s timeline not being synchronised, leading to them not retaining any memory of meeting your future self. So your present self will remember meeting your younger self, but your younger self won’t remember meeting your present self. (It’s all very complicated!).

Out-of-sync timelines were never a factor in past multi-Doctor stories, as all Doctors seemed to have retained memories of those events. But it makes sense, as time is meant to flow in one direction.

Clara, the Eleventh Doctor’s companion, could’ve been given more depth in the novel. Unfortunately, she instead comes across as two-dimensional. She seemed to only be in the novel to ask questions and appear conveniently to save the day.

But overall, the novelisation of The Day of the Doctor stands up reasonably well. Steven Moffat is to be congratulated for this, as it’s his first ever novel.


Words by Callum J. Jones

4/5 stars.

Images property of BBC.