Well that was a game-changer, huh? This weekend, the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special finally arrived, feeling like an appropriate full-stop on this new era of Doctor Who that started up seven seasons ago under the tutelage of Russell T. Davies. It might be even crazy and timey-wimey enough to see this as a sort-of soft reboot of the entire Nu-Who series. Not only does the Doctor has a new mission, but the series itself feels like it’s heading in a whole new direction. One of the benefits of being what is essentially a walking, talking, and sonic screwdrivering Deus Ex Machina in a box is that words like continuity and contrivance are mere suggestions rather than steadfast rules that the Doctor or his series have to abide by. As such, showrunner Steven Moffat has improbably laid out a new path for the series by erasing the biggest and most important chunk of its past in a deft move of time bending and retconning that would only feel right in the world of Doctor Who.
Modern Doctor Who was born out of the fabled Time War, an event that until now was never featured on screen, but informed much of the series and the last few regernerations of the Doctor. From the beginning, we only knew that The Doctor killed all of the Time Lords and the Daleks to save the universe. This act of genocide simultaneously made him the universe’s savior and it’s most prolific murderer. These actions not only started the new series, but deeply infromed the characterization of the Ninth Doctor, who was racked with guilt and anger at his choice that he felt was a necessary gambit to save everything.
That guilt has filtered though each incarnation of the Doctor, manifesting in different ways in each new personality. Now, with the 50th anniversary, The War Doctor and two of his future regenerations come together to find a way to save Gallifrey, while also stopping the Time War. With this act, the very foundations on which the series was built have warped into something completely different. The guilt that has made the Doctor who he is for so long is now a false memory. The episode finishes with the Doctor focused on a new mission, to find the still living Gallifrey that he flung somewhere into the depths of space and time. Now the Doctor has a new quest and a new regeneration in the near future (Matt Smith’s last episode in his tenure as the Eleventh Doctor is the upcoming Christmas special), it’s almost as if the show has found a second life while the Doctor morphs into his Thirteenth.