The Day of the Doctor: A 3D Triumph or Failure?

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Guest contributor Jacob Whittle rates the cinematic experience of Doctor Who in 3D. Did it work?

I am not writing this article to review The Day of the Doctor, marvellously excellent as it was. I’ve let greater and more eloquent people than I take on that task. Instead I shall discuss the cinema experience of Doctor Who in 3D which I was lucky enough to attend, bow tie and all. So did Doctor Who on the big screen up to expectations? Did the 3D effect enhance the episode or overpower it?

Before the episode even began cinema-goers were treated to a 4th wall-breaking ‘prequel’ of sorts, with Strax and both Doctors doing a little intro, making the usual jargon about piracy and the 3D specs more fun and putting that little touch of Who-spin on it. I won’t give any spoilers on that one in case they come out as a DVD extra or something but just remember, popcorn feels pain too.


Into the episode itself, and there were certainly a number of “ooh and aah” moments that the 3D effect had. The opening sequence of Clara driving into the TARDIS, and then the helicopter flying over London were indeed lovely, but then I’ve yet to see a 3D movie where the opening 10 minutes or so didn’t look a delight, so I wouldn’t read too deeply into that. The real question of the hour is the success of the 3D effect throughout the episode.


The 3D paintings were certainly a specific nod to Doctor Who’s 3D showings, and I must say they looked absolutely gorgeous and so intricately and beautifully detailed. The best 3D moments were certainly here, and in Gallifrey and Arcadia during the battles, giving the explosions such an added sense of reality. I do remember being rather in awe of the exploding Dalek during the battle in such a close, almost personalised way that normal TV screen can’t quite capture. Having watched TDotD back on iPlayer, the 2D really doesn’t capture the 3D element as brilliantly as the big screen does, which I suppose is part of the delight and indeed the extra cost of the cinema experience.


I wouldn’t necessarily jump to the sweeping statement that every element was perfect though. The projection scene with the three Doctors looking over the Battle of Arcadia jarred somewhat. The Doctors looked slightly out of place in the scene. However since the images of the action were a projection I wander if that wasn’t the desired effect. Also, that scene with John Hurt in the desert with the hut in the distance early on, which got a lot of flak for poor quality before still looked a bit off; I suspect it looked dodgy in 2D because it was designed for a 3D effect. It looked OK in 3D, but in comparison to, say, the 3D paintings it was an average shot, which slightly dented the realism of the moment.


By and large however Moffat got it spot on with the cinema version. The 3D effect complemented the episode delightfully without being the centre of attention, and I think they successfully avoided the trap of putting in scenes and shots for the sake of a cool 3D look, which so many films and directors currently fall foul of. That would certainly have been to the detriment of the episode as a whole and probably says more about the effect generally, better used as a supplement to the story rather than the game-changing movie experience it is heralded to be, but that is a wider discussion for another, less Doctor Who-themed place.

A final thought on the cinema experience as a whole. It was indeed a wonderful, joyous experience; with the crowd laughter at the subtle in-jokes from Tennant and Smith (dare I call them Eleven and Twelve now?) and the whoops and cheers when (Spoilers!) Capaldi and Baker made their surprise appearances. That crowd unison of the delights and joys of this wonderful celebration of our beloved TV series on the big screen, and in 3D to boot, was totally my greatest experience of Doctor Who, very different from sitting at home in my living room and something that will live long in my memory. After such a delight, all I can say is that silence is yet to fall, so bring on Christmas and Capaldi!

Did you rate the cinematic experience? Let us know in the comments.