News Categories
Archives

The Day of the Doctor vs The Light at the End

Gustaff Behr compares the two 50th anniversary specials.

doctors-day-vs-light

The 50th year of Doctor Who was indeed packed with goodies. You could say we received no less than FIVE anniversary specials in total. Things kicked off a month early with the first eight incarnations of the Doctor foiling a sinister plot cooked up by the Master on November 23rd, 1963 in The Light at the End. After that we discovered how Paul McGann’s Doctor finally regenerated in The Night of the Doctor. Following that, we were whisked back to the 60s yet again, this time to see how Doctor Who was born in An Adventure in Time and Space. The Day of the Doctor hit TV and cinema screens worldwide in 94 countries at the exact same time before allowing us thirty minutes of comedic joy with The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Five main events on one match card ladies and gentlemen! However, for this article, I’ll be concentrating on the two showstoppers in this lineup: The Day of the Doctor vs The Light at the End!

Future Versus Past

tom-baker-the_day_of_the_doctorLight and Day completed each other really well in that one made use of Doctor Who’s birth date while the other used the 50th anniversary milestone. Extra points to both for making the dates in both stories plot elements. Extra points to both for having all the Doctors in each story revisit the aforementioned dates at the end of their respective stories. Doctors One through Eight visited Bob Dovie on 23 November 1963 to see if he was alright after their tussle with the Master (yes I was brave enough to use tussle in a sentence) while War, Ten and Eleven kicked back in the National Gallery on November 23rd, 2013. Bonus points to Steven Moffat for adding an ‘extra’ Doctor in the form of the Curator managing said gallery in 2013 and a few more for making him look like Tom Baker!

Callbacks/Callforwards

light-at-the-end-artBoth titles contained a titanic total of call backs and call forwards (this is time travel after all), but The Day of the Doctor managed to incorporate most of its callbacks as part of the plot, whereas The Light at the End mainly used them to jog our memories of the good old times. The most noticeable instance of plot related callbacks would be the Doctor’s greatest secret, Ten marrying Queen Bess and the War Council noting that the events of The End of Time have already transpired.

The general callbacks (those that are just verbal fanservice aimed at us) include the normal dialogue spoken in multi-Doctor specials, The ‘Omega’ Arsenal, the Ninth Doctor’s silly looking ears and the space-time telegraph. While in The Light at the End we had Six and Peri hearing the Cloister bell, not all the Doctors could fully materialize into the story due to there not being enough power, the version of the Master in this story is from before Logopolis and Peri mentioned meeting Two and Jamie in The Two Doctors among others.

Great Minds Think Alike

day-sonicsIt’s rather exhilarating when you notice the shared ideas between the two stories. I know it sounds odd, but remember how the TARDIS console room kept jumping through the various desktop designs as soon as War, Ten and Eleven entered it? Guess what happened when Eight entered Four’s TARDIS and wibbly-wobbly kicked in?

Aside from callbacks, the two titles actually shared a lot of the same ideas and plot points in general, proving that great minds do indeed think alike. Events from much earlier in both tales prove to be vitally important later on. For instance, Five landing in Bob Dovie’s garden at the very start of the story doesn’t make much sense until about halfway through part two. Similarly, the call the UNIT scientist Tom gets after Eleven leaves for the Under-Gallery with Kate and Clara isn’t given much thought by the audience until much much later. One could argue that Clara’s lecture at the very start of the story concerning Marcus Aurelius’ famous words on integrity as one as well: “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Kinda what the entire episode is all about wouldn’t you say?

Also, portals into the past were utilized in both titles. Charley Pollard (among others) was able to glimpse previous Doctors and companions, while Eleven was able to physically revisit Ten and later the War Doctor in the Time War. From Ten and War’s perspective, they count as portals to the future. (Just sorting out the temporal tenses)

Not only that, but both titles featured ‘big red buttons’ that could be pushed to solve the plot. Actually, Light contained TWO. The first is created when Five goes back and ensures that Bob acknowledges the presence of the TARDIS and then again when Doctors One to Three decide not to transmit the warning light on the console that causes all the Doctors to end up in the Master’s pocket dimension in the first place. While Light featured metaphysical buttons, Day featured a literal one. Oddly enough, many fans who complain about Day have an issue with the Doctors using a Deus Ex Machina button to save the situation. This is incredibly peculiar as – if you watch it again, you’ll realize that they don’t actually use it – at all! The button is only used in Light and it’s justified since it’s established as part of the resolution early on.

8 Versus 3

doctors-1-8Most people put Day and Light at odds because the latter featured eight Doctors with no archive footage. True, Day only managed to bring 13 Doctors together through the use of archive footage/audio, but it’s actually closer to being five Doctors in Light’s case since One, Two and Three are featured so seldom throughout the story that you can actually call it a cameo appearance. Plus, let’s not forget the Curator appearing at the end of Day. So, now it’s more like four on five.

I will say that having more Doctors doesn’t necessarily mean a better story – it just means more work as everyone needs to contribute or you’re just wasting an incarnation. Thankfully Nick Briggs managed not to fall into this trap when he wrote his story. The scenes and setups featured in Day were abnormally long while the setups in Light were shorter so that the progress of each Doctor could be followed without them being forgotten about by the audience. This is another difference between the two stories. For the most part, Light is set up as a mystery drama in a pocket universe while Day is a tale of redemption – an action thriller you might say.

About One Particular Man

day of the doctor batch b (19)Both titles have one massive thing in common – it’s a Doctor-heavy story! This is new territory for Classic Who, not so much for New Who as Moffat has been trying to make Doctor Who into a series about the Doctor as a person more so than his companions. While Day’s title gives a much clearer impression of a Doctor-centered adventure than Light’s, Light is as much a story about the Doctor as Day. This isn’t just another mad-capped Doctors unite adventure – it’s a story about the Doctor specifically! While Day told the story about the War Doctor’s last adventure, Light communicated the Doctor’s most dangerous adventure up until that point. In fact, it’s dangerous enough to warrant me saying that this is a rather special Doctor-centered story. More proof comes in the form of the treatment of companions. In Day, Steven had just one companion adventuring with three Doctors while Nick decided to feature as many companions as possible, but slowly evaporated them from the story so more attention could be given to the Doctors. The way Nick writes this piece of the plot as opposed to just selecting periods in the Doctor’s life when he’s travelling alone like Steven did feels more deserving of the praise.

One-Upping One Another

Make no mistake though, in both cases, Day and Light feature content that easily helps support the argument that one is more enjoyable than the other. Take for example the songs specially developed for both titles. There is a Man I Know which is used in Light curb-stomps Song For Fifty into the ground.

And although The Light at the End was for the most part, a proper ‘classic’ episode feel by giving us for instance a typical ‘why not just shoot him’ scenario with the Master, it is taken to ridiculous lengths. During the almost two hour tale, the Master has the chance to easily kill Doctors Four and Eight, then Five, then Seven and then Four and Eight once more but wants to wait and see his unusual first plan succeed instead which is much harder to pull off as it relies on a batman gambit to work. Compared to the plans and schemes setup during The Day of the Doctor, the latter easily wins.

Bonus points to Light though for being almost two hours long and longer than Day in general. Most fans, including myself, wanted Day to be more or less the length of Light, perhaps to resolve the Zygon invasion with a little more padding. Double Day’s score by flowing more naturally compared to Light’s ridiculously long start off. Seriously, it takes like 30 minutes for all hell to break loose! Day managed that in just 5! Helicopter anyone? Add points to Light for featuring more callbacks, companions and continuity nods in its story than Day did. However, Day still gave us TWO future Doctors and a scene with all thirteen Doctors saving the day at the same time. Who wins now is much harder to determine eh?

That’s sort of the point really. It’s not about which one is better, it’s about how we (as fans) were lucky enough to be presented with two such great titles. Instead of one celebration, we received loads in the form of television, documentary, sketches, audio, comics and so much more. It was really one of those parties that got dragged on till two days later. Except in this case, it’s welcomed and we (well most of us anyway) can still remember every moment of it!

Step back in time...

COMMENT GUIDELINES

Please be civil and keep article comments relevant and on topic. Flag and report any offensive/trolling behavior, or contact us with details.
Please do not post SPOILERS including anything from leaked episodes! Your account could be banned. For complete details on our comment policy please read.
49 comments
KelvTwelve
KelvTwelve

One should note that "There's a Man I Know" isn't the equivalent to Song for 50, but rather the equivalent of "I am the Doctor." You can hear it during season 4 of 8th Doctor's Big Finish run.

DasManiac
DasManiac

No question about it, Light at The End. At least it celebrated Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary.

gunslinger19
gunslinger19

iv seen a lot of comments saying that in an 50th aniversary party you would invite everyone whos been prominent in your life right from the start, and therefore, the 50th should have been more classic-heavy. this doesnt seem like a valid arguement to me as i doubt people would invite people from their distant past. it would be quite awkward ringing up people youve lost touch with and inviting them for a party.

LucasW
LucasW

We knew from the off that TDOTD was never going to be a huge party so as not to "confuse newbies" (or some such garbled nonsense) whereas Big Finish is made for fans by fans so they knew exactly what we wanted to hear! No, there wasn't an amazing story but it showcased the Doctors and the Master and gave an opportunity for an amazing list of cameos. TDOTD should be rewarded for trying to work celebration into the episode while still looking forward to the future, but I don't think it quite succeeded in that. My least favourite scene is the one when they are about to press the button, because it was truly gut-wrenching to see them do it. And then... They didn't. Although it was the right thing, it was completely disappointing. The heart of the new series rested on the Doctor's guilt and they go and wipe it out! We'll have to see how it pans out, eh?

Overall, I think TLATE wins, purely because it was the 50th anniversary special TDOTD could never possibly be. They're both great, I just think TLATE is better.

Warisfiller
Warisfiller

Between the the two i'll pick the one that actually celebrates 50 years and not the one that

celebrated 8 years of NuWho and practically ignored what came before.

VictoriaLynnStrickland
VictoriaLynnStrickland

For me, the best sequence in "Day" was when War, 10 and 11 blasted their way out of the painting. The juxpasition of music and action was perfect! Of course, then there was 11's throw away comment, "Sorry about the Dalek." Perfect.

The_Eternal_Dalek
The_Eternal_Dalek

If we include the first three in Light, surely we can include Capaldi's specially filmed scene in Day?


So that's five against eight.

Liana21
Liana21

I haven't heard Light yet, but you can bet I want do it, so I can't say anything about it.

ProfWimsey
ProfWimsey

I only read a couple of reviews of Light that were not by Doctor Who fans, and both panned it pretty severely for being devoid of any story: it was just a lot of stuff happening that seemed to be cramming as many old characters (most of whom the reviewers did not know well or even at all) into a narrative.  Day, on the other hand, had a very strong story about self-redemption, self-forgiveness and self-reinvention.  The viewer did not need to know anything about old Doctor Who to appreciate that story.  Now, obviously, only a small subset of hardcore Doctor Who fans are even listening to the audios (their sales are in the 10's of thousands world wide, i.e., not even a reported decimal point in the ratings!): but, in the end, story should be the most important issue when we evaluate a story, shouldn't it?



Castrovalva
Castrovalva

Superb article.     Yes, they are both about one man but Light has a lot of companions, Leelah, Peri, Nyssa, Ace and Charley.  Plus William Russell (Ian) and Frazer Hines (Jamie) as both themselves and their Doctors (which bizarrely is not mentioned on the listings.  It was sublime Audio.   We were truly spoiled last year.  I do hope we get something rather good again next year (for the 10th anniversary of New Who).  







tcexect
tcexect

I'll be honest - I thought Light felt too by-the-numbers for something that was supposed to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Day was much more of a party, even with far fewer cameos.

JFrance
JFrance


Even though I have't listened to The Light at the End. I have heard There is a Man I Know and I thought it was a brilliant theme and if the Eighth Doctor dose return to the TV series at some point they should use that as his theme.  

gwylock1
gwylock1

I will always consider Light at the End the better story, if only for the fact that it all fit together naturally and had time to develop tension, whereas Day of the Doctor felt rushed with bits shoehorned in. And while Day of the Doctor had a more immediate wow factor because of how visual it was, Light at the End is easier to experience multiple times because there are multiple layers that aren't just right out there on the floor with all the plot strands hanging out, leaking bits of useless "epicness" that has no real story relevance!

YaelMoise supports the nuking of space-spiders
YaelMoise supports the nuking of space-spiders

Excellent analysis! I got TLATE ages ago, around the 50th, and I loved it. I'm glad to say it also served as my gateway to Big Finish. I keep it on my phone and listen to it on long commutes. SOOOOO many brilliant bits! 



The Finn
The Finn

Sigh... It seems I'll now have to get TLATE. Well done, Gustaff, well done.



Doctor What and Where
Doctor What and Where

Light at the End is close, but lacks the lasting impact of Day. But I love both. 


And both miss the Ninth Doctor making a proper appearence, so not perfect enough. :)

ilyootha
ilyootha

Yet again, excellent article!

The main difference between the two stories is that Light is a product almost solely for fans, while Day targeted for a far wider audience, and it was important to make sure that a casual viewer would not be alienated by too much fanservice! Plus, being an audio story, Light didn't have as many limitations as Day had, as it didn't need visuals, filming crews, stunt doubles, CGI and so on; it probably required a much lesser budget and could have had a longer running time than Day. These are two different types of products which, at the end of the day*, are both different aspects of the same celebration, so I feel it is wrong to compare them, and completely agree with the conclusion: it’s not about which one is better, it’s about how good they both are and how lucky we are to have been treated by such a fantastic celebration!


*"at the end of the day"... Get it? 

Gallifreygreg
Gallifreygreg

For me, Light was by far the better anniversary tale. It was the 50th anniversary and in any anniversary celebration, birthday, wedding etc, you invite as many of the people who have been there throughout the journey as you can, not just the last 8 years.

One of the chief arguments made against Day of the Doctor being a multi Doctor story was that it would be detrimental to the story - yet Nick Briggs proved it could be done well. Yes, it required a longer running time to do it, but the fault lies with Day of the Doctor on that score - 75 minutes wasn't nearly enough screen time to properly celebrate 50 years.

Moffat had a good story but a poor celebration, whereas Briggs ticked both boxes.

Gustaff
Gustaff

Anyone else think that There is a Man I Know should be Capaldi's Mad Man in a Box for Series 8?

sontaran17
sontaran17

What can we say about this article... that it highlights the fact that we were truly blessed last year by comparing 2 sensational specials? That it does justice to these brilliant specials? That it is an interesting and engaging read? Pure Brilliance Gusty

ahunter8056
ahunter8056

A good article. Although as for 'Light At The End' having better music than 'The Day Of The Doctor', Song For Fifty wasn't even used in the episode. It was only created for the Doctor Who Prom. I Am The Doctor and The Majestic Tale (Of A Madman In A Box) straight away blows anything 'Light At The End' had away.


BazHood
BazHood

Nice piece. Hard to compare as they are two completely different mediums so kudos to you. I enjoyed both and thought they were both very fitting. It was truly a fantabulous year for Who! All that was missing, I thought, was re-runs of classic stories throughout the year on  the BBC. Now, to the next 50 years. Capaldi is go!

SonicTheHedgehogRules
SonicTheHedgehogRules

Gah, just saying praise for Light at the End is just really wanting to make me get it more! I'm planning on getting the Collector's Edition, because why not. The trailer got me hooked, so I absolutely want to hear it.

TheUltimateUpgrade
TheUltimateUpgrade

The classic Doctor's look very cross in the top image! And then we've got the revived series Doctor's looking somewhat arrogant. Looks like a bit of Doctor-rivalry over who secured a fiftieth casting.

MeglosProductions
MeglosProductions

Fantastic article. I'm really not sure which one I prefer. On the one hand, most of the best audio dramas like Light At The End are even better stories than what we get on TV, but on the other hand The Day Of The Doctor was the absolutely PERFECT way to celebrate 50 years of this wonderful show. I would probably say Day.

 Notsosmartguy Will Kill the Moon
Notsosmartguy Will Kill the Moon

Excellent article I'll have check out light the end once I have enough money to start checking out more of the classics and audios. I have theory the zygon plot ended the way it did so it could be picked up later. I loved all the cool stuff we got for the 50th (well the stuff I managed to get my hands on). And let's be thankful at least Moffat didn't celebrate the 50th like the way dc did with Superman's 75th last year........

Gustaff
Gustaff

Article got published? Well, I am having a fantastic day so far so this just adds to it. Hope you guys have fun reading on this Sunday morning.

troughton who?
troughton who?

Surely 10, 11 and the War Doctor's can't have been there in November 2013 because 11 knew Kate Stewart, who he met for the first time in "The Power of Three" set in something like 2018.


Castrovalva
Castrovalva

@Doctor What and Where Big Finish cannot do New Who doctors unfortunately, so they could not have any references to Doctors 9-11.


Mind you Light  has the best section of dialogue ever with Ace's glorious roundup of Doctors 1-8 “So are you seriously telling me all those blokes, old man white hair, Beatles haircut, frilly shirt, long scarf big eyes, cricket boy, Joseph and his amazing technicolor dreamcoat, and Lord Byron, all of them—they were you?”



Temporal Tomato
Temporal Tomato

Nope, I think he should have his own. Besides, what would McGann's theme be, then? :P

gwylock1
gwylock1

@ahunter8056 *cough* opinions *cough*      Personally, though I'm nor great fan of Jamie Robertson's work at times, I prefer every bit of it to either "I am the Doctor" or "Madman in a Box"!


joelharris199892
joelharris199892

@Gustaff You're surprised one of your articles got published?!? Don't be!! As ever, it was fantastic!

Wibbly-Wobbly is John Reese
Wibbly-Wobbly is John Reese

@troughton who? I always thought Kate knew all about the Doctor's timeline of companions and when she realised Amy and Rory were housing him, she figured that had to be the first time we met. So she acted like it.

ilyootha
ilyootha

@troughton who?The synopsis of The Day of the Doctor states it's 2013, and with time travel and UNIT's memory-wiping technology people can meet for the first time several times... :P




Gustaff
Gustaff

Surprised it was published so soon. Its only 4 days old

You've not met Danny Pink? Bit of a lady killer
You've not met Danny Pink? Bit of a lady killer

@Wibbly-Wobbly is A PLAYYA @troughton who? I know, but it's totally confusing to fans. It's known that The Power of Three is set sometime during or after 2020 (we know this because Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is set in 2020 - reinforced in The Power of Three when Amy states it's been "ten years of the Doctor" from the Pond's point of view).


And then The Day of the Doctor is set in 2013 - which from the Doctor's point of view takes place after The Power of Three - but from Kate's point of view, The Power of Three has not occurred yet. So maybe when The Power of Three takes place, Kate knows about the Doctor's companions and who comes after each assistant with each Doctor, so it's possible she pretended that The Power of Three was her first encounter with the Eleventh Doctor - which we of course know, is not true.


It's like the UNIT 1970s-1980s dating issue combined with River Song meeting the Doctor earlier each time. Timey-wimey, and very very spacey-wacey.