Event TV doesn’t come bigger or eventier than the 50th anniversary episode of one of the best-loved shows of all time.
Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor was watched in living rooms, cinemas and convention centres around the world by 87 million viewers.
In countries where there was no broadcaster to pick it up, fans stepped in, petitioning cinema chains to show it and helping to ensure that a record-breaking 94 nations saw it simultaneously.
That’s not just more people than have ever watched a TV drama at once (and more people than have tweeted about one), it’s more people than have done pretty much anything good together in the history of the planet (and certainly more people than have done it in fancy dress).
And what they saw was great. They saw the first multiple Doctors story for 20 years, with the return of David Tennant’s hyper hipster alongside lovely, gangly eccentric Matt Smith in his penultimate episode, and a completely new incarnation in the form of acting legend John Hurt (who showed the youngsters how it was done with just a flick of his eyes).
There was a comeback for a classic but rarely seen monster in the form of the shape-shifting, sucker-studded Zygons, a right royal romance of sorts as the tenth Doctor found himself engaged to Queen Elizabeth I and a central plot about an attempt to undo history and save the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey from destruction by the Daleks.
But for me it was about two special Doctor Who moments that should become fixed points in time for all those who witnessed them…
Pulses were set racing as 12 – “No, 13!” – Doctors swooped in together to defend Gallifrey, giving us that unexpected, jubilant first glimpse of recently unveiled Doctor Peter Capaldi – just his eyes, but unmistakably his eyes, fixed straight ahead in a ferocious stare that hinted at what we might expect from our new Doctor.
And at the other end of the emotional spectrum, another surprise appearance – from the longest-serving (and best) Doctor, Tom Baker, as the enigmatic Curator, in an intimate and moving two-hander with the soon-to-depart Smith. Entering the scene voice-first, Baker’s character answered some questions, raised many more and reminded us why we were here – to celebrate a show that has spanned five decades and 13 actors.
There was a return that same evening for more former Time Lords in Peter Davison’s brilliant online spoof The Five(ish) Doctors, which helped fuel a party that continued into the small hours across the globe.
Because this was a programme that couldn’t be confined to its 70-minute time slot, or to the country that created it. This was The Day of the Doctor, and the Doctor belongs to the world.