Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special: what clues does the poster hold about The Day of the Doctor?

What's the significance of those weird symbols? Or those exploding Daleks? Or that equally exploding Tardis? Or the colour of John Hurt's sonic screwdriver...?


Anticipation for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary is ramping up. The BBC have just released the name (The Day of the Doctor) and this rather spiffy poster for the extended episode.


What can we tell from some meticulous analysis/guessing? Well, the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) seems to use better conditioner than the tenth (David Tennant).

More importantly, if we zoom in, it looks like we might finally see the legendary Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. Two of the tin pot space dictators are exploding in the foreground [1], while symbols written in the Timelord’s language [2] hover in the back (they’re the circular patterns that look like a classy Spirograph.)

The Time War happened off-screen, between the 1996 movie starring Paul McGann and the relaunch of the TV series with Christopher Eccleston. The battle wiped out both the Timelord planet of Gallifrey and the entire Dalek army, and the Doctor was forced to commit some terrible atrocity to end the bloodshed. The fact that John Hurt [3] is striding away from the carnage like Bruce Willis in Die Hard heavily implies he is the previously unknown, war criminal version of the Doctor from this period.

It looks like other long-running storylines will finally be resolved. The front of the Tardis [4] seems to be bouncing away from the explosion like the van doors in The Italian Job. This suggests we’ll find out why the Tardis self-destructed (taking the universe with it) on Rory and Amy Pond’s wedding day at the end of series five. Writer Steven Moffat never bothered to explain this at the time, leaving fans to wonder if the Doctor filled the Tardis with diesel instead of unleaded.

Also, the words “Bad Wolf” [5] have more significance than your average piece of graffiti scrawled on a toilet wall. At the end of the first series of new-Who, Rose Tyler became some sort of temporal goddess, and spread the words across time as a warning to herself. (Honestly, this made sense at the time.) Billie Piper is returning with David Tennant for the 50th, but could the seeds of this story really have been planted so long ago?

And finally, here’s an ultra-geeky detail you might have missed. See the sonic screwdriver in John Hurt’s hand? See how it’s glowing red [6]? We’ve seen a red sonic screwdriver before. It belonged to River Song, the Doctor’s wife. 

The first time the Doctor met River was in a planet-sized library. She died almost immediately, but was saved by the ‘red settings’ on a special screwdriver the Doctor had given her just beforehand. Could be nothing more than a photo filter, could be the most important coincidence in the history of the universe. We’ll find out on Saturday 23 November.

So, lots of backstory, lots of Doctors, lots of questions. Still that’s only appropriate for such a big anniversary. After all, every Doctor has his day.