One of the biggest tasks an anniversary special has is to balance fan service with a story that can stand on its own merits. Among the many ways ‘The Day of the Doctor’ accomplished this rare feat was to feature appearances by multiple incarnations of the Doctor. Though only three were really sharing the spotlight, every version of the beloved Time Lord made at least a brief appearance, mostly through the use of archival footage. On top of this, Steven Moffat even took the opportunity to introduce a new incarnation in the form of the War Doctor, unforgettably brought to life by John Hurt.
And now he’s done it again.
In the newly released novelization of the fiftieth anniversary special, Steven Moffat has slyly worked Peter Cushing’s version of the Doctor into the series’ continuity. If you’re not up on this corner of ‘Doctor Who’ history, I can’t really blame you. Even among die-hard fans, it’s a bit on the obscure side. But in short, Cushing played a human scientist named Dr. Who (yes, that was his actual name) in a pair of films in the mid-sixties. Those films (‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ in 1965 and ‘Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D.’ the following year) were loose adaptations of the first two serials to feature the Daleks (‘The Daleks’ and ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, respectively), and frankly existed more to cash in on the popularity of the Daleks themselves than anything else.
While certain fans have tried to find ways to work the movies into the sprawling ‘Doctor Who’ canon over the years, the two branches of the ‘Who’ family tree are largely acknowledged as being irreconcilable. So just how did Moffat pull it off? Well, in the televised version of the story, the writer had hoped to incorporate posters for the films into the scenes set in UNIT’s Black Archive. This was meant to imply the films themselves existed in-universe, in which context they would be “based on a true story” of the Doctor’s adventures. This proved unfeasible because of rights issues relating to the posters, but fortunately, prose novels have no such issues! And a newly inserted scene achieves the same effect with Kate Stewart mentioning the films to Clara:
“Seen them? He loves them. He loaned Peter Cushing a waistcoat for the second one, they were great friends.”
And there you have it! The novelization of ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is available now from BBC books. And if you’d like a taste of Peter Cushing’s Dr. Who, the trailer for ‘Dr. Who and the Daleks’ can be found below: