THE WHO REVIEW: “The Time of The Doctor”

He’s had time to soak it all in… what did Lee think of Matt Smith’s divisive final turn as The Doctor? 

Farewell Matt, hello Peter! A Christmas regeneration story is a new one for the series, and it certainly had a lot of build-up after the excellent 50th special “The Day of The Doctor.” In what has been a big year for Doctor Who, Steven Moffat closed it all with a brave continuity-filled jaunt that thrilled most followers but, almost certainly, confused many others…

The Doctor, with the help of new cute Cyber-buddy “Handles” (I want one – next Christmas maybe?), is once again fighting the Daleks and Cybermen in a pre-title sequence. The Moff has loved using them like us, but their appearances often belittle their importance. Once again, the aliens featured in this story are more of an aside as The Doctor’s personal trilogy ended at a town called Christmas on Trenzalore. The Church of The Papal Mainframe are ceasing a battle as a signal through those infamous cracks in time has brought aliens from across the galaxy. The signal originates from Gallifrey, saved in the previous episode, through the remaining crack in reality. The translated message is that big question we’ve all been asking ourselves for five decades: Doctor who?!

The story itself has some wonderful conceits. The Doctor deciding to stay and defend Christmas and consign himself to death by old age was wonderful. It fits Eleven so well. The truth field and the need to not answer the question, coupled with the fact The Doctor’s regenerations were all used up, created a great central problem. The origin of The Silence was also pretty neat with them being priests you confessed to but are unable to remember doing so. Moffat gleaned great humour from the idea that you must be naked to go to Church and that the bed is an altar gag. It was ludicrous! You could argue that the tone is all over the place in the first half-an-hour, but the whole first part of “The End of Time” for David Tennant’s farewell was a tonal mess, too. Maybe writing farewells during the festive period isn’t a good idea?

That’s not to say that there are no tear-jerking moments here. Poor Handles’ death is rather sad as I wanted to see more of him. Clara’s moment when she seems dead-set on never seeing The Doctor again was touching, complimented with talks to her Grandmother about wishing – it was nice to see her get that wish! Then there’s The Doctor himself, ageing on the slow path until he can barely walk. I found the wrinkled make-up rather unnecessary as Smith has always played a better old man with his current youthful (but impossibly experienced) face. His consignment to impending death is heartbreaking.

Yet it must be said that sixty-minutes is not enough for this story (Tennant got 135 for his swansong!), especially when it wrapped up the Silence thread that has followed the Eleventh Doctor ever since his first appearance. I was happy to see it all tie together in a way that made complete sense. It was Kovarian’s lot that blew up the TARDIS in Series 5 along with creating their own psychopath (River Song) to kill The Doctor. Of course it was their own “destiny trap” which foiled their attempts. The sixty-minute restriction also left little room for Christmassy things the Beeb believed we needed to see. There is a nice B-plot with Clara’s family, but in the end, these elements just seemed to get in the way. Maybe we will see more of the Oswald’s in future episodes. Casual viewers will also have been completely confused by the amount of references to the last few years and beyond, but die hards will have surely enjoyed all the little nods.

The performances here from the three main actors are very strong. Orla Brady’s guest turn as Tasha Lem is great and complimented Matt’s Eleven very well. Coleman is certainly very comfortable as Clara now who, as I said in my last review, is so much better without “The Impossible Girl” mystery. Once again, Clara displayed her importance to The Doctor in effectively saving him. All the plaudits should go, once more, to the man who has led the cast since 2010. Matt Smith gives us arguably his best performance in the role, which will make his departure even tougher. An actor with so many talents will surely have a great career, and I am sure he will be back for an anniversary episode or two in the future. Smith was born to play The Doctor and I was so glad that he did.

So, a new start once again for the series. The build-up to the regeneration was rather poetic and the massive surprise of seeing Karen Gillan back in The Doctor’s hallucinations was a nice Christmas gift from Moffat. Also, wasn’t it nice to have a modern Doctor who did not die from radiation poisoning? The bow-tie came off and in a split-second moment Peter Capaldi appeared wide-eyed, confused, and not at all happy with his kidneys. I think we like the Twelfth Doctor already!

Your enjoyment of “The Time of The Doctor” will depend on how invested you are in the story of The Silence and whether or not you like Moffat’s style of storytelling. It isn’t perfect in terms of structure or a consistent tone, but it wrapped up the Eleventh Doctor era in a very Eleventh Doctor way. It had ambitious ideas and storytelling that did not fit well for Christmas Day, but it was all very right for Doctor Who. Raggedy man, we bid you goodnight, and thanks for all the memories…

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