In The Time of the Doctor the Eleventh Doctor’s time is nearly at an end, and the clock will strike for the Twelfth Doctor!
This was not an atypical Doctor Who Christmas special, as they are normally standalone stories that have little to do with the previous series, and work on their own, but not in this case as they had an entire three seasons worth of plot lines to try and bring to a satisfactory conclusion, well some of them anyway.
I have to admit that I was not at all impressed of this episode when I watched it on Christmas evening, as absolutely none of it made any sense to me whatsoever. Now I don’t know if that was because it was a bit of a mess continuity wise, or whether it was because I had been drinking over the course of the day which made me think that the whole thing was a bit meh.
One thing that did impress me however was the performance of Matt Smith who once again gave his all and showed what a great Doctor that he was and could continue to be if he hadn’t decided to leave at that point.
We also had a brief glimpse of the new Doctor who I am sure is going to be fantastic and many other superlatives in the role but this episode was, and should have been, about the Eleventh Doctor and not about the new Doctor.
The episode opened with a voice over and there was quite a lot of stuff done via voiceover in this episode which didn’t work quite as well as it did when they used the same technique in The End of Time. Of course they didn’t have Timothy Dalton doing the voiceover for this one which also didn’t have the impact that he did. Orla Brady did the voice over here, and whilst she did it with gusto it just didn’t seem to be epic enough like perhaps it should have been.
We saw the Doctor materialise on a spaceship in the dark brandishing a Dalek sucker arm only to realise that the, said ship, was a Dalek ship almost getting exterminated in the process. When he returned to the TARDIS he appeared to have a new companion in the shape of a severed Cyberman head whose name was Handles.
When I saw this I thought what the fuck but the character soon grew on me and it worked out rather well. The Doctor goes to another ship this time with Handles in tow but that doesn’t work out as this time they land on a Cyberman ship.
It appears that lots and lots of the Doctor’s past enemies are converging on this particular planet which the Doctor doesn’t seem to be aware of. In between this Clara calls the Doctor and invites him to Christmas dinner as she has accidently told her family that he is her boyfriend.
There are some rather humorous scenes where Clara walks into the TARDIS where the Doctor is completely naked and, to save her blushes, the Doctors uses holographic technology to clothe him but only to her as her family soon realise much to their discomfort, apart from Clara’s Nan who loves it. Clara’s explanation is that the Doctor is Swedish!
Clara asks for help cooking the turkey using the TARDIS and we find out that she often uses the TARDIS even for missing television programmes as she doesn’t seem to know how to use i-player, or can’t be bothered, which is probably how I would be if I had a time machine on tap.
Clara asks the question that everyone in the audience wants answering about why he has a severed Cyberman head for a companion. Handles origins gets a throwaway line to the effect that he had been picked up on some sort of market, or something to that effect.
I guess that the Doctor just wanted a companion who stuck around in the TARDIS as it doesn’t look like Clara has ever stayed in the TARDIS apart from during the episodes and the Doctor was getting a bit lonely, that is just as good a reason for Handles as any other.
We then got the Papal mainframe which was now fronted by a new character Tasha Lem, the mother superious, who is yet another woman who has a flirty relationship with the Doctor, and who has also known him in other bodies. This would have to have been the Tennant Doctor as it would be hard to imagine any other Doctors openly flirting with female character apart from perhaps the Fourth Doctor.
I did wonder if she was some sort of replacement for River Song, as this was a character who just appeared out of nowhere, but I would rather think she was there for a reason and not just because they couldn’t get Alex Kingston, but if they did then they got away with it with this new character who pretty much is similar to River, but different enough to be a character in her own right who you can believe has a past with the Doctor and both Smith and Brady make you believe that there is.
The Doctor and Clara are sent down to the unknown planet and into one town in particular which seems to be where everything is happening and they discover that the town itself is called Christmas, and that you cannot tell a lie there as Clara admits that she travels with the Doctor because she fancies him.
In a rather clever the joke the Doctor is revealed to wearing a wig which is a humorous reference to Matt Smith having to wear a wig to play the Doctor as he had his head shaved for a film role in between filming the anniversary special and the Christmas special and trust Steven Moffat to use that as a joke in the episode itself.
On the planet itself they realise that there are Weeping Angels there, as well as others from the Doctor’s past. The crack in time also reappears and the Doctor realises that someone was trying to get through to the crack and soon realises that it might be the Time Lords after the events in the previous episode.
When this is confirmed by Tasha it seems that if the Time Lords get through the crack then there will be another time war which the Doctor cannot let happen so he decides to remain on the planet trying to stop the Time Lords from ever getting through the crack.
To protect Clara he tricks her into taking something back to the TARDIS which then takes her back home, a bit like he did in The Parting of the Ways with Rose. The Doctor then finds out that the planet is Trenzalore where he had been in The Name of the Doctor but in a future where he died and was buried on the planet.
This is now when the episodes starts to get a bit confusing as the planet is Trenzalore, but in an earlier time to that see in The Name of the Doctor where he seemed to have died but he did not know when that would be and probably didn’t think that it would have been.
Then he admits that he is actually the final incarnation of the Doctor as there was the War Doctor and the fact that Tennant spunked away a regeneration at the end of the fourth series which means that even though Matt Smith is always going to be known as the Eleventh Doctor he is actually the Thirteenth and we all know what happens when a Time Lord reaches their final incarnation don’t we.
This also meant that if he triggered a regeneration then he would probably die doing so which meant that there was only one thing that could happen if the show was going to continue, so the regeneration energy that was sent through the crack in time before it shut again was exactly what was required at the time, and made perfect sense given that if the Time Lords did come through there would have be a massive war which, from their point of view, they had just escaped and hoped that given time the Doctor might be able to allow them to come through without it being the end of the world, as a dead Doctor wouldn’t be much use to them would it?
So if things were going to happen as they appeared to in The Name of the Doctor the Doctor would die and then be buried inside his TARDIS but as we know there is going to be a new Doctor then we know that the events in Name can’t happen as he cannot die on Trenzalore if there is going to be future Doctors. This was pretty much explained when Capaldi made a surprise appearance in Day of the Doctor but not the reasons why.
So, we find out that the Time Lords were the people who were trying to get through the crack in time and we also found out that it was the silence who blew up the Doctor’s TARDIS in the fifth series so that this version of history would always happen.
Now is where it seems more likely that Tasha Lem was a replacement for River, as in Name of the Doctor, River was also buried on Trenzalore and not Tasha, as we didn’t see a grave for Tasha, which makes sense as the character was unknown to us at that point, but it does seem a little bit odd given all that that River wasn’t there, and there was no grave for Clara either, so perhaps in the original future Clara never returned and just lived out the rest of her life back on Earth after he had tricked her into taking something back to the TARDIS.
As the Time Lord subplot didn’t happen until only recently it seems unlikely that this was all planned from the outset but it is certainly Moffatt using what he has and what he can get for dramatic effect, no matter how ridiculous it ultimately seems, and how much sense it doesn’t make. Yes he is making it up as he is going along, but isn’t that what all writers do?
It still isn’t going to be great for people who hadn’t seen the show before watching this one as they are not really going to have an idea of what was going on. Yes, it is explained in the dialogue, but the whole thing does seem to be predicated on prior knowledge of elements of the past three seasons, which is surely not the best way to be if you want to entice new viewers to the series. Having said that I am not a TV executive, so what do I know.
The regeneration itself was quite epic as would befit a final regeneration of the cycle and it blew away all of the Daleks in and around the planet but the actual change from Smith into Capaldi was blink and you will miss it. One moment Smith is there and the next Capaldi is there, almost without a by-or-leave.
We even got a cameo from Amy which whilst totally self indulgent on the part of Moffatt makes sense for the eleventh Doctor as Amy was a major part of his life and he never really seemed to get over losing her in way he did, so that can be allowed I would say in terms of characterisation alone.
Peter Capaldi had a couple of lines complaining about the colour of his kidneys and then the TARDIS was crashing again. The TARDIS crashing after regeneration is getting a bit stale to be honest and they are going to have to address it in the first episode of the next season which will involve a reveal of yet another new interior. Well new Doctor, new set of regenerations and a new console room just seems to make sense, but does it have to happen every time bleeding time he regenerates!
The episode was quite epic but didn’t really seem that way as most of the stuff that happened on Trenzalor whilst the Doctor was there for all of those years was reduced to a couple of battle scenes featuring the Daleks and the Cyberman and a voice over from Tasha.
It made sense to me in the end but my wife was not convinced by it, and she was seen all of the episodes since the series had returned, and I wonder what the general public made of it all.
The ratings seem to show that it was popular so perhaps it doesn’t really matter if it contradicts itself and doesn’t always make sense internally as long as people like it, and I can’t say that I actually disliked the episode, because there were a lot of really good moments and dialogue and acting, particularly from Smith who was absolutely superb in his final turn as the Doctor.
In the end, despite the obvious problems with the episode, I think that it just about got away with it and at least Smith went out with a bang, it was the least he deserved!