Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

Clara: 'And now it's time for one last bow, like all your other selves. Eleven's hour is over now, the clock is striking twelve's.'

Like 'The End of Time' before it, tonight's episode had a horrendously complex brief. It had to generate pathos over a festive canvas, introduce a new Doctor, incorporate a surprise cameo, drum up a world ending threat, and then drape it across a yarn worthy of a departing Matt Smith. Unlike its predecessor, however, it worked. The story served the characters (rather than the other way around), the loose ends were tied in a neat(ish) bow, and by the time Matt finally took off his bow-tie, I was in tears.

Whereas Tennant's swan song was tinged with (some may say drowning in) sadness and regret, Smith's was a celebration of life. The eleventh Doctor didn't see regeneration as an ending, he saw it as progress—a continuation of life, where memory was the key to longevity. His closing dialogue was reflective, at ease, optimistic: the final words of a man content with life, satisfied with his achievements, and at peace with the ephemeral nature of existence. He embraced change, and it was refreshing to see.

And, finally, an address from the Doctor that wasn't utterly awful. I do love Moffat's writing, but have to admit that he's written some atrocious, big episode speeches. Eleven's final words to the Daleks, were pretty much perfect. They were defiant, brave in the face of hopelessness, and ultimately triumphant. Unfortunately, the Daleks response was an absolute pain in the arse. It contained so much rehashed exposition, I almost choked on it. The Daleks really do need to stop stating the obvious.

Thankfully, the Time Lords intervened and saved us from any further repetitions. It was a no-brainer that they'd come to the Doctor's aid and grant him a renewed regeneration cycle. It should likewise come as no surprise that it was Clara who secured the deal. What would have happened if the Doctor hadn't abandoned her? Could she have saved him, too? I hated seeing him leave her behind like that. He didn't send her away—so technically, he didn't break his promise—but it still felt like a betrayal. Thankfully, Clara dealt with it like a champ. She had the intelligence to realise that the Doctor doesn't leave you holding a delicious cooked turkey unless things are serious.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much of this episode belonged to Clara, actually. Her tears at her gran's reminiscences, coupled with her confession in the truth field at Trenzalore, left us in no doubt as to her feelings for the Doctor. Surprisingly, he seemed to reciprocate. He seemed quite chuffed about being asked to be her boyfriend (despite not being asked to be her boyfriend at all), which made Clara's plea that the Doctor change the future, that he use his unique gifts to keep everything exactly as it was, that he keep on living, all the more poignant. When you see something so beautiful, you don't want it to change. You want it to stay the same forever.

But times change and so must the Doctor, and unlike Ten's solitary transformation, Eleven had his companion there to see him through it. He was even paid a visit (albeit in his mind) by Amy (both young and old), the first face his new face ever saw. She was still wearing Rory's ring. I teared up at that. I liked that Amy said 'goodnight' instead of 'goodbye.' Again, there was the thread of hope there—there would be another morning. But the dawn came quicker than expected, and this time the Doctor's regeneration was almost instantaneous, with Peter Capaldi's first words as confused and bonkers as you'd expect from any newly minted Doctor. Post-regeneration amnesia never fails to amuse.

It's hard to say what kind of Doctor Capaldi will be. With his guilt over the Time War now assuaged, and a relatively relaxed regeneration in the company of old friends, I can't imagine he'll be an angry Doctor. (Sorry Malcolm Tucker fans.) And how will Clara feel about him? Once she's acclimatised to his new face, will she feel the same way she felt about Eleven? Age certainly doesn't seem to be an issue with her. Those scenes of Clara with her head on an aged Eleven's lap, reading out Eric Ritchie Junior's 'Thoughts on a Clock' were utterly charming, as was her helping his weakened hand pull the Christmas cracker. Such a tender moment. Will Clara's semi-romantic interest continue with Twelve?

I think Jenna was at her best tonight. She nailed the emotional beats perfectly. The Christmas elements may have felt a little tacked on, but they effectively emphasised Clara's loneliness. Even amongst close family her mind was elsewhere. Her pleading with the Doctor not to change really got to me—and then the sadness turned to mirth as Twelve materialised for the first time. Clara's eyes almost popped out of her head. It's easy to forget sometimes that she's only been around for half a season. (With the exception of 'Asylum of the Daleks'.) She's achieved so much. Hopefully, next season will establish her as a firm fan favourite.

On the downside, a couple of the reveals felt a little underwhelming. I think a lot of it was to do with time constraints—there was a lot to wrap up, and just an hour to do it in, resulting in some of the plot points feeling a little rushed/lacklustre. (The 'Doctor who?' part, for example.) Maybe the episode could also have been longer? Surely they could have managed an extra twenty minutes? Regardless, this was Matt Smith's episode, and he threw everything he had at it. Everything good about his Doctor was on display—he sacrificed himself to save the world, was witty throughout, protected Clara, was loved by all, and finished his time old and satisfied in days. You can't argue with an ending like that.

With David Tennant being such a charismatic character, I'm not sure Matt Smith really got the kind of respect he deserved as the Doctor. Hopefully history will look back upon him more favourably. His time on the show has been my favourite of the new era. Eleven's comment that 'I will always remember when the Doctor was me', coupled with him momentarily breaking the fourth wall, felt like a last minute message from Matt to his fans. I dare say we'll never forget when he was the Doctor either. It was some ride.

Other Thoughts:

—Since Matt's officially given us permission to keep calling him Eleven, I'm going to keep calling him Eleven.

—Some lovely wigs on display. Both Karen and Matt were sporting beauties.

—Deleted scene alert! Shame it didn't make the cut.

—I loved Matt teaching the kids on Trenzalore how to dance. A lovely call-back to Amy and Rory's wedding.

—A quick word of appreciation for Orla Brady as Tasha Lem: I loved her interaction with the Doctor. The two of them aggressively flirting in front of Jenna was perfect.

—Handles dying was pretty sad. That the Doctor could form a friendship with the head of a sworn enemy, speaks volumes about his ability to forgive. Luckily, Handles got to deliver his last message before dying.

—I liked that Smith's tenure started with a crack in the wall and finished with a crack in the wall. Whether it was planned, or just worked out that way, I enjoyed the circularity.


Clara: 'Emergency! You're my boyfriend.'
Doctor: 'Ding Dong! Okay, brilliant. I may be a bit rusty in some areas, but I will glance at a manual.'
Clara: 'No, no... you're not actually my boyfriend.'
Doctor: 'Oh, that was quick. It's a roller-coaster this phone call.'

Tasha: 'Hey babes.'
Doctor: 'Loving the frock.'
Tasha: 'Is that a new body? Give us a twirl.'
Doctor: 'Tush. This old thing? Please, I've been rocking it for centuries.'

Doctor: 'The old key in the quiff routine. Classic!'

Tasha: 'I'll send a transport.'
Doctor: 'Don't bother. I've got me motor back'

Tasha: 'They engineered a psychopath to kill you.'
Doctor: 'Totally married her.'

Doctor: 'The trouble with Daleks is they take so long to say anything. Probably die of boredom before they shoot me.'

Clara: 'You are the Doctor.'
Doctor: 'Yep. And I always will be. But times change and so must I.'

Doctor: 'I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear.'

Amy: 'Raggedy Man, goodnight.'

Clara: 'Please don't change.'

Doctor: 'Just one question: do you happen to know how to fly this thing?'

Four moor peaces eye rote, sea hear.


Juliette said...

I had absolutely no idea what was going on at any point in this, though I had had a few glasses of wine by that point in the evening...

Billie Doux said...

I might be in the minority, but while Matt Smith's final scenes made me cry, and I liked that Eleven had a long, long life with nice people, I was a little disappointed. I get that they had to wrap everything up, but it felt like a lot of dotted i's and crossed t's. And I'm a little worried that I won't like Capaldi's Doctor. I liked Tennant instantly, and grew to like Smith quite a bit. Maybe one line isn't enough to cement an impression. :)

Lovely review, Paul.

drnanamom said...

Thanks for the review Paul and I'm glad you liked this special. It helped me like it more than I did. Matt Smith has also been my favourite of the more recent doctors and I have the same worry as you Billie, that I won't like Capaldi. But he is a brilliant actor so I'm sure we will be treated to something wonderful. I've liked Clara from the start although Amy will always have a soft spot in my heart. I would like to eventually see a new doctor that isn't a white male but otherwise no complaints from me. Can't wait for the next episode or its review.

Mark Greig said...

I’m always apprehensive when it comes to regeneration stories. So few of them turn out to be great. As you pointed out, Paul, this one suffered from having too much material to cover and not enough time to do. If any episodes needed to be a two-parter it was this one. The entire midsection was too rushed and cluttered. The Silence arc really should’ve been wrapped in season 7. Most of the answer this episode gave us could’ve been revealed in season 6. There was no reason why Kovarian couldn’t have just told the Doctor she blew up his TARDIS in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’. Holding back on that revelation this long seems rather pointless. Most of us had guessed her group were the ones responsible anyway. Unlike some, I am glad that Moffat decided to address 12 regeneration limit now and get it out of the way. And it was nice that he got around it by sticking to what had already been established rather than just making something up.

For all its faults this was a fitting ending for the Eleventh Doctor. There no question that Matt was fantastic in his final hour. Of the modern Doctor he has been the best and it is a shame to lose him so soon. I started losing it when little Amelia showed up and by the time he took off the bow-tie I was a complete wreck. Farewell, raggedy man, we will always remember when you were the Doctor.

Not sure what to make of Capaldi yet, other than that man has one awesome stare on him. That is a stare that would sends Daleks running behind the sofa to hide.

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TDS-Matt said...

I really loved this, but I'm an absolute fan of Moffat's style and have been so keyed into his series that I was never confused.

It's very interesting to me that The Time of the Doctor is almost the antithesis of The End of Time. That story is a mad rush to a dark finish, almost a summation of RTD's tenure. This was very plotty with lots of little twists but also full of a fairy tale-like wonder, which is very much the calling card of Moffat's Who.

Nick said...

Lovely review, think I agree with just about everything here. As far as the regeneration part of the story goes, I think Moffat nailed the big moments. The Doctor's speech at the end, Amy's cameo (was a funny idea to think that both Matt and Karen were wearing wigs in that scene) and Clara's role in it were done really well. And I think Moffat took the smart route in addressing the regeneration limit - he went with established canon. Not very controversial, logical, and it ties in with the 50th anniversary special too.

Where it stumbled was in wrapping up the various mysteries of Smith's run. It did that, but like Billie said it felt more like checking items off a list - one line of dialogue here, a throwaway mention there, done done and done. None of the revelations really had room to breathe, so I'm in this odd limbo state where it feels like Moffat hasn't answered anything, although he did. Also, anyone else feel like the Doctor seeing the crack in Room 11 (this was back from 'The God Complex if I'm not mistaken) wasn't really consistent? If I recall, Eleven's line was "Of course. Who else?" when he looked into the room - doesn't sound like the crack to me.

It's ironic because The End of Time really could've been done in one episode (the only real function of the two-parter was to give us a crazy cliffhanger) but this one really could've benefited from two. But for what we got, I think it's quite satisfying. Smith put in his best (he absolutely sold his reaction to Handles' death, for one, which was impressive given we'd barely met him half an hour prior).

Not everyone may agree, but now that Smith's time is over I think I can rate him above Tennant as my favourite of the Doctors (at least, in the modern run of the show). He's absolutely versatile, he's got a fantastic emotional range, his physical comedy is excellent and it helps that the general quality of writing during his run was pretty decent as well.

And now on to Capaldi. To be honest I think it's too soon to know what he'll be like since he was so bonkers (something that Matt was in his first scene too, which to be honest wasn't really endearing to me) but I'm quite hopeful about the new direction they seem to want to take the character into. Will we still get the Doctor-companion romantic tension that's become common in the new series, now that we no longer have a young Doctor?

Patrick said...

If I really wanted to nitpick this episode, I could. It did seem to tie up some of the lingering story threads we've had ever since Eleven's arrival rather conveniently. The ending with Gallifrey sending him a new regeneration(A new full set of 12? Did they officially confirm that?) was very telegraphed. But I loved it. And I loved it for a very simple reason. Matt Smith & Jenna Coleman brought their best and absolutely NAILED it in this episode. It's a tragedy we got little more than half a season of them together, they've been my favorite pairing of the modern Who.

In the jargon of the fandom, Matt Smith will forever be "My Doctor". I've enjoyed them all since the re-launch, but there's been something special about what Matt brought to the role. He was amazing at portraying The Doctor as being both very old and childlike at the same time. He could be gentle, silly, and fearsome and alternate between them at the drop of a fez. I gotta wonder how intentional it was to make him look like William Hartnell in the end when he had his old-age make-up on. :)

The farewell scene at the end was a masterpiece. I was half-expecting Clara to step onto the TARDIS and find Peter Capaldi standing there, I was pleasantly surprised we got one last scene with Matt. And the surprise appearance from Karen Gillan was lovely. But the lines that will always stand out for me were "I will not forget one line of this. Not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me." Clearly a message both from The Doctor and from Matt, and it was sublime. Jenna's performance was so beautiful, desperate for "her" doctor to stay. And when he finally does change, and she's face to face with a VERY different man, the look on her face was heartbreaking. I can't wait to see the two of them in a full episode as they begin the next stage of their journey. I'm kind of hoping the drastic age difference means the whole romantic tension thing is being set aside for now. There's been quite enough of that, it's time for something completely different(sorry, wrong classic British television show).

As for Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, we got about as much of him as we got from Matt & David in the finales when they first showed up so we don't really have anything to go on yet. But he's an excellent actor, and overall I've been very pleased with Moffat's reign, so I'm willing to give him the same chance I gave the others.

Paul Kelly said...

Patrick, the Doctor said about 3 minutes from the end that he'd been given a whole new cycle. I presume that means 12.

Mark Greig said...

I'm betting Moffat will leave the exact numbering of the Doctor's new regeneration cycle vague so we won't have to go through this again 50 years from now.

Paul Kelly said...

The only thing I'll be going through in 50 years time is a worm's stomach ;)

HellBlazerRaiser said...

This was one of the worst DOCTOR WHO stories I have ever watched. However, the weaponizing of regeneration did rock and Peter Capaldi’s few moments gave me hope for the next season.

BBC Wales DW is not made for me. I realized that with THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE, an episode which I utterly detest.

I’ve continued to watch DW because it’s DW and the Classic series is my 4th favorite TV series of all time. I kind of feel obligated to watch. I also prefer to keep up with overall DW continuity developments by actually watching the stories instead of going to Wikipedia for the intel.

But again, BBC Wales DW is just not made for me.

I don’t like Companions falling in romantic love with the Doctor.
I don’t like The Doctor developing romantic feelings for his Companions.

I loathe “Timey Wimey.”

The compression of the stories irks me. I always loved the 6 and 7 (and more) parters from Classic DW because, for the most part, they moved at a slow, easygoing pace and left room for the plot to breathe and the supporting characters to develop.

I loved The Ninth Doctor’s* run even though Rose is my least favorite Companion of all time. I’ve been a fan of Christopher Eccleston since 28 DAYS LATER…., so I knew he’d be cool, plus the first season of BBC Wales DW had the fact that there hadn’t been “NEW WHO” in close to a decade going for it.

I didn’t think I’d ever dislike a Doctor more than David Tennant's Tenth,* but Matt Smith’s Eleventh* trumped Tennant.

There have been some great BBC Wales DW stories, though.

NEW EARTH, SCHOOL REUNION (mainly due to my beloved Elisabeth Sladen and Giles), THE STOLEN EARTH/JOURNEY’S END, THE WATERS OF MARS, THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR, THE NIGHT OF THE DOCTOR and THE DAY OF THE DOCTOR (yes, even though Tennant and Smith were the stars [along with John Hurt], this story was hella kick ass) were all superb.

The rest of the stories veered from unwatchable through fair to middling.

Having written that, I’m actually looking forward to season eight.

I’ve liked Peter Capaldi since he was Vera in PRIME SUSPECT 3 and he rocked in CHILDREN OF EARTH.

I haven’t read much press about the eighth season, but it seems to me with the casting of Peter Capaldi that maybe Steven Moffat is planning to move the show away from “Young Timey Wimey Travelers in Love” back to Classic DW's flippant SF bouquet (as The Fourth Doctor and Romana II may say).

I'm betting Moffat will leave the exact numbering of the Doctor's new regeneration cycle vague so we won't have to go through this again 50 years from now.

Agreed. It will also drive the fanboys and fangirls to massive distraction, figuring out the numbering.

*I’m sticking to the “standard” numbering for my comments, but for me, The Doctors (even of it’s kept “officially” vague by Moffat going forward) are as follows:

The First Doctor — William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall
The Second Doctor — Patrick Troughton
The Third Doctor — Jon Pertwee
The Fourth Doctor — Tom Baker
The Fifth Doctor — Peter Davison
The Sixth Doctor — Colin Baker
The Seventh Doctor — Sylvester McCoy
The Eighth Doctor — Paul McGann
The Ninth Doctor — John Hurt
The Tenth Doctor — Christopher Eccleston
The Eleventh Doctor — David Tennant
The Twelfth Doctor — Matt Smith
The Thirteenth Doctor (or The nuFirst Doctor) — Peter Capaldi

TDS-Matt said...

Did I just read someone praise New Earth while slamming The Girl in the Fireplace?

What frickin' bizzaro world did I wake up in?

rebecca_s921 said...

I didn't immediately like this episode, not like "The Day of the Doctor," which makes me want to watch it again immediately. Maybe it's because it tried to tie up too many loose ends at once that it lost me emotionally while my mind was furiously trying to remember and make sense of it all. I'm still puzzled about that ending ... if the Doctor didn't die on Trenzelor, then what happened to the event in "Name of the Doctor"? I guess we'll find out later. Hope it won't take 3 and a half years to find out, like who blew up the Tardis.

On second viewing I was able to appreciate this episode a lot more. I started to pick up little touches, like how the final regeneration from Matt Smith's doctor into Peter Capaldi's doctor started out so violently it destroyed a Dalek mothership and flattened the town, kind of referring to how each of the regeneration cycle from 9th to 10th to 11th seemed to get more and more violent. The doctor's age post regeneration is now back to old, and I doubt it's random that Clara started being a teacher at Coal Hill School in the 50th anniversary episode. Maybe I'm reading too much into this?

I did love the final goodby moments from Matt Smith's doctor. It was touching, and fitting, and it's lovely that Amy Pond said her last goodby as well, at least in his mind. A fine Christmas outing, though not my favorite: I'll always love "A Christmas Carol" even though it had a minimum of Amy and Rory.

TDS-Matt said...

It didn't take three and a half years to find out who blew up the TARDIS. We've known it was the Silence since the end of series five. The only thing we learned here is that it was a Kovarian-led faction and not the entirety of the Silence order.

Honest Iago said...

One of the things I thought Moffat has handled really well with the two specials is the use of previous companions, without ever side-lining or diminishing some lovely work by JLC. Billie played an absolute blinder in Day of the Doctor and it was a good decision to make her someone other than Rose. Similarly Karen Gillan had me in tears with her warm smile and gentle words but the episode belonged to Smith and Coleman.

I like sci-fi and fantasy because they give us a chance to ask and frame questions that really matter, to look at important issues from different perspectives. Eleven's speech about identity was a profound example of this and I completely bought it. We are all different people at different times in our lives, Timelords just get to experience this more emphatically. We change and lose ourselves and become new people along the way and that's great, that's growth if we remember all the people we used to be. I will always remember when Iago was me.

The story was rushed but I'm okay with that. I liked seeing Tranzalor, the difference in what we'd been told previously to the reality of it. I liked how they wrapped up the Silence and cracks in time: despite being rushed, it still mostly worked.

There were some lovely touches and nods. I think my favourite was the poem and "Eleventh's hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve" a nice, subtle echo to Smith's first episode - The Eleventh Hour.

As others have said, there's a strong contrast between Ten's farewell and Eleven's. Whilst I like Tennant and Smith equally, I found Smith's farewell far more affecting because it was so low-key.

Patrick said...

Honest Iago, I think the reason I liked Eccleston's & Smith's regenerations more than Tennant's is because the companion was there for them. The Doctor got to say good-bye, and we got to see a companion have to deal with the fact that this amazing person they've been traveling with is now completely different, but still the same. When Tennant's Doctor finally regenerated, he was all alone. It just didn't quite have the same impact(though I did enjoy watching him travel through time to bid farewell to all his friends).