Doctor Who: Cult Fix Writers on “The Time of the Doctor”
In a new tradition, Cult Fix’s rabble of esteemed (ahem) writers will be cobbling together some brief thoughts on all the latest episodes of Doctor Who, starting with Christmas Day’s “The Time of the Doctor”.
Tyler Davies: After having watched the eventful denouement to Matt Smith’s era I was left rambling some incomprehensible giddy nonsense. Such is the nature of Steven Moffat’s grand episodes that it leaves you stunned during initial viewing. The real test, though, was whether or not my overwhelming feeling of joy would resonate with my second viewing – after the first-time jitters had calmed down. To my great surprise, it did.
The lengthy arc which saw its inception at the beginning of Matt’s era was foretold to conclude this Christmas and obviously this added a lot of importance to the episode. Unfortunately, this part of the special failed, but not due to the writing. With a jam-packed storyline unfolding in the short span of 60 minutes The Time of the Doctor didn’t have the chance to make use of the story’s immense potential. A lot of loose ends had to be tied up with a fleeting shot or line of dialogue which was quite disappointing, but not entirely detrimental to the episode. When the rest of it delivered so terrifically, it wasn’t strenuous to excuse.
What astounded me about the busy episode was that it achieved being a delightful Christmas story too. One could even argue that it had a merrier Christmas spirit than last year’s special. Although, the most important aspect of the story was undoubtedly the regeneration, which for me was an exceptional success. I am inclined to say that it was the most fan-pleasing regeneration till date (barring the controversially swift transition to Capaldi).
One thing I have always envisaged for Eleven’s regeneration was the inclusion of one last farewell to Amelia Pond so you can imagine my delight when Karen Gillan came walking down those steps. Though I mustn’t shun Jenna Coleman who also gave a wonderful turn during the regeneration scene. The person who duly stole the show though was Matt Smith, giving it his best all-throughout the special. His final scene was easily among the greatest and his delivery of his last heartrending lines was pitch-perfect. As fantastic as Capaldi’s entrance was, the sadness of knowing that Matt’s tenure in the TARDIS has come to a conclusion is overpowering.
Time was far from a disappointment then, but the fact that it fell short of living up to its own potential means that it wasn’t a perfect triumph neither. Nonetheless, it was one of Moffat’s finer written stories and a worthy send-off for the affable Matt Smith. I will always remember when the Doctor was him.
James Wynne: “The Time of the Doctor” had a gargantuan checklist of objectives to fulfil, were it ever to be the satisfying conclusion to Moffat and Smith’s era of Doctor Who that fans have yearned for. By and large, it managed to tick the requisite boxes. It’s an episode that was far from perfect overall, pervaded by sporadic doses of brilliance, but was a fitting summation of the themes and overarching plots of the Eleventh Doctor’s reign.
The elements I found particularly irksome were the overlong, arbitrary gag of the church’s imposed nudity (which seemed to be nothing more than unashamed fan service), and the fact that Tasha Lem was essentially just River Song 2.0 (assuming that she wasn’t actually a previously unheard of incarnation of River Song); a highly flirtatious, domineering, female acquaintance whose relationship with the Doctor is of a similarly lascivious nature.
Some of the expository dialogue referencing narrative threads of past and present was a bit terse, and a number of the answers to some of the burning questions were dissatisfying, to say the least (the Silence as lowly confession priests hardly befits the ethos of them as occupiers of planet Earth and guiders of humanity since the ‘wheel and the fire’). But the sprawl of plot lines that have lingered largely unanswered over the last four years was at least tied together fairly conclusively.
And Matt’s final bow was arguably his finest. The youthful vigour of his Doctor has come in for criticism in the past for subverting the character’s ancient age, but here he channelled the centuries old Time Lord in tremendous fashion. The nuance of his performance, particularly as the decrepitly aged version that confronts the Daleks atop the bell tower, was simply breathtaking. His every ungainly motion, mannerism and gesture was inflicted with a degree of frailty that perfectly conveyed how old the Doctor had grown during his time on Trenzalore.
Some might see his eventual regeneration as indulgent on Moffat’s part, with a visage of Amelia bidding a final goodnight to her Raggedy Man, but the Doctor has sought comfort in the recollection of his companions during regenerations before, and it was an exquisitely orchestrated sequence that brought to an end this period of the show with the two faces that began it.
The brutal transformation into Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor dispensed with the sadness of Matt’s adieu perhaps a bit too hurriedly, but Capaldi’s fleeting scene of post-regenerative madness was not short on promise. He already is the Doctor.
Samuel Rahaman: ‘The Time of the Doctor’ was certainly an ambitious tale from Steven Moffat. Not only did the episode have to appeal to the casual viewers who tune in for some good Christmas fun, it also had to appeal to the hard-core fans, who are seeking the answers to the questions set up by the long running arc all those years ago. But most importantly of all it had to provide a fitting and powerful send off for Matt Smith, as his time on the show finally came to a close after four magnificent years as the Doctor.
It certainly seemed almost impossible that Moffat could deliver on all of these, without the episode seeming cramped and rushed – and sadly this is exactly what happened with Time. It all ended up feeling a bit slapdash, and you couldn’t help but feel a bit breathless as you tried to follow the sheer amount of information that was thrown at you; and as such some of the revelations didn’t have much impact or emotional resonance, as they were glossed over far too quickly. Having said that the answers we did get were actually quite brilliant and very satisfying, it certainly was great to have everything make sense after four years of uncertainty – and my respect goes to Moffat for successfully managing to tie up all the dangling plot threads that he left open for so long.
Where the episode really delivered was in the performances from the main cast. Jenna Coleman truly shone in this episode, delivering a heart-felt and emotional portrayal as Clara Oswald. Jenna has certainly upped her game after 7B and Clara is becoming a much more real, human and likeable character because of this. Although the true star of the show was always going to be the man himself, Matt Smith; who truly gave one of his greatest performances from his time on the show. Whilst Matt was a dab hand at providing the hilarious, comedic performances; where he really excelled was in his portrayal of the darker, war-torn old man, overcome with the bitterness and hopelessness of fighting in an endless war. Watching him deliver his beautiful final speech in the TARDIS, made you realise just how much he was the Doctor and how much he will be missed.
Yet whilst we lost one Doctor, we gained another in the form of Peter Capaldi; and judging by his short but ever so sweet and hilarious appearance at the end of the episode, Series 8 is surely going to be one hell of a treat.
Jordan Goodier: You’ll (probably) have heard all about how fantastic Moffat is for writing such an excellent, if ever so slightly rushed, script. And you’ll certainly have heard how wonderful Matt Smith’s performance was in his final episode before leaving us forever in the role as the Eleventh Doctor. You’ll probably also have heard how Jenna Coleman gave a great performance and is, on the whole, becoming more fleshed out as a companion now that her role as a plot device is over. Slightly less likely is that you’ll have heard praise heaped on director Jamie Payne for directing a rather grand ending for the Eleventh Doctor’s story. And I‘d wager that no one has mentioned the fantastic work Neville Kidd did on the episode.
Who is he, I hear you ask? He was the director of photography. He was responsible for all the fantastic shots that we were given in those sixty minutes. The shots of the doomed planet of Trenzalore, the fleet of aliens surrounding the planet (obviously the CGI was handled by others, but Neville Kidd would have been responsible for storyboarding the shots for them to work on), and so many more wonderful shots in the episode. I’ve always been of the opinion that the directing and cinematography work that has been done on Doctor Who since 2005 has been of the highest quality that you can get on TV. This episode is no exception and it really did look fantastic. The standout shot that I imagine people will think of when they think of the various shots in this episode are the moments in which the Doctor and Clara look out over Trenzalore and see the mountains and the sun rising/setting. Also, I imagine, the moment when the Doctor is given his brand new set of regenerations and begins to explosively regenerate.
I thought I’d just mention something different here, give praise to the many people on the production side of things that have helped make Matt Smith’s final episode such a success, and indeed the many others that have made the entirety of Matt Smith’s era such a success; so well done to them, as well as Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman, Arthur Darvill, Karen Gillan and Steven Moffat for making the Eleventh’s era so fantastic and so well loved by so many people.
James Amos: ‘The Time of the Doctor’ is one of the first stories for about two years to have me from the get go. I was just completely immersed within the first few seconds, and everything that came after that was a delight. It’s fair to say that, in his last outing, Matt Smith delivers his best performance. I’m one of the people who believe the scripts have let down his Doctor; the writers have been too drawn to play on his silly quirks than delve into the serious and more confident nature that Smith can portray perfectly. In ‘The Time of the Doctor’ I am reminded what I loved about his Doctor to start with, and I’m sad to say I only realised I’d actually miss him during these 60 minutes.
The thing I truly loved about this episode is the way in which Moffat ties up all the loose ends within Matt’s era, as well as creating a truly immersive and entertaining story for Matt’s last outing. It is quite simply a triumph of an episode, finally something from Moffat that reminds me of his ‘A Christmas Carol’/‘The Impossible Astronaut Days’. Steven has managed to mix comedy, tragedy and action into one 60 minute extravaganza of an episode; and by god did it work. There are also many tear jerking moments, the death of Handles for instance was a beautiful point in the story as the Doctor treats the death of this piece of technology as if a child would with his first pet. Also, the point at which Clara makes her way to the Doctor through the battlefield with Gold’s ‘Four Knocks’ piece playing in the background was a truly beautiful and heartbreaking scene. In fact, the decision to age the Doctor was actually a rather brilliant idea. Our young childlike Doctor is slowly being withered away in front of our eyes, to the point of Clara actually having to help him pull a Christmas cracker.
If I had to choose any moments that I actually didn’t like, I would have to go with the decision to bring Amy Pond back for his regeneration. For me, this was entirely not needed. Not only have we already had her goodbye, but yet again it took the shine off poor Clara getting her goodbye from Matt’s Doctor. Not only this, but her and little Amelia shoved two interludes into what would have been the perfect end for the Eleventh Doctor. His speech is so powerful and meaningful; however it was cut up by these hallucinations. With most fans this was the highlight, but for me it simply wasn’t needed, ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ was a satisfactory end enough.
All in all, the episode was fantastic. It was a fulfilling Christmas story and regeneration story for Matt’s Doctor. Although Capaldi looks genuinely promising, I will definitely look back in fondness of Matt’s Doctor, and this incredibly satisfying episode.