Doctor Who: 7X “The Time of the Doctor” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
Matt Smith has left the building people. His final curtain call just came and what a final performance he gave in this grand spectacle of a finale for a wonderful incarnation of the Doctor.
My first thoughts were: how on Earth is Steven Moffat going to pull off such a brilliant endgame for the Eleventh Doctor within the spaces of an hour? But then all I did was look back to the past and recalled all of his amazing stories told within the time limit of only 45 minutes (I speak notably about ‘The Name of the Doctor’, one of Moffat’s crowning glories) and of course the 50th anniversary special that told a tale of old and the birth of a new era for the show in just 75 minutes. In other words, the man is a genius and knows what he’s doing.
Steven Moffat in many ways has been leading up to this moment since the very beginning. All signs have been calling towards the Eleventh Doctor’s demise. The brilliance behind it all is that they were just tiny snippets or hints written in plain sight as part of the storyline and now to see the ending we can look back, slap ourselves in the head and go “Oh! So that’s what they all meant! Moffat you clever, clever man!” ‘The Time of the Doctor’ is in many ways a love letter to the Eleventh Doctor all jumbled together for one final hour of triumphant fun, drama, sadness and joy. The Christmas special looks back on Matt’s tenure and showcases why it was so brilliant before finally saying this is the end and farewell.
The neat little thing is all the closure the special brought. We finally got onscreen confirmation for many different theories and question marks that have been lingering since the beginning of Matt’s era. Who blew up the TARDIS? Many people asked this and now we have evidence to say it was the Silence behind it all (though I believe some will still be picky and question how, but I digress). What is the Silence and why are they after the Doctor? That also was given to us, but now we actually see the birth of the whole thing. They actually went back to stop the Doctor reaching Trenzalore because in their current timeline he was in fact there with the tension rising for the inevitable bloodshed to begin. The Silents were also discovered to be in fact part of the order of the Headless Monks led by Tasha Lem (the Papal Mainframe); originally an order of religion that fought for good but later became the Order of the Silence. The final tie-up was the discovery of what the Time Cracks were. It was thought this whole time that the Silence had caused this to happen. We were all fooled. The Time Cracks were in fact the workings of the Time Lords, trying desperately to return to our universe after the Doctor rescued them in ‘The Day of the Doctor’.
It was just extremely clever how Moffat brought everything together. What may have not made sense before is now all wrapped up in a brilliant manner. We now know of course the meaning of the First Question was down to the fact that the Doctor had to address his name to the Time Lords in order to confirm it was really him. The other cool part to the story was the truth barrier covering Christmas Town. That was just clever. I often wondered what it meant in Dorium’s description of ‘when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer’. Once that part was discovered I was just dreading what would happen next. As it turned out the First Question being answered was a good thing. It meant the return of the Time Lords which made me very excited. I was over the moon when I discovered they were returning at the end of the first part of ‘The End of Time’ (before being disappointed to see they had become the villain). This all ties in to the decision made in ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Gallifrey never fell and is still alive in another universe somewhere and the Time Cracks were their means to get home. It was nice to see that these little anomalies were a good thing instead of bad as I was in dread when I saw its return at first only to be wowed in amazement by the true meaning behind them.
As promised the special was fun as well as sad. The first 15 minutes or so was dedicated to giving Eleven some well deserved final moments of being the mad idiot he loved to be. The whole idea of the Doctor and Clara being naked was quite amusing to say the least (poor Clara was certainly embarrassed unlike her Time Lord friend). I also really liked Clara wanting the Doctor to be her pretend boyfriend because she accidentally told a few too many lies to her family. And who can forget the whole cook a turkey in the heart of the TARDIS moment? It just sounds like something the Doctor would do. I think the only bit I cringed at was discovering Eleven actually shaved off his hair, a scene to compliment the fact that Matt was now bald and was wearing a wig. I don’t know about some but the skinhead look doesn’t suit either of them.
This is where it started to get serious. The usage of all the different enemies was tackled well and they all got descent amounts of screen time between them and gave each individual monster a unique moment to shine within their particular area. The Weeping Angels scene in the snowy forest was certainly most memorable and again used the creatures in a creepy manner. Just when you think Moffat can’t come up with a new way to use his creation, he now uses them in the snow. I found the Cybermen got some well deserved improvement from the stale appearance in Neil Gaiman’s ‘Nightmare in Silver’. So that was a good promise that in the right hands they can be handled well, and it seems to be when Moffat writes for them and he’s only ever used them as cameos. Imagine him writing an entire story for them. The Daleks obviously were the big baddies having the most reason to want to prevent the Time Lords returning. After all they are their sworn enemy and tried desperately to kill them in the Last Great Time War.
We finally discovered how Trenzalore got into the state it did in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ as we witnessed the Doctor’s final battle spoken by the Great Intelligence. The battle of Trenzalore was all about the Doctor’s enemies trying to stop the Time Lords returning via the Doctor answering the First Question. It was great to see the Doctor challenged when Handles identified the planet as Gallifrey and he claimed that it wasn’t his home. A nice little emotional battle which Matt always acted out well in. His final battle was a slow and sad one and truly made me tremble with sorrow. The fact that he stayed upon the planet for over 300 years just to keep the stalemate in place and to prevent his enemies from destroying Christmas Town and the Time Crack. Seeing the Doctor slowly cripple himself was heartbreaking. When we saw him towards the end as an old man I started to cry so badly. Just seeing our beloved Eleven in that state was just so upsetting. The loveable, fun and wacky but dark incarnation had been withered away by time. In many ways I looked at him and saw William Hartnell’s Doctor which made it all the more depressing to watch.
I think Clara certainly was on fine form this story and above all demonstrated her loyalty to her friend and how far she is willing to go to protect him. We’ve seen it all before (i.e. The Name of the Doctor). It was shocking to see her go through the whole Rose Tyler scenario seen in ‘The Parting of the Ways’ where she got sent back home to be safe while the Doctor potentially entered a battle he thought he wouldn’t make it out alive. We got a call back to the Doctor not liking endings and didn’t wish to have to bury his friend after death at his hands.
It was her loyalty to the Doctor that saved him in the end. Her plead to the Time Lords in having them accept his name of ‘Doctor’ in order to believe it was him made them do the unspeakable and grant the Doctor a whole new set of regenerations. The Doctor can start from scratch again with 12 more regenerations to play with (11 now that Eleven has used one). In an explosive moment Eleven used his regeneration energy to bring an end to the Daleks carnage on Trenzalore after believing he was going to his death as seen as a fixed point in the future.
The part that made me cry the most was the fact Eleven came back for a brief final return in his original, younger state. I think it was nice to see that he went out with dignity and was proud of himself, swearing to look back on his incarnation with happiness. Eleven ended on a high with a smile on his face. The other nice part was he got to see Amy Pond one last time (so what if it was just a hallucination) before he went. Within a blink of an eye and without warning Peter Capaldi entered out screens. Maybe not with as much of a bang as Matt did in ‘The End of Time’ but certainly enough to leave an impression as his Twelfth Doctor gets off to a bad start with slight memory loss, “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?” Looks like Clara’s in for a bumpy ride for Series 8 as the TARDIS begins to crash again during the regeneration. Also what I’d like to know is will they get back to Christmas dinner? Either way I’m sure Capaldi will bring something fresh to the role next year. Until then let us all salute Matt Smith and bid him farewell.