The Doctor’s regenerations are always an emotional affair. If not for the characters involved, certainly for the fans. By its very nature, regeneration is an inherently sad experience since it involves the death of the Doctor. While he is reborn, the fans must say goodbye to the Time Lord they’ve grown to love up to that point. But this isn’t always a wholly unhappy time for the Doctor. While the 10th Doctor’s regeneration, with his crying out “I don’t want to go”, was personally devastating for him, not all regenerations have been so resisted. I think that was the message intended for the 11thDoctor’s regeneration, and by proxy, Matt Smith’s exit.
While The Time of the Doctor was a Christmas Special, this was always going to be about Matt Smith’s exit, and therefore a wrapping up of all the loose ends left throughout his time as Time Lord. Because of this the setting of the episode made little sense. The town called Christmas just felt forced. I am glad Moffat took the time to cover all the small nagging loose ends throughout the 11th Doctor’s reign, but I think the episode would have felt a little more mature if it wasn’t just arbitrarily wedged into a Christmas special, and a town with the same name. The setting just made no sense. It was just the usual Moffat Christmasiness.
But, I do like the idea that the Doctor would spend his twilight years defending a small town from becoming ground zero for the Time War renewed. While he may have only really stayed in the town because his TARDIS was indisposed for three hundred years, it is still yet another trial the Doctor found himself being the center of, as he so often was during his 11th incarnation. Seeing him age so dramatically at what the viewers, as well as the Doctor himself, knew was the end of his life cycle, was charming, and ultimately fitting for the 11th Doctor’s character.
Learning all the odds and ends of the whole “silence will fall” arc was nice, but require the long screen time spent on the Papal Mainframe’s Mother Superitious, as well as the assault on Christmas Town in general. I did love how everything converged on the final moment of his life. It gave purpose to what was previously just dangling threads. I loved the Time Lords’ attempt to use the “crack in the wall” as a way to bring themselves back into the universe. This seems to answer as to whether the Time Lords are “frozen” in their exile, or aware and active. Knowing the Time Lords are now in some way an influence on the Doctor’s universe is enough for me at the moment. If it takes a long while for their official return, I’m alright with that.
The biggest thing about The Time of the Doctor was how the Doctor’s regeneration would be handled. Fan speculation about with theories as to the correct number of Doctors, how many regenerations he has used and had left, and how Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor, would fit it. Let me first say that I liked the abrupt regeneration, although it was only abrupt in the actual transition. The lead up was a bit long, but befitting the 11th Doctor. I liked that the he found peace with regeneration after 10 had so much trouble accepting it. The only problem is that it felt a little too “4th wall breaking” in that it didn’t quite feel organic. It felt like a line written by a writer who wanted to say something, rather than last-moment-inspired final words. That said, I still liked it.
The biggest elephant in the room with The Time of the Doctor is how we now refer to Peter Capaldi. It was officially stated that the Time Lords basically gave the Doctor a new regeneration cycle. Not only does this ensure many more decades of Doctor Who, but it ensure’s quite a headache in trying to agree on what to call this new Doctor. Is he the 14th Doctor, and therefore do we officially change 9, 10, and 11 into their “appropriate” places? Is he the “new 1st Doctor”? Or do we just refer to him as the 12th Doctor because in the long run its just simpler to allow the numbering to stay relatively unscathed. Do we only go into a detailed explanation when the situation requires? Honestly, I am not quite sure if Peter Capaldi is the 14th Doctor, the New 1st Doctor, or the 12th Doctor. I’m just going to go with the 12th Doctor for now. Either way, his first scene was great. While nobody can accurately predict how he’ll be, what I saw was promising. Seeing Peter Capaldi helm, or at least attempt to helm, the TARDIS just felt right!
I noticed my undertone of discontent running through this review, but I want to make it clear that I did enjoy the Time of the Doctor. While my excitement for this episode was higher than with almost any other episode besides the 50th Special, I didn’t exactly have high hopes for it in terms of airtight plot and execution. I look at The Time of the Doctor as Moffat’s pre-swansong as it was perhaps his most “Moffat-like” episode. He left nothing from his tenure-so-far untouched, and it was a fitting end to his era. I loved Matt Smith as the Doctor, but his time had come, if only because I don’t believe Moffat had any more left for him. I don’t think he has much left for the show either, which worries me, but if there was ever a fitting way for Moffat to bow out it would have been the Time of the Doctor. In any case, farewell Matt Smith, you were a great Doctor. That said, welcome, Peter Capaldi… whoever you are!
image source: [doctorwhotv]