Doctor Who: The Time of The Doctor Review
The recent Doctor Who Christmas special marked a couple of milestones for the series. Not only did The Time of The Doctor mark Matt Smith’s final appearance as The Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s first appearance in the titular role but it was the series’ 800th episode dating back to 1963.
Given the hit or miss nature of many of the 11th Doctor’s adventures, would his final story at the helm of the TARDIS be another Moffat classic or would Eleven go out with a whimper rather than a bang?
Spoiler Alert: If you’ve read my TV reviews before you should know that it’s a review/cap so yeah, there are spoilers.
The episode starts above an unnamed planet from which an untranslatable transmission is emanating and being broadcast through the whole of space and time. Every race in the galaxy is there to figure out what the message means in a moment that’s seemingly a callback to Eleven’s first season finale in which all races of the galaxy were waiting for the Pandorica to open. The Doctor is there too but even he can’t make heads or tails of it.
After a brief awkward Christmas dinner interlude with Clara (which sees some music from The Day of The Doctor recycled), the two are back to that unnamed planet. It doesn’t remain unnamed for long as the Cyberman head in the TARDIS identifies the planet as Gallifrey event though it’s quite clearly not.
In order to learn more, The Doctor and Clara board the ship of the Church of the Papal Mainframe. This is important for two reasons. One, they’ve shielded the planet so that the whole of the universe doesn’t land to find out what the transmission means. And two, the Church of the Papal Mainframe employs the Silence. They’re not the only ones interested in the planet. The Daleks and Cybermen have ships in orbit and the Weeping Angels are planetside (despite the shield).
Anyway, The Doctor and Clara get down to the planet, with the Church’s permission, and find that the transmission is coming from a clock tower in an old-timey looking small human colony. It’s not just coming from the clock tower but a crack in the wall. Yes, the cracks in time are back and someone is transmitting from the other side of the crack. It turns out that someone might be Gallifrey because it’s a Gallifreyan message. And that message is “Doctor Who?” If the Doctor answers, the Time Lords come through the crack and the Time War restarts with the consequences likely being the destruction of all life in the universe.
Now the pieces start coming together. The Mother Superious of the Church says that the planet is Trenzalore and if the Doctor speaks his name, the Time Lords will return and all hell will break loose. We also find out that Trenzalore has a truth field that prevents people from lying which was mentioned in the last season finale. The Doctor declares himself the protector of Trenzalore so no one is harmed in trying to keep him quiet.
As a result, the Church of the Papal Mainframe dedicates itself to keeping The Doctor from saying his name with the mantra “Silence will fall.” So the Silence arc that started when Eleven made his first appearance finally comes to a proper conclusion. Trenzalore, the Silence and the fall of the Eleventh all come together here rather than in The Name of The Doctor episode.
Anyway, The Doctor tricks Clara into getting the TARDIS to return her to Earth as we get a montage of The Doctor protecting Trenzalore over hundreds of years. Really, isn’t he protecting himself because it’s him that everyone wants to shut up? Anyway, we see The Doctor age and bond with the townsfolk which includes repairing toys and bad dancing.
And Clara wasn’t left behind because she grabbed onto the TARDIS before it could dematerialize so it dragged her along with it which is a new trick. This allows the two to have a lovely little goodbye scene in which The Doctor explains that he’s used up all his regenerations and this last one is it. He’s going to die an old man defending Trenzalore.
Eventually, the Mother Superious of the Church rings up the Doctor and Clara for a parley and reveals that previous attempts to blow up the TARDIS and stop the Doctor from ever reaching Trenzalore were acts of a sect that broke away from the Church. Clearly they failed. The Daleks have their own plan to burn Trenzalore to stop The Doctor and Time Lords. They converted everyone in the Church into Dalek hybrid units which meant that the parley was a trap to kill The Doctor. But The Doctor convinces the Mother Superious to fight against the Dalek inside her and get the Church to help him against the Daleks attacking Trenzalore. I don’t get it either. We do get another montage though.
Anyhow, The Doctor and Clara end up back in the TARDIS which he uses to again drop her on Earth. But not for long before the Mother Superious flew the TARDIS to pick Clara back up. Several hundred more years have passed and The Doctor is now a frail old man who can no longer fight the Daleks.
After another goodbye, The Doctor makes one last stand. Meanwhile, Clara speaks to the crack in the wall and asks the Time Lords to help The Doctor. They open up a crack in the sky to bestow The Doctor with a fresh set of regenerations and he uses the regeneration energy to blow up the Dalek ship and all the Daleks on Trenzalore.
Back on the TARDIS, Eleven looks like Eleven of old again (rather than Old Eleven). It’s just a temporary state brought on by the new set of regenerations. He gets another goodbye with Clara and hallucinates saying goodbye to Amy which is a very Russell T. Davies thing to do. All the goodbyes is a very Ten and RTD thing going back to Ten’s last episode. In the end, Eleven regenerates into Twelve and asks Clara if she knows how to fly the TARDIS. Well, that’s not a good way to introduce a new Doctor before we fade to credits.
Well, the episode was a nice exhibition for Matt Smith more than anything. The episode itself never felt particularly special and just felt like it carried on. Those montages were nice spectacles but I can’t help but feel the exposition contained in them should have been done much better in the episode’s action rather than set apart.
As I was saying about Smith, this was a nice departure for him that we haven’t seen in years. We’ve seen Eleven with his manic actions and catch phrases but in this episode, we got to see The Doctor grow up. A Doctor who acts more maturely and like a leader was something that was missing from a good chunk of this Doctor’s run. Eleven got that moment but it came far too late in the run. Hopefully Twelve goes in that direction. I know Doctor Who was originally a kids’ show but that doesn’t mean that he has to be an overgrown child. That writing may be what holds back Eleven from being fondly remembered fondly like Four and Ten in the history of Doctor Who.
Other random points of note:
- So if a Time Lord gets twelve regenerations, does The Doctor regenerating from old to young count as the first of his new set with Twelve counting as his second regeneration or is the regeneration into Twelve the only one that counts? This is going to have to be addressed eventually.
- Also, are we calling him Twelve even though he’s technically Thirteen?
- Doesn’t Clara’s apartment have an elevator? I thought any sort of commercial complex that’s three stories in height or greater was required by law to have one. Though I suppose that’s one way to stay fit. If you’re English, that last sentence has a double meaning. It loses something when I point it out mind you.
- I was looking forward to Peter Capaldi after The Day of the Doctor but I’m a little cautious after that introduction. He seemed like such a badass in Day but his brief appearance seemed awfully close to slapstick comedic. I know Capaldi has some comedic chops but we don’t need Eleven redux. Something closer to One, Three and Nine would be nice.
So that’s all the Doctor Who we’re going to see for a while. Apparently we have to wait until later in the year for the next series. No start date has been set yet but reports indicate that it will be in the third quarter of the year. I’d hazard that we’re looking at a September start at the earliest.
Posted on January 6, 2014, in TV/Movie Reviews and tagged BBC, Doctor Who, Jenna Coleman, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi, Review, Steven Moffat, The Time of The Doctor. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.