Doctor Who Review: The Time of the Doctor

doctor who the time of the doctor review eleventh doctor matt smith clara oswald jenna coleman steven moffat silence daleks cybermen handles poster

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.

This is it now, isn’t it? Matt Smith no more, it’s the time of the Twelfth Doctor. It seems oddly surreal – Matt Smith has been the face of the Doctor for the best part of four years now. He took the show to new heights, new levels, new countries – it was his Doctor, after all, that opened up the show to America.

So, yeah, it’s rather odd to think of him as gone now. To think that, from now on, there won’t be any more Matt Smith stories. No more bow ties. No more fezzes. None of that.

Still, at least The Time of the Doctor was a fitting send off, right?

Right…?

The episode starts out pretty much pitch perfect – the scenes in the Dalek and Cyber spaceships were very fun, very Doctor Who. They also set up the premise for the episode as well, and I think it was a pretty good one too – there’s a message, and everyone is here to look at it. It’s an interesting hook, although maybe too reminiscent of The Pandorica Opens.

Clara’s family were nice, I suppose, but generally relatively superfluous. They didn’t exactly add much, nor develop Clara’s character or personality to huge degrees. In fact, they really seemed to be there just for the nudity jokes – which were, to be honest, puerile at best.

Anyways, after we’ve picked up Clara and got to the planet (which isn’t Gallifrey, it’s not orange!) the plot starts to pick up. It’s nice to see the crack in time back, and the explanation for it was, I think, really very good – Gallifrey is trying to make it’s way back through. That’s a great, non-linear explanation. (I do wonder if that had been the idea from the start, or if it was just added in for this episode. I hope it was the original idea)

It’s around there, though, that the episode sort of starts to falter. The idea of the Doctor giving up his life to guard the people of Trenzalore is a fantastic one – it’s an entirely different sacrifice to the type we’re used to, yet still a very Doctor-y one. Perhaps that’s even a more difficult one for the Doctor – he’s not used to sitting still.

However, the idea wasn’t really explored as best as it could have been I felt. That’s not to say it wasn’t good, obviously; just that it could have been… better. It should have mirrored, say, the Star Trek: Voyager episode Blink of an Eye or the Big Finish story Rise and Fall (I’ve linked to Big Finish’s SoundCloud, you can download the story for free. It’s very good)

If we’d seen the culture develop alongside the Doctor, everything would have hit home a little bit more – maybe all their buildings are blue, maybe the all wear bow ties. If they’d progressed just a little bit past the Victorian style lives they had, maybe it’d have worked a little bit better…

But anyways, the Doctor, protecting the people of Trenzalore. It might have been nice if we’d seen a little bit more of it – show, don’t tell, after all – but it didn’t impact on things too much. What we got was nice, after all.

The only other gripe I had was the Daleks – I think the episode might have worked better without them, and with the Kovarian chapter taking their place. It would have rounded things off a little better, and kept the episode more… I want to say discrete, but that’s not quite the word I mean. Hm.

(Also was Tasha Lem meant to be River Song? A lot of it felt as though she’d been written as River Song, but then had to be changed because… Alex Kingston wasn’t available or something?)

So, yes, that’s all the story and script stuff out of the way. Generally very good, but could have been better. I think that’s probably the best way to sum that up.

The acting, was, of course, exemplary. Especially from Matt Smith. Obviously, it would be. As it should be, in Eleven’s final hour.

I often struggle with what to say about Matt Smith and his acting, because… well, to say Matt Smith gave a great performance is like saying water is wet. Or the sky is blue. Just… so ridiculously completely obviously true it’s not exactly worth mentioning really.

Finally, then, the regeneration. The end, yes, but the moment had been prepared for. We were ready, more or less.

Matt Smith’s final lines were nice, very much so. Poignant really. The hallucination of Amy was a nice touch, and a nice callback to the Fifth Doctor’s regeneration. It was a really good send off for Matt.

We’ll never forget when the Doctor was him.

Related:

Doctor Who Review: The Day of the Doctor

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The Thirteenth Doctor?

doctor who last doctor silhouette thirteenth doctor matt smith idea concept death

The 13th Doctor is one I’ve sort of been looking forward to for a while now. I think that there is a brilliant story to be told with this incarnation.

Barring The End of Time, regeneration has never been portrayed as a death. The Doctor is, essentially, always safe – he can risk his life in ways others can’t because it’s not the same risk for him, not quite. He can run in front of that Dalek because… well, if it does exterminate him, he’s going to come back from that. (It’s because of this we have jokes like the one in The Curse of Fatal Death, where the Doctor wastes four regenerations or so in one go)

So, obviously, someone who’s never quite had to be afraid of death in quite so literal a manner is going to have quite a shock when it is a permanent fixture of their daily life – particularly when living a lifestyle like the Doctor’s. For comparison, I suppose… if someone lived their life never getting ill, and never really believing that they could, their first sneeze would be petrifying.

It’s because of this I think the Thirteenth Doctor would be such an interesting one. For the first time, cliffhangers really do hang in the present tense. Where does one go with this in the narrative? What this is, essentially, is asking a character who’s spent thousands of years as an undying traveller to face up to their own mortality.

Who does the Doctor become? Never cruel or cowardly is wonderful to aspire to… but sometimes, you’re going to fear for your own life. The Doctor would learn to pick his battles, perhaps. Maybe… maybe he doesn’t run in front of that Dalek. If he dies saving that one person, he can’t save a thousand people later on.

Would the Doctor become even more arrogant? Does he stop taking on companions, because it’s going to be that bit more difficult to protect them?

Is this what the Valeyard is borne out of? “I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them” said Ian Fleming once. But… what if you’ve started to believe your days are worth their weight in gold? This isn’t wasting days, it’s investing them, surely?

Someone once described the Thirteenth Doctor as “a man dressed for his own funeral”.
If that doesn’t sound a fantastic opportunity for a nuanced, and new, story, then I don’t know what would.

Slight spoilers for The Time of the Doctor follow…

Now, it seems that a big plot point of Matt’s last episode is that he, the Eleventh Doctor, is the thirteenth incarnation.

Hmm. Okay.

Now, this is counting John Hurt, and presumably Tentoo as well. Little bit odd, but okay. (If there’s anyone particularly well versed on Gallifrey reading this, I have a question about regeneration limits. I’d always understood it to be, more or less, a psychological limit rather than a biological one – the problem was that a Time Lord would go crazy after thirteen lives, because of cluttered personalities in their heads? I suppose since the Time Lords are genetically engineered it’s related to the biology anyway but…)

Right, yes. Eleven as Thirteen.

I think this is a mistake. Essentially because we miss out on all stories, all the possibilities, the ideas that I spoke about above. We don’t get that because Matt hasn’t been the last from the start – he has become the last.

Now, obviously, it’s impossible to know what Steven Moffat was thinking. Maybe he was impatient, and just wanted to tell a particular aspect of that story as soon as possible.

Or maybe he’s gone in a completely different direction, and came up with something great – a perfect regeneration for Matt, that relies on the idea of a final death. (Again… after Tennant.. okay, struggling to see an upside to Matt as 13, but I’m biased because I’m quite so invested in the Thirteenth Doctor being a developed storyline.)

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