Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor review

Review

The Time of the Doctor

rocking

The Eleventh Doctor: Tash, this old thing? Please. I’ve been rocking it for centuries.

Doctor Who Season: Between S33 and S34 (Christmas Special).
Story Number: 241.

The final Eleventh Doctor story…

“The man who stayed for Christmas.”

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Since Doctor Who returned to our screens, each new year of Doctor Who has tried to be bigger and more impressive, more spectacular. Daleks for the first season, and Daleks and Cybermen (the big two iconic monsters) together for the second – for the first time ever.

This hour of television begins with both Daleks and Cybermen before the precredits. The huge spectacular of 2013 was the previous month – The Day of the Doctor – and this can’t hope to “top” that but that’s not to say this isn’t spectacular. It’s more that – even though it contains a parade of Doctor Who villains – these 60 minutes are a spectacular showcase for the two leads, especially Matt Smith.

As the Doctor evades the Daleks and Cybermen, Clara’s having a problem with Christmas dinner and calls in the “expert”. Cooking the turkey with the Time Winds seems a nice nod to both Warriors’ Gate and City of Death.

“Is that a new body? Give us a twirl.”

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This story may have nods to 50 years of Doctor Who, but really it’s all about 4 years of the Matt Smith era. With River Song’s story-arc having achieved some sort of closure with The Name of the Doctor, the suave ladies’-man side of the Eleventh Doctor is given a twirl with his flirting with Tash, the Mother Superious, Boss of the Space Nuns.

The “Fear. Pure, unadulterated dread” that the beings universe of the feel upon hearing the message from the planet (without understanding it’s saying “Doctor Who?”) is a continuation of the Doctor being a fearsome creature to others that we saw in 2010’s finale-story and the mid-season finale of 2011.

Once the message is decoded by the Doctor – while he finds it’s being sent through the Crack first seen in his very first story, The Eleventh Doctor – the plot-strings seem to be drawing together.

“Attention. Attention all Chapels and Choirs of the Papal Mainframe. The siege of Trenzalore is now begun. There will now be an unscheduled faith change. From this moment on, I dedicate this church to one cause. Silence. The Doctor will not speak his name, and war will not begin. Silence will fall!”

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The secret origin of the phrase “Silence will fall” is very clever. The Doctor, realising the danger, has the moves of The Parting of the Ways repeated for this finale – using the TARDIS as a quick-return life raft for the companion.

“You tricked me.” “I saved you.”

It’s the inverse of The Eleventh Hour, a nice circularity, with the Doctor the character that Waited for his companion this time. He does have Handles though with him through the centuries – it’s a real emotional moment was he says goodbye to this most unlikely robotic companion.

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“The Time Lord has entered the trap.”

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As this is all about wrapping up the Silence Arc as well as the regeneration – with the original idea of Silence Must Fall warped by the Kovarian Chapter – it’s only appropriate that the Daleks should reassert themselves as the Grand Villains of 2013.

Again, as with The Day of the Doctor, models and miniature effects (from the Model Unit) are used to create destruction of the Daleks, and it all looks spectacular.
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Beyond the monsters and wrapped-up plotlines though, it’s all about two actors – Doctor & Companion – negotiating that most tricky of traditional transitions of this programme: the regeneration.

“The rules of regenaration are known” – even the Daleks understand that a 13th regeneration is impossible, but it makes perfect sense that after 50 years the Doctor should start the next chapter afresh.

There’s a lot of Doctor Who mythos to summarise for a general audience – the limit that’s existed since The Deadly Assassin of 1976, the secret “Captain Grumpy” being one more to add to the tally, the extra regeneration of the mid-finale cliffhanger of 2008 – but Matt and Jenna still manage to give the lines heart and soul as the Doctor explains this will be the last version of him, this face.

When the Doctor welcomes Clara back to the console room, after the Time Lords have helped the Doctor begin his 13th regeneration, his appearance of being “young again” is explained as being “just the reset. Whole new regeneration cycle”.m03-50-90

Again it’s what could be dry Doctor Who jargon (yup “regeneration cycle” is a thing, and was re-used by RTD from the Classic years for the other Time Lord of The Sound of Drums) but Matt makes it sound like epic poetry.

“I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

Clara’s tearful “Please don’t change” is the last thing she says before the Doctor changes.

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The new Doctor…

Rating 5/5

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(The Time of the Doctor on bbc.co.uk/programmes/)

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