Episode Review & Analysis – The Time of The Doctor

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Ah, ah ah… spoilers

An unimportant planet is sending out a signal that nobody can translate and it attracts practically every race we’ve seen in the Whoniverse. On board one of those orbiting ships, he is holding the eye of a Dalek and demanding that the species identify itself. But it is a Dalek ship! He escapes and in the next scene he is chastising a Cyberman head who defends himself with a “you didn’t specify where”. This head he has affectionately called “Handles”.

In the middle of trying to figure out this message, he gets a call from Clara asking him to be her boyfriend (purely for Christmas dinner). A bit of banter ensues in which The Doctor is seemingly dumped and tells Clara “treat your next boyfriend a bit better!” A new ship arrives and he goes to investigate that one. Uh-oh, it’s Cybermen!

CREDITS

Clara is preparing Christmas dinner when The Doctor arrives. She rushes into the TARDIS but he is naked (shirt-off moment for the ladies!) and after this he explains it is because he is going to church. After projecting holographic clothes into Clara’s eyes, they go to Christmas dinner. Of course, The Doctor is still naked and after some embarrassing intros he asks Clara whether he ought to project his clothes into their eyes too. Oops!

Clara really needs his help to cook the turkey – she forgot to put it on and it isn’t even close to finishing. So the plan is to take it into the TARDIS and cook it in there – ta da! En route to the planet, Handles has figured out what the mysterious planet is… Gallifrey. The Doctor says that’s impossible and it looks nothing like the planet.

They dock with the Church of the Papal Mainframe and meet Tasha Lem – the Mother Superior of the Church. The three go to Tasha’s private chapel but Clara is left outside where she sees a Silent! Oh no, who else is here? And what are they doing involved with the church? Tasha gives The Doctor a quick run-down of the message and tells them that the other races are feeling something strong in the message that is coming from the surface. She offers to set The Doctor down.

They arrive just outside the town, it is dark and it is snowing. Clara sees a hand from under the snow and touches it. It’s a statue – something that shocks The Doctor more than it does Clara. The two have a hair-raising escape from a horde of weeping angels when The Doctor produces a spare key from… his wig. The TARDIS materialises around them and they transport into the village itself. It’s 2PM, dark and it’s Christmas – it’s Christmas Town! Who wouldn’t want to live there? Ok ignore how they manage to feed themselves with only 15 mins of daylight per day and arable fields permanently under snow, that’s not important because it is always Christmas in this town!

The message is coming from a church tower and the pair go to investigate – not before being introduced to the town’s Truth Field. Hmmm, why would it have that I wonder? What’s more intriguing is that the source of the mysterious signal is… the crack from Amy’s wall – something that appeared in Smith’s very first episode. He quickly figures out that the planet is not Gallifrey but the source of the message is – and the message is coming through the crack and so is the Truth Field. Hmmm, Hastings. The little grey matter is going… Finally the message is translated Doctor who?

They’re trying to break through and if he goes to investigate, they will know they have the right universe and break through. With all those races waiting up there, the Time War will start all over again. The planet though is actually called Trenzalore – where The Doctor will die. The Doctor and Tasha argue while Clara realises that she has been tricked. The Doctor has sent her home to save her life and recalled the TARDIS to Trenzalore.

Tasha: Speak your name and this world will burn
The Doctor: No, this planet is protected!

And with that, the siege begins. There is now a stand-off. The Doctor wants to help but he must not be permitted to speak his name so Tasha proclaims that Silence Will Fall!

The Doctor defeats wave after wave of Cybermen (including one made from wood), Weeping Angels, Daleks, Sontarans and others in his defence of the planet. But his body is wearing out, he is getting old and now needs a walking stick. After 300 years, the TARDIS arrives and it is carrying a very angry Clara. He demands to know how she got there and the two have an argument but make up… awwwwww.

It has been so long and poor Handles has developed a fatal fault *sniff*. The Doctor gives Handles a heart-felt farewell. Clara and The Doctor catch up and he finally tells her that this is his final incarnation. She tells him to change the future by leaving, to live out his days elsewhere but he refuses.

The Doctor: Are we forgetting Captain Grumpy, eh? I didn’t call myself “The Doctor” during the Time War, but it was still a regeneration.
Clara: Ok, so you’re number 12…
The Doctor: Number Ten once regenerated and kept the same face – I had vanity issues at the time.

At the request of the Church, the pair return to the mainframe. The Doctor explains what The Silence are – it turns out that they are the confessional priests of this church. In a private meeting, Tasha tells The Doctor that this situation cannot continue and he tells her that it cannot end either.

INFO DUMP: A SPLINTER GROUP OF THE CHURCH WHOSE INTENTION IT WAS TO STOP HIM EVER REACHING TRENZALORE WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR A LOT OF STUFF DURING SMITH’S ERA. THEY ENGINEERED RIVER SONG, BLEW UP THE TARDIS AND UNWITTINGLY CREATED THE CRACKS THROUGH WHICH THE TIMELORDS WERE NOW CALLING HIM

But alas, Daleks have taken over the church and Tasha is a Dalek-Zombie, oh no! Two Daleks enter and there is a stand-off. The Doctor implores Tasha to fight back – she does so, destroys the Daleks and help the pair escape. When they arrive, the turkey is finally done – haha, 300 years is about right for a prize specimen! The Doctor sends Clara off with the turkey and a promise never to send her away again. But he has tricked her and leaves her in London.

Back on Trenzalore, the war begins as wave after wave of enemies attack the town – oddly without destroying many buildings until finally only the Daleks and the Church of the Mainframe remained.

Clara has an emotional Christmas with her sweet granny and overbearing mother but in the middle of a story of how gran met granddad, the TARDIS arrives… but it is being piloted by Tasha Lem and she needs to get Clara to The Doctor – urgently. They arrive back on Trenzalore and despite that another 200-300 years have passed, we see only minimal damage to the buildings. The Doctor is inside the church and he is very old.

A Dalek supership arrives and the voice of one of the iDaleks demands the presence of The Doctor. He goes to the tower but Clara stays a moment and implores the crack to help him. She explains that The Doctor’s name is not important, because what is important is the name he has chosen for himself. The crack disappears but minutes later reappears in the sky when The Doctor is in the middle of his defiant final stand and the Daleks are laying waste to the town (sort of, because as with the last 500 years, they keep missing the buildings). The crack feeds tendrils of regeneration energy to The Doctor and disappears. Finally The Doctor can stand up – laugh in the face of broken rules and use the radiation to destroy the attacking Dalek forces… hurrah! But of course we know what that means.

EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY! The Doctor is regenerating! EMERGENCY! EMERGENCY!

The Doctor: We’re breaking some serious science here, boys! I tell you what, it’s gonna be a whopper! You think you can stop me now, Daleks? If you want my life… COME AND GET IT!

The siege ends and Clara cannot find The Doctor in the rubble. She enters the TARDIS, sees his clothes strewn everywhere and we assume that Smith is gone… but there he is, all ready to give his exit speech in which he explains that he has a whole new cycle – 13 more Doctors of which Capaldi will be the first.

We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s ok, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day. I swear – I will always remember when The Doctor was me.

And then we see Amy (yum yum!). She comes down the stairs, smiling. She approaches The Doctor and addressed him “Raggedy Man… good night.” and with that she is gone. He removes his bow tie and drops it to the floor (for me the most poignant moment of the whole scene), the regeneration energy sweeps over his body… and he is gone.

In his place there is a rather confused (and perhaps slightly stroppy looking?) older gentleman. He has new kidneys, he doesn’t like the colour and now they’re crashing… and he doesn’t know how to fly the TARDIS!

Arrrrrggghhhhh!

Analysis

Handles felt very much like a plot device here – a metaphor perhaps, because he too was on his last legs but I felt he could have been introduced earlier – perhaps Nightmare in Silver which was recent enough that we wouldn’t have forgotten him. His death would have been poignant given the opportunity to really become attached to a – erm – detached Cyberman head.

This is a great way to finally get the confirmation that the Timelords were not all destroyed (though arguably we already knew that from The End of Time when they used drumming noise of The Master to anchor themselves back into this universe). Now we know for sure that they do still exist, that the events of the 50th episode stopped them dying off – and perhaps even this was always the case in the first place. I wonder if and when they do return, what other hints of this might be referenced in the future? Not too many I think, we have the gist of it now.

My feelings on this episode are really quite mixed. It was a mostly enjoyable episode with an interesting enough idea, but I feel it could have been executed a lot better. It felt rushed. It needed to be longer. As it is, everything seems to move rather quickly. Both Ecclestone and Tennant were given a two-part send-off and I can’t help feeling that this episode deserved the same – or at least an extra 20 mins. It all moves too quickly – no sense of impending doom, no sense of the event of not just a new Doctor, but the very notion that he could die. The poster was misleading, giving the impression that he would die in battle – the dropped and damaged sonic screwdriver made it look as though he would have a relatively violent end.

The battle scenes were largely brushed over – you never got a sense of ongoing siege and the town should not still be standing after 500 years. This also took away from the sense of the event for me. It was also a criticism I levelled at The Day of the Doctor. Perhaps Moffat doesn’t like writing battle scenes? Perhaps he was limited by the budget and couldn’t do too many explosions? The pay-off would have been amazing in both episodes.

Further, to have The Doctor regenerate simply through old age (in the same way that William Hartnell did when he became Troughton) removed a sense of the harrowing, the sacrifice and willingness of entering into danger that had been the case with both Ecclestone and Tennant – and most of the classic Who Doctors for that matter. It too could have been drawn out, we had the exit speech and then suddenly Matt Smith was gone and a rather confused looking Peter Capaldi was in his place. Why was the energy burst before the “body reset”? It should have been the final act before the change – I found that a little disjointing but it was a flicker and then the change was made.

Capaldi’s first minute as The Doctor was confused and all over the place – but that’s not a bad thing, so was Smith’s. We had a couple of deadpan lines, some nonsense and then finally the wonderful sign off “do you know how to fly this thing?”

Thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “Episode Review & Analysis – The Time of The Doctor

  1. Ken

    Firstly, I hope you had a nice Christmas and wish you all the best for the coming year.

    “Handles felt very much like a plot device here – His death would have been poignant given the opportunity to really become attached to a – erm – detached Cyberman head.”
    I took this a different way, I thought it highlighted the loneliness of The Doctor, after all he’d had 300 years to grow attached to it.

    I’m glad they didn’t feel the need to stretch things out. This modern trend (the Peter Jackson syndrome) to make everything last longer is starting to wear. The battle scenes conveyed enough to make the point any more would have been unnecessary in imo.

    The regeneration scenes were as poignant as usual, a credit to the actors. The pyrotechnics are so well known now that there was not a lot more that could be added.
    Farewell Matt Smith, he probably wasn’t a DW aimed at my generation but he certainly won me over. I think the credit due to Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat for the transition into the 21st century is immense.
    The genius of Doctor Who is that even after having watched it for half a century I ran the usual gamut of emotions throughout the episode.
    I’m not a fan just a viewer who has watched and enjoyed the programme for a long time,

    1. Hello Ken, and a Happy New Year to you.

      I understand what you are saying on the “Peter Jackson Effect” but I feel that we truly didn’t get a sense of the passage of time or of the sheer desperation of the events. I think it was rushed and crushed down to force it to conform to a 60 min schedule.

      As for Handles, I would have preferred for the audience to have felt a greater emotional attachment, not RTD kitsch but something along the lines of the anguish we felt for Tom Hanks losing Wilson the Volleyball.

      1. Ken

        Maybe we should remember that it’s a childrens programme at heart. I agree that there was little sense of desperation that may have been an editorial decision as I don’t remember any of the Christmas specials being particularly intense in a way some of the regular episodes are. There again maybe that’s just my advancing years dulling my memory.
        Let’s look forward to what Peter Capaldi can bring to the part.
        (I’m praying for a spoof Malcolm Tucker/Dr Who sketch from some one, preferably Armando Iannucci, but I suspect the DW standard bearers would never let him near it).

      2. I feel it has been more of a family programme since it came back in 2005 (I feel there is a distinct difference between family TV and children’s TV) which means it can and does play about with some more engaging ideas. I fully accept your points but still feel that it could have been a stronger episode purely for fleshing out the underused battle sequences. And what kids don’t want to see war and explosions?

        As for intensity – didn’t you feel that both The Next Doctor and The Snowmen were far heavier as episodes? Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this episode – I just expected something bigger for Smith’s swansong.

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