The Time of the Doctor (2013)

Hello poppers, everyone have a good holiday? Good, because we’re taking a step inside the Doctor’s police box today (allons-y!). Doctor Who celebrated its 50th anniversary on November 23rd, a truly momentous accomplishment for a series about a man and his box. In addition to The Day of the Doctor, the designated anniversary special, I caught An Adventure in Space and Time, a dramatic retelling of the show’s beginnings all the way up to the departure of William Hartnell, who portrayed the First Doctor, and his replacement by Patrick Troughton. It’s amazing that Doctor Who went from a simple children’s TV show aimed at educating Britain’s youth about history, to a series that is as iconic of British culture as James Bond or the Beatles. Even the uninitiated recognize to some degree the significance of the blue police box, which is actually the time-and-space traveling TARDIS, or Time and Relative Dimension in Space.

Unfortunately I’m feeling rather under the weather (oh, poor me), so I have to keep this super short (by my standards). Sorry folks – I’ve got a flu and so I can barely leave my bed, let alone bring you pop of the same quality as you’ve come to expect from us here. But I am determined that the show must go on, and I hope to make up for it either on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. So without further ado, here it is: the Time of the Doctor.

Following the fantastic Day of the Doctor, a (mostly) killer Series 7-2, and the equally powerful Christmas special The Snowmen, the Time of the Doctor was solidly written and very well acted. The plotline may have been hard to follow since I hadn’t religiously followed the Silence arc from the beginning (I missed some key episodes from Series 6, and Series 7-1 is pretty much a blur to me), but all in all they made a good effort at bringing casual viewers up to speed. In the aftermath of some complaints about Jenna Coleman‘s Clara (some called her a one-dimensional Mary Sue, although personally I disagree and love her character tremendously – being pretty and witty always helps), she shows a side of herself that is not quite the spunky, fast-talking match for the Doctor, in contrast to the previous season. That is, she showed a lot more of her humanity (I dunno, I’m having trouble describing this – but give me a break, I’m sick). And my stars, can Matt Smith deliver as the Doctor. I know this has become a cliché to describe those who take on the formidable role as the titular Time Lord, but he was born to play it.

But we all know the real reason people stayed up to catch the episode: Matt Smith’s final bow and the entrance of new and thirteenth Doctor (going by the real-world count, at least), Peter Capaldi. It was downright heartbreaking to watch Smith go, and even though I missed David Tennant more after he was replaced by Smith (as well as after seeing him again for the 50th), I think this special did a much better job of tugging on the heartstrings for his departure. Maybe it’s just because Smith was my first regeneration and I was just so excited to see him debut following Tennant (I thought at that the time that, all in all, he had a good run), but I just feel like the Time of the Doctor did a much better job than the End of Time at making you feel sad to see Smith go.

Unfortunately, Capaldi’s time on the special is short – I would guess about 30 seconds at most. As such (and probably deliberately so), you don’t really get to know what kind of a Doctor he’ll be. I can’t blame Moffat; showing too much sets a bar that viewers will be expecting, and will wait months for Capaldi to meet. I do wish there was just a little more to go off of though.

Another word I’d use to describe this special – other than epic or saddening – is strange. I don’t know; I can’t really put my finger on it, but something felt strange about watching this. Maybe it was seeing Matt Smith grow old – because despite the Doctor’s ambiguous age he doesn’t seem like an old soul – or seeing the Doctor finally stop running. And now that I think about it, that is strange: the Doctor stopped running. Still, I can’t say with much certainty what it was that made me feel like this special was weird, because there were a few things: the town called Christmas for example. In a way, there were elements of this special that felt like an old Russell T. Davies episode, from back when the show was actually weird (I often think of Moffat as Doctor Who’s Lost to Davies’s Farscape). Hey, it could just be that I felt weird saying goodbye to Matt Smith after all this time. It was a fitting way for him to go, but it still felt too soon, or like even this wasn’t enough fanfare for his grand exit. Whatever the case, maybe this says something about the tone of the show going forward.

Doctor Who - Series 7B
Doctor Who – Series 7B (Photo credit: Doctor Who Spoilers)

I’m not going to rate this special; it stands on its own and ought to stand on its own, so I leave it for all of you to decide. I’ve never been such a big fan of Christmas specials in general myself (let alone for Doctor Who), but this ranks with The Snowmen as one of my favorites. I am so excited to see what the Capaldi Doctor is capable of. Some have guessed that given this older Doctor, we can expect a true return to form for the show, and a return to the First Doctor’s journeys into our human past. We’ll just have to wait and see. Now before we go for the week, I have only one last question: do you happen to know how to fly this thing!?

See ya next week!

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