Friday 27 December 2013

Verdict: The Time of the Doctor (Doctor Who)

Doctor Who bids farewell to Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor in this year's 2013 Christmas Special, 'The Time of the Doctor'. Featuring all manner of classic Who foes, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels and the Silence, 'The Time of the Doctor' is a fairly uneven farewell to Smith's Doctor that could have achieved more given the scope.

Saying farewell is never easy. As the Eleventh Doctor himself said in last years 'Angels in Manhattan', "I hate endings!"

And so it proves in this years Christmas Special, 'The Time of the Doctor'. Following on from last month's terrific Anniversary Special, Smith's final outing as the Last of the Time Lord's is epic in scope, juggling multiple story strands as it endeavours to tie together everything that the Eleventh Doctor has faced across the last three seasons.

So, we have the Silence, an exploding TARDIS, the cracks in the wall, the return of Gallifrey, the regeneration limit and the eternal question of "Doctor Who?" to contend with, all within one 60 minute cresendo.

The end result is something that is simply to convoluted to contend with, even for the most die hard of Whovians. Sure, they'll revel in the fact that Smith's story comes full circle, with flashes to his first episode 'The Eleventh Hour' even cropping up, but even then, there is so much going on that you need a degree in Nu-Who to get your head around it all. The whole episode was very busy, with revelations and conclusions firing all over the place.

That isn't to say the episode falls completely flat. The story races along at a helter-skelter pace in the opening half, throwing Daleks, Cybermen and Christmas dinner at you before the opening titles having even begun to roll. It's thoroughly entertaining stuff, the kind of madcap adventuring that the Eleventh Doctor's stint on the show has been defined by. Why would it be any different now?

The action, as the case has been of late, was brilliant. The multiple skirmishes between the Doctor, the Cybermen, the Daleks and the Weeping Angels in particular were all fantastic. As with 'Day of the Doctor', the battle scenes were carried off brilliantly, the Daleks once again a ferocious and fearsome enemy for the Doctor to face.

It's when things start to slow down and the siege of a town called Christmas begins that the episode falters; the middle section sags under the weight of having to fast-forward time several hundred years. The siege, and the events that take place during, are reduced to one or two montages. Exposition is given the form of voice-over and, at the end of the day, it just feels a little underwhelming.

It felt as though there were two really good ideas for a story, a beginning and an ending, with so much to join them in the middle that it felt rushed. It felt as though the middle section was skated over, with some key developments sorely missing. The way in which to fix this? The show shouldn't try and pack in as much into 60 minutes. I think the narrative would have benefited from being a double-parter, possibly two 60 minute episodes. There was enough plot-lines to fill the time.

The final regeneration scene was also a mixed bag for me. Smith got a touching farewell speech that was great. A cameo from Karen Gillan was a nice touch too. I did think that when Capaldi's Doctor did finally make an appearance, his intro was kind of rushed. He could have done with a few more minutes screen time to give us something to bridge the gap.

Smith's acting is fantastic, as always, his talent still shining through underneath several layers of prosthetic. Jenna Coleman continues to bloom into one of the best companions since the shows return. Plus, we got the introduction of Handles, a decapitated Cyberman head that was keeping the Doctor company throughout the siege. Major plus points for getting the audience to connect with a inanimate robot head after such a short period of time.

When is all said and done, Smith's final episode was a lot better than his predecessors. Whilst 'The End of Time' was bloated and absurd, 'The Time of the Doctor' had all the right ideas on the page, with some hitting the mark and some falling a fair way short. It tied up all the loose ends but didn't give audiences a lot of time to digest it all; it was rushed, frantic and kind of jumbled in places. Good, action-packed and emotional, but also haphazard.

I give 'The Time of the Doctor' - 6.5/10


  1. I think your analysis of the episode is solid - everyone I know was disappointed too! My main problems with the episode is that they passed off so many 'battles' with small mentions and no real explanation of how the big bad guys failed to annihilate a small medieval town armed with pitchforks - I mean I've got faith in the Doctor but I'm not gonna take it for granted that he can hold them off with a walking stick and a sonic!

    What was the purpose of the truth field beyond some jokes and taking out that one wood-man? Did the timelords really need his true name to know it was the right universe to come through to? Why did the time lords send through a regeneration instead of coming through themselves - are we supposed to believe they'd forfeit their existence just to let him live a bit longer because he decided not to destroy them? Are they just allowed to do that - send people extra regenerations? Why not send the regeneration and come over? If the crack in the wall can't sustain a regeneration and the time lords how was it gonna sustain all the timelords? Why bother going to the effort of staging all this on Trenzalore when it has been made clear that there was another regeneration on the way in the 50th anniversary - even if you ignore the fact we've known Capaldi has been lined up for quite some time. What happened to the weeping angels that were littered everywhere?

    The transition to Capaldi was rushed, I agree, and I was disappointed we didn't get more of an opportunity to see what he'll be like as the Doctor.

    1. Wow looks is like I opened a can of worms there Tom! Thanks for commenting with what are all valid points - I agree that many of these were skated over or simply ignored in order to rush Smith off screen. All too often with Doctor Who, questions are raised only to be left hanging by the impending time limit.

      If Tennant got two hour-long specials (as awful as they were), why not Smith? Anyway, thanks for commenting!



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