The time has come when we finally bid adieu to the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) and welcome the new face of Twelve (Peter Capaldi) with this year’s Christmas special. So how did the send off for dear Matt Smith go?
Let’s bitch it out.
Although the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) will forever by my Doctor, Matt Smith has done an excellent job in the role and if there had to be a replacement for Ten, I was glad it was Smith. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel ‘The Time of the Doctor’ was a strong enough episode to give Smith the send off he deserved. Riddled with a weak and confusing story, I was dismayed that it didn’t feel like Smith’s last episode until the last 15 minutes.
One of the things I love about Smith is how always seems to be giving the performance of his life, even in the considerably weaker episodes offered this past season. ‘The Time of the Doctor’ is no exception. He’s absolutely delightful when he’s springing about at Christmas dinner meeting Clara’s (Jenna-Louise Coleman) family, and breaking your heart when he looks a the little boy who lives in the town named Christmas. Smith shows significant range as he slowly ages while stranded in Christmas, never losing sight of his youthful exuberance.
But much of the episode is incredibly confusing. I definitely appreciate the Moffat-style fast talk (it works particularly well in Sherlock), but in this past batch of Doctor Who episodes, I find many of the plot elements completely over my head. It takes way too many re-watches or online consultations to figure out what’s actually happening, which results in a frustrating and alienating (no pun intended) experience. Sometimes a timeline reboot has been used just one too many times…
The performances are never the issue, Smith and Coleman are always enjoyable, but glazing over plot points is something I’m only willing to do occasionally. I kept wondering if all the questions I had after ‘The Name of the Doctor‘ were ever going to be addressed (Like how the Doctor and Clara escaped his own time stream and what happened to the Great Intelligence and the superfriends) only to find out that these details really don’t matter as we’re starting off on an entirely new adventure. Ultimately I spent more time scratching my head thinking about past episodes or consulting the TARDIS Data Core rather than enjoying the episode for what it was.
But I will say that the episode’s final act is fantastic. It begins with Clara pleading so earnestly to that crack in the wall that all the confusion about plot motivations fall to the way side. Coleman is excellent at tugging at the heartstrings, and once we see how the Doctor is going to live through this ordeal, the episode’s momentum builds considerably. I loved the fake out in the TARDIS as Eleven’s younger face is ‘reset’ just before regeneration and his absolutely touching last words. It’s this moment where I finally felt prepared to say goodbye and appreciated how we were all able to bask in the poignancy and power of the moment. It also was very nice to see the brief cameo by Karen Gillian as The Doctor’s projection of Amy, to give a further finality to Eleven’s last moments.
It did feel rather abrupt and jarring when Capaldi showed up as we were denied the regeneration ‘flames’ that we saw when Nine (Christopher Eccleston) became Ten and Ten became Eleven (although I suppose that happened with old Eleven was taking out the Daleks in the scene prior). Twelve’s first interactions with Clara are amusing, but it does feel as though we now have entirely new Doctor, (who doesn’t even remember how to fly the TARDIS!) rather than holding on to remnants of the old one to ease with the transition. But perhaps that’s a good thing as the dynamic between Doctor and his companion is likely to change significantly from what we’ve seen since the series was rebooted. Although I’m excited to see what an older Doctor will bring going forward, part of me feels Eleven deserved a longer, more drawn out goodbye. His last moments were indeed heartwarming and effective, but I think I would have enjoyed the episode more had it not felt so rushed.
- I know this isn’t necessarily a new thing, but I found incorporation “Christmas” into this special sloppy and tacked on as an afterthought. This town is named ‘Christmas‘? Couldn’t we have done a bit better than that?
- Further to that, drudging up the enemies from Eleven’s tenure and throwing them all in the same episode felt like a forced trip down memory lane. I think the episode would have been equally as successful had a new enemy, or just the Daleks, coaxed Eleven to Trenzalore.
- Even though much of the episode felt too confusing and frenetic for my liking, there were still some beautifully touching moments sprinkled throughout. Some choice ones: Eleven’s goodbye scene with the head of a Cyberman, Handles. (Surprising considering there was little to no emotional investment with this new ‘character’ prior to him expiring); Clara reading the Christmas cracker poem, even it was a bit too constructed; and Eleven’s bowtie delicately falling
What did you think viewers? Were you happy with Matt Smith’s send off? Will you miss his mannerisms? Whatever happened to The Doctor’s superfriends? Will they return? What are your first impressions of our new Doctor? Will the search for Gallifrey be the big quest next season? Sound off in the comments section below.
Doctor Who returns in Fall 2014 on BBC America.