Doctor Who: Series 7
“The Time of The Doctor”
Aired: December 25, 2013
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Jamie Payne
“Everyone gets stuck somewhere eventually.”
– The Doctor
And so, we say farewell to Matt Smith, the 11th Doctor (or, well, technically 12th … though he’s the 13th regeneration … man, this all got convoluted quick).
Perhaps it was an inevitable letdown after the brilliance of the recent 50th anniversary special or perhaps it has something to do with my affinity for David Tennant’s pitch perfect sendoff “The Time of the Doctor,” but I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed by Smith’s swan song.
I think that it checked off all of the boxes it should have. We saw the return of all of the iconic villains from Smith’s run, including the wonderfully creep Silence. Karen Gillan returned for a brief cameo (though oddly Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill did not). It closed off a lot of those teased threads about the “fall of the 11th” at Trenzalore. And it even addressed the fact that The Doctor was technically out of regenerations and found a solution to it.
Yet still, even though it did everything it needed to do, somehow it felt like less than the sum of its parts. Some of that, I think, was due to the structure, which had Smith stranded on Trenzalore for hundreds of years aging, fixing toys and fighting off monsters. It’s nice that Smith’s Doctor got to have so much time alive, but it just didn’t make for terrible compelling TV. Also, the whole “epic battle featuring all of The Doctor’s enemies flying around overhead” has become a staple of Maffat’s tenure. It seemed epic when they were all fighting over the Pandorica, but it’s starting to feel stale now. And, for the love of god, I don’t understand why Moffat is so fixated with having someone literally say “Doctor who?” in almost every single episode he writes. Again, law of diminishing returns.
Plus, even the explanations seemed forced. Clara’s impassioned speech gave The Doctor a 14th regeneration, which solves the problem for now, but let’s not pretend that Peter Capaldi is going to be the final Doctor, so all Moffat did was pass the buck to the next guy who has to explain why we are getting a 15th regeneration. Not to mention what a giant deus ex machina it is having the Time Lords spit out a magical regeneration through the crack the for some inexplicable reason blows up the Dalek ships. How does that make any sense?
Plus, it doesn’t actually resolve anything. Sure, all of the enemies have been vanquished, but what about the Time Lords? Are they still shouting the question throughout the universe? If so, won’t that just continue to attract new species to Trenzalore to stop them? And also, if the crack still exists, doesn’t that create all of the problems from season five over again? Shouldn’t the citizens of Christmas be getting swallowed up like Amy’s family was?
Moffat’s usually good for spectacle and for clever solutions, but I’m starting to wonder if he has exhausted his bag of tricks or if he was just burnt out after putting together the 50th anniversary special (and all of the other projects he works on). Hopefully he has something fresh in store for Capaldi’s run because this was definitely a disappointing note to end Matt Smith’s run on.
And another thing …
- My disappointment with the episode doesn’t mean I wasn’t still sad to see Smith go. I think he’s been a great Doctor and (having had the honor to briefly interview him) I can also say a charming guy. He had the impossible task of replacing David Tennant, who became such an iconic and beloved Doctor for this new generation, but I think he filled those shoes well. I liked his mix of slapstick comedy and empathy and he added a certain sauciness to The Doctor that I will really miss. I’m sure he is on to bigger and better things, but he was a great Doctor and he will be missed.
- Speaking of Tennant, seriously, if you have never seen “The End of Time,” do yourself a favor and watch it. (Although, obviously, it’s much more satisfying if you watch his entire run as The Doctor first.) I think that Steven Moffat is the best at swinging for the fences and coming up with these epic individual episodes of the show, but previous showrunner Russell T. Davies was really good at structuring an entire season so that it built to something incredibly satisfying. And when it came time for him and for Tennant to leave the show, he did it in a way that was so rewarding to fans who had been there for it all. Plus, Tennant’s “I don’t want to go” gets me every time.
- So Peter Capaldi is going to have a Scottish accent on the show. That should be interesting.
- As hard as a I was on this episode, it did have some great laughs. The truth field bit in particular cracked me up.
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at email@example.com.