Doctor Who Review: The Time of the Doctor brings more laughter than tears.
Note: The following contains spoilers.
What is it about each Doctor Who episode that has me both praising and cheering Stephen Moffat? On the one hand, I want to strangle him and on the other, I want to worship him. The man is good at getting me to experience a variety of emotions in a single hour. And here he’s done it again in “The Time of the Doctor,” Matt Smith’s final episode and the last time we see the 11th (well, actually 12th) Doctor.
The story is pretty much what fans expected: The Doctor has returned to Trenzalore, which is the place where he is supposed to die. A message is coming through those cracks in time and space that we remember from Amy’s bedroom and that message is from Gallifrey asking the eternal question: Doctor Who? Instead, The Doctor sticks around the planet, where a bevy of villains throughout his history have gathered, just waiting to start Time War II. The Doctor defends the planet until he grows old, which is later explained due to this being his last regeneration. Yep, that’s right. The 11th Doctor is really the 12th, but we still won’t call him that to keep people from being confused. Clara keeps getting left behind, but fortunately, she always finds her way back to Trenzalore. In the end, Clara convinces the Gallifreyans to get over that stupid question anyway and just help The Doctor out. They do and give him at least one more regeneration (although I’m expecting that the true number is unlimited). There’s a massive scene when the regeneration energy starts to surge through him and The Doctor uses that energy to destroy those who have attacked the planet. Everyone lives happily ever after, save for the 11th Doctor, who becomes the 12th… err…. 13th… oh, forget it. He becomes Peter Capaldi.
I will admit that Smith is not one of my favorite Doctors, but I blame that more on Moffat deciding to focus almost the entirety of his run to the companions. We kept seeing those rare scenes where Smith just shines, but they were too few and far between. And even now, I still don’t think we’ve seen what Smith is capable of. However, Smith is bloody brilliant in his last go-round and I was applauding his almost final scene because it was just so… 11th Doctor.
Another thing about this episode that struck me. I expected tears, but I think I laughed much more than I cried. Smith delivered some absolutely wonderful lines, right up until the end of the episode. And again, we see that spark that shows he could have been one of the best Doctors we’ve seen had he been given a chance to outshine the companions more often. But alas, now we’ll never know. But thank you Matt for knocking it out of the park this last time.
Now… going back to that almost last scene. I expected 11 to become 12 (or… forget the darn numbers) right after he destroyed all the enemies. Because you know what? If that had been the case, we would have seen 11 go out like a freakin’ rock star. I was APPLAUDING how he was taking down the Cybermen and the Daleks and it would have been too perfect if that’s the last we saw of Smith. But no…. Moffat had to throw in another scene after that so that he could say goodbye to Clara (even if he technically already had) with this long monologue that included Amy and it all felt so cheap at that point, I was like “JUST CHANGE ALREADY.” Seriously, I felt cheated that we were subjected to that.
But FINALLY, the darn regeneration “took,” and in a second, suddenly, Smith became Capaldi. I’m not sure what I expected, but instead of a confident older gentlemen who automatically knew what to do, we got something that resembled a bumbling Rowan Atkinson kind of Doctor. This does not bode well for Capaldi’s Doctor, but I hope it’s just a side effect of the regeneration. I’m looking to Capaldi to be the wise Doctor with the youthful gleam in his eye, a throwback to the days of William Hartnell. So let’s hope that’s what this character eventually becomes.
To sum up, though, I loved the episode right up to that point. I think I might mentally edit out that scene with the long goodbye monologue and the cheap shot of Amy and pretend it never happened. In my mind, The Doctor regenerated as he was taking out the bad guys and when Clara walked into the TARDIS, the 12th Doctor was standing there in front of her in all his naked glory. That will be my version of “The Time of the Doctor,” and personally, I think it’s much better.
Anyway, let’s hope we actually get a full season soon, like we’ve been promised. I’m tired of this three- episodes-a-year nonsense for Doctor Who.