The time has come at last for Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor to face Trenzalore, the oldest question in the universe hidden in plain sight, and his own inevitable death. But this is no ordinary Christmas special. For this ties all of Eleven’s seasons together as well as reaffirms what we love most about his character. Indeed as Clara’s cracker taught us;
And now it’s time for one last bow,
Like all your other selves.
Eleven’s hour is over now,
The clock is striking twelve’s.
One last bow, then. One last bit of meta. Moffat has shown us time and time again how much he loves The Doctor as mythos, as legend, as fairy tale, and part of his way of showing that is through stories within stories. Of course, the ultimate conceit of this episode, is that s5-7 ALL occur within its hour. For yes, in an hour we have the answer to the exploding TARDIS in s5, the questions answered re ‘silence will fall Doctor’ and just why the oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight, is Doctor Who? The Time of The Doctor is an appropriate title. Well played, Santa Moff, well played.
But this episode is more than just a series of answers to ever more Lost-esque plot complexities. It is also Matt’s swansong as one of the greatest Doctors the show has ever had in a story that highlights just what made Eleven tick. This is The Doctor who never interferes in people or planets unless there are children crying. And so the youngest Doctor in the shows history dies of old age, not because he has to do so, but because that’s all him. He can’t just fly off in his TARDIS. Not when there’s children to save. His own life is unimportant in the face of human suffering. And then there is the effect The Doctor has on young minds; all of those pictures, the little toys he makes, the puppet shows and the little boy by the TARDIS who, upon hearing that The Doctor is about to leave says, “I’ll wait.” It is all reminiscent of Amy Pond, The Girl Who Waited. The care that Eleven displayed for Handles is also a throwback to his overall tenure. This Doctor loves his friends something fierce. Even his relationship with River gets a mention, with hun, Tasha Lem, reflecting elements of Eleven’s favorite archaeologist.
Eleven was magical; a mad old wizard in a young body, impetuous, impossible, in love with manic women and filled with surprising pathos and joy. Some of this was the scripts, of course, but a lot of it was Matt Smith; an underdog choice who proved his right to the TARDIS keys again and again. We saw everything this episode. Matt’s drunk giraffe physical routine, complete with crazy hand gestures, Matt’s ability to play an ancient man in a young body and then his ability to sell us an old man in an ancient body (great specials effects team!), and finally his ability to flit between flirt, oncoming storm, man of pathos and then wisdom and hope.
But even The Doctor couldn’t make it through this story alone. The last few episodes gradually warmed me to Clara, but this was the first time that I truly felt like Clara was her own companion. Her expressions, mannerisms and quick manner are spot on and I loved the rapport between her grandmother and herself. The grandmother’s story of how she met her husband was also quite beautiful. Clara has saved The Doctor countless times throughout s7; from her first appearance in 7.1 when she made all of the Daleks forget, to the Christmas special where she gave The Doctor new purpose, to Day of the Doctor, when she helps The Doctor see that he must change his mind about genocide. This time, Clara speaks to the Time Lords through the crack in her wall, letting them know that they need no answer to The Doctor’s true name, for his name is irrelevant. His name is a promise that he has now kept. And so they grant him fresh regenerations in a necessary move that will no doubt wreak havoc with merchandising.
When Clara runs into the TARDIS to find her Doctor, she speaks for all of us, when she voices her dismay that he is changing. Matt’s exit speech is truly poignant, nothing like the dross of The End of Time. He leaves both with dignity, and in true Eleven style. By the time he dropped his bow tie to the ground, I was in tears.
“Times change and so must I.
We all change. When you think about, it we’re all different people all through our lives and that’s OK. That’s good. Gotta keep it moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”
And then in a poignant and clever echo of River’s voiceover;
“Not those times, not one line. Don’t you dare!”
The Doctor promises us;
I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear.
I will always remember when the Doctor was me
And then it was time for one last piece of Eleven magic. Fish fingers and custard get a nod before The Doctor sees little Amelia running through a TARDIS papered in colourful children’s drawings. A familiar woman walks down the stairs and drops the final curtain on Eleven with;
“Raggedy Man. Goodnight.”
Eleven is over. The clock has struck twelve. Good luck Capaldi! Matt is a tough act to follow!
Time of the Doctor: 8/10 inky stars
Maureen is a speculative fiction writer and reader who is entirely too addicted to Doctor Who. She is releasing an ebook poetry collection 1st Feb. You can find the facebook page Here