Doctor Who Guest Review: The Time of The Doctor

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.

Time of the Doctor

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


About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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10 Responses to Doctor Who Guest Review: The Time of The Doctor

  1. Katie says:

    Nice, I really liked this.:-) I miss the 11th Doctor so much.:-)

  2. InkAshlings says:

    Reblogged this on InkAshlings and commented:
    Guest post!

  3. Susanne says:

    I loved this episode!! There were two things that I was bothered with. The first one is pacing, it just packs in so many complex story lines that date back from the beginning of the new series that it just leaves me out of breath. I had to explain it several times to my adult friends and their children (even though they had been watching the series since Christopher Eccleston) what had happened because they were so confused and didn’t have the time to get a grip on everything. The other one is was the fact that this regeneration story got only 60 minutes while Tennant got a bloody two parter. This story was more important because too me this was no ordinary regeneration story, we were at the end of the doctor’s life and yet he only got a merely 60 minutes. Bloody stupid studio executives.

    I agree that this doctor had a child-like quality about him, I think though that this element is an illusion because we know that the doctor abandoned Amy Pond for 12 years, course he doesn’t mean to do it – this incarnation of the doctor never means to hurt people (with the exception of those rare occasions), but this was a pattern that was established very early on. He, more than any previous incarnation, is defined by the mad impossibility of the time traveler’s existence which is understandable since it is very difficult for a time lord one to keep track of all the causes and effects, or even ,make sure that it is all in the right order, the best thing that he can do is do the right thing at the moment.

    I liked the whole keeping silent on his name concept – it leaves room for the audience to interpret the deeper meanings behind his choices here. A lot of reading between the lines here depending on how you want to see it. To me there are two things that could be taken away from this episode: He is either the selfless hero or the fatuous egotist, as Tasha Lem puts it. He might be a man who loses sight of the bigger picture in his desperate attempts to save the little people, or he might be a mad god who can only wreak havoc when he meddles in the affairs of mortals. I just loved that element in the series.

    In regards to Tasha herself, I am not sure what to make of her since there is not really enough time to delve deeper into her character, she has all the signs of maybe a previous/future incarnation of River song (although there are some logical problems with that theory) but because of the little time we had in this episode it is hard to judge. She can only be as interesting as Orla Brady makes her to be, I for one would be up for more episodes of her in the future – as long as we can cut back on the flirty romance stuff now (as much as I loved the romance in the new series especially during Matt Smith’s tenure I would like the show to go in a different direction now).

    As for Clara, this was one of her better episodes especially with some more family back story hinted at which I hope will be fleshed out more in the next series. Most of this series was defined by her significance to the doctor but I like how she is one of the few people who understands the scope of the doctor’s sacrifices and refuses to let him face them alone. One of the best moments I thought was the conversation between her and an ageing Matt Smith, she makes the assumption, at least in that moment, that the Doctor is a saint, someone who takes on such an awesome responsibility because it is his first and only thought. To me it isn’t the case. There is a reason why the Doctor sent Clara away in the TARDIS, it was not only to save her life but it was also to stop himself from losing his nerve. From the very beginning, this Doctor has presented himself as the stuff of fairy tales, the kind of magical, all-knowing, and perfect hero that a lonely little girl would spend a childhood dreaming about. Yet this was never who this Doctor really was; it was who he was trying to be. That’s why the image of Amy Pond appears to him just before his regeneration was just so fitting; his actions – staying strong for the town, refusing to run and to stay and fight until his dying days tells me that he has finally lived up to Amy’s and the audience’s seemingly impossible ideal. To me it was a really fitting way to end this doctor’s tenure.

    However I also noticed that the doctor could not completely banish his anger and sadness, at least not without forgetting a part of who he was, this was pointed out by the Moment with her “man who forgets” label in “The Day Of The Doctor.” But even before that episode it was pointed out in “A Good Man Goes To War,” when the Doctor warned Madame Kovarian that good men don’t need rules, and she did not want to find out why he has so many. The Doctor has grown considerably since that day, but again he mentions the rules when he begins his 13th regeneration. He warns the Daleks to never tell him the rules – As soon as the Doctor knows the rules, he can start figuring out a way to break them. This was another pattern that I picked up on while looking back on Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, like so many of his predecessors, he is an anarchist at hearts. There was never an authority figure that he couldn’t rebel against or a prison that he couldn’t escape from. It was seen in “The Big Bang,” ; in “The Wedding Of River Song,” and in “The Day Of The Doctor.” His rewriting of the rules of the universe highlights the fact that he remains committed to saving others before himself which stops us from seeing him as someone who is destructive and selfish. It is this imperfection that drives him to far greater triumphs.

    One line that stuck out to me was when the doctor says “Where there is life, there is hope”, this pretty much defines ALL of the doctors no what incarnation he is, whether it is the first doctor, the fourth, sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, it doesn’t matter – it is that very motto that binds them all together. It is the belief that there is always a chance that the doctor will find some other way to win the day, but any life that is lost while under his watch is lost forever which was why he re-wrote the time-war, however that is not a solution onto itself. If we cast our minds back to “The End of Time” we saw that that the Timelords were prepared to unleash unspeakable evil on the universe, so that still leaves the question of whether the rest of the universe will be willing to co-exist with them once more and judging by this episode – I don’t think they have quite reached that stage yet which leads us into the battle of Trenzelore. It is a hopeless situation because if he does speak his name that would bring out the time lords and another full scale war but if he runs than the people in the town will burn so he chooses to guard both of them with his life. I suspect that that is interlinked with the major themes of this doctor’s tenure. While the tenth doctor’s reward was to hold back his regeneration long enough to see all of his friends who had touched his life, The 11th’s reward for his selfless sacrifice is more life through a new cycle of regenerations granted to him by the time lords and by the people of the town staying alive. And with more life that means more hope. What I liked was Moffat’s lines in relation to “the vanity issues” and “captain grumpy” and I loved the regeneration sequence being used as the ultimate weapon against the daleks but he does it in his madman way – by taunting them and flapping his arms around. Fantastic sequence. I don’t know what the hell people were complaining about when they said it was too short, it was a very long regeneration sequence.

    I loved the idea of the time lords being brought back – it gives Moffat and crew more scope to move around and bring back some characters from the past like Romana or the Master. I also liked how the time lords gained a level of redemption in this episode too. Their decision to sacrifice their restoration to save the doctor’s life demonstrated to me that the timelords were capable of looking beyond their self interest. I have been listening to the 8th doctor’s audio dramas and catching up on classic episodes and I have seen that the time lords are people who are cold, calculating people who are not well liked and the mini-episode “The Night of the Doctor demonstrated how much the time-lords were hated by the end. So it was nice to see that level of redemption which leaves open the possibility that they can be saved someday, and it would be worth it.

    I loved Matt Smith departure and speech and I was literally in tears, the bow tie, the music and Amy coming back before she says “goodnight” to him was a fantastic moment. Peter Capaldi’s entrance was something I loved, he made me laugh when he yelled out “kidneys” and that he “didn’t like the colour.” He can’t remember how to fly the Tardis which looks very promising and Clara’s face was priceless. I am hoping this will usher in a new era where we have no more companions falling in love with the doctor, no more random kissing and people throwing themselves at the doctor for no good reason and I hope that this doctor will have a bit more grumpiness to him like the first and third doctor. I think that the show is in safe hands.

    I love all of the doctors, personally McGann is my doctor and from an objective perspective he was the blue print for the doctors to come after him but boy oh boy Matt Smith had me glued to the television. He was everything that I could possibly hope for in his portrayal as the doctor. So Smith has bumped Tennant down to fifth in regards to my ranking of favourite doctors. Smith and McGann are tied 1st, Tom Baker is third and Pertwee is fourth. The fact that Smith was able to rearrange my top five doctor orderings and be tied 1st with McGann speaks volumes for me. His doctor’s romance with River Song was one out of the two that I enjoyed watching from beginning to end – the other one was the 8th doctor’s relationship with Grace (even if is was short lived due to a series never coming to fruition). Romance fitted McGann’s doctor like a glove and his relationship with Grace was mature and believable, not to mention both actors had great chemistry, the same can be said for Smith and Kingston, backed up with some great scripts. I couldn’t say the same for the whole Rose-doctor romance, made me cringe half the time.

    Overall a powerful episode – if only the pacing and the timing was better than it would’ve gotten full marks. Those are my thoughts, sorry for being so long but this is just the short version of my thoughts that would hopefully get posted up next week.

    • InkAshlings says:

      Great meta comment, Susanne, that covers most of what I wanted to cover in this review, but couldn’t due to space and time constraints!

      I agree re the pacing which is why I docked two marks off the final episode score, but having said that, it is quite a rich episode which reveals more and more to me with each viewing. It definitely is one that grows.

      I read some really great meta re Tasha/River parallels where the theory is that Tasha was the blue print for Silence constructed River ie Tasha is head of the Papal Mainframe, she makes a faith change to the church of the silence, Kovarian breaks off and creates River as a weapon and creates her in the head of the church’s image ie Tasha Lem. I like this idea quite a bit actually.

      I too would like less Doctor romancing!

      I love the way that Moffat uses post modernism to his stories advantage. Is Eleven just a mad man with a box? Is he an fatuous egotist? Is he a hero? Is he anarchist? The answer, of course, is that as long as he stays humanist, he is all of these things and more. Impossible to pin down. The way it needs to be for the show to go on.

      More thoughts later…

  4. Susanne says:

    Thanks! 🙂

    I do wonder why Tennant’s final outing was a two – parter while Smith only got 60 minutes, considering this was the ultimate regeneration story. Must be a political thing that the Beebs has got going on. Its always about office politics for these studio bosses. Sigh

    Oh that idea is quite interesting….we will see what Moffat has in store next series. One thing I suspect is that I don’t think we have seen the end of her character.

    It is very hard to pin down what he is going to do in season 8, from what I could see in the behind the scenes photos that were seen on Facebook, Strax and co will be back. That much is certain. In the “Day of the Doctor” Tom Baker’s line of “visiting some old favourite faces leads me to think that some day in the future we may have some of the older doctors come back (including Smith in the future). I personally would love to see another episode with two or more doctors but I would like to see more bickering, I enjoyed watching Troughten and Pertwee argue with each other in the Three Doctors. It also hints that the Doctor could change into an older version of his past incarnations, oh the possibilities are endless.

    I agree, it is hard to define the doctor but he is a humanist underneath and as long as that stays the same then everything else is fine.

    Looking forward to hear more of your thoughts. We should have a Doctor Who marathon one day and just have an audio commentary, that would be fun 🙂

  5. Mridubala says:

    Nice review…nice to know there are many fans here as well for the 11th Doc!
    If U can, plz drop at :

  6. Yet another fantastic review Maureen – thank you! You covered many of the points I would have made if I were writing this myself; and Matt’s goodbye was indeed heartwrenching; I think I deafened my husband with my scream of “NOOOOO!” when the bow tie fluttered to the floor.

    I’m very much looking forward to Capaldi’s Doctor; I have the advantage of not knowing much about his previous work so it’s a completely fresh slate for me 🙂

  7. Pingback: Guest Post: Doctor Who 50th Day of The Doctor Review | InkAshlings

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