Friday, December 27, 2013

My Review of Doctor Who's 7x16: "The Time Of The Doctor"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Jamie Payne

The Doctor (to Clara): “I will not forget any line of this, not one day I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”

As final lines go, I think this will be one that will generate far less criticism than “I don’t want to go”. Regeneration episodes are interesting beasts. They can sometimes be too long or risk being too short. While I do think this episode probably should’ve been allotted an extra ten or fifteen minutes, it’s hard not to love it.

In some ways, this happened to be a two sided affair. It was both a simple adventure with the Doctor spending three hundred years on Trenzalore in the town of Christmas protecting the people from all sorts of baddies (Daleks mainly) and it was also a story that had to tie up the Eleventh Doctor’s era while setting up events for the Twelfth Doctor’s tenure as well. Overall, I think it mostly succeeded with it’s aims.

Finally resolving the plotline with the exploding TARDIS/Silence/Trenzalore etc by introducing the Papal Mainframe herself, Tasha Lem was a good idea but a lot of what was revealed here was stuff that we already knew. I wasn’t shocked to learn that the Kovarian chapter were the ones to blow up the TARDIS and the reasons behind the Doctor not being allowed to speak his name were pretty obvious too.

Of course, obvious as they were, they still worked thematically though. At some point, the Time Lords are going to find a loophole and get back into our universe and it’s pretty obvious that will happen during the next era for the show. After all, there does have to be some consequences for them giving the Doctor a whole new regeneration cycle, doesn’t there?

Speaking of the regeneration cycle – I find the online criticism from some fans about Clara appealing to the Time Lord to help the Doctor downright laughable. Mainly because it emphasised just how desperate certain fans are becoming to criticise the show and also because it’s obvious that helping the Doctor benefits the Time Lords in the long run (or will do). That should’ve been obvious to anyone watching this episode and being aware of the show’s history.

As for the monsters of the episode – the idea is somewhat of a rehash of the events with the Pandorica but overall it’s fine really. Only the Daleks and the Cybermen really make an impression while the Silence are actually allies in this episode (also revealed as engineered priests too). The appearances from the Sontarans and Weeping Angels are merely window dressing by comparison though.

As for Tasha Lem – overall, I think Orla Brady gave a great performance and while I’m not one who takes massive exception to Moffat’s depiction of women (though I’m aware he tends to overuse certain tropes at times), she was practically River 2.0. Not a terrible character as such and certainly handy in a Dalek confrontation (she did become one ala Darla) but overall, I didn’t find she was enigmatic as she could’ve been though.

On the other hand, Clara was absolutely brilliant from start to finish in relation to this episode. Her frantic attempts of getting Christmas dinner done were amusing but her support for the Doctor throughout the episode (even after being sent home twice) truly endeared her all the more to me. I’ve made no secret of enjoying Clara as a character and it seems like I’m going to love her with the Twelfth Doctor as much as the Eleventh.

As for the other highlights of the episode – the brief appearance of Amy felt completely right. It was a nice little surprise and a great lead into the rather abrupt way of exiting Matt Smith and debuting Peter Capaldi as well. Waiting until the final quarter of 2014 to see the new Doctor in action is going to be a hard one but I have no doubt it will be worth it too.

Also in “The Time Of The Doctor”

Considering all the online content we’ve gotten this series, I was surprised we didn’t get a prequel or two for this episode.

Clara: “Why are you naked?”
The Doctor: “Because I’m going to church.”

In this episode we met Clara’s grandmother (Sheila Reid previously appeared in a Sixth Doctor story), her recast father, Dave and his girlfriend, Linda (who voiced ATMOS). Oh and the Doctor had a Cyberhead companion named Handles.

Tasha: “Is that a new body? Give us a twirl.”
The Doctor: “Hush, this old thing? Please, I’ve been rocking it for centuries.”

Clara: “How can a town be called Christmas?”
The Doctor: “How can an island be called Easter?”

Technically the Doctor was naked, bald and older for a lot of this episode. Interesting how all the above was written into the episode.

Clara: “You didn’t even say goodbye.”
The Doctor: “I am furious with you.”
Clara: “Well, I am not even speaking to you.”

The Doctor: “Everything ends.”
Clara: “Except you.”

The fact that the Master was mentioned in this episode (possibly twice) does seem to indicate that we’ll meet him again during Capaldi’s era.

Tasha (to the Doctor/Clara): “Oh, I died. It’s funny the things that slip your mind.”

Clara: “Hello Doctor.”
The Doctor: “Were you always so young?”
Clara: “Nah, that was you.”

I had a theory that Clara was an English teacher and this episode confirmed it. She also seems to have a flat around the Powell Estate as well.

Clara (to the Time Lords): “His name, his name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, everything you need to know about him and if you love him and you should, help him. Help him.”

The Doctor (to the Daleks): “Love from Gallifrey boys.”

Standout music: There was some nice new music in there but there was also a lot familiar music there as well.

Amy: “Raggedy Man, goodnight.”

Twelfth Doctor (to Clara, re TARDIS): “Just one question – do you happen to know how to fly this thing?”

Chronology: Christmas 2013 on Earth and no idea in relation to Trenzalore.

I watched “The Time Of The Doctor” three times and each one of those times, it made me cry. I’m not going to say this will be the greatest regeneration episode going (the Smith/Capaldi change was a bit swift) but damn it, it was enjoyable, tied up the needed loose ends, told a story that was both quietly intimate and epic in scale and made me excited for the future. Matt Smith, you were a wonderful Doctor and you are going to be missed and Peter Capaldi – welcome aboard.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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