Doctor Who: The Time of The Doctor Christmas Special (TV Show Review)

Almost a month ago we had the 50th anniversary special for BBC’s Doctor Who. It was my first ever episode of the show, and I quite liked it as you can tell from my review of it. With excellent production and cinematography, not to mention a really cool script with some great performances from everyone involved, The Day of The Doctor is one of the best episodes of any show that I’ve seen to date. Following that, I got around to finally starting on Doctor Who proper with Christopher Eccleston’s short-lived run from 2005, which was the first season of the revived show and five episodes, I’m really liking it.

Two nights ago we had the show’s Christmas Special for this year, which also marked the end of current incumbent Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. Matt Smith spent three years as the Doctor, and this special is his final swansong, the third in the loose trilogy formed by The Night of The Doctor (a mini-sode), The Day of The Doctor and this one. Going in, I went in expecting something on the same level as the anniversary special, and in some ways it was, in some ways it wasn’t. All I can really say though is that I really need to move on to Matt Smith’s era!

DWLogoMuch as with the anniversary special, many people told me that this special was not the place to really start watching Matt Smith’s Doctor. I was told that the episode (which all my friends in the UK had already seen of course) required a lot of context from all sorts of plots and stories that had been featured during the regular seasons and that I would not be able to appreciate the episode at all. Well, I do this kind of thing often with comics anyway, so I decided to take a chance and dive straight in.

Taken together as a whole, the episode has a really great message: all things come to an end, and we should accept that inevitability rather than fight it. The episode portrays the Doctor as a hero first and foremost who, as Chris Evans’ Captain America said in Avengers, would be willing to lay down on the wire and let someone else cross. Things aren’t ever so dire in the episode, but the message is the same. You do have to make sacrifices for the greater good, and this episode marks the Eleventh Doctor’s departure through such a sacrifice.

The portrayal of the Doctor isn’t something that bothered me, as it seems to have done so for other people. I quite enjoyed Matt Smith in the anniversary special and it was the same for me here. Even Jenna Coleman’s Clara, the Doctor’s companion/associate in the Matt Smith era, was someone I enjoyed seeing. The problems that I had with the episode are entirely down to the plot itself, and how it moves along. Sure, I missed a lot of references and sometimes that was painfully obvious from the story and the dialogue, but what really got to me was that the entire plot was just plain tepid. It was dull.

Some characters, such as Orla Brady’s Tasha Lem felt completely superfluous to the whole thing, existing only as interjected plot devices to show off something “cool” about the Who-verse. In Lem’s case, it was the Church of the Papal Mainframe, which has its people wear army surplus uniforms despite being a galactic, and possibly inter-galactic power. I’ve seen some pretty weird stuff in Eccleston’s run, and not of all it good, but this was really odd and it stood out because it continually bothered me.

There was even random sexism and misogyny thrown in. Tasha Lem repeatedly comes on to the Doctor, making one wonder just what kind of a space-nun she is in her role as the Mother Superious of the Church of the Papal Mainframe (quite a mouthful that). And in the second half, the Doctor force-kisses her and her reaction is to be all gooey-eyed at him. Give me a break please.

Additionally, the episode almost started with a nude joke and there were quite a few scenes where it was dragged out and didn’t really do anything other than make me cringe. Its funny the kind of things that stand out. Perhaps if the episode had had a much better story, I wouldn’t be so critical of something as small as a 30second nude joke, but it is what it is.

All that aside, the episode definitely brought on all the feels. I don’t have the same connection to Matt Smith’s Eleventh that 99% of all Whovians do. After all, this is only my second episode with him! But all the same, I couldn’t help but get emotional towards the end there. Matt Smith’s Doctor has come across to me as a really fun and quirky character, someone who is very much in the here and now. If he was a Jedi, he’d be a follower of the Living Force (I think its the Living Force, might be the Unifying Force, but I’m pretty sure its the former). Matt Smith is a bloody highlight of this show and his talent is plain as day here. You laugh with him, you feel despondent with him, you feel his pain, you feel his sadness. The final minutes of the episode, as he prepares for his departure, the emotional factor is ramped up to eleven and there’s now way that you can escape any of it. It is all a little too drawn out, but damn those final minutes were good.

DWChristmasSpecial2013

And I won’t ignore Jenna Coleman either. She was pretty fantastic in The Day of The Doctor and she’s pretty fantastic here too. You definitely can feel her sadness and her pain at letting go of the Doctor. For this newcomer, she is most definitely a highlight of the show, as is her character, Clara. They both pretty much rock. In her role as the Doctor’s moral compass of sorts, among other things, she is a perfect fit here.

This was my first regeneration ever and I held my breath for those final minutes, watching for the switch between Smith’s Eleventh Doctor and Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. I was really sad to see Smith make his exit and I have to say that despite the flaws of the episode, such as the things I mentioned above, the overabundance of content and the breakneck pacing, those final minutes are almost redeeming of it all. The regeneration itself was far too abrupt, and that was disappointing, but Capaldi’s reactions and his expressions were entertaining in their own way.

The episode brought pretty much the who’s who of the Who-verse as I understand it, with pretty much all of the Doctor’s biggest enemies making their appearance here and what not, and amongst all of it, especially the Dalek-infused final minutes, the Eleventh Doctor gets a royal send-off. As a newcomer, I couldn’t really have asked for more.

All that remains for me now is to get through the second half of Eccleston’s run as the Ninth Doctor, move on to David Tennant’s three seasons as the Tenth Doctor and then finally move on to the three seasons of Matt Smith.

More Doctor Who: The Day of The Doctor, The Day of The Doctor (Podcast).

Posted on December 27, 2013, in Doctor Who, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. All that remains for me now is to get through the second half of Eccleston’s run as the Ninth Doctor, move on to David Tennant’s three seasons as the Tenth Doctor and then finally move on to the three seasons of Matt Smith.

    That, my friend, is only the beginning

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    • Haha, I’m going to refrain from catching up on all 50 years of the Doctor though 🙂 Arrow, Almost Human, Sleepy Hollow, Game of Thrones etc are going to be returning very soon!

      Like

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