The Ninjabot

Goodbye Matt Smith! The Time of the Doctor Review

Posted on December 26, 2013 at 12:04 am by Amanda Andonian

UPDATE: I’ve subsequently changed my mind about this episode, but I’m leaving my original review as-is. For more on why Doctor Who has actually become a big fat disappointment, check out my editorial, “Has Stephen Moffat Ruined Doctor Who?

After three years, it’s finally time to say goodbye to Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor. It hardly seems that it’s been that long already considering all the crazy adventures Smith’s Doctor has been on, and this year’s Christmas special, “The Time of the Doctor,” marks the end of his final adventure. Was it an episode worthy of the end of the Doctor?

Spoilers Ahead!

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Orbiting high above a mysterious planet, the episode opens on the Doctor trying to escape from hostile Daleks drawn there by a signal that they can’t decipher. Not only that, but hundreds of ships from all over the universe are in orbit as well, all curious about what the signal means, yet unwilling to land on the surface to find out. What follows is the culmination of dozens of little clues that Stephen Moffat has been planting here and there over three seasons of Doctor Who. From the Silence to Trenzalore to the crack on little Amy Pond’s wall, everything brought up in the past three years was revisited again, each piece fitting together pretty perfectly.

One of the things that Moffat does best is setting up an overarching story and allowing it to gradually unfold and reveal itself over time. However, episodes like “A Good Man Goes to War” and “The Wedding of River Song” were a little disappointing in the way that major plot lines were “resolved,” leaving us wanting more. Whether “The Time of the Doctor” was always meant to be the final answer, or whether it was crafted as a response to the Internet’s sigh of “meh,” it definitely provided a much better resolution to the Doctor’s search for the answer to the oldest question in the universe.

In light of the events from “The Day of the Doctor,” we meet up with him again as he attempts to track down Gallifrey in hopes of saving it once and for all. Rather than forcing us to wait through another season of searching, Moffat brings it all back around right away, revealing that the crack on Amy Pond’s wall—the crack in the universe that the Doctor himself created by blowing up the Tardis—is actually the Time Lords trying to break through into our universe. Since the beginning of time, they’ve been transmitting a question that only the Doctor can answer: Doctor who? It wasn’t just a cutesy question as a nod to fans, but a test that the Time Lords knew only the last surviving member of their race could pass.

The Siege of Trenzalore

the-time-of-the-doctorUnfortunately, the Doctor can’t just tell them his name and allow them to come through the rift—not with half of the hostile universe hovering around the planet, waiting to see what the signal actually means. Instead, he decides to stay on the planet, which just so happens to be Trenzalore. The only settlement on the planet is a small town called Christmas where the signal emanates from. In order to protect Christmas’ inhabitants and the trapped Time Lords from those who would destroy them, the Doctor decides to stay and fight against the Silence, Daleks, Cybermen, and every other enemy he’s ever made.

Over 500 years pass as the Doctor attempts to save Christmas (har har har) from the hostile aliens laying siege to Trenzalore. It’s a battle of epic proportions that passes in the blink of an eye for Clara (who the Doctor tricks into going back home), but stretches on for the Doctor into his old age. Matt Smith has an uncanny ability to exude the aura of a man who’s far older than his years, and he does so once again in “The Time of the Doctor” to great effect. Here’s an all-powerful being, dedicating himself to the protection of others, yet he watches them die over and over again because they’re mortal and he isn’t. No matter how close he grows to his companions, the Doctor always ends up alone, forced to move on without them.

The Siege of Trenzalore also answers the question of where exactly the Silence came from. Although we learned in “The Wedding of River Song” that their purpose was to prevent the Doctor from answering the Question, it still left us wondering what question could possibly be so dangerous that he couldn’t be allowed to answer it. Tonight we learned that the Silence was genetically engineered by the Papal Mainframe to ensure that silence reigned—namely the Doctor’s silence. He couldn’t be allowed to say his name—the answer to the question, “Doctor who?”—thus signaling to the Time Lords that they could return. Dedicating itself to silence, the Papal Mainframe worked to make certain that “silence will fall.” Definitely a satisfying conclusion, in my opinion!

Finally Saying Goodbye

the-time-of-the-doctorWatching Matt Smith for the last time, the Eleventh Doctor’s final glance aimed at the first face his eyes ever saw, wasn’t as gut-wrenching as I worried it would be. It was certainly a sad moment, but it felt more inevitable than past regenerations. Where Tennant’s Doctor left saying, “I don’t want to go,” Smith’s Doctor knew that his time was over, and he was ready to meet it. As such, his regeneration wasn’t dragged out, but instead happened practically in the blink of an eye. One minute, Smith is standing before us, bow tie gently settling on the floor of the Tardis, and the next it’s Peter Capaldi.

For those who’ve been keeping track, you’re probably wondering how the Doctor manages to extend his life past twelve regenerations. While it does involve a bit of retconning wherein the lost Time Lords send a little bit of regeneration energy to help the Doctor out, it still manages to make sense somehow. Whether this means that he’s now truly out of regenerations remains to be seen. Upping the ante from his last regeneration, though, the Doctor also uses the expulsion of energy to take out a low orbiting Dalek spaceship. Who knew that was possible!

Although he doesn’t manage to bring the Time Lords back, the Doctor does succeed in continuing to protect them from the rest of the universe. Perhaps it will now be up to the Twelfth Doctor to find them once again and release them from limbo. While I’m sorry to see Matt Smith go, his send-off was one of the best episodes I’ve seen in a while, and that’s saying a lot on the heels of the 50th anniversary special. He had an amazing run, I’ll miss his bow ties and stetsons and fezzes, and he’ll always be my Doctor.

Goodbye Matt Smith!

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What did you think of Matt Smith’s last episode? Which Matt Smith moment was your favorite over the past three years? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @reiko516 for the latest in geek news.

    • Jess

      I really thought I was going to escape with just a few tears but then Amy came down the stairs and I balled like a baby. I will miss Matt but I still don’t have “My Doctor” so maybe 12 will be it?

    • Frank E. Wingrove III

      My favorite 11th Doctor moment is still his speech at Stonehenge. One of the most bad-ass moments in Doctor Who, in my opinion. “The Time of The Doctor” I thought was really good. It was different than what I thought it was going to be with so much time passing in The Doctor’s life and I wish a few of the loose ends had been tied up before the Christmas special, but I enjoyed it and really felt the emotions of Matt Smith bleed through The Doctor’s lines. I will miss Smith and the 11th Doctor, but I’m really looking forward to Peter Capaldi as the 12th Doctor.

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