The Time of the Doctor

This Christmas, the time of one of my favorite Doctors drew to a slightly disappointing close, with a potentially moving elegy buried beneath an avalanche of eh. But let’s have one more go at picking apart yet another overstuffed Moffat finale, five minutes at a time, and see if we can focus on the good bits.

0:00 – 5:00
Handles is, of course, one of the good bits. We’ve had a cuddly Sontaran and a cuddly Silurian, so naturally now we have to have a cuddly Cyberman (still waiting on the cuddly Dalek, unless you count Oswin). He talks and thinks like K9, which is quite welcome.

This opening was actually quite promising, full of the jokey stuff Moffat does best. “How those Cyber-evenings must fly.” “It’s a roller coaster, this phone call.” “Yeah, I [invented a boyfriend] once. And there’s no easy way to get rid of an android.” Brilliant.

Later we’ll discover that the message is from the Time Lords. So why can’t the Doctor translate it? Why, for that matter, can’t he recognize Dalek or Cyberman ships when he sees them?

And this is still my favorite title sequence of the new series. Maybe ever.

5:01 – 10:00
This bit about the Doctor being naked to go to church is almost funny, but not quite. You can just hear Moffat thinking, “I’m going to have a much harder time doing this joke with Capaldi naked, so I’d better pull the trigger on it now.” It feels a little desperate, but at least it leads to a reprise of the joke in “The End of Time” where elderly women fancy the Doctor.

Cooking a baby in the TARDIS led to a pseudo-Time Lady who was eventually turned into the Doctor’s assassin, so hey, why should cooking a turkey be any less safe, right?

Interesting that where RTD had space-cops (the Shadow Proclamation), Moffat has a space-church-army (the Papal Mainframe).

There’s a theory floating about that Tasha Lem is supposed to be River Song, but the scene just before the ten-minute mark suggests that either she’s never met this Doctor before (hence predating the Alex Kingston version) or her relationship with him is such that he believes she’s never met this Doctor before (hence…I have no idea). I’m calling: no relation.

10:01 – 15:00
Love the spitting-out-the-wine bit one more time.

Love this bit with the Silence, too. They haven’t been my favorite monsters, but this is a nice use of sound and editing to make this one super-creepy. The Angels…a little less super-creepy, but nice attempt.

15:01 – 20:00
It’s quite a good wig, isn’t it? Some more very good quips, well-written by Moffat, well-delivered by Smith. I love the idea of the town where no one can lie, and I love the people he meets who explain it to him.

Interesting that this crack has been haunting the Eleventh Doctor since his incarnation. I missed it the first time round, but this is apparently what was in his room in “The God Complex.” Is it the crack he was afraid of, or the people on the other side? Presumably the former, since at the time he thought those people destroyed, but it’s interesting to have some sort of answer to the question.

The Doctor “nicked [the Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey] off the Master, in the Death Zone” in “The Five Doctors,” all the way back in 1983. There’s your pub quiz sorted.

20:01 – 25:00
The repetition of “Doctor who?” never fails to sound embarrassing. I really hope this is the last time we have to hear it.

25:01 – 30:00
I quite like the idea of immobilizing Weeping Angels with mirrors. It’s surprising we haven’t seen it before now. Why is the wooden Cyberman infringing Dalek copyright on verbs ending in “-ate”?

And why is the Doctor aging? Is it something that happens to him only when he’s been away from the TARDIS, experiencing consecutive time for long periods? He got through 300 years leading up to “The Impossible Astronaut” with barely a laugh line, so there must be something different here.

“Cool is not cool!”

30:01 – 35:00
Here’s the heart of the episode: “a town that needs me to stick around.” This is something that this incarnation of the Doctor in particular has been averse to. In “Vincent and the Doctor” he’s appalled by time passing very slowly in the right order; in “The Power of Three” he can barely sit on a couch thirty seconds waiting for a cube to hatch. I never got the sense that he was waiting to be needed, or waiting to find somewhere to settle down. But maybe for some people that’s how it is; settling down is what happens when they’re thinking that any minute the TARDIS is going to come back. And after a while, they feel as though it’s where they were always meant to be.

And here’s the regeneration limit made official for the new series: it’s 13 lives and out, just like in the classic series, and yes, both John Hurt and Rose’s human Doctor count.

35:01 – 40:00
I don’t really understand why you’d want to forget that you’d confessed. Seems more likely you’d want your confessor to forget what you’d told them. But now we know who blew up the TARDIS, and why there are so many different takes on “silence will fall”: religious sectarianism. Same as it ever was.

And the Daleks know who the Doctor is again. Looks like we got about as much mileage out of the “forgetting the Doctor” setup as we did out of the candy-colored Daleks (i.e. none). How did they kill Tasha several times? Even if she were River Song (talking about herself — “they engineered a psychopath to kill you”), didn’t she shed all her regenerations in “Let’s Kill Hitler”? Is she another Time Lord, and if so, who is she and where did she come from?

40:01 – 45:00
And if she’s not River Song, what does the line “you’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life” refer to? Does the Doctor just have a thing for psychopathic women? Clara seems to think so.

45:01 – 50:00
I like this moment, where Clara’s gran declines to tell the funny anecdote about the pigeon and tells the touching story instead, just after saying how she prefers the crackers with jokes to the ones with poems. It’s contradictory and quite beautiful.

Here’s Tasha flying the TARDIS. More evidence for the River Song hypothesis. I suppose you could also apply it to Romana, or even the Rani, but who wants to go there? I don’t. Can’t there be more than three women in the universe who can fly TARDISes?

I’ve seen some people complaining about the old age makeup. I think it’s pretty effective, myself.

“Talk very fast, hope something good happens, take the credit. That’s generally how it works.”

50:01 – 55:00
I’m not sure I like the idea of the Time Lords coming back at all — generally I like that Gallifrey is no longer in this universe, since lost is almost as good as destroyed for keeping them from causing trouble by returning and being underwhelming. And I’m really not sure I like Clara praying to them and asking them to help “if you love him.” But maybe they help because they know there’s only one person she would talk about this way, and because they know they’re going to need him, and he’s no use to them dead.

It’s a nicely understated way to reboot him: just a little orange snowball through the crack in the universe, and we’re away. However mixed my feelings about this story might be, I do appreciate its restraint in comparison to, say, “The End of Time.”

55:01 – 60:00
…well, restraint in most respects. Regeneration energy as a weapon of mass destruction is a bit of a stretch, and it was fairly silly back in “The End of Time” when it just acted to demolish the TARDIS interior. But this is a pretty momentous regeneration — the start of a whole new cycle — and the breaking of a few rules is gonna be par for the course.

But at least this Doctor faces death with dignity. Having lived for centuries probably helps you do that; we don’t know how long the Tenth Doctor was around for, but it was probably less than 600-plus years.

Lovely cameo by Amy. One of the nicest moments of the episode. I’m really going to miss him, and now I’m really going to miss her too.

60:01 – 61:06
And in a blink, he’s Peter Capaldi. I would love to say that this was a memorable entrance, but instead it’s a briefer reprise of Matt Smith’s first few moments: a comment about changed body parts (the rather forced “kidneys” bit) and then “we’re crashing.” I would have liked to see something a bit more interesting from a brand new Doctor with a rebooted regeneration cycle, something to make me look forward to the new season, but then I didn’t like Matt Smith until the first five minutes of “The Eleventh Hour” either, so there’s plenty of time.

I liked this episode better the second time around. I didn’t love it, and I wish it had been weighed down less by wrapping up leftover questions (and raising new ones in the form of Tasha Lem), but it did its job, and gave Matt Smith a quietly heroic exit. Perhaps no exit could have done justice to a Doctor this lovable. But everything changes, even if it’s always too soon.