Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review - "Doctor Who: Time of the Doctor"

Warning: Spoilers are coming...

"The Time of the Doctor" is the end of an era - Matt Smith's final episode as the Doctor. This is the day that fans of Smith's Eleventh Doctor (myself included) have dreaded. The question is, does "The Time of the Doctor" successfully wrap up Smith's tenure? Let's find out.

A mysterious signal is being projected to all corners of the universe from an unidentified planet, drawing in hundreds of alien ships. Also answering the call is the Doctor (Matt Smith) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman). Arriving on the planet, the Doctor soon discovers that it is Trenzalore, the planet on which he will die. And the message is coming from the Time Lords - they're asking a question, a question which never be asked - Doctor who? In order to prevent the Time Lords' return, the Doctor's enemies, including the Daleks and the Cybermen have waged war upon the planet, and only the Doctor can save it - but at what cost?

"The Time of the Doctor" managed to pile a whole lot of plot into a sixty-minute Christmas special. While the above synopsis may seem confusing and drawn out, it does not even begin to explain away the complexities inherent in the episode. This is not to say that a complex story is bad, and in Steven Moffat's defense, everything is explained away and put to rights come the conclusion. Yet, his script suffers from some obvious padding. The beginning portion of the episode was obviously inserted for some cheap laughs, and the sub-plot about Clara hosting Christmas dinner for her family really doesn't go anywhere. Once the story moves to the planet of Trenzalore, the action picks up a bit.

Much was made in promotional material of the return of the Doctor's most famous enemies including Daleks, Cybermen and the Weeping Angels. Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, these monsters only make fleeting appearances, especially the Weeping Angels. But, they make the most of their one scene and are as usual pretty creepy. One Cyberman (or part of one) turns up in the form of the Doctor's newest comrade, Handles, a disembodied Cyberman head. Bravo to Steven Moffat and Matt Smith for making us feel sympathetic for a head of steel.

Matt Smith makes his final bow as the Doctor
In terms of performance, Matt Smith does an excellent job, turning in one of his best performances. This time around, the part of the Doctor came with some added challenges as he ages into an old man serving as the protector of Trenzalore. Facing his own mortality, the Doctor is certain that he shall die on Trenzalore without regenerating, but is granted a new set of regenerations by the Time Lords. Matt Smith's performance was excellent, especially in his regeneration scene, and he's awarded one of the Doctor's greatest last lines: "I will always remember when the Doctor was me."

"The Time of the Doctor" has been pretty good up to this point - I have managed to let go of my favourite Doctor and then things suddenly went downhill. The regeneration happened so quickly that if you blinked you were liable to miss it. The viewer was suddenly confronted with the sight of a very confused-looking Peter Capaldi, who remarks on the colour of his new kidneys. I cannot possibly judge Capaldi's performance because he was on screen for less than a minute. In the past, we have at least gotten some indication of what the new Doctor will be like from their first few minutes on screen, but Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor remains an enigma. I cannot help but feel that if some of the episode's opening minutes had been trimmed or cut out, we would have had a much better regeneration scene.

"The Time of the Doctor" certainly had its ups and downs. Though it featured a brilliant performance from Matt Smith, it had a contrived opening and a lacklustre ending, which even the best performances from Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman could not elevate. Therefore, I give "The Time of the Doctor" 3.5 out of 5.

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