The Time of the Doctor was aired on Christmas day and took place in a town called Christmas, which has nothing much to do with Christmas other than there’s snow.  Clara’s having a Christmas dinner with her family and that’s about it for the Christmas theme.  This is an episode meant to bring closure and new beginnings that just so happens to be penciled in for the Christmas episode.

SPOILERS AND THE LIKE AHEAD

Taking a walk through Christmas town

Taking a walk through Christmas town

As always, Matt Smith gives a brilliant performance and with his final two specials, finally gets scripts that allow him to demonstrate his light-hearted and dramatic acting without getting over-the-top.  Throughout the episode he is faced with actual death and plays it seriously but at the same time, calm and accepting.  He’s also given some funny moments with Clara as she’s trying to make dinner and things aren’t going well.  Though, I would have liked a bit more between the Doctor and Clara’s family, as it felt kind of rushed, but at least they came back later on in the episode for a well done scene (oddly, her dad only had a few lines of dialogue while her grandmother was the main character of her family).

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the episode, and it all is kind of thrown at the viewer.  The big thing of course Matt Smith leaving so the Doctor needs to regenerate, and it’s done well enough.  Before that, the Doctor is tracking down a signal being sent all around the universe but nobody can decipher it, and as a result, nearly every past villain is there, as well as the Doctor.  Eventually the Doctor finds out he’s at Trenzalore and the signal is coming from a town called Christmas.  Now, think back to series 5, the cracks and the TARDIS exploding that was never really explained.  Well, these things are back and the explosion is a bit more explained, but still we just need to go with it.  The cracks also make a return but don’t feel as connected to the cracks in series 5, instead feeling more like an attempt to be clever by bringing something back from a few series ago.  Oh right, series 6, Madame Kovarian, she’s mentioned again, and now also sort of makes sense.  Truth be told, these things feel like they’re forced in there just so Moffat can say he was being clever and had this planned all along even though it feels like he didn’t.  Why do I say this?  Well, basically it’s because most of these lines and explanations are just kind of thrown in there, never the focus but more a quick remark, like a full depth explanation would be too hard.

The Doctor finds these things out when he’s aboard the – now hold your breath, this is a long one – Church of the Papal Mainframe (it’s a big church spaceship, no big deal) and Mother Superior Tasha Lem (Orla Brady) has somehow known the Doctor from past regenerations.  This isn’t a big deal, we can assume he’s been around the universe a time or two and it’s nice to see him be flirty with someone who isn’t as unbearably annoying as River turned into.  At one point the Doctor tells Clara that Tasha doesn’t like to appear aged, so maybe it can be argued she is somehow connected to the Time Lords.  She goes on to explain how Madame Kovarian broke away form the church and convinced some of the Silents to go on her rogue cause.  Also, the Silents apparently aren’t really evil and are in fact important figures of the church.  The whole thing about silence falling also comes back and again, makes enough sense to work but is still a bit flimsy.

See, this is all about the Doctor here, and it’s kind of obvious when other parts of the story falter he’s still there to deliver some excellent intimate dialogue with Clara, Tasha, or the citizens of Christmas.  Interestingly, thedoctor-who-christmas-cyberman Doctor ages, which I suppose makes sense given he’s actually about to die for real (they explain how he’s the last regeneration and you just have to go with it, Moffat clearly wanted to get the regeneration number out of the way).  Seeing him get older is really entertaining because he never fears his death and instead is accepting and calm about it.  There’s a lovely scene towards the end when he’s making a toy for one of the children in town and Clara comes in to talk to him before he takes his final stand against the Daleks, but I won’t go and ruin it.  Likewise, the final moments before his regeneration are solid just nothing overly special, but there is a nice guest appearance that will either have you in tears or just going aww, depending on how much you liked the character in the past.

There’s also a big paradox that cannot go avoided.  Remember how the Doctor was buried at Trenzalore, Great Intelligence goes into his time stream to kill him, then Clara goes back to save him?  Well, that kind of can’t happen now since they prevented Trenzalore from being destroyed and from the Doctor being killed there.  This means the finale of series 7 pretty much can’t happen, which then means the 50th anniversary can’t happen (or at least it would need a different explanation).

Matt Smith’s last episode really is then, a summary of what his era has been.  Smith plays the role great as always, but is held back by truly inconsistent writing that tries to be complex for the sake of saying it’s complex and instead turns out to be a mess of continuity errors.  I would also like to add how Moffat should probably get a female writer on board (seriously, do they have any?), because he’s just awful at making anything really emotional.  He relied too much on the past by sending Clara away twice compared to Rose being sent back at the end of series 1 just once.  When Rose went back it had a much bigger impact since her scenes weren’t rushed like Clara’s ended up being.  Moffat also doesn’t care much about family.  When Amy got her parents back it was no big deal, Rory’s dad never knew what happened to his son, and Clara says maybe a sentence to her dad.  These are things that went towards lessening the emotional impact of the episode because a lot of it felt very safe and sterile.  Sure, the Doctor had a nice send off speech (actually, it was really nice because of how it applies to both Time Lords and humans as well as New Years day which is in just a few days) but something was lacking.  Yes, it was better than the 10th Doctor’s ending, which was drawn out, but it never reached the heights Moffat hyped it up to be, and above all else, that’s what is so frustrating: an egocentric writer who thinks everything he does is so clever he has to tell the whole world rather than letting the episode do the talking for him.

I’m looking forward to Peter Capaldi and am sad we will never again hear bow ties are cool.  I will miss the way Smith so skillfully plays the old man trying to act young.  There are so many great things he was able to do with such a limited script that put him in place as my favorite of the new Doctors that I will miss.  When he drops his bow tie at the end you know it’s over, and he’s fine with it, he knows it’s time to go.  He lets us know it’ll all be good and everyone changes as they grow older, just don’t forget who you were before because that’s what made you who you are now (he says it a bit better, but you get the point).  I know I have a lot of complaints about the episode, but when it comes down to it, Matt Smith proves with his final bow that he is an excellent actor and Doctor, and Amelia’s imaginary friend, the raggedy man will be greatly missed.

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