Sat, 1 February 2014
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"The Time of the Doctor" is the 800th episode of the British science fiction television programme Doctor Who, written by Steven Moffat and directed by Jamie Payne, and was broadcast on 25 December 2013 on BBC One. It features the final regular appearance ofMatt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and the first regular appearance of Peter Capaldi as theTwelfth Doctor following his brief cameo in "The Day of the Doctor". The episode also features Jenna Coleman as the Doctor's companion Clara Oswald, plus several enemies of the Doctor, including the Cybermen, Silence, Daleks, and Weeping Angels.
"The Time of the Doctor" is the third instalment in a loose trilogy of episodes, following "The Name of the Doctor" and "The Day of the Doctor", which together serve as the Eleventh Doctor's swan song. The episode addresses numerous plot threads developed over the course of Smith's tenure, including the prophecy of the Silence and the Doctor's fate on the planet Trenzalore, while also dealing with the regeneration limit established inThe Deadly Assassin. "The Time of the Doctor" is also the 800th individual episode ofDoctor Who, the ninth Christmas special since the show's 2005 revival, and Matt Smith's fourth and final Christmas special as the Eleventh Doctor.
The Doctor is among thousands of aliens orbiting an unknown planet, from which a message that no one can translate is being broadcast continually across time and space. With the assistance of a modified Cyberman head nicknamed "Handles," which he uses as a personal assistant, the Doctor briefly visits two of these ships, before leaving to Earth to pick up Clara and briefly meeting her family. On returning, Handles identifies the planet as being Gallifrey, the lost planet of the Time Lords, a statement the Doctor vehemently rejects. The Doctor and Clara are invited on board the first ship to arrive at the scene — the Church of the Papal Mainframe, a space church headed by Mother Superious Tasha Lem, an old acquaintance of the Doctor. Tasha states that the Church has secured the planet with a force field and that the message instills fear into all who have heard it, then asks if the Doctor wishes to be the first to explore the cause of the message. On arriving on the planet, The Doctor and Clara are attacked by Weeping Angels, but using the key under his wig, The Doctor materializes the TARDIS around them. Now using the TARDIS as transport, The Doctor and Clara find a town called Christmas, that is surrounded by a truth field that prevents anyone from telling a lie. The message's origin is quickly identified as a crack in reality in the church tower; this crack is "scar tissue" from the cracks originally closed when the Doctor rebooted the universe ("The Big Bang"). Handles identifies the language of the message as Gallifreyan and with the Doctor's help, translates the message as a question: "Doctor who?" (the 'first question' in "The Wedding of River Song"), repeating endlessly. It is a request that the Doctor should speak his real name and thereby confirm it is truly he who is there.
The Doctor concludes that his people, the Time Lords, are using the crack in the universe and calling to him for help, from the pocket universe in which Gallifrey was trapped ("The Day of the Doctor"), from which they wish to escape. If the Doctor answers the question and speaks his real name, the Time Lords will know they have found the right place and come through to their home universe. However, this would also trigger a renewal of theTime War as the alien species gathered above descend to destroy them, and Tasha states this will not be allowed to happen: the planet will be destroyed first at whatever cost. The Doctor asks the name of the planet, and she states "Trenzalore", the planet where the Doctor knows he will one day die and have his tomb ("The Name of the Doctor"). The Doctor tricks Clara into plugging a device into the TARDIS which transports her home, and remains on Trenzalore to defend the planet from incursions by the aliens overhead, creating a stalemate where he cannot leave without sacrificing his home planet and its people, nor can he be removed for fear he will speak his name and let them return.
Immediately after landing Clara home, the TARDIS begins to return to Trenzalore, but Clara manages to hold on to the outside of the ship and join it on its return trip. However, to protect her from the time vortex, the TARDIS is forced to increase its shields, consequently slowing down the return journey. Arriving back at Christmas, Clara meets a visibly aged Doctor who has spent 300 years defending the town. He reveals to her that, although he is known as the Eleventh Doctor, he has already used all of his twelve possible regenerations, once his incarnation who fought in the Time War and the Tenth Doctor's aborted regeneration ("Journey's End") are counted. He is therefore in his final body and can no longer regenerate. He and Clara are then brought to the Papal Mainframe—nowthe Church of the Silence. Here, he learns that during this protracted stalemate, a chapter of the Church broke away and tried to avert these events by killing off the Doctor in the past: by destroying his TARDIS ("The Big Bang") and engineering a child to kill him ("A Good Man Goes to War"). Additionally, Tasha and her crew have been taken over by Dalek consciousnesses, converted into 'Dalek puppets'. The Doctor taunts Tasha, awakening her anger, and allowing her to resist the Dalek consciousness within her. They all escape the ship and return to the planet, as the Dalek fleet receives reinforcements and masses for war.
Despite promising never to send Clara away again, the Doctor does so and she returns to Earth as the siege of Trenzalore becomes an all out war. As the centuries pass, most of the races depart or are destroyed, leaving only the Silence (with whom the Doctor puts aside his differences and allies himself) and the Daleks. Later the same day (from Clara's perspective), the TARDIS reappears; Clara enters to find Tasha piloting the TARDIS. Noting that "flying the TARDIS was always easy, it's flying the Doctor that I've never quite mastered", Tasha returns Clara to Trenzalore, as "no one should die alone", sending her to meet with the now old and frail Doctor at the point when the Daleks finally win control of the town. With nothing left, the Doctor goes out to face the Daleks in a final stand.
Clara, unable to watch what will follow, returns to the time crack and through it, begs the Time Lords to somehow save the Doctor, urging that it is owed to him for all he has done in his lives. The Doctor is preparing to die outside, when the time crack vanishes from Clara's sight in the tower, to appear across the night sky. Regeneration energy flows from the crack and into the Doctor: the Time Lords have granted the Doctor a complete new regeneration cycle, thereby saving him from death.
As his thirteenth regeneration starts, the Doctor uses the excess energy to destroy the Daleks facing him. In the aftermath, Clara finds the Doctor, young again, back in the TARDIS. He states that this temporary rejuvenation is a 'reset' for the new cycle of regenerations to begin and the second phase of the regeneration is taking some time to start up, but he will soon change. He delivers a eulogy to his current form, and hallucinates a final farewell to Amy Pond, the first person he met after his last regeneration. He then removes his bow tie, a defining feature of his eleventh incarnation, and abruptly regenerates into the Twelfth Doctor. After exclaiming that he has 'new kidneys' and dislikes their colour, the new Doctor worriedly asks a shocked Clara if she knows how to fly the TARDIS.
As this is the Eleventh Doctor's final appearance, numerous plot threads developed over the course of his journey are addressed. Remnants of the cracks in the universe, the major story arc of the fifth series, are being used by the Time Lords in an attempt to break back into the universe after their rescue from the Time War. The intention of the Silence and the rationale behind the prophecy ("Silence will fall when the question is asked") are revealed to prevent the Time Lords from returning to the Universe and causing the time war to begin anew. The Silence are also revealed to be behind the destruction of the TARDIS. The resulting explosion is what caused the cracks in the universe in the first place, a development which the Doctor notes is an ontological paradox. The Silence's attempt to kill the Doctor with River Song is also referenced.
The Doctor uses the Seal of the High Council of the Time Lords to help analyse the messages coming from the crack and confirm if it is of Time Lord origin. The Doctor says that he stole the seal from the Master in the Death Zone, a reference to the 1983 Fifth Doctorstory The Five Doctors. The monuments in the small graveyard in the background on Trenzalore are of the same unusual shape as the ones which will later cover the planet, as shown in "The Name of the Doctor". A Punch-style Doctor puppet says during a town celebration that "Christmas (the town) is defended"; this echoes the very first Doctor Who Christmas special, The Christmas Invasion, when the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor tells the Sycorax that "It (Earth) is defended."
Matt Smith said filming would commence on the episode when he had finished work on the film How to Catch a Monster. He later revealed filming would start in September. The episode was directed by Jamie Payne, who previously directed the episode "Hide". The read-throughfrom the Christmas special took place on 4 September 2013.
In August 2013, Moffat stated in an interview that the Christmas episode would tie together the remaining story strands from the Eleventh Doctor era, some of which were introduced as far back as "The Eleventh Hour". Production on the episode was scheduled to start on 8 September. Owing to his work on the film How to Catch a Monster, which required him to have a buzz cut, Matt Smith had to wear a wig to mimic the Doctor's hairstyle. In August 2013, it was revealed that the Cybermen would feature in the Christmas episode, when one of the show's regular stunt artists, Darrelle "Daz" Parker, tweeted that she would be playing a Cyberman.
On 23 November 2013, the teaser trailer released on BBC One after "The Day of the Doctor" revealed that the Daleks, Weeping Angels, and the Silence would also be appearing in the episode. Although the Daleks and the Cybermen had previously met in "Doomsday" and "The Pandorica Opens", this marks the first time that the four species have appeared in an episode together. Revealed in the trailer is the Doctor's return to Trenzalore and the tagline "Silence Will Fall", which has been repeated through Matt Smith's run as the Doctor.
Recasting the Doctor
On 1 June, the BBC announced that Smith would be departing the series after almost four years, with the Christmas special episode being the episode of transition between Smith's Doctor and the next regeneration. The announcement sparked media and fan speculation as to who the next Doctor might be. It was announced on 4 August 2013, during a special broadcast – Doctor Who Live: The Next Doctor – that the twelfth incarnation of the Doctor would be played by Peter Capaldi. Although it was originally announced that Capaldi would debut as the new Doctor at some point during the Christmas special, he actually debuted in a cameo appearance in "The Day of the Doctor", in which only his hand and his eyes are visible.
Filming for the episode began on 8 September 2013. On 10 September, Matt Smith andJenna Coleman were seen filming on location in Cardiff. The location was Lydstep Flats, which have been previously used in Series 1 and 2 as the Powell Estate where Rose Tylerlived with her mother Jackie. On 19 September 2013, scenes were being filmed in the evening at Puzzlewood with fake snow being scattered over certain areas. On 5 October 2013, Doctor Who producer Marcus Wilson revealed via Twitter that filming was complete.
A sneak preview for the episode was shown after the simulcast of "The Day of the Doctor", confirming the appearance of the Cybermenand revealing the inclusion of the Silence, Daleks, Sontarans and Weeping Angels, as well as confirming the Doctor's return to the planet Trenzalore. The title and a poster were released on 26 November. In the BBC Christmas 2013 trailer, there were clips also confirming the Daleks and the Cybermen. Through the online Doctor Who "Adventure Calendar", more images were released in December. On 11 December, the BBC released a 35-second trailer in which the Daleks pronounce "The Doctor is Regenerating!" there is also the Silence, Cybermen, members of the Church featured in "The Time of Angels"/"Flesh and Stone" and "A Good Man Goes to War", Clara and the Doctor featured in the clip. On 17 December 2013, BBC One released another Christmas trailer, featuring Clara calling the Doctor during a Cyberman attack on the TARDIS. Prior to the episode's broadcast, the BBC also released three preview clips.
Broadcast and reception
"The Time of the Doctor" was broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC One on Christmas Day 2013 when it received initial overnight ratings of 8.30 million viewers (30.7% share) against the long running soap opera Coronation Street which got 7.9 million viewers (though this was later bumped to 8.27 million after the later repeat showing on ITV+1 was factored in). Doctor Who was the second most watched programme of the entire day across all channels, with the final 5 minutes (the regeneration from Smith to Capaldi) receiving the largest peak viewers of the day with 10.2 million. The final viewing figures for the episode were 11.14 million viewers, making it the fifth most watched Doctor Who Christmas special. It was also shown on 25 December in the United States on BBC America, where, with 2.47m viewers, it achieved the highest ever audience figures for the channel, beating the previous record set just over month beforehand with "The Day of the Doctor".
It was also seen in Canada on Space, in Germany on Fox and in Israel on yes Action. In Australia it aired on 26 December onABC1, and in New Zealand, it screened on Prime Television during Boxing Day evening with 106,390 viewers. It received anAppreciation Index of 83 in the UK.
The episode holds an 86% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Dan Martin of The Guardian praised the episode as "awfully good". He wrote, "[Steven Moffat] performed the fourth remix of the show's mythology in a row, tying up strands that date back to the beginning of Matt Smith's run." He added, "Perfectly, the rebooting of his regeneration cycle was done simply... Who could have guessed the Doctor's renewed regeneration cycle would be dealt with as simply as his best friend just asking nicely?" IGN gave the episode a score of 8.4, "GREAT", writing that "'The Time of the Doctor' was an exemplary exercise in celebrating the departure of a loved one. If you managed to stay dry-eyed during the Doctor's goodbye to Clara (itself a not-entirely-transparent goodbye from Smith to the role he embodied), then you should probably double check your heart's still working," also lauding Karen Gillan's "rather crowd-pleasing, tear-inducing cameo". While criticizing its "rapid, almost breathless pace", they concluded, "It was a melancholic yet ultimately merry end to one of the show's best Doctors to date."
Los Angeles Times said that Matt Smith exited "with comic energy" and "grace", stating, "The Christmas special embodies the heartfelt style and playfulness that Matt Smith brought to his spell as the Time Lord. There are two ways to watch the series. The first requires a deep knowledge of its complicated 50-year-history and an ability to keep complicated strands of time-twisting action straight in one's head. The other way is to watch it for the poetry, the resonances and the connections and a sense of wonder about life (extra-terrestrially dressed at times, but our life underneath)."
io9 noted similarities between the episode and the previous regeneration story: The End of Time, with The Doctor seeing the person he first saw in his current incarnation before regenerating and "both are weighed under by the ominous, threatening shadow of their previous legacies, and in ways, both falter because of it." However they felt the "plot itself doesn't really quite hold up to the rest of the storytelling". They criticized Moffat for doing another "carnival of monsters, but this time, never feels quite justified, outside of a 'wouldn't it be cool *if*' moment." They also felt that it would best be suited to a two-parter like The End of Time, "with that extra time to breathe, it might not have felt so rushed, and Moffat might have had the chance to explain things a little deeper." But they too praised Smith saying, "Smith shines in his final outing as The Doctor. It's a whizz through his greatest hits if you will, from humour to grandiose speechery, to his magical capacity to make your lip quiver with a glance of his eyes." Overall they called it "a fitting end to the Matt Smith era."
Jon Cooper of The Mirror gave the episode a positive review, calling it "Easily the highlight of Christmas telly," and that it "gave Matt Smith a perfect send off." They awarded the episode 4 stars out of 5. He praised Smith saying, "Easily the best he's put in since his tenure began." He criticized the pacing saying, "viewers hoping for an all-out intergalactic bloodbath must've left feeling disappointed, hundreds of years of inter-species warfare were skipped over in the blink of an eye". He also found the need for every single one of the Doctor's enemies to be there pointless, saying "Daleks on their own would have more than sufficed." He also found similarities with The End of Time, mainly the regeneration sequence, with the Doctor removing one piece of his costume before changing, and the now traditional callback to the previous regeneration with Capaldi's entrance with the kidneys line.
The Independent gave a positive review saying that, "Smith gave a cracking final performance before bowing out." They also said that the episode " was a sci-fi spectacular!" But they also criticized the plot as being too complicated for its own good.
Morgan Jeffrey of Digital Spy gave the episode 4 stars out of 5 and said that "Matt Smith steals the show, his final turn on Doctor Who is one of his very finest, perhaps even his absolute best." He also compared it to David Tennant's final episode and said "Smith's regeneration scene too is a thing of beauty, like David Tennant before him, Smith gets to break the fourth wall, just a little, in his extended final monologue, [...] it's perfect." He also was positive towards Clara and suggested that she was now being written in a more human, empathetic way "in the wake of the Impossible Girl arc", although such efforts were "well-intentioned but rushed", he felt that there were "steps being taken in the right direction" with the character. He praised Jenna Coleman's performance, saying she is "dependably excellent." But he did say "'The Time of the Doctor' is a case of the parts being greater than the whole. It has great scenes and standout moments rather than being a great episode." He also criticized the pacing and felt that "a repetitive story structure robbing many key moments of their power."
Alasdair Wilkins of The A.V. Club was overwhelmingly positive in his review, praising the subtle emotional complexities. "This episode belongs to Matt Smith, and it's entirely likely that this will go down as his finest work in the role. Steven Moffat takes great care to spotlight every aspect of Smith's Doctor. He is alternately grumpy, funny, awkward, flirty, inquisitive, giddy, and heartbroken, and that simply covers the bits up to the reveal of the crack in reality. The old-age makeup isn't entirely convincing—though I'm not honestly sure any old-age makeup has ever been entirely convincing—but Smith nicely modulates his performance to suits the increasingly wizened versions of his Doctor." He also praised the episode for being an effective "final act" rather than a standalone story. He gave the episode a rating of "A".
Kyle Anderson of Nerdist wrote the finale "might leave a percentage of fandom cold, but... I can’t think of a better way for the Eleventh Doctor to end his tenure." He stated, "There were lots of loose ends for writer Steven Moffat to tie up, but somehow he did it." Of The Doctor's protection of Trenzalore: "It’s this action that is the perfect farewell to the Eleventh Doctor. He’s the Doctor, more than any other, who has run away and not wanted to be tied to any one place or time... compelled to stay put to save each and every life he can." The final scene "[allowed] the Eleventh Doctor to go out with dignity and both appreciate the sadness of leaving without casting a pall over the new." He added, "We get our first, very fleeting glimpse of the next Doctor, Peter Capaldi, who is just as intense and strange as we probably expected."
Tim Martin of The Telegraph gave the episode three stars, criticizing the complexity of the episode and the fact that loose plot holes were all left to be answered in just 60 minutes: "Every time the Gordian plot-knot gets sonic-screwdrivered into submission for the 60-minute limit, the writers just tap the remnants into Later. What's the deal with the creepy brain-wiping creatures known as The Silence? Later. The name of the Doctor? Later, and then we get The Time of the Doctor, where every second line seems to offer a footnote to some arcane Wikipedia entry on Whovian lore." But he praised Smith's final performance saying, "the actor was so good as the childlike alien."
Radio Times said they were "really warming to the current companion, especially now she's free of the "Impossible Girl" baggage. Perky, resourceful, best-friend material, Jenna Coleman's Clara has a tangible echo of Lis Sladen's Sarah about her." They noticed anEnd of Time call back, with The Doctor seeing his previous companions before his regeneration and how the Tenth Doctor destroyed the TARDIS with regeneration energy, the Eleventh doctor destroyed a Dalek ship with it. They look forward to seeing Peter Capaldi take over with his "Gaunt, lizard-like [face] and with frou-frou hair. [...] In Peter Capaldi, we have a dream-wish Doctor."
"The Time of the Doctor" is due to be released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United Kingdom on 20 January 2014, in Australia on 22 January 2014 and in the United States on 4 March 2014. It will be accompanied with a behind-the-scenes feature and two documentaries. The UK and Australian releases will additionally come with an extra disc featuring the Eleventh Doctor's previous Christmas specials, "A Christmas Carol", "The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe" and "The Snowmen".