TV Review: Doctor Who - Time of the Doctor

By Robert Smith

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The Eleventh Doctor's story came to an end this Christmas with The Time Of The Doctor special, and while the saga continues with a new face, it's a fond farewell to Matt Smith.
Matt Smith has whipped out his sonic screwdriver for the final time.
Matt Smith has whipped out his sonic screwdriver for the final time.

After the bombastic blow-out of last month's 50th anniversary special, Matt Smith's final appearance in Doctor Who cut back on the epic storytelling and concentrated on the smaller pleasures in life.

Instead of striving to save his home planet from being annihilated in a vast cosmic war, the Doctor spends almost all of The Time of the Doctor slowly growing old in one small town somewhere in the infinite landscape of the universe. He still fights the monsters every now and then, but spends most of his time fixing toys for the local children.

It's an apt way to farewell the Eleventh Doctor - Smith was the youngest actor to ever play the enigmatic character, but he was also fantastic at conveying the sheer age of the character, and he deserved a long, slow retirement before the inevitable end.

It was still a Christmas special, so The Eleventh Doctor did manage to go out in a literal blaze of glory, with his impossible regeneration - he'd used up his allotment of new bodies - bringing down a spaceship full of the hated Daleks.

He also faced off against his biggest villains for the last time, with the Weeping Angels, Sontarans, The Silence and some (wooden) Cyber-Men putting in an appearance, while head writer Steven Moffat took the chance to tie up any loose ends he had left dangling after several years of intricate plotting.

But the most powerful moments in The Time Of The Doctor didn't involve a stand-off against intergalactic bullies and mad despots - they involved the Doctor reflecting on his time, and slowly giving in to the ravages of age. In this vein, Smith managed to wring genuine emotion out of his final on-screen appearance, but also nailed the quieter moments: the shutdown of a disembodied cyber-head is also the loss of a trusted friend.

It wasn't that long ago that Smith was the new Who on the block, but now he's moved on. He's said goodbye to his friends, (and Time of the Doctor also found the space for a cameo appearance from the Eleventh Doctor's oldest friend) and his enemies, and when he undoes his trademark bowtie and lets it fall to the floor of the Tardis, another era in Doctor Who has come to an end.

Which means, of course, that another one is about to begin, in the shape of brilliant British actor Peter Capaldi, one of the oldest actors to take on the demanding role. There are dozens and dozens of reasons why Doctor Who is the greatest television show ever made, but this constant cycle of rebirth and renewal remains its greatest strength, and one that shows little sign of slowing down.

Capaldi has only made a short appearance as the latest incarnation of the increasingly immortal Doctor, after his intense eyebrows made a cameo in the Day of the Doctor anniversary special, and it remains to be seen what kind of Doctor he will be, (although he is certainly a Scottish one).

But that's a question for the unwritten future, and Time of The Doctor is a celebration of the recent past, and a dedication to the Eleventh Doctor, and his time in the Tardis. Time marches on for everybody, even Doctor Who, and everything eventually ends. While there is comfort in the fact that the story goes on, the Eleventh Doctor's time is over.

It might have been silly sometimes, and the time-travel shenanigans often got overly complicated, but it was another fine chapter in the lives and times of Doctor Who. The next one is about to begin, but there is plenty of fun and emotion in the Eleventh's chapter that is worth celebrating.

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