The Time of the Doctor reviewed

TARDIS enters Papal Mainframe (artwork from BBC)I’ve had a few days to digest the Time of the Doctor and have a more considered review than I might have written on the day.

Without further ado, how was the Eleventh Doctor‘s final adventure, did he enjoy the town of Christmas? How did the regeneration limit get beaten? Was this a cracker or a turkey? Read on…

The story

The Doctor and half the universe are in orbit around a planet from which a mysterious signal is emanating. He boards a spaceship holding a Dalek eye-stalk and next thing we know is on the run from Daleks. This motif repeats seconds later when he boards another ship holding a Cyberman head (called Handles – an ersatz companion we will learn later); guess what, this is a Cyberman ship. Repetition features large in this story.

Clara is at home on Christmas Day trying to sort out dinner for her parents and grandmother. All is not going well so she calls the Doctor for help. Much of Clara’s role in this story is to suffer a very tedious attempt at Christmas dinner. Nothing else except at the end.

Via some nudity and holographic clothing we learn that the planet is Trenzalore and the Papal Mainframe has surrounded it with a force shield that can block even the TARDIS until the narrative needs to ignore that. Handles also identifies the planet as Gallifrey (see Is Trenzalore Gallifrey? for my earlier thoughts on this topic).

After some shenanigans we find out that there is a town called Christmas on the planet Trenzalore and the Doctor has no lives left. The planet is surrounded by all the Doctor’s foes and through a crack (as per the cracks from the first season of Eleventh Doctor stories) we are hearing a message from the Time Lords asking Doctor Who?

The idea is that now he knows they are alive the Doctor has to either give his name and allow the Time Lords to come back and restart the Time War or stay and defend Christmas despite knowing he will die on Trenzalore. When the time comes will he stay quiet or bring back the Time War? This is what The Silence has been dreading.

Clara meanwhile gets tricked twice into going back home in the TARDIS allowing 100s years to pass for the Doctor. Clara isn’t very bright in this one though does know the Doctor’s name! Will she restart the Time War? No – she shouts through the crack, the Time Lords move away but first give the Doctor one (or more?) new lives and enough regenerative energy to wipe out the Dalek Battlecruiser. Cue the regeneration, a cameo from Karen Gillan and welcome Peter Capaldi.

The storytelling

I found this very repetitious and stringing things out to join together some scenes that were rather splendid. I was most vexed by:

  • The Doctor sits 300 years and finds no better solution than to just sit around and watch the townsfolk get slowly eroded? No better way out? Really?
  • Why did Handles work out the Gallifreyan code but not the Doctor or the TARDIS on its own?
  • Clara gets tricked twice into going back home
  • Clara’s family are very one-dimensional
  • What was the point of the nudity?
  • Clara was touched by a Weeping Angel and nothing happened
  • Lots of vignettes of aliens attack almost every day (for 100s of years – really?) and always get beaten in moments.

To be fair I did like:

  • The Amy Pond moments which were very tender
  • The different flows of time highlighted that the Doctor is not human and views reality with a very different perspective than we short lived creatures
  • I liked the Papal Mainframe and the sequence where we found out they had all become robomen
  • The image of the town clock moving from 11 to 12 as Matt Smith gets his new regeneration
  • One more life but how many more?
  • The Time Lords worked as an element but didn’t dominate.

Overall I wasn’t over impressed – if you want a more upbeat review JR Southall will provide over on Starburst.

Fanzone – the Doctor’s mythology

So Steven Moffat gave us an end to the Doctor’s first regeneration cycle and moved pieces around to set out a whole new canvas. Apart from wrangling about the role of the War Doctor I think fandom has been pretty well served. I still predict a lot of ‘quest for Gallifrey’ stories.

What about you – hit or miss? Let me know!

PS – There is a post on the Telegraph Website that is far more critical than this – Just how bad was this year’s Christmas Doctor Who? by James Dellingpole. I am also involved in some comments down the bottom

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Andrew Peel says:

    A big miss I’m afraid. Matt Smith deserved better for his finale.

    I think a strong script editor is required who can tell his boss, the show runner/writer, that his script needs some work.


    1. Tony Jones says:

      Absolutely – a total lack of governance which might have resulted in some challenge. Having said that of course Day and Time were good and I quite liked Name as well.


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