Doctor Who Review: The Time of the Doctor
Losing the Doctor is always an emotional experience. This one in particular hit me hard because Matt Smith is “my” Doctor. Almost all Whovians have one Doctor they grow particularly attached to and for me it was his 11th incarnation. While I have been very much critical of Moffat’s writing, particularly how he writes the Doctor’s treatment towards women, I’ve always enjoyed Smith’s acting in the part. He brought a fun, childlike joy to the Doctor that was very much enjoyable despite the questionable moments he was given in the scripts. Even with the wackiness, he still had a dark edge to him that made him an extremely appealing mix of contradictions. I’m looking forward to Capaldi and I have a lot of faith in him, but that only lessens the sting of losing my Doctor by a little bit. Smith is my Doctor and I’m incredibly sad to see him go.
This regeneration was a bit easier on the Doctor than the last couple. This time he was dying of old age and was expecting a permanent end to come, unlike the other ones where he was killed before he was ready to go but knew there was a regeneration waiting for him on the other side. In fact, he was smiling as the glowing energy began to surround him and change his form. It was still painful to bid farewell to Smith, but at least from the Doctor’s perspective it was under much better circumstances than the last few deaths he experienced. I was handling the whole scene well until Amy appeared. The moment she stepped onto the Tardis floor the waterworks began. I became a sobbing mess. Amy was the first face the 11th Doctor saw. She was his best friend and losing her was devastating. At that point I began to cry and I didn’t stop crying until the credits finished rolling. While Smith’s Doctor is my Doctor, Amy was my favorite companion, so this was a double dose of emotional trauma for me.
The transition to Capaldi was also very different than the past few regenerations. We’ve become used to the bright lights exploding and a new face emerging from within it, but this time we got a reset to a younger version of Smith’s Doctor before we get a new face. Perhaps this was an attempt to give us a few more moments with him before the switch, much like Tennant’s farewell tour in The End of Time. This made the change in faces abrupt. It just happened out of the blue and even Clara was taken back by the sudden switch. But then Capaldi jumped right into the role and we got our first glimpse at our new Doctor’s personality. “Kidneys!” will forever be ingrained in our memories as the first words Capaldi’s Doctor said, but Smith’s was “legs!” so we seem to be setting a theme of random body parts being shouted immediately after regeneration. What will be next? Toes! Ears! Intestines!
Amidst the emotional devastation of losing Smith, there were still moments in the episode that earned a deeper critical look. The continued sexualization of the Doctor and his flirtation with his companions are irksome for many and this episode only added on to the ever growing list in that regard. A large portion of the plot in the first 15 minutes required the Doctor to be naked, even though he did have a cloaking tool that gave him the appearance of clothing. When invited to pretend to be Clara’s boyfriend he jumped at the chance to play the part, including a rather jarring pat on her bum in front of her family. Then there’s also the random kiss with Tasha, which came out of the blue and was completely unnecessary. The Doctor under Moffat’s command just doesn’t seem to treat women with much respect, which is particularly painful for me as Smith, as I’ve mentioned repeatedly in this review, is by far my favorite Doctor.
Not everyone has a problem with the sexualization of the Doctor, though. There’s a large portion of fans that want to see the Doctor and Clara enter into a romantic relationship. While people who don’t want him to be with anyone other than Rose or River and the people who view him as a primarily asexual being are upset by these moments, Clara/Doctor shippers were given a wonderful gift this Christmas. Their ship is sailing strong. Even they seemed bothered by the kiss with Tasha, though, and it’s honestly hard to tell why that was written into the script at all. What was the point? What did that add? It only highlights that Smith’s Doctor is sort of inappropriate with women, which is a taint on the character that saddens me.
The episode also turned into “Moffat’s Greatest Hits” essentially. We had the Silence, the Weeping Angels, the crack in the wall, and so on. The Cybermen and the Daleks also made an appearance, but the attention was very much focused on Moffat era challenges and villains. Moffat has the bad habit of only focusing on his own writing and putting anything that preceded his era on the backburner. Sometimes he ignores it completely or rewrites it to fit his needs. The 50th anniversary was one big rewrite of the Time War and it seems that theme carried on over to the Christmas special. It often feels like he’s writing entirely for himself and not for the Doctor Who franchise at large. Doctor Who needs a writer who honors canon that came before him, not disregards it. Moffat needs to go. Doesn’t he look tired?
Overall there was a lot to be upset about in this episode, but Smith’s final moments were written beautifully. My favorite Doctor and my favorite companion got one final moment together, even if she was a hallucination. I was a sobbing mess in that scene, which means it essentially accomplished what it set out to do. It was moving, heartbreaking, and a fitting send off for Matt Smith. It’s the end of another era on Doctor Who. I’m grateful for all that Matt Smith has given us and I look forward to Capaldi.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.
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