Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor- A review and some thoughts

Ooooooooookaaaaaaaay. Hope everyone survived their Christmas dinner and is ok for my ramblings. And considering the fact that this is both a “special” and Matt Smith’s last Doctor Who episode, you can expect a lot of rambling, plus I’ve got a lot to get off my chest about this one. So please, let us begin. Warning, will contain spoilers. And nuts, a lot of nuts.

Now, I try not to do overly negative reviews, it’s why I never covered Red Dwarf X in “What Were They Thinking”, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything. But I’m going to be the Grinch here and declare this the worst episode of Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor and that I’m starting to wonder if Moffat may have lost it. THERE, I’VE SAID IT!

I mean, the start was good. The Doctor turning up on Dalek and Cyber ships carrying mutilations of the aforementioned races was classic Smith’s Doctor. The bits with Clara’s family weren’t as cringe-worthy as I thought they’d be, however, continuity point I have to question, Clara’s mother was confirmed as dead in ‘The Rings Of Akhaten’. It’s not inconceivable that her father could have remarried, but it would have been nice to have some clarity on the issue (though I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m the only person who noticed it). The on going turkey gag was good to start with (cooking by time vortex, genius), though it died a death after they just left it then came back half an hour and 300 years later.

But that brings me onto the real problem with the episode. For such a big, important episode with such a huge build up (3 series to be exact); NOTHING HAPPENED. At all. Zip, nada, zilch. I mean COME ON! DAFAQ MOFFAT. You give us 3 great seasons of build up, hang us on tenterhooks as you set everything up in a fine first 15, and then you time skip EVERYTHING as soon as Clara’s out of the picture (loved her cosmic yo-yo act by the way Moffat, really. Sorry, my sarcasm meter just exploded there). This could have been such an action packed episode, with Matt Smith at his best when he’s been put in a corner (see “The Time Of Angels”, “The Pandorica Opens”, “A Good Man Goes To War” etc.), but he was wasted here doing nothing. Both Ecclestone and Tennant went out in literally blazes of glory (we’ll get to that latter), but Smith just seemed to peter out. Hell, even John Hurt’s regeneration episode had more punch than this and he was only “The Doctor” for the last 10 minutes of it. ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH.

I will say one thing now. I actually started writing this review straight after I’d watched the episode, but I deleted everything I wrote and left it until this morning (Boxing Day now folks), because I just couldn’t stop raging, so if you think I’m being harsh now, I was ten times worse last night. And this hurts, because Smith is my favourite Doctor and I love how Moffat has done the series. Ok some of the things he’s done have been questionable, but over all I have throughly enjoyed his tenure as lead writer, which is why this episode is such a disappointment. The biggest mystery of the last 3 seasons, who blew up the TARDIS in season 5, was literally dealt with in two throw away lines at the start of the 3rd act. The Silents (the aliens not the religious order) were given an overly bizarre explanation that I didn’t think sat right and let’s not even bother covering Sontaran incompetence here, because they might as well not even have been in it. Neither should the Weeping Angels either really, one scene to set them up as a huge threat, already being on the planet and being, you know, THE WEEPING ANGELS, and they are never heard of again. At least the Daleks and the Cybermen got something.

Speaking of the Cybermen, lets get to the absolute nadir of this episode shall we. That scene atop the bell tower, a lovely tender moment between the Doctor, Clara and a decapitated Cyber-head. Now, I can understand getting emotionally attached to something you’ve had for ages, but really, the Doctor crying over a dead Cyberman. I actually found myself shouting at the screen “How many Cybermen have you killed?!” in front of my Grandparents, who don’t watch Doctor Who at all and were completely bewildered as to why I’d been so excited to watch this episode.

Once again, I have too say sorry, I’m really trying not to go off on one here, but it’s so hard. So I’m going to skip ahead a bit and cover the end of the episode, because this will be the last bit of negative and I want to finish on a positive note. The ending was schmaltzy, boring and unnecessary. What was the point of bringing Amy back? Yes Tennant went on a trip down nostalgia lane for his last episode, but it wasn’t just him leaving it was half the production staff who’d brought the show back and turned it into the massive hit it is today, so I think they deserved to go overboard on the pat-on-the-back stakes, plus they had the pay-off at the end, because Tennant’s last scene was just so devastating. Smith’s however. Yes you had that moment of over-done heroic triumph on the bell tower (I mean what was up with that dancing?), but his actual, in the TARDIS regeneration scene was nothing, he didn’t even get to properly regenerate like the others did (although, bell tower scene, funny dancing, yeah).

However, a good bit at last. The Time Lords, once again save the series, by not actually making an appearance? Oh well, that’s fine, at least we know what Capaldi’s going to be doing, and boy does he look fun, all two lines and mad actions he’s done so far. His manner there reminded me a bit of Tom Baker’s Doctor, all wide eyed and with the appearance of not having a clue, but that may just be the regeneration trauma, but if it isn’t I’m going to die of happiness. Plus they didn’t chicken out on the Time Lord lore. It was really the only way they could have given him a new set of regenerations without it seeming cheap and wonky now that they’ve brought the Time Lords back for good (we hope), so really no problem there. Shame about the set up for it though.

So, now I’ll let you guys have your say. Do you think that I’ve gone completely mad and am being way too critical or do you have a similar opinion that this was not a good episode. Lets hear it.

15 Responses to Doctor Who: The Time Of The Doctor- A review and some thoughts

  1. Hate to say it, JR, but I agree completely. After all this talk about the battle of Trenzalore, it felt like Eleven just retired. The no-more-regenerations thing bugged me a little too, it seemed like it should have come up before. Matt Smith’s Doctor fought a lot of battles without mentioning he’d used up all his lives, and even faked a regeneration so River could “kill” him permanently. I guess it bugs me because I was expecting Capaldi to give us a Doctor with no lives left and show us how that would affect him.

    As for Clara’s family, I don’t recall anyone being identified as her (step) mom, so I thought the other women were aunts and grandmas. Beyond that it will suffice to say I agree everything JR said, though perhaps not quite as enthusiastically.

  2. Let’s see. First off, I can’t say I hated this one as much as JR did. It’s just a part of my chemical makeup. I’m so laid back, I’m practically horizontal.

    Still, though… Was it the worst Matt Smith-era Doctor Who episode ever? I don’t know, The Rings of Akhaten was pretty bad. Was it the weakest Doctor Who Christmas special since they started in 2005? IMO, yes. (Please note, I’m trying to say that The Time of The Doctor was bad compared to the entire history of Doctor Who Christmas specials, not that it was the worst since The Christmas Invasion, which itself was pretty awesome.)

    The problem I get with it is the weak second act, from about the time when The Doctor sends Clara away to the point when she returns the second time. You come away with the impression that the episode is more telling you what’s happening than showing you. Given that this is supposed to be The Battle of Trenzalore that they”ve been leading up to for some time, you’d think it would be a little more action-packed.

    Which leads to my next question. If, according to the season 8 finale, The Doctor died during The Battle of Trenzalore, which left that temporal energy stream that Clara entered in that episode, but The Doctor now didn’t actually die, does that mean the Time Lords just broke a fixed point in time by allowing The Doctor to keep living, or does The Doctor have to come back later on to possibly fight a bigger battle, and oh my God, I don’t want to keep going on this topic anymore, it doesn’t make any sense.

    As for JR’s comparison between Peter Capaldi’s 60-ish seconds as The Doctor at the end of the episode to Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor, there is some truth to it. Hopefully it wasn’t completely unintentional, but it made for a pretty memorable introduction to his iteration of the character.

    Anyway, not as ignominious as Colin Baker’s 6th Doctor falling off his stationary bike and hitting his head, but Matt Smith deserved a better send-off than this one.

  3. You’re not the only one. It felt all way too rushed. And quite boring. I felt more for Handles than for Eleventh. As for the regeneration issue, you hit the nail on its head. If you ask me, it should have happened after the huge regeneration energy blast. I hope the next one will be something between the “finish already” Tenth one and the rushed regeneration Eleventh had.

  4. @Calvary Red- I would have written that other woman off as an Aunt were it not for the fact that there where only 3 people there besides Clara. Now I can only use my family as a comparison here, but when we have an Aunt and a Grandparent around for Christmas they will usually bring an uncle, another uncle and aunt and many cousins. I find the set up that this “aunt” would be unmarried, one of only two children and interacting in the way she did with Clara quite odd to say the least, but as I’ve said I’ve only got my family to compare with here. Also if you remember the Lake Silenceo regeneration was a hologram projected by the Teselecta so therefore wasn’t the Doctor wasting a regeneration.
    @Myro- The biggest problem I had with this episode is the fact I didn’t hate it whilst I was watching it like I did with Rings of Akhaten. No, the hatred came after the fact. Whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel anything, I was just bored and that’s much worse. A good episode of any TV series should have you wondering WHAT is going to happen next, not IF something is going to happen at all. But I will join you in confusion over the timelines. When you have a fan base like this, for a show like this, you can’t really be disregarding continuity like that without giving a reasonable explanation, I mean DAFAQ MOFFAT!
    @Quark- I agree that they should have just let Smith go in that big triumphant moment atop the tower, or at least had him regenerate in the TARDIS without all the needless waffle. As for how they do the next one, how about they do it like they did with Ecclestone, only without kissing the companion thank you very much. I wish they’d stop doing that, they managed it with Donna (best companion) so why keep coming back to it, he’s 1200 years old for gods sake (I’m about to go off on one here, for which I apologise). Tennant’s Doctor made the point that they can spend the rest of their lives with him but he can’t spend the rest of his life with them, so why do you keep putting him in these situations. Any normal person would not be lusting over the Doctor when he’s showing you worlds that you couldn’t even imagine in your wildest dreams, you’d be out there having you mind blown by the fact you’re standing on an alien planet, in the future, talking to a cat nun. I mean…………………
    JR19759.mod has stopped responding. Please reboot system.

  5. What I was saying about the Lake Silenceo event was why have the Teselcta fake a regeneration when there are no regenerations left anyway? I can think of a few reasons, but none that really explain why he’d just drop the act now.

    The Tardis Data Core lists the other woman at Clara’s family dinner as Linda and fails to explain what her relation is or even her last name. So yeah, it’s annoyingly unclear.

  6. Ironically I’m just unaware enough from holiday feasting that I missed most of the objections the others made.

    But I DID have one. Matt Smith went without his TARDIS and stayed in one place for 300 years? Does anyone besides me remember how he’s been whenever he was stuck in one place for one AFTERNOON? Why didn’t they address that? At the very least it would have been another comic montage as he went from frenetic to geriatric. MS could have given them enough material for another half hour. For me they just weren’t consistent enough within MS’s incarnation.

  7. I may sound like a total idiot child here, amongst you over-serious so-called fans and killjoys, but I absolutely loved every minute of this Christmas special. That makes me a criminal, methinks. Oh, and worse – I loved every episode of Doctor Who so far.

  8. @Herr D- Now that you mention it, yeah it is a bit off, but considering the rest of the episode it wouldn’t have improved it much. Really they should have just made the timeframe of the episode shorter in all honesty.
    @Malfar- I’m interested to know why you enjoyed the episode, that’s why I asked for others opinions, not just to get back a load of agreement but to hear the other side of the argument. But as for us being “so-called fans” for slating an episode that we’ve all made valid points on how it could be improved. With any medium of entertainment serial, be it tv, comics, books, movies, music or games, when they get too be as popular as this the fans do have a right to expect a certain level of quality and they also have the right to voice their opinions when they feel that this level of quality has not been met. That’s what happens when you put something out for the public to consume. I (and others) felt this episode did not meet my expectations and I voiced that. That does not make me any less of a fan of the show. If I was in charge of such a show I would pay more attention to the fans than anything else because they are the ones who can make or break the show, so when you do something badly, the fans can tell you what you did wrong and how you could have improved it. I might have gone off on one about this episode but that’s just how I write (check out my previous Doctor Who reviews). Voicing your opinion doesn’t make you a criminal, I respect your opinion and you should at least show some respect of mine.
    Also, I would not say that loving every episode of Doctor Who so far is a “worse”, I have enjoyed pretty much every one I’ve watched. The only exceptions to this being the Abzorbaloff episode, “The Rings of Akhaten” and this episode, which weren’t very good episodes in my opinion. But three episodes out of 7 series is a pretty decent success rate (if we are only covering the revived series from 2005 onwards. I haven’t seen every episode of the original series unfortunately, as some of them have been lost and I wasn’t around when they were first aired), which is why it’s so disappointing for me when they do drop the ball, especially when it’s the head-writer who does the dropping.

  9. Well, firstly, I enjoyed it because I really expected to see a great episode – and I got it. The episode contained action and fun in just the right amount. The familiar characters and places, and the ever-winning style of the Doctor, with his cool behavior.
    What concerns quality – I don’t use this word much in my speech. Especially for products like tv shows. I use it only for big bad material things – the food that remains fresh or rots quickly, or items that hold forever or break as soon as you buy them. Oh, and if I were you, I wouldn’t wait for much detailed explanation. I watched the whole show (except the episodes that were entirely lost) twice, and I’m going to watch it the third time. The thing is – the more I watch Doctor Who, the more I like this show. As simple as that. Silly or not. For me Doctor Who equals high quality. Quality of everything.
    Once again – I just can’t explain my admiration and keep feeling silly when overly serious killjoys voice the opinions like this. I just can’t help but reading these opinions like “Oh I like Dr Who so much, but this show is so damn horrible I’m gonna puke just by looking at it again”.
    So – no, no explanation from me, sir. The show is just great.
    Oh, and don’t think that I’m a troll, please. I’m not. I just watch the show and enjoy it, and can’t imagine how you can watch it and not enjoy it.

  10. Overall I enjoyed this episode of Doctor Who, my only grip is that I think the pacing of the show was too slow. The events of Trenzalore were still a Major event in the History of Doctor who, Hundreds of years of the Doctor fighting to protect one planet from destruction. Very powerful event, just the telling of those events were off making the episode feel too drawn out and less dramatic.

    @Malfar I understand you liked the show, which is 100% fine. You have every right to your opinion. The thing about opinions are that they are all personal, therefore no one is likely to have the exact same opinion of something as anyone else and again that is 100% fine. Debating of differing opinions is great and in fact is encourged. However what is not encourge, and what I will not tolerate as the Head Moderator of this site is name calling and flaming. I don’t want to see it again, so please reframe from calling people “Killjoys” and So-Called-Fans” again. Thank you!

  11. Ok, ok. Once again, I didn’t actually mean to be rude. I mean, I’m used to average russian forums, much less civilized. So, no offence.

    I know there are many opinions, I just can’t comprehend some of them, like if someone told me that the average stone is soft. Oh, and that’s not the first time I see fans that try to grind their favorite product into the dirt. Still, that never ceases to confuse me.

  12. Well, malfar, in my opinion, you may like some thing, but still feel that it’s not perfect.

    For exemple, overall, I’m a marvel’s Thor fan, but I’ve disliked episodes where some authors injected thinly veiled references to christianism in it, with Thor acknowledging the existence of a higher power, far above the gods of asgard.
    I absolutely LOVED the first 2 seasons of Gargoyles, but hated the 3rd.

    Likewise, you may be a great fan of Dr Who, but, if I were to write an episode, you’d probably think it sucks, just because I’m not a good writer at all. And this is fine! This means that, despite your love for Dr Who, you still get to keep your critical mind, and are able to separate your love for the characters and stories you enjoyed over the years from the travesty I’d make of it. You won’t be blinded by your love, nor will my poor work destroy it.

    Hoping I managed to help, I wish you all a nice day

  13. I know I’m SUPER late commenting on this…but I just wanted to share my quick thought on the Christmas Special.

    One problem I had with the episode is that it was Matt Smith’s last bow AND a Christmas Special. Some of the other commenters mentioned the lack of action…really the parts of the episode that COULD have had the most intense action scenes were used to make it more cheerful and Christmassy. I think if they removed the Christmas and Holiday parts to the episode and focused more on the Doctor defending Trenzalore it would have been better.

    That’s just my opinion. I still love Doctor Who, and I still like Steven Moffat’s style…although I think he’s getting a little too cavalier with the continuity. (Example: the Doctor spent 100 – 200 years away from the ponds but when he returned he looked the way he always did…yet 300 years on Trenzalore and he ages into a crogedy old man)

    The explanation of the Silence made me scratch my head at first, but after giving it some thought it actually makes sense to me. Every group has their extremists, doesn’t mean the group themselves are bad. So madame Kavarian’s Silents were just a group of radicals trying to prevent an endless war by any means necessary.

    Bottom line: I liked that every plot point and all the lose ends that have been there from the begining of Matt Smith’s time were resolved. I personally thinked they were trying to force feed us the cheerful Christmas aspect of the episode and it didn’t mesh well with the endless battle of Trenzalore and the death of the 11th Doctor.

    Just my opinion…and again sorry for being late to comment.

  14. @MScat- I see what you mean about the Christmassy bits making it lesser, but that’s a problem they haven’t had before and it’s not something they have shied away from before either, so I don’t see how it really could have had such an effect now, it was just a poor script in my opinion.
    And don’t worry about being later, there isn’t a time limit on when you can comment.

    Just a quick question guys. When the new series starts do you want me to review it episode by episode, like I have been doing with the specials, or do you want me to do a summary after the season (or half a season, as they’re bound to halve it again :( ) has finished, like I did with the last season?
    Doing it episode by episode means we’ll be able to discuss developments as they happen and I’ll be able to give a more in-depth analysis of each episode. However, doing a season overview at the end will mean that the analysis can be done with hindsight and plot points that may not have made sense at the time can be analysed with their eventual outcomes in mind. I’ll leave it up to you, what do you think?

  15. What about a month’s stuff at a time? Sort of in-between for detail and resolution of mid-length plotlines?