The Time of the Doctor – television special review

"The Time of the Doctor" poster.
“The Time of the Doctor” poster.
And so we come to the end of Matt Smith’s reign as Doctor Who. For some of my daughter’s friends in 9th grade, Smith is the only Doctor they have ever known. One of her friends even said one day, “There are other doctors?” She was completely serious. Yes, dear. There are many other doctors. You may have even noticed a few of them in the recent 50th anniversary special. I trust that Matt Smith wasn’t playing all of them, but then he is a rather talented lad.

Doctor Who Christmas episodes are a mixed grab bag of pleasure and folly. They are usually high in hijinks and low on plot, offering fans a lark more than a serious episode. As such, they can get rather silly. When “The Time of the Doctor” began with the Doctor running around with a cyberman head as his new companion while Clara struggled with a Christmas turkey, I figured we were in for more all around silliness. The fact that the Doctor was naked but wearing holographic clothes was just more entertaining wackiness. It certainly made for some fun lines.

The chemistry between Smith and Jenna Coleman made this episode fun from the beginning to the end, and touching during the saddest bits. Soon after the initial silliness of the opening scenes, the Doctor was heading back to the mystery planet we began the episode at. Something has been calling all the major Doctor Who baddies to assemble in orbit. And wait. What does the message mean? Fortunately, the Doctor wants to find out. After attending the Church of the Papal Mainframe naked and flirting with a new character who has history with him, the Doctor and Clara are off to solve the mystery in a town called Christmas.

If you are a fan of the Doctor, you will likely enjoy this last hurrah for Smith. We see him combat enemies with his usual vaudevillian charm and we watch him age some more. It seems Doctor Twelve is the doctor who ages—an extra 700 years or so by my calculations.

Although the episode was mostly enjoyable, there were a few plot points that irked me. Let’s start with Mother Superious, the sexy leader of the Church of the Papal Mainframe with the hots for the doctor. For an episode featuring the last appearances of Clara and the Doctor in this incarnation, I felt the Doctor’s flirtatious dalliance with the Mother Superious relegated Clara to the kid table while taking time away from resolving their relationship. It wasn’t realistic to me to have Clara watch from the sidelines with a knowing smirk as the Doctor snogged the Mother, especially since Clara admits in this episode that she fancies him.

In addition, Clara meets the Silence as well as the Weeping Angels, but without incident. Neither race proved meaningful additions to the plot, so they became nothing more than Christmas ornaments on an overfull tree. In fact, they seemed to serve no purpose other than to create the illusion of tension. I found it manipulative and wasteful, but other fans may cheer for the cameos.

Those are slight criticisms, however. I was most disappointed by the deus ex machina ending. I don’t want to spoil things for those who haven’t seen the show yet, and I do know the writers needed to solve the problem of the end of Doctor Who’s regenerations, but using Gallifrey the way they did felt like a missed opportunity. If they had less cameos with the Doctor’s menagerie of villains and removed the hotty priestess, there may have been more time to have an episode with some depth. But that sure was one cool regeneration, huh?

As with most Christmas episodes, this one had a stocking full of flaws, but it was an entertaining romp with a Doctor that fans will sorely miss. The chemistry of the characters and the sheer manic joy Smith brings to the role will more than entertain you despite niggly li’l details here and there.

Release Date: December 25, 2013 (Worldwide)
TV Parental Guidelines Rating: TV-PG
Network: BBC

MySF Rating: Three point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 90%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 0
Nudity: 1 (creative blocking of nekid Doctor, plus they’re naked with holographic clothes)
Sexuality: 1 (flirting, unrequited love, bed/altar scene)
Violence: 2 (scenes of war)


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