Matt Smith’s farewell episode as The Eleventh Doctor on BBC America’s “Doctor Who” was somewhat of a letdown, as it failed to be as awesome and epic as one of the all-time great Doctors truly deserved.
“The Time of The Doctor,” which premiered on BBC America on Christmas, doubled as both Smith’s farewell to the show after four years and the annual Christmas special and despite its elongated episode failed to deliver on the series’ usual greatness. It also failed to deliver much Christmas-y stuff, but that can be forgiven given the circumstances. Failing to live up to Smith’s tenure as The Doctor, is not so easy to forgive.
In the clunky storyline The Doctor is tasked with once again saving those unable to save themselves, his greatest virtue, as he attempts to save the small town of Christmas from all of the evildoers of the world, including some of the most famous and best villains the show has ever seen: the Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels. With The Silence thrown in to boot, arguably the four greatest “Doctor Who” villains appeared in the same episode, all the more reason why the episode should not have been a letdown. Despite the appearance of all four of these great villains none of them had a whole lot to do in the episode, except for serve as the mostly unseen evil threatening the town.
In his final epic (though again, not epic enough) standoff against evil The Doctor, famously known for his inability to sit still, stays in Christmas protecting it from the surrounding evil for 300 years, all the while growing old and knowing that he’s near his end and out of regenerations – thanks to the reveal of John Hurt’s “The War Doctor” in the show’s 50th anniversary special “The Day of The Doctor.” The reason that the evil surrounds the town of Christmas is that it’s the location of the mysterious “crack in time” that returns to the show after some time missing. The crack in time is revealed to be The Doctor’s own kind – the Time Lords of Gallifrey – who were saved in the 50th anniversary special. The Time Lords are awaiting The Doctor’s announcement of his true name, so that they may return from their safe hiding, but their return would create another great war that The Doctor couldn’t possibly go through again.
Smith’s performance in “The Time of The Doctor” is perfect as ever, but the problem lies in showrunner and writer Steven Moffat’s script and storytelling in that the episode never really seems to get going and also never really seemed to mesh together with simply too much going on at times.
What Moffat did get right – even if it did come a little too late to save the storyline – was the reveal of yet another regeneration and said regeneration. Smith’s goodbye as The Doctor to Clara (Jenna Coleman), his current companion, was obviously emotional with The Eleventh Doctor beautifully philosophizing: “I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me.” All of us Whovians who joined the show during Smith’s run will never forget when The Doctor was him either.
The dramatic unloosening and dropping of his iconic bowtie (one of the things I’ll miss most about this Doctor) inside the TARDIS was one of the few, fantastically epic moments of Smith’s farewell, as was the moment that I’m sure all Whovians hoped would come and waited with bated breath to see if it would … Karen Gillan’s brief return as The Eleventh Doctor’s first companion (and my personal favorite of the entire series) Amelia Pond. The moment when Amy appeared and caressed The Doctor’s face and referred to him as “her Raggedy Man” one last time was the only real moment of the episode that made me tear up, which is unfortunate, because I feel like the entire episode should have done so. No offense, to Coleman’s Clara, but this was the companion goodbye I truly wanted to see and was glad Moffat delivered.
Another somewhat disappointment and shocker of the episode was just how quickly the regeneration from Smith’s Doctor to the new installment of Peter Capaldi took place. It was almost so quick that we didn’t feel we properly got to say goodbye to Smith, but then again Capaldi’s bewildered face almost stole the moment well enough for us to forget. Capaldi’s confused “How do you fly this thing?” question to Clara about the TARDIS, his first words, was a great way to send us off into his era as The Doctor (hopefully the earliest in 2014 as possible).
I believe Capaldi will be a terrific addition to “Doctor Who,” despite never having wanted to see Smith leave. It should be fun to see the new personality, appearance and attitude of The Doctor when the series returns. However, I hope the writing on the show improves with the new Doctor, as honestly the show’s writing and storylines have been rather clunky ever since Clara became the companion – note I don’t view this as the fault of that character as I like her – it just seems that the storylines have either gotten too complicated or less interesting since her arrival. This probably stems from the fact that Smith really should’ve left the series when Amy and Rory did. Hopefully with Capaldi’s era the relationship between The Doctor and Clara can essentially start anew and the show will right itself … I have no doubt that it will.
As for Smith, he was everything I’ve ever wanted and loved about The Doctor, and as I previously stated the reason why I became a fan of “Doctor Who.” He will always be my Doctor and his legendary performance as The Eleventh Doctor will certainly never be forgotten.
BBC America can be viewed locally on Conway Corp. Channel 103.