It’s not Christmas without a Doctor Who special, and this year’s is especially emotional. “The Time of the Doctor” is Matt Smith’s final episode as the Doctor and it’s the kind of farewell that should make fans incredibly happy.
Picture everything you’d want in the last installment of the 11th Doctor. The Daleks, the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels, the Silence, the crack in the universe, fish fingers and custard, Trenzalore, a cameo by Karen Gillan as Amy Pond. This episode has everything.
It all takes place in a town called Christmas on a planet that’s sending out a signal all over the universe that has attracted every enemy the Doctor has ever faced. The signal is from Gallifrey, the Doctor’s home planet that he retroactively saved in the 50th anniversary special, and the message is the oldest question hidden in plain sight: “Doctor who?”
In the end, in true Doctor Who fashion, the day is saved when the rules are changed. The Doctor is out of regenerations and should die on Trenzalore, but an assist from the Time Lords on the other side of the crack in the universe changes everything. The episode involves Matt Smith’s Doctor living over the course of many centuries until he finally faces off against the Daleks (with some unlikely allies) and regenerates into the new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi.
Here’s a look at the 11 best moments from Doctor Who’s triumphant farewell to Matt Smith.
All the Best Villains
Doctor Who has some of the creepiest and best villains on TV, and all of the greats were on hand. There were Daleks (and the weird humanoid Daleks with eye stems in their foreheads), Cybermen (with a Cyberhead who served as a companion for the Doctor and a Cyberman made of wood), the Weeping Angels, and of course, the Silence. However, the strangest part is that, in the final war on Trenzalore, the Doctor was working WITH the Silence to defeat the Daleks.
The Naked Doctor
Since it’s the last time Matt Smith will be playing the Doctor, it was quite cheeky of the show to have him get completely naked in front of Clara, explaining that he’s dressed for church. Naked Matt Smith is always welcome. Also naked is his head when he reveals that he’s wearing a wig and is actually bald (a great place to hide a spare TARDIS key).
Going back to the very beginning of Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor, the creepy crack in the universe made its return, only now we learned all about its origins and purpose. It seems Madame Kovarian’s chapter of the Silence was designed to go back in the Doctor’s timeline and blow up the TARDIS to create the crack in the universe and prevent him from reaching Trenzalore. It’s also a portal between universes, and on the other side of the crack is the pocket universe that Gallifrey is stuck in. As such, the message coming out of the crack, the oldest question, “Doctor who?,” is actually a test from the Time Lords. If the Doctor answers the question then the Time Lords on the other side of the crack will know that it’s him and will emerge from it.
The Time War, Part 2
However, the problem with the question is that, since all of the other enemies heard it, they are waiting outside of the planet. If the Doctor answers the question and the Time Lords emerge from the crack, the Daleks and everyone else are waiting to destroy them, thus reigniting the Time War. It’s a classic Catch-22 because the Time War the Doctor ended by trapping Gallifrey will start up again if they return.
Christmas = Trenzalore
To spread a little holiday cheer, this episode took place in a town called Christmas, a place the Doctor stayed to help protect the local inhabitants. But it wasn’t really Christmas, it was actually Trenzalore, the place of the Doctor’s final battle that we first saw back in “The Name of the Doctor.” It’s also a special place because there’s a power that forces everyone to always tell the truth. As such, we discover that Clara has a thing for the Doctor.
The Aging Doctor
Kudos to the makeup department of Doctor Who for aging Matt Smith many, many centuries over the course of the episode, turning him into an old man and actually making him slightly reminiscent of the very first Doctor.
The show loves meta-commentary, and nowhere was that more obvious than in the special Christmas poem Clara read to the aging Doctor, “Extract from Thoughts on a Clock” by Eric Richie, Jr.
“And now it’s time for one last bow,
Like all your other selves.
Eleven’s hour is over now,
The clock is striking twelve’s.”
It was a sweet moment for Clara, but her best moment came a bit later when she went to the crack and begged the Time Lords to help out, explaining that his name is “the Doctor.” That’s as close to an answer as we’ll probably ever get to the question.
The Rules of Regeneration
This episode offered us a lesson in Time Lord regeneration, namely that each person only has 12 regenerations during their lifetime. And even though Smith is the 11th Doctor, there was John Hurt’s Doctor from the 50th anniversary special and David Tennant’s 10th Doctor regenerated once but kept his face, meaning all 12 regenerations have been used up. As such, Matt Smith’s Doctor is the last one.
“Never, Ever Tell Me the Rules”
Then again, rules don’t really apply to the Doctor. Just as the old Doctor is ready to end his life against the Daleks on Trenzalore, the crack in the universe appears in the sky and the Time Lords on the other side send some regeneration energy to the Doctor, giving him another life. He uses that power to destroy the Dalek ships and save the day.
“Raggedy Man, Good Night”
In the final moments of Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor, there was only one way for him to go. A bowl of fish fingers and custard sat on the TARDIS controls and he saw little Amelia Pond running around, the first face his face ever saw. Then, in his imagination, the adult Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) shows up to touch his face one last time, saying “Raggedy Man, good night.” Sorry, Clara, but Matt Smith will always be Amy’s Doctor.
The 12th Doctor (or 13th or 14th)
The last scene of the episode marked the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor. This is where the nomenclature gets a bit confusing. For all intents and purposes, he’s the 12th Doctor. But in reality, he’s the 13th version of the Doctor (or the 14th, if you count Tennant’s second regeneration as himself).
He’s an older man, which is actually an interesting way to take the show following Matt Smith’s departure (even though I can’t help but think that he’s Hugh Laurie’s doppelganger). And the fact that his closing line of the episode is about how he doesn’t know how to fly the TARDIS is a perfect bit of chaotic madness.
It will be hard to accept a new Doctor after Matt Smith, but I remember thinking and saying the same thing when David Tennant left and some young punk took over. So I look forward to giving Capaldi an open-minded chance when Doctor Who returns in the fall of 2014.
(Image courtesy of BBC America)