The weeks until the Doctor Who series nine premiere are almost up, which is a great thing, but the downside is we only have a couple more editions of BBC America’s The Doctor’s Finest to enjoy. Take the good, take the bad, facts of Life, and all of that. Last week, we enjoyed the triumph of “The Day of the Doctor” and host Hannah Hart talking to Osgood herself, Ingrid Oliver, all about being in the 50th Anniversary special and what the institution of Doctor Who is like in Britain. Fascinating stuff; give it a watch!
This week, we follow that with a rather downbeat, though still pretty triumphant episode, “The Time of the Doctor,” the Christmas special which saw the farewell of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, the reinstatement of a cycle of regenerations, knowledge that the Time Lords do indeed still exist, and a tying of up of every loose plot thread Steven Moffat had dangling.
To discuss the episode, Hannah will be joined by fellow YouTuber Charlie McDonnell. That will begin tonight (Saturday, September 12) at 8pm ET/PT.
To find out more of my thoughts on “The Time of the Doctor,” keep on a-reading…
After “The Day of the Doctor,” it seemed like the unfettered love of Doctor Who couldn’t possibly last forever, but with Matt Smith’s departure story coming only a month later, that was to be expected. Saying goodbye to a beloved Doctor couldn’t possibly equal the emotional high of a 50th anniversary celebration, nor should it. The tone of the Christmas special, the 800th individual episode of Doctor Who, was entirely different, much more contemplative, certainly much sadder, but did no less to shape the way the series would have to change to continue.
If “The Day of the Doctor” taught us anything, it’s that not only can time be rewritten, but popular fan wisdom can as well. If you don’t like the music, change the station; If you don’t like the future, make a new one. How does the Doctor reconcile not wanting to die, even though he knows he must? The truth? He doesn’t, but that’s where friends come in, yet again.
After being tricked into going to Trenzalore by the Church of the Papal Mainframe, the Doctor finds in the perpetually truthful town of Christmas the crack in the fabric of the universe, the very same crack he faced before and made “The Big Bang” happen. This time it’s a question being asked by a long-forgotten, and long-destroyed, world: Gallifrey. They need to know the Doctor is who he says he is, and so ask the question, to which the Doctor cannot lie, in order to come back into this reality. However, for him to bring the Time Lords back will mean the re-igniting of the Time War, with the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Weeping Angels, and even the Terileptils (who get name-checked) all waiting to make it happen. The Doctor knows he can’t abandon these poor innocent people, and the Papal Mainframe instigate silence to make sure he doesn’t speak the name. He sends Clara back to her home in the TARDIS (despite her not wanting to go) and he spends the next 300 years foiling every plot and attempt to attack the good people of Christmas, Trenzalore.
It’s this action that is the perfect farewell to the Eleventh Doctor. He’s the Doctor, more than any other, who has been running away from being tied to any one place or time. Remember how bent out of shape he got in the series seven episode “The Power of Three” after just a couple of days? So here is he, the Doctor who wouldn’t stay still, who lived many hundreds of years more than we’ve ever seen onscreen, compelled to stay put to save each and every life he can. He isn’t angry that he has so much more to do in this form; this is his last form, and he’s going to save every single person possible, even if that’s only in one place. He’s always had a scheme or two, but this time it’s just him standing in between innocents and death. Finally, it’s Clara, who finds her way back to him for a third time, who is able to save him by beseeching the Time Lords from through the crack to give him more lives, even if his current regeneration cycle has ended. And it works, because who else can eventually free them?
A lot of people at the time had problems with the way Clara gets treated in this episode, but I think that’s rather the point. The Doctor can’t bear to see her age and die while he sits and gets older and older and older, so he sends her back, along with the TARDIS. Yes, that was a crappy thing for him to do, to take the choice away from her, and to do it two times is even worse. However, it does two things: 1) It moves the plot along so that each time Clara finds the Doctor, he’s markedly older, and 2) It allows Clara to be the braver person, the ultimate savior of not only the Doctor but of the people of Trenzalore, and it shows the Doctor that she’s not to be underestimated, as if she had ever been in the first place. I think it speaks greatly about Clara, and shows how this Doctor pushes away things he cares about, and makes the hard decisions for them when he shouldn’t.
Next week, we wrap up The Doctor’s Finest whilst gearing up for series nine’s premiere episode, “The Magician’s Apprentice.” Very, very exciting. Check back here all week for updates and to BBC America for, you know, all the cool Doctor Who programming.
What do you think of “The Time of the Doctor” and of the Matt Smith era in general? Let me know in the comments below!
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Talk all the Who with him you want on Twitter!