All right then. We have at long last wrapped up all those dangling threads that have been hanging around since the Pandorica opened and the Doctor reset the universe. And we have said farewell to the wonderful Matt Smith. Regular readers of these sofa-based despatches will not be surprised to learn that I waterproofed the laptop before sitting down to watch Eleven’s swansong (and that it was just as well that I did).
After being bounced around inessential, but not irrelevant, scenes like a pinball – the now traditional Doctor Who opening – we find ourselves, inevitably, on Trenzalore. We learn at last who blew up the Tardis, why silence must fall (not to mention who the Silence are), what’s on the other side of the crack in the universe (and that it was the crack that the Doctor saw back in his hotel room The God Complex), and why the oldest question in the universe is Doctor who?
Poor old Trenzalore – the place where the Time Lords decide to test the waters and see if it’s safe for them to return to the universe and therefore destined to suffer years of conflict as the Doctor protects the citizens of Christmas, and his own people, from those who would destroy them (pretty much everybody else in the universe).
Steven Moffat resurrects the church as army theme once more, and Orla Brady is excellent as the Mother Superious Tasha Lem. (There was a lot of fun to be had in the little ‘naked for church’ subplot too… The psychology of being naked in church, “Everybody’s naked underneath”, Clara’s gran knowing exactly where to look – just as Clara’s dad and Linda can’t seem to find anywhere safe to rest their eyes. Bonus points awarded for letting us admire Matt Smith’s fine physique.)
I thoroughly enjoyed the cleverness with which the utterly creepy wooden Cyberman was destroyed too – brilliant use of new and established plot devices to take down an enemy.
But, there was cleverness too in all the tiny ways we were reminded of the many reasons we love the Eleventh Doctor – the giraffe-dancing with children, the children’s drawings of his past adventures…
And please tell me I wasn’t the only one crying when Handles died? We have, by now, established that I am easily moved to tears, but I honestly never expected to find myself weeping for a disembodied Cyberman head that ran out of battery.
And talking of death, the way Eleven faces up to his inevitable end would break a stonier heart than mine – even lightening the mood with references to “Captain Grumpy” or the line about how Daleks take so long to speak he’ll die of boredom before they shoot him, can not take the sting from death’s tail here. I can even forgive the daftness with the Daleks in the church (not to mention the whole regeneration energy taking out the Dalek ship thing), because the way Steven Moffat writes about love and loss here is quietly beautiful and utterly heartbreaking. From Gran’s memories of her late husband on the pier in the rain, to Eleven’s final moments in the Tardis, he captures so much and sets out to completely destroy the viewer. I was lost even before bobble-hatted Amelia Pond ran laughing around the Tardis. I thought Amy’s “Raggedy man … goodnight” had finished me off, and then the Doctor took off his bowtie…
However, for all the lovely presents Steven Moffat stuffed in our stocking, I have to say there were a couple of things I’d like to take back for exchange or refund. The Doctor’s casual “I’m OCD” line, for a start. It could have been worse – it could have been “a little bit OCD”, but still, like the Sherlock line “Do your research Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath”, it makes me uncomfortable and leaves me wanting to send Mr Moffat on a short course about mental health.
And weirdly, putting wrinkly prosthetics on Matt Smith made him look for the first time like a young man pretending to be an older one. In his own skin he can pull off 1000-year-old alien with consummate ease, but weighed down by rubber, this was the first time he failed to convince me. I understand why they wanted to physically age him, but not only was it a distraction, it also required the production of an excuse for his temporarily regained youth (which I grant you was necessary to get the right emotional punch at the end).
The Time of the Doctor wasn’t perfect (though I have a bit of a track record for finding Christmas Doctor Who a little underwhelming), but it was better than last year and allowed us to send Matt Smith on his way on a wave of affectionate tears. By the time series 8 rolls around I’m sure I’ll be ready to set out on new adventures with Peter Capaldi, but for now I just need to drop a lot of sodden hankies in the bin and nurse my broken heart some more. See you in the spring…
Posted by Jo the Hat