Bullet Points: Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013

Well, here it is friends. The end of an era. The era of the Eleventh Doctor.

Picture shows: JENNA COLEMAN as Clara and MATT SMITH as The Doctor

And white it was far from a perfect episode in the terms of the Doctor Who mythos as a whole, it was a fitting end for both the Eleventh Doctor’s era (complete with a lot of callbacks over his entire tenure) and for Matt Smith (who gets to show off all of the things that made his Doctor so different from the other ten or so actors that have played The Doctor). Rather than do a full-on recap of all the plot particulars, let’s talk about a few of the things that made the episode.

 

“On the Fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely, or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered.”

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It was fascinating watching that this is where Dorium’s prophecy at the end of Season 6 comes into full view, complete with the meeting of the Papal Mainframe and its mother Superior The politics of the Church of the Papal Mainframe were fascinating; from the Silence actually being the church’s confessors to the various rebels of the church who caused the explosion of the TARDIS in Season 5 and the rise of Madame Kovarian’s sect in trying to assassinate the Doctor in Season 6 were preventing him from going to Trenzalore and engage in the 300+ year war. And I will admit that I was shocked to see the return of the crack in the universe (last seen in Season 5) but now with the explanation that Gallifrey is on the other side of the crack trying to come through, which would restart the entire Time War was audacious.

But it did give us a unique chance to see an incarnation of The Doctor actually age in “real time” and being forced to stay in one place (thanks to Clara trying to get back to him and forcing the TARDIS to take the long way around). And it’s here that we got to see the best parts of Matt Smith’s Doctor; the swooning emotionalism allied with the rapid-fire action, the sense that everything is coming to him spontaneously, the physical comedy and the physicality (especially the eerie moment when the older Doctor looked like the First Doctor William Hartnell), and the love he has for whomever he’s protecting, be it his friends Clara or Mother Superior Tasha Lem or the townspeople of the village of Christmas. It’s this weird sense of innocent wonder combined with the chaos of being a time traveler that has made Smith’s take on The Doctor so compelling.

Of course there are faults in the story. Show runner Steven Moffat has stuffed the episode with so many ideas that none of them have time to bloom. While I love the idea that the last three episodes form a trilogy each part has been crammed full with ideas in Moffat’s attempts to wrap up every dangling point in the Eleventh’s history. And while it does attempt to define Clara (especially in the brother/sister relationship she has with him) she is still only defined in terms of the Doctor.

That said, the “gift” of the reset regeneration cycle from The Time Lords to The Doctor was a necessary trick to break the established canon that the Doctor only has 13 lives and allow the show to continue. And then of course there was the regeneration sequence itself; a little underwhelming in comparison to both the Ninth and Tenth Doctor’s regenerations (not as startling as the former nor as operatic as the later), but it was thrilling to see the one and only Amy Pond come in for one last goodbye (and the requisite fish fingers and custard).

And so we all say, “Raggedy Man, Good Night!” to the Eleventh Doctor, and hello to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth. And I for one can’t wait.

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Assuming of course he remembers how to fly the TARDIS!

Photo Credits: BBC

Originally published on 26 December 2013 as part of “The Idiot Box,” my television column for l’étoile.

 

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