The Time of the Doctor

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The Doctor takes Clara to a planet that is broadcasting a mysterious, yet fear-inducing message, across time and space.

After a very witty opening, The end of the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures comes much sooner than expected in The Time of the Doctor. We first meet this Doctor  at the climax of The End of Time, which saw his previous incarnation railing against the unfairness of self-sacrifice. Since then, and possibly as a reaction to that , he’s been a character determined to have a good time and enjoy himself. He deliberately took steps to avoid fame, and by the beginning of Asylum of the Daleks says he wished people wouldn’t expect him to help. In The Power of Three he defines his existence as:

“I’m not running away. But this is one corner in one country in one continent in one planet that’s a corner of a galaxy that is a corner of a universe that is forever growing and shrinking and creating and destroying and never remaining the same for a single millisecond. And this is so much, SO MUCH, to see, Amy. Because it goes so fast. I’m not running away from things. I’m running to them before they flare and fade forever.”

This lifestyle comes to an abrupt end in this story. He is effectively exiled on Trenzalore, for several hundred years, his wings clipped initially by the lack of his TARDIS, but also by a duty to save the simple folk of this farming community. (Although we do learn that he likes The Archers in A Town Called Mercy, so he might quite like it). What’s nice to see here, is the heroism and nobility restored to Doctorly self-sacrifice. Unlike Wilf, the Trenzalorians are not made to feel guilty that the Doctor is laying down his life for them. Thus this time the character ‘dies’ with dignity.

During the siege some key events from this era are replayed. All his enemies turning up en masse to respond to a message from the series five finale; and his knowledge that he will shortly go to his death, from series six. But this time there is no glib resolution. He has seen the result of the Battle of Trenzalore, and met Clara because she travelled back down his time stream. So the fact that the events of The Name of the Doctor have presumably been erased throws up some interesting questions about Clara. She is now a paradox, having no longer been able to meet her in Asylum of the Daleks and and The Snowmen, he wouldn’t have gone looking for her in series seven B. Will this be addressed in series eight?

The concept of the Doctor reaching the end of his twelve regenerations (laid down in The Deadly Assassin) has been explored by Steven Moffat previously, in his Wilderness Years Comic Relief spoof The Curse of Fatal Death. In this, the Doctor moves through his ninth to thirteenth incarnations within a few minutes, before dying. The resolution here was that the universe itself refused to let it’s greatest hero perish, and restores him to life.

I was concerned that we might see a variation of this play out here. Moffat did after all recycle the “never cowardly and never cruel” from his earlier work in The Day of the Doctor. This kind of cosmic-ordering wishy-washy stuff has crept in somewhat during the Eleventh Doctor’s era. When Rory reappears as a Roman in The Pandorica Opens, the Doctor seems happy initially to accept that it’s some kind of mysterious serendipity; and by The Snowmen he’s trying to cut deals with the universe in a bargain for Clara’s life. Happily, his continued existence is down to the most likely explanation; that Time Lords can grant a whole new cycle of regenerations. They offered the Master this in The Five Doctors, and there’s a great shorthand earlier on that reminds of us that exact scene when the Doctor produces a prop from it.

The idea that the Doctor has a bit of a flashback to the first things he saw with that pair of eyes make even more sorry for the circumstances of his seventh regeneration, and possibly explains the blood-curdling scream he gives as he expires.

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This was a satisfying end to the (too short) Matt Smith-era, with most loose-ends tied up. The one I was most concerned with why the TARDIS blew up at the end series five. Now we know I guess I realise the question was actually ‘how?’ With the start of his new regeneration cycle, it’s good to see the quick change back, and Peter Capaldi’s eyes being the maddest since Tom Bakers’s certainly bodes well.

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Silver N-elm-esis: the one wooden performance in The Time of the Doctor.

Order Day of the Doctor on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – 50th Anniversary Special [DVD]

On Blu-Ray:

Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor – 50th Anniversary Special [Blu-ray 3D]

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