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Posts Tagged ‘The Time of the Doctor’

Even before it aired, it always seemed to me that the Christmas special doubling as Matt Smith’s final episode was going to be an odd sort of beast, falling into the gap between the 50th anniversary episode and the alluring prospect of Peter Capaldi’s initial season – the anniversary was always going to be a joyous occasion, which the conclusion of the story amply reflected, while the advent of a new Doctor inevitably brings with it a new sense of energy and excitement. So giving Smith a send-off with an appropriate sense of occasion about it, that didn’t feel tonally adrift somehow, was a very particular sort of challenge.

It’s very difficult to resist the temptation to compare The Time of the Doctor with The End of Time (and equally tempting to muse on the truism from the 20th century series that any story with the word ‘Time’ in the title has a better than even chance of being duff – exhibits include Time and the Rani, The Time Monster, and The Invasion of Time) – both seasonal departures of much-loved lead actors. My sense is that The End of Time is not a well-regarded story, due to excessive sentimentality and a slightly implausible plot revolving around the possible return of Gallifrey. I suspect that its reputation will be undergoing a significant upward reappraisal in the wake of The Time of the Doctor.

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But I really don’t want to just sit here and criticise the story – it’s not really the case that I have a problem with individual episodes these days, more that I’m not a fan of the whole Moffat approach to the series. This seems to me to be to treat the programme as a series of comedy sketches, moments of great sentiment (sometimes sentimentality), and big set pieces, all linked together by plot elements of varying degrees of spuriousness. (The image of a naked Jenna Coleman, planted in my subconscious early on, was one I found difficult to dislodge, but that’s by the by.) One would almost think Moffat had an actual aversion to including a straightforward, solid, coherent plot in any of his programmes.

Anyway, that’s how The Time of the Doctor seemed to me – the actual story seemed very much secondary to providing all the usual clever bits. The big ideas this time around were (apparently) firstly to try and gather together some of the many dangling loose ends from previous Moffat episodes, and secondly to give Matt Smith a chance to really show his chops by playing a Doctor gradually aging into the ancient being the actor has always managed to suggest through his performance. Smith was, of course, very good, as he always has been, but I was rather less impressed by the rest of it – I still don’t think we’ve received a proper explanation of why the TARDIS exploded in The Pandorica Opens (how, precisely, did the Kovarian Chapter contrive this remarkable feat?), for one thing.

I’m not sure whether the recurrence of plot elements from The End of Time and The Parting of the Ways constitutes a reverent homage or just a shortage of imagination, but I was genuinely surprised that the potential-return-of-Gallifrey plot coupon was cashed in so soon – once upon a time I would have groused about the way the plot here completely ignored the assertion in the very previous episode that the Time Lords would be effectively frozen in time, unable to act at all, but we’re operating in a universe where the TARDIS has developed a teleporter function and a side-effect of regenerating is the ability to shoot down battle cruisers, so why bother?

Hey ho. I think I have said enough about the episode itself. Matt Smith never quite lived up to his promise, if you ask me, but I am still sorry to see him go. My problems are not with him but the scripts he was required to perform. Steven Moffat has spoken about the lunacy of changing the entire creative team of a programme at the same time, as happened when Rusty Davies and David Tennant departed together. That may be the case, but I would still rather have seen Moffat move on than Matt Smith. For me the programme seems in definite need of a sharp change of approach, and I’m not sure that Capaldi’s arrival alone will be enough to bring that about.

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Geeky Bit: The Clockspeed of the Doctor

Well, Moffat doesn’t seem to care that much about the wider fictional universe of the show, which just makes life a bit more interesting for those of us who do. So – age and aging where the Doctor’s concerned.

There are already, of course, several inconsistencies concerning the Doctor’s actual age already written into the series. Jon Pertwee’s Doctor at one point appears to allude to being several thousand years old, which obviously jibes with the age of around 750 which was the standard in the middle Tom Baker years. The next time we get even a general age it’s during the Colin Baker era, by which time the Doctor is claiming to be around 900 – specifically, 953 during Time and the Rani. This is of course flatly contradicted again by various stories from the Eccleston and Tennant series, wherein the Doctor is back down to about 900 (and seems to be aging in real time).

Any way you look at it, the Doctor had never been more than about 950 at any point prior to the arrival of Matt Smith: but here there is a bit of a shift. If we take the Doctor at his word, 200 years pass between The God Complex and Closing Time, then at least 300 more during The Time of the Doctor itself. Quite how long passes between the Dalek attack on the Papal Mainframe and the Doctor’s actual regeneration seems unclear, as we don’t really understand how he ages (he doesn’t age at all in the two hundred year gap mentioned up the page, but becomes noticeably more aged during the three hundred year Siege of Trenzalore), but at least another three or four centuries seems like a reasonable estimate.

The upshot of all this is that the final incarnation of the Doctor’s original regeneration cycle survived for at least 800 years, and potentially as long as the first twelve put together: most of which happened off-screen, of course, but even so it’s a somewhat peculiar development.

This would be an appropriate place to comment on the issue of the renewal of the Doctor’s regeneration cycle, and quite how this squares with the ‘All thirteen of him!’ moment from the anniversary special – or, indeed, the eleventh Doctor’s aborted regeneration from The Impossible Astronaut, or threat to regenerate in Nightmare in Silver. But that will wait for another time, I think…

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