“And now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves. Eleven’s hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve’s.”
This past Wednesday—Christmas Day—Whovians the world over were treated to a new Doctor Who Christmas special, in which we said goodbye to Matt Smith’s 11th doctor and got our first taste of a new Doctor with a new face and voice, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi.
If you haven’t watched the special yet, don’t keep reading. There will be spoilers, after all. (And if you need a refresher on what happened in the rest of series 7, you can check out my recap of the 50th anniversary special and Julie’s excellent series 7 recaps here.)
Let’s Go Poke it With a Stick
A message has been transmitted across the universe. Its origins and meaning are unknown, but one thing is clear—it has instilled fear in anyone who heard it, and representatives from all species have traveled to the planet of origin to investigate, the Doctor and new sidekick, a Cyberman’s head he’s nicknamed “Handles,” included. When he arrives, the Doctor finds himself surrounded by many of his old enemies, but everyone seems to be more concerned with figuring out the message rather than fighting amongst themselves. (For the time being.)
As he’s trying to investigate, the Doctor receives a phone call from Clara, who’s in the middle of attempting to cook Christmas dinner for her family1 and is in dire need of a person of the male persuasion to pretend to be her boyfriend. (Barf.)The Doctor agrees to pop in for a bit, if only to help her out. When Clara hears the TARDIS arrive outside, she runs to greet the Doctor and finds him completely in the buff, because “one doesn’t wear clothes when they’re going to church.” He turns on a holographic clothes generator for Clara, but forgets to expand it to her family, which makes for an awkward first meeting of “the boyfriend.” Except for her Gran, who seems to very much enjoy Eleven in the nude. (Saucy minx.)
Clara finds that her turkey isn’t quite done yet, and so asks the Doctor to cook it in the TARDIS. He takes them back to the planet with the mysterious message while they’re waiting, and he discovers that the planet is being shielded by the first people to the planet, representatives from the Church of the Papal Mainframe. The head of the Church, Mother Superious Tasha Lem, is an old friend of the Doctor, and therefore allows him to head down to the planet to investigate.
When he and Clara arrive on the surface, they find themselves in the quaint village of Christmas, a snowy town surrounded by a truth field2 and a crack in the universe in one of their building’s walls. The Doctor tasks Handles with figuring out where the crack leads/where the message is coming from, and he discovers that it’s coming from Gallifrey (Oh snap!) and it’s asking the question: Doctor Who?
The Doctor realizes that the Time Lords are asking him for his real name, to make sure that coming through to our universe is safe. Of course, the translation goes universe-wide almost immediately, so all of the ships in orbit instantly go to red alert. The Doctor quickly realizes that telling his people, although he’d dearly love to not be alone any longer, would set off an endless, universe-wide war. But he cannot let the people of the planet—which Tasha reveals to be Trenzalore—die at the hands of his enemies trying to get to the crack.
So, he sends Clara back home and decides to stick around to protect Christmas. Trenzalore is under siege by various species and the Church of the Papal Mainframe, which undergoes a faith shift to become the Church of the Silence.3 300 years go by before the TARDIS is able to return, with Clara in tow. The Doctor has protected the planet from various attacks by Cybermen, Daleks, Sontarans, etc. for that entire time (whilst repairing toys for the village children4). He has aged and reveals to a surprised Clara that Time Lords are only allowed 12 regenerations5 and his was the last one.
The Doctor and Clara are called back to the Church’s ship and discover that Tasha and her people have been taken over by Daleks. Tasha is able to overcome the one in her, and helps them back to the surface. The Doctor sends Clara away again and the siege becomes a war. The Doctor and the Church (including the actual Silence) start to work together against the other species.
The TARDIS reappears on Clara’s lawn, and she runs outside, expecting the Doctor to be inside. Instead, she finds Tasha, who’s taking her back to Trenzalore because the Doctor is dying. As he makes his way to one final stand against the Daleks, the final remaining species in orbit6, Clara goes to the crack to beg for help for the Doctor, saying that his true name doesn’t matter, that the only name that matters is “the Doctor.” The crack disappears from the wall.
As the Doctor yells at the Daleks, daring them to kill him, the crack reappears in the sky above Christmas. A stream of regeneration dust wafts out and into the Doctor. He begins to regenerate in a seriously extreme manner, blowing Daleks and a Dalek ship out of the sky in the process.
Clara and a younger version of the Doctor (a “reset form”) meet back up in the TARDIS, where he says his goodbyes (and takes off his bowtie). He sees a vision of Amy Pond before he regenerates fully. His regeneration finishes suddenly, and his 13th face7, who seems a bit confused about the whole situation, comments on his new kidneys and asks Clara if she “knows how to fly this thing.”
1I thought she was an orphan?
2I’m not entirely sure why.
3An arm of which breaks off with Madame Kovarian and mucks about with the Doctor and the Ponds in previous episodes.
5Doctors 1–8+8.5+9+10 twice+11=12 regenerations.
6You gotta hand it to them, the Daleks certainly are determined.
7A surprisingly Scottish sounding Peter Capaldi.
Companion Annoyance Level: Yellow
Companion Annoyance Advisory System
Clara: Severe Risk of Annoying Entitlement
Martha: High Risk of Ridiculous Mooning
Donna: Significant Risk of Overbearing Bossiness
The Ponds: General Risk of Bothersome Smothering
Rose: Low Risk of Irritating Smugness
Clara (who isn’t my favorite companion by any stretch of the imagination) wasn’t entirely terrible this episode, even though I immediately got a bad taste in my mouth from the whole “fake boyfriend” thing. (Plus the fact that while under the truth field, she admitted that she fancied the Doctor. Uh, duh.) She genuinely seemed to care that the Doctor was dying and did a good thing in persuading the Time Lords to help him. But did you see her expression when he regenerated? She’s totally not feeling that new face.
Made My Two Hearts Swoon
I was not getting nearly as choked up as I was expecting to be at Eleven’s goodbye until Amy showed up. The well broke at that moment and the tears started flowing. I am really thankful for that, because until that point I was feeling seriously heartless about my lack of feels.
You Didn’t Blink, Did You?
When the Doctor reveals he’s wearing a wig, he is actually wearing a wig. Throughout the entire episode. Matt Smith shaved his head post-50th anniversary special and pre-Christmas special filming for a role in a movie.
Quest for Gallifrey
Since it was revealed in the 50th anniversary special that Gallifrey was not, in fact, destroyed at the end of the Time War and is merely hidden in another universe, I figure it’s only a matter of time before we see the actual planet back in ours. The Time Lords made the first move with the message sent through the crack in the universe. When they’ll physically reappear—and what their motives were for giving the Doctor a 1-Up—remain to be seen.
To be completely honest, I was really hoping for more with this special. I really enjoyed the 50th anniversary special, and had thought that it was a sign of better things to come. “The Time of the Doctor” was lacking in plot development and amusing moments, and just wasn’t a very fitting goodbye to Matt Smith and all that he’s given to the show over the past few series.
But what did you think of “The Time of the Doctor”? Let’s discuss in the comments.