‘The Time of the Doctor’ special bids farewell to Matt Smith

The Time of the Doctor special bids farewell to Matt Smith

Madi Mertz

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Photo used with permission under fair use doctrine

As River Song would say, “Spoilers.” Spoilers abound here. In order to avoid spoilers, DO NOT PROCEED.

Christmas Day marked the end of Matt Smith’s time as the Doctor on BBC’s classic series “Doctor Who,” and they rolled out all the stops for this goodbye to an era.

“The Time of the Doctor” centers around the Doctor and Clara visiting and protecting a planet, Trenzalore, where the Doctor had previously seen his own tombstone.  Trenzalore has been surrounded by alien crafts from all over the universe, answering an indecipherable message which it has sent.

Not only do the Doctor’s oldest nemeses, the Daleks, make an appearance, but so do the Cybermen, the Weeping Angels, the Sontarans and the Silence, while multiple others appear in name, most notably the Time Lords, those of the Doctor’s race. The hostile groups attempt to gain access to the planet, blocked by a force field put into place by an old friend of the Doctor’s, new character Tasha Lem, also known as mother Superious.

The role of Mother Superious and her freaky space church gets a bit confusing, but she does prove a valuable ally to the Doctor at times. She sends him down to the planet, to a town called Christmas. The message has come from a crack in the universe residing in the town, a crack exactly like the one which once lie in young Amelia Pond’s bedroom.  He translates the message with a severed Cyberman head, and finds it to have come from the Time Lords, begging the oldest question in the universe, “Doctor Who?”

The Doctor sends Clara away and remains on the planet, protecting it for hundreds of years from the advances of the Daleks, the Cybermen and others, and by the time Clara returns with the TARDIS, he has grown to resemble a man in his sixties.

While it feels wrong to see Smith done up in old age makeup, he does resemble a beloved age old hero in the town. In one memorable scene, he leads a crowd of children in his dance, the drunk giraffe, chanting “Cool is Not Cool”. Throughout his time as the Doctor, Smith has exemplified this ideal, with his bow ties and tweed, his odd dancing and his endearingly odd personality, so it seems fitting that as an old man he should shout this to a crowd.

The Doctor ends up staying on the planet for a couple of hundred more years, dropping Clara off at her family Christmas dinner. When Tasha Lem returns with the TARDIS to retrieve Clara after the conflict in Christmas has escalated too far, the Doctor appears to be in his eighties.

It’s terrifying to see the youngest Doctor ever done up to look so old  He’s weak, his trademark floppy hair has a bald spot, and he isn’t making any clever quips. Yes, David Tennant had his time in old age makeup, and the Doctor has appeared old and young alike, but there’s something about the prospect of baby-faced Smith’s Doctor dying of old age that just seems surreal, and mildly ironic.

The Doctor actually grows weak and somewhat depressed, noting this eleventh form as being his final regeneration. By now, he’s ready to let the Daleks kill him. This is not like the Doctor at all. No heroics, no crazy stunts, just an old man ready for it to be over. But he’s saved when Clara begs the Time lords in the crack in the universe to help him.

The Doctor is granted another regeneration and he immediately becomes himself again. He’s teasing the Daleks, he’s jumping around, and he’s making it all work in old age makeup. In what might be the most epic part of the episode, the Doctor uses the powerful regeneration energy shooting out of his hands to wipe out the advancing Daleks.  Even as he’s dying, the Doctor pulls through for the people he’s promised to protect.

This is a perfect way for the Doctor to go out, with a literal bang, and it would be fine if he became Peter Capaldi then and there, but there had to be more resolution than that.

Clara finds the Doctor in the TARDIS, where, as part of his regeneration cycle, he has become his young self again. In his delirious, dying state, he sees his beloved Amy Pond one last time. The tenth doctor had time to visit all of his companions before his death, but this illusion is all the eleventh can manage.

His vision of Amy bids her “Raggedy Man” farewell.  Clara does the expected begging for him not to regenerate.  The Doctor tells her he can’t but he’ll remember this form, and, with no fanfare, no announcement, no gold sparks shooting from his limbs, he flinches, and suddenly becomes Peter Capaldi.

This episode grew worrisome for a while. The Doctor was not himself for some of the story as he grew old and weak. But his motives are understood. He has been trapped for a few hundred years, he’s growing old, he knows he’s dying, so he figures he can spend the rest of his life being a beloved hero on Trenzalore, since he already knows that it will be his final resting place.

At the beginning and end, however, he is the same old goofy doctor, hanging out naked in the TARDIS when Clara arrives, and leaving fish fingers and custard laying around. No social skills. No discernible thought process, but he always comes through.

“The Time of the Doctor” is a spectacular goodbye. All of the villains are present, all of the battles are crazy heroic, and the doctor is all there, although he did seem to disappear into old age for a while.

Now all there is to do is wait and see how Peter Capaldi will hold up in the TARDIS.   The twelfth doctor’s tenure will not begin, however, until the fall of 2014, leaving Whovians plenty of time to wonder whether or not he knows how to drive the thing.

By Madi Mertz

So, are you looking forward to a new Doctor or do you wish there had been no change?