The following is a guest post.
Spoiler alert: This is a review of The Time of the Doctor so naturally it contains spoilers. You’ve been warned.
“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.”
The Time of the Doctor, Matt Smith’s final episode, and the worst written episode of Doctor Who I’ve had the misfortune to sit through–twice. Warning: This blog post is a bit more ranty than I usually am.
No Plot? Big Problem
Time of the Doctor lacked a cohesive plot pushing the action forward. Plot is a series of events that lead logically from one to the next, with building consequences and stakes for the characters involved. Plot is what keeps the reader or viewer interested in what is going to happen next. Plot is not a series of random, unrelated events that lead to a big surprise at the end–that’s real life.
No clear stakes for the Doctor
Plot creates a series of rising stakes for your main character, until the climax when their actions will determine the outcome of the entire story. Without a plot, we also had no stakes. This was made even worse by showing the battles on Trenzalore in a series of montages narrated by the Mother Superious. The most dangerous moments of the episode were diminished to a simple “And then this happened, and then this happened” series of events.
Inconsistent deployment of a major plot device
“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–Doctor Who?” (Dorium Maldovar, “The Wedding of River Song”)
When the Doctor and Clara got to Christmas and discovered it was surrounded by a truth field, I knew what the mysterious message must be. They blurted out answers to all kinds of embarrassing questions, even ones they hadn’t been asked. Clearly Dorium was right, and no living creature could fail to answer.
But then they climbed the tower and found the crack. The Doctor realized it must be Gallifrey trying to push back from the pocket universe, and he gave Handles the ability to decode Gallifreyan messages. The question was broadcast, and… exactly nothing happened.
The entire point of series six was that this question would be asked, and if the Doctor were there he couldn’t help but answer. Well, it was asked, and he was there, but he didn’t answer. Even though he’d given tons of other bits of information he wasn’t even asked for, he could evade a question that was being asked directly of him.
I actually liked the idea that Gallifrey was using the cracks in the universe to attempt to break back in. After Moffat told us in an interview that the Doctor was on his last regeneration, the question has been how will he get more?
Previously, only the Time Lords could grant another cycle of regenerations. Up until the 50th anniversary, that wouldn’t have been possible for the Doctor, but if Gallifrey is out there somewhere, theoretically they could come back and help.
Massive deus ex machina
As always, it came down to the Doctor and the Daleks. The standoff (You know, the one we never saw because it was brushed away with exposition) lasted perhaps as long as 500 years, leaving the Doctor old and dying. The Daleks demanded his presence, and he granted them their wish.
Clara watched through tear filled eyes, and then bent down the crack and begged the Time Lords to help the Doctor. Despite the fact that the Doctor was the last person they would be likely to help, they opened another crack in the sky and floated a new regeneration cycle down to him on a cloud of pixie dust.
Oh! Suddenly the Daleks were scared! The Doctor was regenerating! He took the power into himself and used the energy to destroy the entire fleet.
Yes. He destroyed the entire Dalek fleet with regeneration energy. We’ve seen this done before, but on a much smaller scale. River Song killed an alley filled with Nazis in a similar manner, but she didn’t shoot Dalek ships out of the sky.
Treatment of Clara
At several points, the story treated Clara poorly. First, her entire reason for traveling with the Doctor was diminished to “because I fancy him.” That cheap joke is representative of why people say Moffat is sexist. Second, the Doctor lied to her and sent her away–twice.
Third, at the end, when she should have been the one there to hold his hand as he let go of this life that’s been his the longest, his memory conjured up the image of his Amelia Pond and poor Clara was shoved into the background. Bringing Amy back was a cheap trick on Moffat’s part, designed to stir up the viewer’s emotions.
But the thing is, if he’d handled the story properly, he wouldn’t have needed tricks to make us cry. He could have told a powerful story about a man who thought he had to die and was determined to go out fighting, who was then given another chance at life.
He could have ended with that bow tie on the floor, the most powerful emotional shot of the entire episode. He could have done more to give us a sense of Peter Capaldi’s Doctor than that he doesn’t like the color of his kidneys and can’t remember how to fly the TARDIS.
He could have done so much, and he dropped the ball.
What did you think of The Time of the Doctor? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, even if you completely disagree with me.
Nancy Kelley is a Britophile, blogger, and author of Jane Austen sequels. She has two cats instead of a metal dog, but she does believe that if you are ever passed out from regeneration sickness (or any other ailment, such as work) tea is all you need – it’s just the thing for healing the synapses. You can find Nancy at her blog www.nancykelleywrites.com. Read more of her posts here.