Thoughts on “The Time of the Doctor”

I really wanted to enjoy The Time of the Doctor, I did. Unfortunately, like many others, I didn’t. To be completely blunt, I found the story laborious and unsatisfying.

Now, if you haven’t seen the episode yet, I’m going to quote River Song – “Spoilers”

Here we are at Trenzalore at last, and we’ve got every single adversary the Doctor has faced. Daleks, Cybermen, Soltarans, you name it. This has the makings of an epic battle, which we’ve seen the aftermath of in an earlier episode. In that episode, the entire planet of Trenzalore was one gigantic graveyard and stood completely in ruin. In this, the episode where we’ll see how that horrific battle got underway, all the baddies are scared to make the first move.

For several hundred years.

Yes, that’s right, there’s a several hundred year standoff where the Doctor ages while his enemies orbit the planet biting their nails. We do have a handful of scenes where there are covert attacks, but the grand, Peter Jackson-scale battle never comes. At the end, Matt Smith is essentially an old man shaking his fist at the sky yelling at the Daleks to get off his lawn.

Meantime, there’s a signal that’s been broadcast from the planet which no one can translate. This signal, which all species are innately afraid of, is finally translated as “Doctor Who?” This is the question that must be answered on the fields of Trenzalore. The Doctor investigates and finds a crack in the universe, like what he encountered when traveling with Amy Pond. We’re told that the Time Lords are broadcasting the signal from the other side of that crack, and if the Doctor says his name into it, then they’ll know it’s safe for them to come through back into our universe.

So, if I’m understanding this correctly, the only way for the Time Lords, the people who invented gravity, to know that it’s safe to come back to the universe is to rely on some guy standing at the door and whispering his name. That’s weak. Essentially, we can assume that the Doctor’s name, which has been one of the great mysteries of the show since its inception, is Swordfish.

What’s even more asinine is that we’re expected to believe that the Time Lords are just sitting on the other side of that crack for hundreds of years doing nothing but asking “Doctor Who?” over and over again. I’d hate to be the Time Lord intern who got tasked with that job.

And then there’s the thirteenth regeneration issue. We know that Matt Smith is the last of the “official” regenerations. We know that it’s possible for Time Lords to be given additional lives, but it feels cheap how Smith is just given regeneration energy because his companion whispers into the crack. A companion who’s had no contact with the Time Lords, a companion who doesn’t make a particularly rousing speech, a companion with no street cred on Gallifrey basically says “Please?” and the Time Lords say “Oh, okay” and send regeneration energy into the rift, which somehow also manages to seal the rift itself and, I’m assuming, stops the signal.

This makes no sense. The Time Lords didn’t get the positive identification they were looking for (Doctor Who? was never answered), but they’ll blindly send regeneration energy into another universe? C’mon, they’re smarter than that.

So, as you can tell I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I’ve been trying to set things right, to justify this episode. What I finally came up with is this – this episode should’ve taken place on the other side of the rift.

Bear with me – During the final episode of David Tennantt’s arc, we see the Lord President of the Time Lords locked in combat with the Master. And from what we saw in the Day of the Doctor, those events are happening concurrently with the 13 Doctors turning Gallifrey into a planetary Polaroid shot. So let’s suppose that the Master has somehow assumed control of the Council of Time Lords and needed to ensure that the Doctor wouldn’t interfere. So he sent out that signal, knowing it would cause the Doctor to show up, but that he’d wind up in the mother of all stalemates with everyone he’d ever cheesed off. That gives the Master time to take full control of Gallifrey. And as for the regeneration energy? The Master wouldn’t want the Doctor to come to Gallifrey and mess up his fun, so let’s say he used regeneration energy to seal the rift, and if the excess wound up giving the Doctor life #13, well, that’s a small price to pay.

It’s not going to get me a job at the BBC anytime soon, but it helps me remedy what I watched the other night.

I guess the reason I’m so frustrated with this whole episode is that Matt Smith’s Doctor deserved a better send off than this. The 8th Doctor regenerated in a dramatic moment, making a decision to become a warrior. The War Doctor regenerated when his time was finally done and the need for a warrior had passed. The 9th Doctor regenerated protecting Rose, and the 10th Doctor regenerated saving Donna’s grandfather. It feels like Smith’s Doctor got cheated out of something; he deserved to go out with a bang.

Meantime, I am excited to see what Peter Capaldi brings to the role. I’m not thrilled with his first line being that he didn’t like the color of his kidneys, but I’m going to do my best to keep an open mind.

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