Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Time of the Doctor - "Eleven's hour's over now ... "

The Time of the Doctor (TV story) - Tardis Data Core, the Doctor Who Wiki

Series 7, Story 16 (Overall Series Story #241) | Previous - Next | Index

The Doctor and the Silence defend Christmas.

As much as I loved and was willing to play along with the 50th Anniversary Special, I disliked and was impatient with this Xmas Special. The introduction of Peter Capaldi at the end was about the only thing that worked for me, almost no part of how we got there sits well. Delighted that Capaldi's now the Doctor, the first of a new regeneration cycle, I'm more nervous than ever that we finally got the actor that should be our greatest Doctor, only to have him during the implosion of Moffat-era excess.

Nudity clowning around, sure that can be funny, but here's it's not. The humor at the start of this episode is all wrong-footed. Naked Doctor isn't funny, it's creepy/weird. The turkey not being ready, the Doctor obliviously stating you'd need a time machine to have it ready, it falls flat. The blundering Doctor bringing a Dalek eyestalk aboard an unknown spacecraft as proof of courage, only to have it be a Dalek ship? Forced humor eliciting only a groan. Then forcing it further by having the Doctor next bring Handles, the Cyberhead (at least no organics in it, we're assured), to make the same mistake aboard a Cyberman ship? That's just awful.

And his clothes are holographic.
Worse still, because it's an Xmas Special, it turns out the town on Trenzalore where we get the entirely unsatisfactory return of the crack in the wall, through which the oldest question in the universe is being asked, that town is called Christmas. Christmas is a snowy little hamlet where it's a Victorian-ish Christmas all the time. Groanity-fucking-groan. Remember in "The Snowmen" how unbelievably corny and awful it was that a family crying on Christmas Eve magically turned the malevolent snow into rain and we were all like, WTF? This was worse.

It's in this big mess of cornball the series decides to get itself out of the regeneration dilemma by having Clara get down on her knees and prayerfully ask the Time Lords through the crack to help the Doctor. After centuries of defending Christmas, the aged Matt Smith Doctor ascends to the top of a tower to finally be killed by the Daleks only to have a new regeneration cycle popped in his mouth out of the relocated crack. He uses the burst of regeneration energy to wipe out the Daleks, retreats to the TARDIS, and gets his farewell moment. Relieved of the dodgy age makeup and seeing visions of his past, he gets a goodbye from Amelia Pond before dropping his bow tie and ...

The transition to the Capaldi Doctor happens in the blink of an eye. We learn he doesn't like the color of his new kidneys and doesn't know how to fly the TARDIS. Since we've been conditioned to treat the Doctor's solemn proclamations as lies ("I'll never send you away again," he says and immediately sends Clara away), we should probably expect that his promise to remember every bit of his life was made specifically to communicate that he, in fact, won't. Not knowing how to pilot the TARDIS seems to be the first evidence that starting a new regeneration cycle means the effective start of a new Doctor, ignorant of his own past. (This later proves to be only regeneration-addled confusion, he'll be right again soon.)

Now, that's an interesting direction to take. There's no actor I'd rather see given the opportunity to reinvent the Doctor as someone quite different from what the character's been in the RTD & Moffat years, but I'm not sure having Moffat be in charge of where this is all going to go has us in good hands. If he's decided to dial it back, stop rebooting the universe and treat this a chance to get back to basics, then I'm optimistic, but I'm afraid he's just going to keep piling on the Papal Mainframe Kovarian Chapter ridiculousness.

Stray thoughts:

Does Handles get companion status, since we see him travelling in the TARDIS right from the start of this episode? He stays with the Doctor for all those years in Christmas ... if we consider him a companion, then he probably also has to be considered the one with whom the Doctor spent the most time -- at least in the TV series.

Tasha Lem. Groan. Should we really be introduced to old friends of the Doctor, who are well enough acquainted with him to be able to fly the TARDIS, to have them playing a key role in a story, up to and including being killed and turned into a Dalek puppet, and be expected to have it sit well that they were the equivalent of an ace up the sleeve to be played and discarded in order to keep such a strained plot moving? I'm fine with pulling in characters and giving them a back story with past incarnations, but it's got to handled much more gracefully than this. There's not even an old Virgin novel or Big Finish we can go back to find something out to flesh her out, just what we infer from what we saw.

How are the Time Lords doing things? I thought the tech the Doctors used to save Gallifrey froze them in an instant in time like the paintings we saw in "The Day of the Doctor"?

The laundry list of loose-ends did get some items ticked off. What did Eleven see behind the door in Room 11 where the space minotaur showed everyone their greatest fears? The crack in the wall. What were the Silence? Genetically engineered priests in the Church of the Papal Mainframe. (It's an answer, I'm not sure it's explanatory, but it's an answer.)  I didn't see anything about The Woman though.

The Fairy Tale motif may finally be laid to rest? This Doctor's run started, ended, and had so much of that fairy tale styling in between that I think, while some of it worked quite well, there's enough Grimm and Once Upon A Time on TV that we don't need Doctor Who working in that field as well.

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