A mysterious, untranslatable message is being broadcast from an unknown planet around which some of the Doctor’s most fearsome enemies have gathered. Upon further investigation, it appears to be coming from a crack in the fabric of the universe left over from Series Five (“The Eleventh Hour” – “The Big Bang”), located in a town called Christmas. With help from his cyberman-head side-kick, Handles, The Doctor determines the message originates from the Time Lords in their pocket universe. He is then able to translate the message, and it’s a very old question: Doctor Who? All the Doctor has to do is answer that question, and the Time Lords will return to that planet. When that happens, the fleets of ships surrounding the planet will then attack, renewing the Time War. When the Doctor learns the real name of the planet, the true horror of the situation hits home. With the planet under siege, the Doctor decides to stay and fend off insurgent attacks, and try to negotiate peace. But the centuries are passing, and the Doctor is at the end of his regeneration cycle. Facing certain death, how can he save the planet, the universe, and himself from what seems inevitable…?
SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!
It seems that coming into this story, writer (and show-runner) Steven Moffat had a couple of objectives: tie up some loose story-ends from Matt Smith’s era, and send the Eleventh Doctor off with a bang. I think he certainly delivered on both of these, giving us a story that may be somewhat satisfying from a “grand story-arc” perspective (though I still want to know how the Doctor rescued Clara from his time stream), but falls a little flat, I think, in the “great story” department. Don’t get me wrong–I enjoyed the episode, and all involved put forth stellar performances (particularly Matt Smith–one of his best, I think). However, after the triumph of “The Day of the Doctor,” my expectations for a magnificent closing to the anniversary year were high. From that perspective, I was disappointed. But, as I said, I still enjoyed it, and it was, overall, a good story.
Some specifics I liked: Handles! With Clara not on the TARDIS 24/7 (a new development with the companions I’m not sure I like), the Doctor makes himself a companion out of a cyberman head. The interaction between them is wonderful, and Handles’ passing is possibly the saddest part of the whole episode–even more than the Eleventh Doctor’s parting speech! I also liked the Doctor’s explanation of why he’s at the end of his regeneration cycle. Perhaps those who didn’t get Moffat’s explanation are still confused, but as someone who already understood the idea, I found it to be a nice, succinct summing up of the situation. Matt’s performance as an old man was very good also. Some may have felt the middle part, where we see the Doctor living in Christmas, defending the town, and getting older, to drag a bit. Maybe it did, but I didn’t think it slowed the pace enough to make me lose interest.
Some specifics I didn’t like: The whole “naked” thing at the beginning. Sorry, but to me that’s just uncomfortable–perhaps some shock/smile value, but it doesn’t serve a purpose. Likewise the sultry scenes between the Doctor and Tasha Lem were a bit over the top and unnecessary. I can handle the idea that the Doctor has had “involvement” with people in the past (Madame de Pompadour, Elizabeth I, etc.), but Moffat likes to inject way too much lust into these kinds of scenes, and it’s just not necessary. I don’t even think it’s funny. It’s just… uncomfortable. Especially given that it’s the Doctor.
As for Peter Capaldi’s first scene as the Doctor… really not much to go on. And you can never truly assess what a Doctor will be like on their initial post-regeneration scene. The wild, amnesiac character is probably only temporary. Yes, he may crash the TARDIS, but that seems standard for new Doctors (the 10th and 11th Doctors both started out crashing the TARDIS). I daresay, once he recovers, that’s when his new persona will start to shine. But Capaldi looked convincing and at home in the part already. There was that look of mania, but also that twinkle. It’ll be interesting to see what he becomes. The first hint of that will be when the BBC releases pictures of him in his new outfit, which should happen within the next month or so.
My predictions for the coming season? First, it will be different–a reboot of sorts. Moffat has indicated as much, but with a new Doctor, that’s inevitable. Also, given the Doctor’s new big story arc (the hunt for Gallifrey), there’s a new purpose and direction for the show. This is all good, and I look forward to seeing how it plays out. I’ll also go out on a limb and say that Jenna Coleman will be in this series, but it’ll be her last. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we start hearing murmurs about Steven Moffat moving on to bigger things. When you get a new Doctor on board, it’s not uncommon for these kinds of changes to happen. Now that Moffat has made Doctor Who the international success it is, I’m sure he’s getting some high-profile, big-money offers, and he won’t want to be saying “no” much longer, otherwise, as Jon Pertwee feared, they may stop asking. As for Jenna, Who has no doubt boosted her young career, so I’m sure she’s not short of offers either. While she may enjoy Who, she developed a relationship with Matt Smith that may be hard to replicate with Peter Capaldi. I’m not saying they won’t get along, but it’ll be different, and that may be enough to make her consider some of those other offers.
So, there are my thoughts. What did you think? Do you have any predictions for the coming year in Who?