That Turkey Never Did Quite Get Cooked

Review of The Time of the Doctor
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I suppose my expectations finally sank to the cellar when the first "nude Doctor" promo pics hit the Web. You'd think there would be no room left for crushed hopes after that, but apparently you'd be mistaken. It seems I had an iota of optimism left that Moffat could tie shit together coherently—I really ought to know better.

Usually I enjoy Moffat's episodes in the moment; it's not till later when I have time to think about the plot that I realize how riddled it is with holes and other offenses. Most times he manages to catch me up in the emotion of each scene (which is, after all, his strong suit) and I can take an episode as it was intended on that first viewing.

Not this time.

Maybe it had something to do with all of the interruptions (mine were familial rather than commercial, but I'm sure the effect was much the same for those who watched on BBCA). Or maybe it was the painful running "gag" about nudity (which just... No.). At any rate, from the very first chirping tones of the message—the Question—and the Mother Superious's droning voiceover, I was a detached observer, uninvested (at least in a good way) in the proceedings. I was pissed at Clara for not listening when the Doctor said he was in danger, I was pissed at the Doctor for blatantly ignoring human social mores (with which he is damn well familiar), and I was pissed with Moffat for thinking that "for kids" and "juvenile" were interchangeable.

But the Doctor took Clara and her Christmas turkey into the TARDIS for a little lighthearted timey-wimey fun, and ended up smack in the middle of everything-AND-the-kitchen sink. Back came the Papal Mainframe, headed by the Mother Superious (see: A Good Man Goes to War); back came the Weeping Angels (and just WTF was their function here anyway, other than to tick a box? "Yup! Got the Weeping Angels in the regeneration story!"); back came the Silence ("genetically engineered priests"? Are you effing kidding me?); back came the Crack (haven't seen it for two whole series, but can't honestly say I'm entirely surprised); back came the Dalek meat puppets and the Daleks' knowledge of the Doctor (way to throw the denouement of Asylum of the Daleks under the bus, there, Moffat); back came the horde of famous enemies (including, in a way, the freakin' Time Lords); and back came an absolutely nonsensical resolution.

A great deal of the problem, I believe, comes in the fact that everyone watching knew without the shadow of a doubt that everything was going to turn out fine in the end. As a writer myself (I claim no particular skill, mind you), I know the importance of maintaining a level of tension in a story. Without tension the reader (or viewer, in this case) loses interest. That was exactly the situation here; though we didn't know exactly how the Doctor would get through it all and gain a new full set of regenerations (was there ever any doubt it would be another thirteen bodies' worth?), we sure as hell knew it was going to happen. Who can take a story wholly seriously when there are no real stakes?

And what the hell was up with Clara whispering into the Crack and the Time Lords just giving up after numerous centuries? Or with the Time Lords being able to close and reopen the Crack at will, just to slip the Doctor a little extra regeneration energy? Even if you ignore the massive kluge that tried to stuff three series' worth of plot arcs into one hour-long story (and "resolved" them all within about ten or fifteen minutes of each other), this ending is just a slap in the face to anyone who likes self-consistency within a narrative (you can make up all the ridiculous rules you like, but by god! you'd better stick to your own rules). Why spend an entire anniversary special laboring to erase your predecessor's entire body of work as moot and then eliminate the entire mechanism? I have no words for how much I hated the illogic of that ending.

I'm not a complete grumpus, though. There were parts I liked. I thought it was very clever that they weaved the fact that Matt had to wear a wig into the narrative, so anyone who'd been preparing to complain about how the wig looked was cut off at the pass. I thought Handles was cool, though since I was in no way emotionally invested in any of the story, only made a slightly sad pout on his "passing." And then there was the regeneration.

The actual change between actors was nothing to write home about. We skipped the awful, shiny light morphing moment and instead had an instantaneous switch. I found it interesting that as much as I have looked forward to Capaldi, already certain I'd love his Doctor, I just did not like him in his few seconds on screen. To be fair, I didn't particularly care for either Tennant or Smith in those first few seconds, either, so I will continue to reserve judgement—and maybe I'm just tired of the Doctor crashing the TARDIS immediately post-regeneration.

Between the regenerative blast and the actual change, however, there was a lovely send-off for Smith. Not quite the Doctor's Reward retrospective that Ten got (though not for lack of trying), it still provided some fan service in bringing back Karen Gillan's Amy Pond for an oh-so-brief cameo fitting for the moment. Of course the dropping of the bow tie was also lovely, and I'm sure in another mood I'd have cried. Sadly, this turkey of a script wasn't fully cooked, so I never could quite swallow it. The man himself, though, was impeccable as ever.

And so, to Matt Smith I say, "So long, and thanks for all the fish fingers."

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Comments

Where do I start? It may be that after the excellence of Name, Night and Day of the Doctor that something not quite as good was inevitable but seriously, a Doctor who shows us his alien nature by not being aware of general social mores regarding nudity, when as you quite rightly point out he has been around humanity long enough to know better? I think puerile rather than juvenile

However brilliant SM is, and he has written some absolutely brilliant episodes, this was, perhaps appropriately for Christmas, a bit of a turkey. Handles was good, I liked Handles. However, a town called Christmas, covered in snow for a Christmas special? Subtle it isn't

Sp let's go through the checklist:
Weeping Angels - tick (although this time when they touch you you don't go back in time, although this inconsistency is consistent with previous inconsistencies to be fair, maybe these were the neck breaking versions from Flesh & Stone)

Comedy Sontarans - tick
Reel off a list of races over the planet - tick
etc etc

But what really got me annoyed was this sudden crisis of no more regenerations, you would think the 11th Doctor would have mentioned this previously in this incarnation. I was always annoyed that 10 seemed to use up regeneration energy without it being classified as a regeneration so I was OK with that but the shoehorning in of the War Doctor as a regeneration just so he could be the writer who extended the show beyond 12 regenerations, I despair. TBH the regen from McGann to Hurt seemed to me to be a freebie from the Sisterhood just like it was with the 4th Doctor.

Maybe I am being harsh and judgemental of the Moff, but on the evidence presented, I don't think so

As I asked elsewhere, is Clara one of the few people never to have seen footage of the Moon Landings, otherwise why didn't she try to kill the Silence on sight? Or is it an example of where the Moff can have great ideas, great visuals, great scenes but doesn't always seem to maintain consistency?

It seemed better on second viewing, but how many viewings should it take for me to enjoy an episode? Personally I prefer once and then I can enjoy it again and again

Good luck Peter Capaldi, you may need it

By Wholahoop (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

Your thoughts seem to be much the same as mine, though you've made a couple of good points I'd missed (e.g., re: killing the Silence). There are things I've enjoyed about Moffat's writing, but the bad has outweighed the good for me for quite some time now (and yes—I think he doesn't much care about internal consistency, as long as it serves the story he wants to tell at the time!).

I really hope the rumors I've heard of the new direction for Capaldi's run turn out to be true.

By mrfranklin

I have absolutely no idea what was going on in this episode. There were so many inconsistencies, plot holes, things that just plain didn't make sense that I threw my hands up in the air and gave up trying to understand. The only thing I liked was Matt Smith's farewell scene.

How could Clara survive outside of the TARDIS in the time vortex? It killed Captain Jack and he came back to one of his lives. Just one of so many problems...

I did like the quick change to Peter Capaldi. Finally, a different sort of regeneration. It was like a flash, and there he was.

If you ask me, Moffat has become increasingly hard to follow. I have no idea what he is doing. The narrative structure of the show has fallen apart completely.

By Tree (not verified)
mrfranklin's picture

I think you're not alone. Your reaction matches with a lot of what I've been hearing around t3h Intarwebz. :\

As for Clara, the TARDIS extended her field outside to protect Clara (which it most certainly did not do for Jack). The Doctor claimed that was why it took the TARDIS an extra 300 years to return to him. That was one of the few things I was willing to swallow! :)

By mrfranklin
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