Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: Matt Smith, Jenna Louise Coleman, Orla Brady
Doctor Who has never really worked well with the theme of an old Western. Very recently, a Town Called Mercy featured, trying to romance the two and it was quite possibly one of the worst modern Doctor episodes I have watched. It was generic, over the top and forgettable. I just wanted Doctor Who to move on and give up on the Western genre. However, quite surprisingly, Time of the Doctor was the perfect Doctor Who western. This roaming hero finds a town that relies on him and he decides to spend his last years protecting them as their Sheriff. In many ways, it was the perfect Western.
This format really helped capture this farewell episode too. I was worried that the Day of the Doctor would have taken up so much time being produced that this episode would get a lesser treatment. And in many ways, the Day of the Doctor was the bigger episode, complete with explosions, several Doctors and new characters, but I liked the quiet reflection present in the Time of the Doctor. In many ways, it is also massive, bringing back several Doctor Who villains and featuring some explosive set-pieces. But the epic battles feel like outsiders for most of the story. Most of the time we spend in the sheltered village, with the Doctor enjoying quiet moments. It allowed Matt Smith to act more and it was a welcome change of pace. He was, of course, brilliant and the script worked so well with him. He brought the laughs and tears, rivalling David Tennant for grand send-offs.
The louder moments were just as good. I was worried that the amount of bad guys this episode had brought back would be messy, but strangely, everyone complimented each other well. I think it helped that less was more with a lot of these characters. For example, I love the Daleks, but they have been so overdone in the past, that I am glad that we got the thrill of seeing them, but they were never allowed to become an anti-climax of themselves. My favourites, the Silence, were adequately explained, neatly tying up the plot hole I wrote about ages back on my blog. The Weeping Angels were given a single sequence that summarised everything we loved about them without the convoluted plot to explain their presence, bringing down the episode. The only enemies that were really let down were the Sontaran, who seemed to have lost all seriousness and only feature in the series for joking purposes.
The prosthetics for when the Doctor aged deserved a mention as well. We have seen them before, a few times, in Modern Who. The first was with David Tennant’s third series and they looked interesting, but have aged badly. The more recent attempt was with Amy Pond, in the Girl Who Waited, and while there was a significant improvement, I wasn’t too impressed. However, in this episode, I thought it was fantastic. When the Doctor ages for the first time and we begin to see the wrinkles around him, it was a great moment. I totally believed the effects, perhaps helped by the fact that Matt Smith is talented enough to pull off ‘old person’ very well. Even when he is young, Matt Smith portrays the fact that he is the oldest Doctor really well. It gets a bit ropier when he gets really old, but that is just for the few final beats.
One of my favourite features was Handles, the Doctor’s new companion. It is basically a stolen head of a Cyberman that the Doctor uses for information. At first, it is played for jokes, but slowly it evolves into a very touching relationship. The saddest part of the entire episode surprisingly comes from this robotic head. While Matt Smith’s departure was upsetting, it felt like such a celebration that I couldn’t bring myself to be sad. I loved the moment, where he gracefully unwraps his bow tie and drops it to the floor, moments before his regeneration (wait, wasn’t it holographic?). It felt like a terrific goodbye to one of the greatest Matt Smith in-jokes. We will definitely miss Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi has a tough act to follow. I wish him the best of luck.
Final Verdict: A great send off for Matt Smith that was funny and emotional. Much better than expected.