Friday, January 3, 2014

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor

One of my New Years Resolutions is to try and get less annoyed by the howling void of idiot groupthink that is the Internet. At its best, its a celebratory medium that allows like-minded people to share their love of...well, just about anything, but at it's worse it can be a circle-jerk of snark for it's own sake, it's need for instant response destroying any sort of nuance response. Twitter, of course, is both these tendancies turned up to 11, which is probably why I love it and hate it (as I love and hate myself, as some wizard once said). This reaches some sort of apogee during "event TV", be it a reality show final, a sporting event or, on Xmas Day this year, Matt Smith's swansong as Doctor Who.

It says something about the success of Doctor Who in this day and age that the handover from one actor to another in the lead role has become such a big deal. David Tennant got a big finale, and so now has Smith, talked about, blogged about, twittered over. People who would probably never normally watch a family-oriented show about a time-travelling alien suddenly feel compelled to see what the fuss about is about, and after the largely unqualified success of the 50th Anniverary Special everyone seemed to head into The Time of the Doctor expecting...well I'm not too sure. But whatever they were expecting, what they got episode of Doctor Who.

The story of the Eleventh Doctor has always been a Fairy Tale. He's a little girls' imaginary friend who fell from the sky in a magic box, who brought her Prince back from the Dead by remaking the universe for her. He married the woman born to kill him, who died the first time they ever met. His Modus Operandi is the final flourish, the trick from nowhere when all hope is lost. Love Conquers All. Everyone Lives. It runs through the three series like it's heartblood and I suspect your tolerance for the 11th Doctor Era is largely based on your tolerance for this sort of thing in general.

So it feels fitting to me that, much like The End of Time, many of the strengths and weaknesses of the passing era are present in The Time of the Doctor. The Doctor spends three hundred years defending a town named Christmas against the massed armies of the universe, the effort finally aging him. The Town is somewhere where you can only speak the truth, and the 300 years pre-date and then post-date the entire run of other stories we have already seen. New characters come and go, defined only by the Doctor and whilst its common (and valid) to criticize the shows writing of women for making them all about the Doctor, I think that mostly because everyone is all about the Doctor; men, women, children, monsters, villains and heroes. With a few rare exceptions, every relationship with the Doctor first and the universe second, and this is very, very, true here.

There is a beauty in the setup, and the passage of time as small vignettes. There is some nice character moments; watching the sun come up, Handles, and of course the end of which more in a moment. There is also some issues - Fairy Tale Logic excuses much in my book but the Papal Mainframe needed a bit more explanation, thanks, and the whole side-plot with Clara's Christmas Dinner was...what, exactly? And of course they didn't really need to justify this being the last life of The Doctor, other than that this was clearly also a huge deck-clearing exercise for wherever they plan to go next with Peter "Scary Eyes" Capaldi.

At the end though, the moment was captured pretty well with the falling bow tie and the brief return of Amy Pond. Its a shame for Clara, who never really got to have a good run with Eleven, and I hope she's around with Twelve for a while because Jemma Coleman is a fun presence who hasn't really had chance to shine yet. The shadow of the Ponds hangs over Eleven's era, even half a series after they left.

So farewell then, Matt Smith. You brought a wonderful, physical energy to the Doctor, and carried the weight of being an old, old man in a young mans body in a way that we hadn't seen in a long time. And Hello of Peter Capaldi, with the wrong-coloured Kidneys, I can't wait to see that the era of the Twelfth Doctor brings.