It’s been a year of change and celebration for Doctor Who as viewers said goodbye to companions Amy Pond and Rory Williams, were introduced to Clara Oswald, and commemorated the show’s 50th anniversary with a multi-Doctor special (as well as a high quality docudrama). Now, following the announcement that Matt Smith would be leaving the show, TV watchers are finally going to face “The Time of the Doctor,” the 2013 Christmas Special where Smith will officially hand over Doctor duties to Peter Capaldi.
Ever since the 50th Anniversary Special messed with the Doctor numbering system, die hard fans of the classic series have been wondering how showrunner Steven Moffat got around the controversial 12 regeneration limit (for a total of 13 iterations of the Doctor). Considering that Capaldi will actually play the 14th Doctor (Moffat previously asserted that Tennant used-up two regenerations), we know that Doctor Who definitely has some explaining to do. Of course, we’ll have to wait until Christmas Day for in-depth answers, but until that time, the cast and crew are offering up some insightful teases about what to expect from the episode.
At this point, little is known about the overarching plot of “The Time of the Doctor” as well as what circumstances will lead to the fall of the 11th (read: 13th). We’ve seen numerous images of fan-favorite villains returning for the special – meaning that Smith’s Doctor will have to confront some of his most iconic enemies.
In a recent BBC interview, Moffat laid-out the basic story – promising that several long running plot threads will payoff in the episode. (NOTE: You can read the entire interview with Moffat – HERE):
“It’s his final battle and he’s been fighting it for a while. The Doctor is facing the joint challenge of a mysterious event in space that has summoned lots of aliens to one place and helping Clara cook Christmas dinner. There are also elements from every series of Matt’s Doctor, which will come to a head in this special. Things that we’ve laid down for years are going to be paid off.”
Motta also asserted that he’d known Smith’s final words as the Doctor for a while:
“I didn’t think I would go that way, but a couple of months before I wrote it I did say to Mark (Gatiss) that I thought I knew what his last moment would be. And indeed his last line. But if it didn’t fit the scene I wouldn’t crowbar it in. I’ve had the vague storyline in place for a long while.”
Orla Bray, who plays an old friend of the Doctor’s in the upcoming episode, provided a few tidbits of story info – including where her character’s loyalties fall. (NOTE: You can read the entire interview with Bray - HERE):
“The Doctor goes to see Tasha as they are old friends. He needs her help and knows he will find it with her as although she is fearsomely powerful, she is loyal to her friend.”
Smith also weighed in on the upcoming episode – promising that it will be a fitting send-off for his beloved iteration of the character. (NOTE: You can read the entire interview with Smith - HERE or watch it in video form above):
“The Christmas special for me is a bitter sweet episode because I’m leaving, but Steven has written a brilliant, adventurous, funny episode and I’m really thrilled with it. It feels wonderfully Christmassy.”
“I think it’s good for the Doctor to go out with a bang, a crash and a wallop. I’m pleased it’s really funny and mad. When I got to the last 20 pages and it was quite a hard read for me, but I hope it’s going to be a belter. We’ve got a great director in Jamie Payne and some really lovely double-hand stuff with me and Jenna. Steven’s managed to tie in plot points and narratives that have been threaded through over years and I think that’s ingenious.”
In addition, the actor was quick to praise his successor, after discussing the bittersweet nature of his departure, promising that the series in good hands with Capaldi:
“It’s very sad for me in many ways because everything is the last time. It’s the last read through, the last time I put on the bow tie and the last scene in the TARDIS. But the show is about change and I had lunch with Peter Capaldi shortly after the announcement and I think he’s just going to be incredible. He has the most brilliant ideas. As a fan, I’m genuinely excited to see what he’s going to do because I think he’s going to do something extraordinary.”
Moffat took the opportunity to, once again, praise his next Doctor as well – offering some insight into the casting of an “older” Doctor.
“He’s one of the best actors in the country and is very beloved. I was at the BAFTAs shortly before we were contemplating Peter and heard the cheer he got from the audience. Nobody has a bad thing to say about him and that’s not a minor issue when it comes to casting a Doctor. They’ve got to be lovely. And he’s a huge fan of Doctor Who. So we asked and he was incredibly excited to come and audition. We didn’t tell him that he was the only person auditioning because that would be oddly pressuring.”
“[Being older] wasn’t the reason I cast Peter but I do think if we’d cast another Doctor as young as Matt – because Matt’s been so good at being The Young Doctor – I’m not sure what another one would have done. They’d have to have either been deliberately different or just repeat him.”
Last up, Jenna Coleman, who portrays Clara on the series, presented her thoughts on the Christmas Special as well as the next Doctor – who will likely have a very different (and presumably less flirty) relationship with Capaldi. (NOTE: You can read the entire interview with Coleman - HERE):
“It will be a different show next year. We have a bit of a gap before we start filming the new series, so I have time to get my head around it all. Me and Peter will get together before Christmas to start rehearsing and the scripts will start coming in. I think when I came in there was just a week off in production where Arthur and Karen left, so that would have been a strange shift.”
“This episode is very much about Matt and the 11th Doctor and Clara and the 11th Doctor and their last adventure together. I have no idea where we’re going to next series!”
Images from the episode definitely back up Coleman’s statement that, while viewers will no doubt be interested to see Capaldi on screen, “The Time of the Doctor” is first and foremost a chance to honor Smith with one last adventure – and put him face to face with a host of dangerous foes.
Check out new photos from the episode below (click for full versions):
It’s always fun to see Daleks, Cybermen, the Silence, and Weeping Angels but the sticky-note drawings (which we’ve seen in prior photo sets and the teaser trailer) are especially intriguing – as each one appears to depict a moment from Smith’s most iconic Doctor Who episodes. In this case, “The Lodger” (season five, episode 11), among others, is featured but we’ll have to wait until the episode to see exactly how the drawings fit into the actual Christmas Special plot!
We’ll keep you updated with a review of the Doctor Who 2013 Christmas Special, along with a full breakdown of any especially interesting revelations, shortly after the episode airs. In the meantime, check out our Doctor Who Viewing Guide: Tips, Suggestions & Complete Episode List.
Matt Smith will return as Doctor Who for the 2013 Christmas Special on December 25th.
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