‘Doctor Who’ Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

Published 1 year ago by , Updated December 26th, 2013 at 8:16 am,

doctor who 2013 christmas special review Doctor Who Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

After taking over Doctor Who and introducing the world to the Eleventh (Matt Smith), it is now time for Steven Moffat to bid farewell to the first Doctor he created. The time for the fall of the Eleventh has come – but not without one final, truly epic battle (and many regeneration explanations)!

When Clara (Jenna Coleman) makes a Christmas wish that brings the Doctor back to Earth, the two set off on a time-traveling adventure (all for the sake of the perfect Turkey); however, when a mysterious message sent through time and space is uncovered, the Doctor and Clara make an unexpected visit to a town called Christmas, on a planet called… Trenzalore. With the winter of the Doctor approaching, and the future of the Time Lords at risk, friends fight, foes unite and the oldest question in the Universe is asked – one that must never, ever be answered.

For a story where the end result was revealed quite some time ago, it’s not easy to overcome the much dreaded obstacle of audiences knowing what’s going to happen. When that occurs, the story all but becomes a moot point, as the proverbial dots for the over-arching tale have already been connected. Doctor Who, however, is a different story; “The Time of the Doctor” is a different story; and although Matt Smith has fallen, the Doctor lives on – but not before the legend of the Doctor is told, once again, before audiences very own eyes, in a millennium-long battle which perfectly presents why audiences through time have continuously fallen in love with a silly, duel-hearted, time-traveling alien from another world.

doctor who 2013 christmas special review 2 Doctor Who Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

The Doctor has had many defining moments throughout his time on the air, and Matt Smith, as the Eleventh, has had more than most (thanks to Moffat), yet this 60-minute farewell, in a town called Christmas, to say goodbye to one of the series’ most beloved iterations, may very well be the most defining moment in the character’s history. The Doctor can do (almost) anything, yet for years he’s been simply been running from his past, or from endings that he never wants to see. Now, the One Who Forgets stops running and, instead, decides to do the one he was never able to: fight – for himself, Gallifrey and a town called Christmas.

Matt Smith’s tenure of the Doctor has always been filled with his wonderful and quirky nuances, no matter the quality of the story at hand, and it’s through him which Moffat has been able to find his footing as the executive producer, head writer and showrunner. In “The Time of the Doctor,” however, Smith and Moffat have combined their powers for an exceptional tale which could really only be told with Smith and Moffat standing behind it. With Moffat’s eerie comfort with anything related to Time Travel, and Smith’s ability to be powerful and heroic, while also being earnest and vulnerable, fans are whisked away on a tale so deeply rich and exciting that, no matter what the ending is “supposed” to be, the story of the Doctor – not simply the Eleventh – remains the focus throughout, allowing audiences to forget the unfortunate end that will come until it’s time.

doctor who 2013 christmas special trenzalore Doctor Who Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

There are not many times when audiences will get to see an old Doctor, and so it’s important revel in the moment when it does happen. Smith beautifully leads viewers through the aging process of a Time Lord, allowing everyone to see the Universe’s protector in his final moments, memory lapses and all. This, in and of itself, would be enough to fill an entire episode, yet Moffat made sure to ground the tale in the legend of the Doctor, from start to finish, which provides a poetic reason and purpose for all of this to occur.

Now that’s not to say that there weren’t “issues” which troubled Smith’s heat-breaking opus. Clara’s inclusion was required, and her youthful exuberance helps to shine an energetic light in the Doctor’s darkest days. Still, the manner in which this tale began, with Clara having Christmas dinner with her family, is the most awkward and forced inclusion in this relatively perfect adventure. Everything happens for a reason, and the fall of the Eleventh begins with Clara lying to her family about her relationship status, apparently. Even so, Clara’s grandmother does help to make Earth’s inclusion as enjoyable as possible.

doctor who christmas special 2013 doctor Doctor Who Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

Peter Capaldi’s premiere as the new Doctor, too, can be seen as one the episode’s weak point, even if the natural and unavoidable “new Doctor hate” is acknowledged and figured-in. Like with Smith’s premiere as the Doctor, Capaldi’s premiere is more short and to the point than anything unique and memorable – which may make things difficult when Doctor Who season 8 premieres late-2014. Capaldi certainly has the ability as an actor to fully embody the Doctor character, and Moffat may be the only man in the world who can make mere seconds satisfying, yet Capaldi’s full-face reveal (unlike the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary) may leave fans with many questions as to whether or not the Time Lord is in safe hands.

If you’re one of the many Doctor Who fans who have not yet watched the Torchwood: Children of Earth, in which Capaldi shines, you’re simply going to have to rely the assurance of fans who have that Peter Capaldi will be, without a doubt, a terrific Doctor. Just like Matt Smith was…. Or is.


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Doctor Who season 8 premieres Autumn 2014 on BBC and BBC America

Matt Smith played the Eleventh Doctor January 1, 2010 – December 25, 2013

Follow Anthony Ocasio on Twitter @anthonyocasio
TAGS: Doctor who
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  1. That eagle stare followed by the first words of the 12th, “KIDNEYS!” I could tell this doctor is going to be a fun one.

    • Peter Capaldi is an attempt to recapture the look, feel and spirit of the Tom Baker years, minus the scarf of course… I’m looking forward to finding out about how it turns out. Is such an older, more classic Doctor suitable for this generation of fans??? I dunno, yet.

      • Does he have energy? Sure looks like it.
        Can he be funny? Made me laugh the second he appeared on screen.
        Is their already a meme circulating around peter as the doctor? Yes. Yes their is. He has more wrinkles on his face compared to the last 3 doctors but I am more then convinced he will fit right in.

        • “new Doctor hate” ?
          Guess some people out there might have it,butmost people I hear are looking forward,and so do I !

          Smith’s Doctor was never really my cup of tea,it might be the fault of the writing of the Moff as his stories are getting more and more polluted and are out of Focus !
          All over the place and too many things packed into such a short time span that all just feels messy !

          RTD was better in that,simple stories,one Focus ,one Mystery to solve over a larger canvas ! Capaldi is finally here,now we will see if the writing gets better or not !

        • “Can he be funny?”

          Watch The Thick Of It. Honestly, I’ve never been interested in politics but there’s a reason Capaldi became a fan-favourite comedy actor thanks to his role in that as the foul-mouthed politician that terrifies everyone but also says some of the funniest things you’ll hear on TV.

          That show even created the term “omnishambles” as a piece of ironic political jargon and the word has become used by actual politicians so judging by his time on that show, I’d say finally, Doctor Who has a worthy actor in the lead role for the first time since Tennant left. I still think Eccleston is the best though.

  2. I wished there had been more to his death than old age, maybe just attrition and exhaustion from fending off all his enemies wouldve been better to me, cause capaldis already older and I didnt like that the doctor was just stuck there for… 300 years?

    Imagine cybermen, daleks etc converging on Christmas town, young eleven tells clara to stay inside and chooses to face death to make the enemies stop, is fired upon and beaten by all of them bravely and is on the ground, just about to close his eyes and die-but then the rift opens up and and gives him the 1up, he gets up, smiles, the enemies shocked, says a quip and then explodes all over them.
    then everything plays out the same but with the final goodbye right there in christmas town.

    • I don’t think the Timelords gave The Doctor an extra regeneration. If I heard correctly, 11th said that they gave him a new regeneration cycle. So that means The Doctor has 12 more regeneration left. Also I’ve read that Moffat wanted Doctor Who to last for another 50 years. So I guess that’s the reason for The Doctor to have a new regeneration cycle.

      • A 1up for the doctor could been seen as either.

        • Respawn.

  3. i’m so confused watching this episode,the pace is too fast,so many question that must be answered from this episode

    • Yeah,thats what I am talking about !
      Moffat has no Focus in his stories,too much is going on !
      He should put his effort on 1 idea and work that ou 100%,instead 5 and all burn half uncooked ! I respect the man,he is a genius but he needs control !

      • I see so many posts like this in doctor who related articles, i think moffat is a brilliant writer. Ok he’s not perfect, but who is? RTD had alot of dodgy episodes in his run too, but nobody ever held it against him. I think Moffat writes better arcs than RTD did, they’re smarter and link together over time which i think is great. And this episode was superb, i dont know how it could confuse anyone, it all seemed pretty clear to me.

    • @raden

      I feel like this almost every single episode of the show.

  4. I really liked it and Capaldi’s appearance was fun. I liked his line at the end. But his regeneration was really quick when it switched from Smith to Capaldi.

    • It was indeed quick when he regenerated. I would love if they have that moment gone a bit longer.

  5. Told you all about the stupid crack in the sky and the love from Gallifrey rubbish, lazy writing again from Steven ‘The Deus Ex Machina’ Moffat.

    • I’m not sure what show you’ve been watching for the past 50 years, but it certainly wasn’t Doctor Who. If it wasn’t for Deus Ex Machina, The Doctor never would’ve made it to his FIRST regeneration.

      Loved Matt Smith’s final departure. Very grandiose yet very humble, just like the Eleventh. And while I had a feeling we might see The Girl Who Waited one last time, it was still very touching to see.

    • Very succinct summary of my opinion; agree completely

    • You need to learn what deus ex actually means

      Having something that has been around in the show for 4 years (or more) as part of your resolution is not deus ex at all, nor is having the time-lords give extra regenerations as that idea has existed for far longer than 4 years, or perhaps its regeneration energy being able to destroy things your talking about, but then again that has existed since the tennant regen too

      • Totally agree with you. Terry Pratchet once stated that if a character is killed by an axe at the end of Act Three, the axe should be clearly visible on the wall at the beginning of Act One. The crack in the wall was clearly visible on the wall in Matt Smiths first episode.

  6. I love how they had Amy at the end to really emphasize how this chapter of doctor who was the story of Amy and the doctor. The 11th’s adventures with Amy, Rory, and his wife is how he will and should be remembered. So I just loved how Moffat knew that. Not a fan of Clara but she hasn’t made much of an impact yet. The 11th will always be the story of the raggedy man and the girl who waited!!

    • Clara is amazing.

      • She just hasn’t struck any chords with me yet. I have a feeling that she’ll be much better now with Capaldi and I’m interested to see how that relationship plays out.

        • Yeah. They messed with Clara’s introduction too much, then left us with a less interesting Clara to actually start being a proper companion and start some adventures.

          She really hasn’t left much of an impact on me either despite a strong, albeit false start.

  7. I am of two minds, smith’s regeneration was far to quick but his preceding final moments were almost as gut wrenching as tennants end.

  8. Well I loved it. Almost teared up at the end. It was just a great way to end Smith’s tenure and the regeneration itself, it’s not as indulgent as Tennant to Smith, but it’s a nice send off for Smith. Remind me of the 6th regenerating to the 7th.

    That line of “They send a psychopath to kill you. -Totally married her.” made miss Eleventh already. Can’t wait for the Capaldi era, I hope it’s great.

  9. Sorry but I thought it the weakest premise, plotline and exit of the entire series. The 11th can’t play 20 let alone 300 or more. There were also reworked grabs from movies and series that showed the writing to be lazy and underdeveloped. If I were part of the production team I would not be crowing about it.

  10. Overall the sendoff was pretty great (especially those last 5 minutes) but the rest of the episode doesn’t really convey the weight of the whole thing. As with a lot of recent episodes under Moffat’s tenure, I’d say this one should have been a two-parter. Unlike The End of Time, which was bloated and had a pretty lame plot, this one had a lot of answering to do and it didn’t feel like the answers were given enough space to breathe. It’s sad because we’ve all waited since the start of Smith’s run to see these things concluded (like the blowing up of the Tardis, the Silence, etc.) only for it to be handwaved away in casual dialogue in just a few minutes. It would’ve been much better if we could have seen Kovarian split off her group, for instance, rather than just have Tasha mention it.

    But well, within the restrictions they had to work in it’s pretty OK overall. The Christmassy elements kind of get in the way, especially Clara’s part of the story but again that was pretty much expected. One thing I did like was that Moffat took the most sensible way out in explaining the regeneration issue – he used established canon. Anything else probably would’ve felt too much of a cop-out. But Eleven using his regeneration energy to blast all the Daleks – really? And in the process he seems to have laid waste to the entire town, maybe even killing lots of the residents there. Ouch.

    So are we meant to assume that the graves we see in ‘Name of the Doctor’ never get there? Will there not be a dying Tardis with the Doctor’s timeline inside anymore?

    But anyway, Smith’s last lines and Amy’s cameo was fantastic. Nice little details like that coming full circle made it work really well, with her being the first face he saw and the fish fingers and custard and all. There’s also some meta-irony in both of them wearing wigs at the time. And it’s too early to tell how Capaldi will be like because it seems like he’s extra zany immediately after a regeneration (Moffat wrote Matt the same way after Tennant bowed out, which I wasn’t a big fan of) so it’s only right we wait and see just how this new one works out – but I’m expecting good things.

    • If the energy of a regenerating Time Lord has such destructive power, how were Time Lords losing the Time War?

      • Exactly. Plus he was standing there talking for so long and the Daleks were screaming about killing him… and they just buzz around him like flies, waiting for the Doctor to attack them. Lol.

    • “So are we meant to assume that the graves we see in ‘Name of the Doctor’ never get there? Will there not be a dying Tardis with the Doctor’s timeline inside anymore?”

      Probably not. When clare asked “can’t you change your own future” the 11th awswered “not without the help of the other timelords”.
      In the end he indeed got help from the other timelords by gifting him another regeneration cycle. With this help it might be possible that the 11th changed his own future, thus preventing the whole tranzelor is my grave thing.

  11. It took a few episodes for me to warm up to Matt Smith after David Tennant’s departure, but now I hate to see Matt go. This episode was more emotional for me than I expected. I was holding it together through those last few minutes where Matt is basically saying “good bye”, until they finished me off with Amy Pond making an appearance to call the Doctor “Raggedy Man” once more. Ack – my heart!

    But, I’m looking forward to what Peter Capaldi can do with this next.

  12. I LOVED Matt Smith’s Doctor, and series 5, and Amy and Rory(mostly).

    However, this episode was poo. No tension, no coherent plot, skipping lot’s of the Doctor’s personal time line again, just a general mess.

    It shouldn’t take 3 series and two specials to ‘tie up loose end’s’. Go back to the old day’s Moffat. The MAIN arch’s lasting a series with a few sub plot’s spanning 2-3.

  13. Why is it that the stories never make any sense? Any moment of threat or peril is resolved within seconds. I just can never understand what goes on each episode (always check wiki-pedia afterwards)

    Like the actors, effects and production though. However if anyone is ever due a regeneration – it;s the show’s writers.

    If someone can provide a clear, concise, brief explanation of this episode – I would be very grateful.

  14. Great eopisode.

    Here’s a plot summary for those who may be missing some Who knowledge.

    The Doctor trapped the Time Lords in another universe to end the Time War.

    The Time Lords find a crack in the Universe and send an SOS signal.

    The Doctor answers the call for help, but cannot release the Time Lords without unleashing a new Time War.

    The Church of the Silence atands between the Doctor and his enemies.

    A sect of the Church decides that the Doctor is the enemy and travels back in time to kill him in his past. They try to blow up the Tardis.
    Unfortunately blowing up the Tardis creates the cracks in the Universe that allowed the Time Lords in to begin with – “The Destiny Paradox.”

    After a centuries long standoff which inevitably comes down to war between the Daleks and the Silence, the Time Lords intervene while the Doctor is in his dying moments and pump him full of regeneration energy. So much energy that he uses the excess to destroy the Dalek fleet.

    Then, he regenerates into the 12th, 13th, or 14th Doctor, depending on your criteria for defining the ‘n’th Doctor.

    Of course, for the Doctor, being a time traveller, all of these events have happened in reverse.

    First he discovers the cracks before the explosion happens. He closes the cracks and is introduced to the Silence, but doesn’t know who or what they are.
    Then he encounters the silence, who steal his pregnant companion and adopt her baby to train her into the Doctor’s assassin. The Doctor figures this out, however, and fakes his own death so the silence believe they are victorious.

    He then visits Trenzalore after the wsr, and sees the destruction that his final battle left behind, but still doesn’t know why the battle was fought.

    Finally he is called to Trenzalore when the Time Lords start broadcasting the message and discovers the Crack, converging the 11th Doctors last episode with his first, closing the story arc of the 11th Doctor beautifully.

    Death by old age was a fitting death for the 11th, who lived for at least 5 centuries.

    Interesting twist that a whole new cycle of regenerations, essentially rebirthing the Doctors entire lifespan, results in the death of a younger man and the birth of an older man. Regeneration, it seems, has a sense of irony.

  15. Having watched Dr. Who for a really long time, I think since the revival of the show, things have been basically “good” to “incredible”.

    And, when I heard that someone as young as Matt Smith was cast, I didn’t know how that would go, but he’s turned out to be one of my favorites. The stories he’s been in have been enjoyable and well-written. Given the build-up of the amazing last season-ender and the 50th anniversary show, I was expecting something equally as spectacular and didn’t get that.

    It wasn’t a coherent story. It felt half-baked. After all that wonderful atmosphere of what Trenzalore was in the season-ender, the battle scenes didn’t live up to the image of that. All of the Christmas stuff was throwaway as it needed something to qualify as a “Christmas Special.” I don’t know what Clara or Amy were doing there as they both had dramatic and appropriate send-off moments.

    The “old” make-up didn’t really work for me and I just didn’t think that the Doctor simply hanging around one small place, waiting to die, was anywhere near in character.

    As others have mentioned, many thought that the crack in the universe dilemma had been completely resolved already.

    Unfortunately, it turned out to be kind of a throw-back mishmash “summing up” of previously covered ideas.

    It needed a few rewrites and, maybe, the writers were so focused on the other shows that this one didn’t get the attention it deserved.

    Sad, because I thought MS should have had a much better and more creative send-off than this.

    It was watchable, but I was hoping for more.

  16. I have never watched Doctor Who before but it is so popular I really want to give it a chance but it has been on since 1976, I have no idea where to start watching it to truly understand the story. Any help?

    • Start with season 1 (2005)
      Or start with season 5. (Matt Smith is easier to get you hooked into the series..)

    • It’s been on TV since 1963, not 1976.

      I’d say start with the Chris Ecclestone stuff in 2005 because Tennant and apparently Smith mention and hint at things that began in Ecclestone’s time in the role.

  17. Yet again we are presented with another garbled self reverential slice of stale turkey by Moffet and Co.
    I long for the days when Dr Who aspired to be quatermass
    For kids, and on occasion achieved just that. capaldi is a masterstroke, if he gets stripped back linear storylines to get his teeth into Dr Who has a chance of getting back to something of worth. If not, after 44 years of watching the show, now with my kid since Eccleston, (with some gaps of course) I will have to call it a day.

  18. The best thing about the death of the 11th in this way is that, for the rest of Smiths life, future Doctors will be able to visit the 11th Doctor in Trenzalore because its written into the history of the character that the 11th grows old and dies there.

    Meaning that Smith may well return at any point in the future, perhaps for the 60th anniversary, or the 75th, or even the 100th, (when he’ll be 80 years old,) and it’ll all be perfectly legit.

  19. Finally managed to catch it today.

    Having given up on the show after the submarine and whales episode (2-3 episodes into Smith’s tenure as The Doctor) due to his poor acting and the terrible writing that failed to hold my interest, I was confused by a lot of this episode, mainly because I never knew about cracks or the TARDIS being blown up or any of that business.

    Nevertheless, I thought the episode was ok, nothing more.

    Clara finding her way back was pretty ridiculous, why not keep her in her own time rather than see her hanging on, only to send her back and then have her return another few centuries later thanks to someone else bringing her for The Doctor’s final moments?

    It would’ve made it have extra weight if he’d sent her back home and she came back to see him as a really old man with white, balding hair rather than a middle aged version first.

    The Amy part was ok but again, I gave up on the show several episodes into Smith having the role so it didn’t impact me at all when he hallucinated her walking towards him.

    The wig stuff didn’t work for me either. I understand why, to hide a spare TARDIS key in the wig, the sequence just didn’t seem very amusing. Tasha also being kissed and conveniently, the Dalek thing fell off her head and she was ok again.

    Talking to someone else who put it more bluntly than I would but she basically said (as a longtime fan of the show):

    “The story was absolute s***, all his enemies were waiting yet the rest of it was him messing around aging and making his bint go back and forth in time, the 50th anniversary would’ve made a better Christmas episode, methinks Moffat ran out of ideas after writing the 50th ep but Matt Smith was a god awful Doctor”.

    Well, either way, one era ends and a new one begins. We have a good Doctor again and hopefully, Moffat really is leaving so we can have a good writer in charge of the show again for the first time in years.

    • Obviously a Tenant apologist, if you call Matt Smith a poor actor then what would you call Tenant? Or did you not watch the worst acting job ever in “Decoy Bride”?
      Your sour grapes are the smallest of percentages making you a “small”….

  20. All the people who are used to doctors 1-9 want to bring back the past of his look
    but people who are used to Christopher David Matt would want to see some of their look kept