'Doctor Who' Christmas Special Review: Matt Smith Has Fallen

Doctor Who Christmas 2013 - Doctor (Matt Smith)

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.

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.

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 2013 - Doctor (Matt Smith)

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

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