A tale of epic proportions, which seamlessly blends the answers to years worth of questions with a cleverly planned transition of the series into the true vision that Steven Moffat has been working towards all along, the Doctor Who season 6 finale is much more than a spectacular end of a single season: it’s a brilliant new beginning to a beloved franchise.
Picking up on the foretold events from the previous episode, the visually stunning opening reveals an alternate reality where all of history occurs at once: pterodactyls chasing children in the park, Charles Dickens promoting his Christmas special on a talk show, and Winston Churchill being hailed as Caesar – with the Doctor serving as his bearded soothsayer.
Presenting the newly formed world as the unfortunate aftermath of what now occurred at Lake Silencio, a series of flashbacks follow the Doctor’s retelling of what happened – and why time is now disintegrating. While these flashbacks initially feel like an unwelcome addition to the actual story that viewers want to be told - which leaves out all of the details (read: answers) that many have been waiting for - the eventual shift of focus towards the present-day alternate reality makes the purpose of these flashbacks inherently clear.
In a sense, the flashbacks served as wonderfully subtle nod to the Doctor’s eagerness to not cheat death, but to find out why he must die - with the alternate-reality serving as a platform to carefully reveal the answer to the audience. Taking into account the answers provided for the many questions that Steven Moffat has been presenting over the past years, the only way a story such as this could have been competently told was with a masterful, methodical handling of its execution. Of which, Moffat clearly accomplishes with his choice to juxtapose flashbacks with a forward progressing, present-day tale.
With so many familiar characters returning, and a heartbreaking moment to remember the late Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the Doctor Who season 6 finale is a thematic return to the briefly touched upon awareness (or lack-there-of) of the Doctor’s relation to, and impact on, the universe.
While this element was subtly peppered throughout these past two seasons (though clearly acknowledged by everyone who watches the series), it very much comes to a head in the finale. Serving both as a beautiful nod to everything the Doctor has accomplished in his life and as the reason why he must die, the elegant handling of using the Doctor’s greatest trait to reveal his ultimate demise is an astonishingly complex, yet profound statement.
After centuries of saving the universe from the evils that it contains, a simple notion puts everything into perspective: the Doctor is too big and his adventures have made too much noise in the universe. With a dangerous history that has become legend around the universe, and a future that is said to be even more so, the death of the Doctor has become a much needed fixed-point in time. So say the Silence – the guardians of history.
Even though it can be said that the core elements that progressed the finale, and which saved the Doctor from death, are clearly simplistic (which most of the viewers assumed all along), the sheer amount of information, revelations, and foretelling that these simplistic plot points find themselves wrapped in serve to not only provide an amazing amount of depth to the story – more than anyone could have hoped for – but to seamlessly transition Doctor Who into the vision that Steven Moffat has had all along for the series.
No longer can the Doctor continue to lead the life that he has for over 900 years. His grandiose adventures, though selfless and rewarding, are ultimately becoming a danger for the universe. One man is doing too much. He must keep to the shadows; his actions must be more deliberate. The implications are compelling, the logic is intriguing, and the possibilities of what may come are endless.
And, yet… on the fields of Transelor, when the eleventh falls, the question that must never be answered; the question that’s as old as time; the question that the Doctor has been running from will be answered.
Doctor Who returns this December for a Christmas Special
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