‘Doctor Who’ revisited: 10 reasons we love ‘The Time of the Doctor’

As we prepare for Peter Capaldi’s first festive Doctor Who outing, we decided to take a look back at 2013’s Christmas special, ‘The Time of the Doctor’.

Matt Smith’s swan song received some mixed reactions on its first airing – probably not helped by most fans trying to hear it over jabbering family members, collapsed on the sofa after a giant Christmas lunch.

It’s not a perfect episode, but it’s certainly an underrated one, with plenty of brilliant little moments that demand giving it another chance if you were initially underwhelmed.

Here we look back at the best bits from ‘The Time of the Doctor’…


The return of all those villains

Doctor Who’s big finale episodes often take on a ‘kitchen sink’ approach, but here the enemies have gathered for a reason, and one which adds to ‘The Day of the Doctor’s new Return of The Time Lords arc while also tying up the majority of the loose ends from the Eleventh Doctor’s era.

The winter forest attack by the Weeping Angels is suitably tense, as is the encounter with a wooden Cyberman. And despite them eventually siding with the Doctor, the Silence remain a chilling invention.


The Christmas cracker scene

Doctor Who Time of the Doctor crack

One of Clara’s best moments to date, the scene where she is reunited with an elderly Doctor is beautiful in its emotion. Having run out of the flat upon hearing the TARDIS, that Clara chooses to spend Christmas day with the Doctor rather than her own family speaks volumes about their relationship.

Her helping him to open the cracker showcases the many levels of their relationship in a single action, but it’s the poem inside the cracker that provides the scene’s most poignant part. A moment of meta-commentary, the poem reads:

“Now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves.
Eleven’s hour is over now, the clock is striking Twelve’s.”


Karen’s cameo

Doctor Who Time of the Doctor Amy

A well-kept secret, but something we all secretly hoped for, was the brief cameo by Karen Gillan as Amy Pond. As “the first face this face saw”, Amy is undoubtedly more important to the life of the Eleventh Doctor than Clara and this is proved simply with “Raggedy Man… goodnight.”

A simple and heartfelt moment that echoes her own final words and neatly brings us back to the start of Matt and Karen’s era in ‘The Eleventh Hour’.



Doctor Who Handles

The idea of the Doctor befriending a Cyberman head is questionable on paper, but it ends up creating one of the episode’s most poignant moments when, after 300 years with no one but each other protecting Christmas Town, Handles slowly passes away. That the Doctor cries over this loss is both bittersweet and a commentary on what the Doctor has made of his life.


The goodbye speech

Doctor Who Time of the Doctor

From the second Matt Smith utters “I will not forget one line of this” you know he is speaking more as Matt than as the Doctor, and it’s all the more moving as a result, aided by Jenna Coleman’s heartbroken performance and Murray Gold’s rousing score.

“I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”


Continued on Page 2…

  • Britt

    We did not all hope for a Amy Pond cameo. I hated it. It ruined the whole regeneration scene for me, which was already dragging on. And the episode just made no sense at all. It was one of the most dissapointing episodes ever. Adding that to the already underwhelming season seven made me glad to reach the end of 11’s run.

    • Britt

      But, you know, that’s just me. Your article does make me want to watch it again. Maybe I’ll hate it less?

      • Sampayo

        think of the Amy pond cameo like this; At the beginning, The Doctor was Amy’s imaginary friends, in the end, Amy was his. I thought that wall a really good way for their story to end 🙂

        • Ginagee

          I agree. A lovely little touch. Amy was easily the best companion in modern Who and along with Matt and the great Rory, the best team the Tardis has ever had in any era.

          • Jo

            The First Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Susan. The second Doctor and Jamie. The third Doctor and Jo. The Fourth Doctor and Sarah. The Ninth Doctor and Rose. The Tenth Doctor and Donna. All better than Eleven, Amy and Rory. As for Amy being the best companion in modern Who… Are you actually joking? Wilf beats her. By a country mile.

    • Seventh Reign

      You just have no taste …. absolutely none at all..

  • hitherto

    It was a wonderful episode, very close to perfection. The end of a near-perfect era 😀

  • PeterJPreston

    While not a total success, much better than the now unwatcable End of Time. To some extent, I see this episode as Steven Moffat’s reposte to the bombastic, selfpitying and whining final moments of Ten. He made Matt’s exit as Eleven a reflection on his performance as the doctor: brave, modest, quiet and noble. A real hero concerned with saving a small village on a remote planet even if it means dying a slow death away from the excitement of his life in the TARDIS and those he cares for, rather than a brash egotist demanding that he should not be taken as his life is worth so much more than anyone else’s. While many of us got sick to death of the massive hype of Tennant’s victory lap final year and the relentless publicity, Matt’s low key farewell left us wanting more from one of the truly great doctors and a wonderful, talented and modest young actor who has given so much to a show he clearly loves.

    Bravo Matt but now on to the Great Capaldi. I can hardly wait!

    • Hannahisqueen

      Hehe , another great comment which after six months still holds true. Peter, like Matt, is not only modest about his success but really loves the show and certainly understands that it is bigger than the actor who plays the Doctor . Trust Matt’s success in acting will continue into future years as indeed it looks to be with a number of high profile movies and more theatre work ahead of him.

      • Iron fn’ Maiden

        What the Hell has David done to piss you off, seriously? He was a fan of the show during his childhood and still is now. On top of that, are you seriously trying to imply he has an ego? I’d love to see your evidence. Chris Chibnall, when casting Broadchurch, had a rule which ensured that no egotistical actors would be cast, because they cause tension. Having watched David in many interviews and shows, he seems a thoroughly likeable man with a great sense of humour. What your problem is with him, I don’t know.

  • Robert Madsen

    I can’t say I love the episode, but it was interesting and I had no problem with the short transformation to Capaldi.
    I still believe that he doesn’t refer to his kidneys when he says “The colour is not right…” For me it is one of those mannerisms of changing topics within seconds. Before he notices the colour he has a short glance at the TARDIS interior and then makes his remark. So I think it is time for a new colour scheme for the TARDIS control room (which seems to appear in the new trailer. Maybe the energy cable he has in his hands make the TARDIS change too, Only two months to find out….

  • John Hazard

    I don’t understand why Clara had a different family in “The Time of the Doctor” than she did in “The Bells of Saint John” prequel?

    • Anthony John Woo

      Her mom died (as seen in the “Rings of Akhaten”) and her dad has aged 10 years since the “young Clara” scenes in “Rings of Akhaten” and “The Bells of Saint John” prequel minisode. The family from “The Bells of Saint John” are family friends that Clara is helping to take care of since their mom passed.

      • John Hazard

        That makes plenty of sense now! Thank you!

  • Mightymoffster99

    It’s a brilliant episode and like so much of Steven Moffat’s and Matt Smith’s work, it is wonderfully layered, subtle, clever and eminently rewatchable. Give me this over the shallow whizz bang childishness of anything from Davies’ time. The only decent finale Davies wrote was for Eccleston and the less said about The End of Time the better. Has there ever been a more bloated and self congratulatory episode in Who’s history? Tennant’s hysterical overacting is frankly embarrasing to watch when compared to Matt’s truthful, beautiful and gut wretchingly sad farewell. I notice that with each year, the popularity of Tennant and his era continues to fade and those dark days for Who are thankfully well behind us all now.

    • Hannahisqueen

      Interesting reading this now and the truthfulness of these comments (and it is the most popular of all of the comments here) stand. It is great that the upswing Moffat has in writing the finale for Matt continued through to the glorious debut of Peter Capaldi. I am sure having two great actors in a row has inspired all of the team to produce such a quality show. As time goes on, the mistakes and wrong headedness of the Davies era is brought more and more to light. Series 1 of the reboot remains watchable only for the talent of Eccelston and Piper but few people will be able to stomach the bloated mess of the Davies/Tennant era where the ego of the showrunner and lead actor slowly sunk the programme. Thankfully Moffat picked up the mess and having learned lessons along the way was able to bring the show back to the great standard of series 5 over the last year. The fact that series 8 was the most watched since 2005 also underlines that with Capaldi in the Tardis, Moffat has really got everything right.

      • That Guy

        Series 4 is still the most watched of all the revived series’, do your research

        • David Adler

          She’ correct. When live+7 figures are taken into account (and not counting the Christmas special in either year), it is actually ahead of series 4. More and more people watch television, particularly Doctor Who, at their own leisure and overnight figures have become meaningless. In terms of total unique views over the week of broadcast, series 8 is now the most popular series ever of Who. You can find the data on most popular Who sites. I expect tonight’s show will be the same and is likely to have more viewers on live+7 basis than even the Kylie episode which is the most watched Chrimbo special to date.
          On a positive note, it’s really great that Who continues to be so well loved by the British public and around the globe and hats off to Peter Capaldi for currently being the world’s favourite Doctor.

          • Sandman

            Gallifrey Times on Series 8 Live+7 Figures: “The average Live +7 figure for the series was 8.3 million – this can’t be compared to the other average viewing audiences for other series, as those are likely calculated from just the consolidated figures.”
            Live+7 was only introduced a few years ago so yeah can’t really compare Live+7 Series 8 figures to normal Series 4 ones so all the comparisons are meaningless in the end up. We can all accept that the show is enjoyed by at least as many as it always has been since the revival, hats off indeed to Peter Capaldi

  • JSydCarton

    “It’s not a perfect episode, but it’s certainly an underrated one, with plenty of brilliant little moments that demand giving it another chance if you were initially underwhelmed.”

    That pretty much sums up every episode from Smith’s era. While he is a great Doctor and I enjoyed watching him…none of his episodes really stand out to me. Sure I remember little moments, particular scenes, but not full episodes.

    I think, really, that was the biggest issue for me over the last several years. Each story tries to be too big, too epic. It just collapses under itself. simply drowning out everything meaningful.

    Take the last Cybermen story for example. They tried so hard to make the new Cybermen scary and menacing. But the end result…was farce.

    There hasn’t been any subtly anymore. Every emotion we the audience are supposed to feel, has to be hammered into us. We have to be bludgeoned to death so we know that we are supposed to feel something for what is happening on screen (for example every time Amy or Rory died or almost died or thought they died or…).

    All that said, despite being a rather plodding and dull episode, Smith’s farewell is one of the best of any of the Doctor’s.

  • Hannahisqueen

    Thanks for reposting. Agree with the sentiments below that this is truly a gem waiting to be rediscovered. Matt Smith is simply phenomenal in this, proving that until Peter Capaldi arrived, he was the best actor to ever play the Doctor. The plot is a bit of a mess but the sheer grandeur of Matt’s performance and the wonderful cameo at the end with Peter manage to smooth over any wrinkles in the plot. It was a hint at how great Peter would be in the role and now this has been proved as we wait what is promised to be the very best Christmas special of the lot.
    The renaissance of the show this year with Peter at the helm and Moffat back to his very best writing (Listen and Dark Water are genius pieces of writing and possibly the best in the entire 51 years of Who – perhaps the Christmas episode will beat this, based on the universally ecstatic reviews) have overshadowed Matt’s exit a little. But it has been the tradition of recent years that the incoming Doctor has quickly eclipsed the last one. Just as Matt completely wiped out the entirety of the increasingly appallingly written and acted Tennant years with his joyous cry of ‘Geronimo!” at the very end of The End of Time, Peter has also overtaken Matt with his very first episode – have we ever had such a wonderfully layered, intelligent and simply brilliantly acted Doctor before Peter came along?
    Since Name of the Doctor last year, the quality of the show has been terrific and certainly over the last year on par with anything else on television. The only sadness is that Matt was wrongly overlooked for an acting BAFTA for his performance in Time of the Doctor, probably because of the otherwise lacklustre series 7B. At least Peter is pretty well guaranteed at least a nomination this year and I am sure the show itself will be back in the nomination categories for best drama.

  • Iron fn’ Maiden

    Wow. Comments are full of Tennant-haters, some even saying he had an ego (despite the fact that Chris Chibnall’s main rule for the casting of Broadchurch was to have people with no ego). This is a first; it really seems like there is a Davies/Moffat and Tennant/Smith divide here.

    I’m just going to step in and say that frankly, you’re all being ridiculous. Doctor Who is Doctor Who and I love both eras of the show. Series 1 was brilliant, Series 8 was brilliant, and all series/episodes in between were brilliant, apart from a few duff ones from BOTH eras. I can’t really choose between any of the actors who have played The Doctor since the reboot as I feel they’re all on par with each other. You can’t really compare them anyway; their style is unique to them and all you can compare is which personality of The Doctor you like best. I felt Davies wrote some brilliant finales and personally I still love The End of Time to this day. I feel all the criticism you’re giving to Davies and Tennant is unfair; they were both fantastic during their time on the show.

    And quite frankly, calling Tennant’s era “the dark days” is way too far when it had classics such as “Midnight” and “The Waters of Mars”. Doctor Who wouldn’t be here right now without Davies either.

  • Jonathan

    I agree that Time is underrated, I remember coming away from Christmas day feeling a bit underwhelmed, particularly given hype/expectation but actually, there are a lot of little moments that show that there is a lot of subtle stuff in there that makes it more enjoyable on subsequent watches. I think it’s fair to say that no one was quite expecting the episode we got 😀 It was similar with Death in Heaven, where initially it felt underwhelming but then I suddenly ‘got’ the final scene while in the shower and was like ‘man, that is sad…and purposefully low-key’, sometimes the Moff goes for a less is more approach. Also, your highlighting of the cracker scene reminded me that Moffat used that again in Last Christmas, only this time it was Peter Capaldi helping the older Clara (if I remember rightly from only one viewing on Christmas Day, shocking as that is), a neat symmetry, even if the latter was a dream.