‘Doctor Who’ Christmas special: Our team’s verdict on ‘The Time of the Doctor’

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Andrew Curnow: “Despite all the things that I would say are wrong with ‘The Time of the Doctor’, the emotional heart of the episode is about as perfect as you could wish for. The notion of the Doctor spending his days as sheriff of one tiny little town, threatened by all the evils he’s ever encountered, is just right. Matt Smith’s cane acting was perhaps a bit OTT, and the aging make-up not the best the show has seen, but the sight of him finally looking the age that his Doctor has always seemed was truly moving.

“And Clara has become (at least for last night) a modern-day Sarah Jane, the companion who will do anything for her best friend. Taken away by a Dalek-possessed corpse, left in the middle of a warzone at the heart of the deadliest battle in the universe, all she can think of is to go and see her friend one last time. When she finds him, without even the strength to pull a cracker with her, it’s impossible not to finally believe in Clara, and to love her.”


Ian McArdell: “The use of time travel in Doctor Who, and the way in which we have met story elements out of sequence, has been greater in the era of the Eleventh Doctor than ever before. It can be thrilling, but at the same time resolutions such as ‘The Time of the Doctor’ can feel like an exercise of joining the dots. Goodness knows what the casual Christmas viewer made of this story that had so much to do, as well as building towards the regeneration. Even a hardened fan like me demanded an instant re-watch in order to catch all the details.

“Nevertheless, Matt Smith’s final performance was mighty impressive and Amy’s fleeting cameo brought a tear to the eye. So thank you Matt Smith, you came out of (almost) nowhere and utterly blew us away. We caught up with that old man behind the young body in a tremendous finale and, of course, saw a tantalising glimpse of his successor. The autumn never seemed so far away!”


Malcolm J Stewart: “It was, inevitably, an incredibly atypical Christmas episode that had to carry a weight of exposition not just for tonight, but for three series’ worth of themes and storylines. As such, despite the Carry On opening, it lacked the frothy, easy-to-follow directness of other festive instalments.

“I would be certain there were a lot of confused Nans on sofas tonight asking, ‘Who’s that? How does he know her? Are they the goodies or the baddies?’, and I would be equally certain that they were shhhed repeatedly by children who accepted this episode for what it was: a command performance – a final chance to revisit the greatest hits of Matt Smith’s era, and to give him the chance to reveal what we always knew was there all along, the old man beneath the drunk giraffe.

“Reimagining the Eleventh as a sheriff-cum-toymaker was both a singularly Christmas choice and also seemed to say something true about the character of the Doctor – a man whom, if we are to listen to Clara, we can finally give up on calling ‘Doctor Who’. The Doctor may like knock-knock jokes, but, on screen, if not in the playground, he doesn’t have to become one.

“There was something scurillously atheistic lurking beneath the surface of the episode, which gave it a satirical edge: only in Doctor Who could a confessional be a teleport booth and the Silence an order of priests that seek to impose absolution through coercion. But while I liked Tasha Lem well enough, I could not help but imagine how much more resonant that part would have been if given to River Song: someone who, after all, had been engineered by the Church of the Silence and could easily have risen to its perverted spiritual head. Two lines of dialogue in particular – when Tasha reveals that she has found it easy to pilot the TARDIS, but never the Doctor, and when the Doctor reveals that she has been fighting the psychopath inside all her life – seemed tailor-made for River.

“Still, if River did not return, so many other elements did – including, in the most surprising cameo of all, fish fingers and custard – to overwhelm the ending with the feeling of bittersweet nostalgia that is the taste in regenerations these days.

“Matt was magnificent – never more so than as the aged toymaker whittling away at his wood. (That sentence came out pervier than I meant it to, but maybe I’m still affected by the nudge-nudge nudity of the beginning.) Raggedy man, we shall miss you. But then, you knew that already too.”


Ross Sweeney: “So I’m going to have to play Devil’s advocate on this one: that was fairly weak. I haven’t been the biggest fan of the Smith/Moffat era, but I was encouraged enough by the Doctor’s ‘Day’ to have been looking forward to his ‘Time’.

“Alas, my investment was in vain – what we were presented with on a cold Christmas Day was an incoherent mess of arbitrary throwbacks, bizarre plot developments hinging on single lines of half-baked dialogue, and some emotional blackmail thrown in there for good measure. There were some nice moments, sure, but on the whole it was just incomprehensible, on a par with Grant Morrison at his worst and endemic of everything that’s been wrong with the last few years of Who.

“I’m not even encouraged going forward – the regeneration was drawn out, hamfisted and ultimately underwhelming, with Capaldi’s momentary appearance not even close to being in keeping with the rage-infused eyes that we caught a glimpse of last month.”


Sarah Deen: “The last five or so minutes of ‘The Time of The Doctor’ were both moving and exciting. Matt Smith fans got to see him say a final farewell to ‘his’ companion Amy Pond and the role itself with the telling line “I’ll always remember when the Doctor was me”. It howled of something Steven Moffat let him say from the heart.

“Peter Capaldi’s first moments aboard the TARDIS punched you in the face and were delightfully bizarre. Sadly there was no comment about his not being ginger or any reference to Capaldi’s actual looks in a similar vein to Smith and his chin (or John Hurt talking about Christopher Eccleston’s ears in ‘The Day of the Doctor’), but he was loopy and ferocious and terribly handsome with it. The new series can’t get here fast enough.

“While the scene with the Doctor sending Clara away for a second time after promising he wouldn’t was chilling and beautifully acted by Jenna Coleman, it was typically Moffatic in its cruelty.

“Speaking of Coleman, Clara is still tricky to connect with as a companion. What made the likes of Rose, Martha, Donna and Amy so likeable is the fact they were Ordinary Josephines that we could relate to. Clara was presented as an enigma that the Doctor had to work out and she still feels that way. Perhaps her dynamic with Capaldi will change that.

“‘The Time of The Doctor’ succeeded in not being as self-congratulatory as David Tennant’s swansong but, unlike ‘The End of Time’, it’s not one for the ages.”


Andrew Blair: “The best and worst of Moffat, ‘The Time of the Doctor’ took some brilliant ideas and crammed them into too tight a space. Apart from the running time, it reminded me of Russell T Davies’ and David Tennant’s swansong, ‘The End of Time’ – extraneous comedy and bum-slapping moments at the start, some lovely quieter scenes (I adored the notion of the Doctor ageing in a town as its wizard-cum-sheriff), a run-down (mercifully of one person) and a lot of era-celebration and continuity for the internet to argue over.”


Dale Cowan: “‘The Time Of The Doctor’ had the unenviable task of being a standalone Christmas episode as well as being a memorable swansong for Matt Smith, tying up four years of his Doctor’s personal history.

“Matt’s final story was engaging and breathlessly-paced affair. His acting has never been finer, from the comedic opening sequence to the heartfelt, genuine (and somewhat meta) commentary in his final moments. His chemistry with Clara is ironically at its best here as he leaves, with certain scenes creating a Tom Baker / Elizabeth Sladen comparison, and her brief scene with the regenerated Capaldi shows great promise. The Amy Pond cameo was a lovely touch, with her few words echoing both her own departure and that of Smiths.

“It was definitely a less self-indulgent affair than Tennant’s ‘The End of Time’ and both the returning monsters and the Christmassy setting felt like they had a genuine place within the story. Moffat did an admirable job of tying up the era’s loose ends, as well as continuing the Time Lords / Gallifrey arc set up in last month’s ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

“It does have some flaws, however. The storyline structure is repetitive and the story is very much an enjoyable sum of its parts, as opposed to a whole. I also could have done without Smith in heavy prosthetics for most of the episode and the unnecessary twist of him being the 13th incarnation, yet it does retain the emotional core and the confidence of the Smith era. At the heart of all this is a man who will be genuinely missed as the Doctor. Farewell, Matt. We salute you.”


Aired at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 December 2013 on BBC One.

What did you think of ‘The Time of the Doctor’? Let us know below…