Last night we said farewell to Matt Smith and my initial reaction was that I was underwhelmed, and then after some thinking, it was my own fault, but then that prompted another line of thinking, that in some respects it shouldn’t be, and perhaps my disappointment should have some validity.
Let me ‘splain, no that take too long, let me sum up!
As I watched the episode I did so with some expectations that were founded on a lack of information. My primary expectation, was that at some point during this finale we’d get closure on the things that matter, and a lack of closure on things that didn’t matter (you’ll see what I mean).
One of the things that mattered that I’d hope to get closure on was River Song. Now let me add two pieces of context for this. The first is that I was never a huge fan of the character River Song, however I was intrigued by the story arc, and how her relationship with the Doctor developed across their own criss-crossing sequential time streams. For time travel, this is the kind of story I love. The second is that I was unaware of THIS it’s a set of mini-sodes apparently from the Series 6 box set (I’ve always watched via Netflix or live). They mostly revolve around The Doctor sneaking off to have adventures and dates with River, while the “parents” (Amy and Rory) are asleep. The “Last Night” mini-sode gets a bit timey-wimey, as 3 versions of River, and one extra version of The Doctor pop in and out of the Tardis, with one of the Rivers telling the main Doctor, that *he* is taking her to “Darillium”, she leaves, and the two Doctors confirm that it’s the last time they’ll see her. It’s the closest that fans ever get to seeing the last encounter of The Doctor and River, and the closest to the moment when he gave her a sonic screwdriver, which seals her fate, but lets her live forever digitally.
Now then, why have I gone on and on, part of my disappointment was feeling like Moffat had forgotten about an incredibly loose end. I mean even though I didn’t love River didn’t mean that I didn’t want the resolution. And her having the screwdriver to live forever, when the screwdriver and his name were things that he never gave away meant that at a certain point their relationship had grown incredibly, I thought it was worth seeing. By the way did anyone else have the ridiculously bizarre theory that the personality of “Handles” might have been River Song having infiltrated Cyber-Man software… yeah I was really stuck on the whole River Song thing…
With that out of the way though, here’s where I feel like there was too much closure.
With the regeneration (which was unbelievably short when it finally happened), I actually thought that having the goodbye between Clara and Eleven to be somewhat more than we needed. I have been (and still somewhat are) excited about having a companion to bridge a regeneration, instead of a Doctor to bridge adventures for companions. It’s a nice change. Things had started to seem to somewhat permanent with Eleven and the Ponds, and after Tennant that almost felt Un-Doctor-Who-Ish. I think that there should be some level of uncertainty traveling with a mad man in a box, and getting to say goodbyes is kind of final. I mean it was sweet for Clara to get that moment, but I was hoping for something more along the lines of Rose’s surprised transition from Nine to Ten.
Now on to my final complaint, with ALL the regenerations to come, and how they were made possible. I definitely appreciated that everything came back to the beginning. The crack in little Amy’s wall. It was the first and last adventure of Doctor Eleven, and I’m not opposed to that crack being tied to Gallifrey, In fact I think it’s great, because it connects Eleven’s story to The Doctor’s entire story. After all, it’s about a Time Lord who, whether he remembers saving or destroying Gallifrey, “ran away and [has] been running ever since”.
If The Day of The Doctor taught us anything important it was that “Gallifrey Falls No More”. Gallifrey is out there and waiting to be found. What are the consequences of that though? Obviously Eleven thought that the return of the Time Lords meant the return of the Time War, and therefore he cannot take the chance of letting that happen. Some may see this as a contradiction to his excitement at the end of The Time of The Doctor, and that he’s happy to “find Gallifrey”, but it’s one thing to find your way back home, and another to let the Time Lords come crashing back into our reality.
Back to the episode, if the Time Lords could technically go through as soon as they knew it was safe, then why not send a scout? I mean, going back to the beginning “Prisoner Zero” got out, so just send one Time Lord, check stuff out. And while that may seem dangerous, and horrible if that scout died, they wouldn’t have to if Regeneration Energy (henceforth referred to as “regenery”) can just be sent over to the nearest time lord.
Anyway, it feels like quite the MacGuffin for the crack being a link to Gallifrey and being able to save The Doctor the way it did and give him a currently unknown number of regenerations.
Also, it feels like the pacing of things was off. There was so much build up with “Silence will Fall” and things about The Doctor’s name being spoken. Again, I like things coming full circle, but it’s like over all the time with the Ponds it was always there, and building to an episode like this, slowly getting information all the time. Then it just sort of hung there, and all of a sudden was brought back for this episode. I’ll have to rewatch it though and see if anything changes.
Also on the pacing side of things (and maybe I’m being a bit of a Scrooge here), there was nothing about this Christmas Special save the name of the town that actually felt like… a Christmas Special. It’s almost like they realized that there wasn’t anything Christmasy about things, or maybe they planned it for another time, and were then told it would be a Christmas Special, so they added the name at the last minute. Compared to some others (like “A Christmas Carol”, “The Runaway Bride” or even “The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe”).
I have to say though, despite anything else about the episode that I’ll miss Matt Smith, a lot. I actually didn’t start crying till the bow tie came off, and there are so many beautiful expressions that his face can make, whether he’s sad, happy, hurting, confused or excited. His face always expresses his emotions in a way like you know that he’s welcoming you into whatever moment The Doctor is living (see what I mean below) . And while I saw several people on IMDB complaining about Amy showing up at the end, she was “the first face [his] face saw”, and so I thought it was fitting for him to hear her say “Raggedy Man” one last time. They had a special connection, and I was always selfishly glad that Eleven never connected that way with Clara, even though she was his Impossible Girl. I’m hoping, that though I don’t necessarily want to see romance, that it will be like Rose’s transition from Nine to Ten. Where she’s able to grow close, without things getting mushy. So I guess I’m hoping things will be more like Ten and Donna. Regardless I think that Peter Capaldi will be terrific. Maybe I’m ageist, but Matt being so young always (in my mind) seemed less Doctor-ish.
Either way, as I said I’ll miss Matt Smith an awful lot. Below are some of my favorite, and often tear-jerking moments.
There are doubtless moments I forgot, and I realize that Angels Take Manhattan kind of took over the slideshow… but it’s probably my favorite episode, bittersweet in all the best ways (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve wept while watching it).
As I look back on this blog I see that it was more about the past, and future than the present episode I was supposed to be blogging about. Though in a way that’s what this episode was about. Looking back, so that we could be ready to move forward…
And now I’m definitely looking forward to the next chapter in the show.
Thanks for reading, and happy watching!