Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013: Ouch. Also, spoilers.


I really like Matt Smith as The Doctor, I really do. Matt Smith is a great actor and his face carries a very touching, almost heartbreaking melancholia that is a big part of his incarnation. The 11thDoctor is both young and old, energetic and yet tired, and his personality alone made me go through season 6 and most of season 7, when the episodes were regularly losing in quality. David Tennant is my doctor but by god, do I respect and love Matt Smith. He is a sweetheart. His only “wrong” is that he came at the same time as the Moffat era of Doctor Who.

Oh, Steven Moffat. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy as a writer. Jekyll, for example, was fantastic, and I am still very much in love with his modern version of Sherlock Holmes. I like him when he’s British, when he’s dark and fun, and even when he goes all out… sometimes. I don’t like Moffat when he goes all Hollywood on your ass for no reason. I don’t like him when he forgets the character and the personal drama to get into whatever grand fantasy he is into that day and only leaves behind an empty shell of explosions and shouts. That is what made me hate his version of Tintin. And that is what makes me hate this year’s Christmas Special.
Now, I get it. It’s easy to let yourself be lost in the possibilities of Doctor Who. It is pretty much a show about a god, after all. But still, as far as I know, Doctor Who always kept it personal. When Doctor Who is good, it is about this very old guy that is just trying to help people. WhenDoctor Who is good, it is about the people, and most of all it is about The Doctor, who he is, what he is, and what he wants and does or does not get.
This Christmas Special is about Trenzalore. It was supposed to be Matt Smith’s final big moment, the regeneration that already made most Whovians excited and sad at the same time. A regeneration is one of the most, if not the most important point in an incarnation’s life. It’s dramatic, it’s personal, it’s heartbreaking, it’s everything that makes Doctor Who one of the greatest shows of all time. This Christmas Special was pretty much the opposite of that.
It probably didn’t help that they talked about that moment for so long. At this point, it was dangerous to actually explore it, just like it would be dangerous to ever choose and/or pronounce the actual name of The Doctor. As much as I wanted to know what happened in Trenzalore, I was ready to be disappointed, just because they built it up to be something beyond everything I would ever expect.
This last Matt Smith episode was a re-hash of a lot of things we saw in the previous seasons of the Matt Smith era, which is fine in itself because Doctor Who does that and is usually good at it. Hell, the 50thSpecial threw in all things from all the old and modern series in it, and it was still one of my favourite pieces of entertainment this year, period. This time though, it felt unnecessary and rushed most of the time.
Rushed is pretty much the word for this episode, now that I think about it. Rushed and confused. Doctor Who can be confusing, but it is rarely confused and when it is, it is never a good sign. For example, most of the story happens in a town called Christmas. Why not, it’s kind of cute. What really bugged me is that they implied that the town had a secret because people who were there could only tell the truth… and they never went anywhere with it. Before, this secret would have been tied in the plot and it would have been fun, or creepy, or just plain bizarre. But here, they just used it as a plot device. To make the Doctor tell the truth. Once. The rest of the time, it was really just a detail that most of the characters probably forgot after five minutes.
Then, the Time Lords send a encrypted message to the whole universe. Sure, I can dig that, and the explanation for the question and the silence falling was actually okay with me. Not the best Doctor Who has ever done, but it was just fine. Why on that particular planet, though? Is it because they knew The Doctor would have to tell the truth there? Why not but then, you’d think that the Doctor, who usually knows every planet, would know something about this. He usually always knows something about the world they end up visiting. Hell, the guy knew about the planet he was supposed to die on, but when he got there, he could not recognize it because… plot? Yes, it was a giant cemetery when he first visited it, but you would at least think that he would have made some research on it, or asked somebody. ANYTHING. The Doctor is one of the cleverest guys in the universe. Let him be one of the cleverest guys in the universe.
Also, why did the Time Lords choose to help him in the end when he never said he was going to help them after that? Did they do that because Clara told them to? Yeah, the Time Lords are known for caring about what humans think after all, right? And what happened after they gave him the regeneration energy? Because it looks like they just did that and then disappeared again without any reason or explanation. Plus: if the Time Lords always had the power to give him more regeneration energy, which I believe because we know for a fact that this kind of energy is transferable, why didn’t The Doctor himself know or remember that? Okay, let’s admit that he wanted to die, which, again, I totally buy. Why would he be so happy when he gets a new regeneration cycle? Was it just because it allowed him to blow shit up?

Remember the tears you shed for this?

Let’s talk about this regeneration more, now that I finally got to it. Like I said before, the episode felt extremely rushed. They made hundreds and hundreds of years pass in the blink of an eye. In the end, we didn’t even get to really see Matt Smith get closer and closer to his final day. Clara’s voice just told us and we saw his face once or twice. That. Is. Really. Not. Cool. This was supposed to be tragic and emotional and all we got is a voice over telling us about how the Doctor fought for centuries over shots of shit blowing up in our face. Excuse me, was this written by Michael Bay or by one of the most acclaimed writers in the UK? First of all, this really made me regret the time of the two-parters. Those existed for a very good reason: some of the stories were just too big to tell in just about an hour. It didn’t always work, I’ll give you that, but when it did, it was grandiose. This story would have deserved a two-parter. Also, can we please see The Doctor while he is fighting his last battles, please?

I wanted to be touched by this in the same way.

Even Clara was barely there. Actually, I don’t think anybody was really there in this episode. There were one or two cool scenes, but most of it was just thrown in for good measure while they were making time pass until Matt Smith got to do some air guitar before making hundreds of ships explode with his regeneration energy. And then, just to make it last a bit longer, we get to see him young again, talk a bit about Amy without even looking at Clara anymore and OHMYGODPETERCAPALDIISHEREBYELOL.
I will admit that I was happy to see Sir Eyebrows though, but even his last line, which should have made me laugh, or at least worry about the future of the TARDIS and its occupants, was tarnished by how astoundingly bad the rest of the episode was.
I feel sad for Matt Smith, because they screwed up his regeneration, and I really liked him. I thought he deserved better than this. One thing is sure though: after the 50th Special, we most certainly deserved better than this.
Anais L'

Four screenwriters candidly writing about film, television, novels, comic books, video games, and fanfiction.

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