The Doctor Who Christmas Special was not all that it was cracked up to be.
“The Time of the Doctor” was Matt Smith’s farewell episode, although Steven Moffat did his best to ignore the fact. The convoluted plot allowed the Doctor Who showrunner to fit in as many references to the past three seasons as possible. Too bad for Smith that the screen time given to the Silence and the Weeping Angels meant less time for him.
This episode was like a checklist of elements and creatures we have seen during Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. Most of these creatures were rendered redundant and irrelevant to the plot by the end of the Doctor Who Christmas special, so why were they included at all? In fact, the reappearance of the Weeping Angels just demonstrated that Moffat was so pleased with his own (admittedly creepy, although completely overused) creation that he couldn’t help but use them. Again. Perhaps for Christmas, someone should gift Moffat with an editor.
“The Time of the Doctor” was an opportunity for the team to give a proper send off to the character we have loved since 2010, and the fantastic actor who has played him. To ignore the contribution of Smith to the series is at best ignorant, at worst insensitive and callous. We can pretend that this episode should have been plot-focused, but we completely believe that a Doctor’s final episode should showcase them as the focus, not as an afterthought.
A jaded viewer might even consider that this episode was much more about a showrunner proving his own creativity than it was about celebrating an actor. That is, if you weren’t too busy trying to make sense of what you were watching.
Afterall, “The Time of the Doctor” was difficult enough for the superfan to comprehend. A casual viewer (many of whom tune in for the Christmas Special with their families) would have no chance at all. How could they recall the prophecy stating that “Silence will fall,” or the Doctor’s unknown fear from “The God Complex”?
This is not to say that there weren’t some enjoyable elements in this episode, like the truth field, and Handles (a relative of Cast Away’s Wilson?). But a few laughs don’t make up for cheating Doctor Who fans of a finale, and a goodbye. We would give up the rest if it meant Smith could have an emotional and special send off.
Amy Pond’s (Karen Gillan) goodbye was one of the clear highlights of this episode. But to single out Amy, when Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) was standing right in front of the Doctor? Talk about the brush off.
Of course it makes sense that the Eleventh Doctor would be reluctant to say goodbye to this body, as it was his last connection to Amy and Rory (Arthur Darvill). But to completely ignore the woman who had literally just saved his life, and who was apparently so special to him?
Seeing Clara once again reduced to a gloried prop did Moffat no favours in the eyes of the fans who already take issue with him. It also made very little sense for the character of the Eleventh Doctor, and as this was his very last chance to speak with her (as himself, rather than his next regeneration), we were surprised that he didn’t take it up.
Perhaps we could forgive the overly complicated plot, the lazy writing, or the contrived inclusion of past creatures – if it wasn’t Matt Smith’s last episode. And that is the critical point; there are no more episodes to fix these problems, or give Smith another chance. This was his very last episode, and we can’t get another one.
The failings of the writing are not what hurt so much when we watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special. No, rather it was the fact that Matt Smith was the casualty of them, when he deserved so much better.