As curtain call episodes for Doctors go, this wasn’t the best but it almost collapsed under it’s own weight of expectation considering how many loose ends it had to tie up from the Smiffy Era. Luckily Doctor Who stories that are about the Doctor are few and far between and this one is all about Smiffy being the “last” Doctor and that means we don’t really give a stuff about anything other than how he gets his new regeneration cycle, thus allowing the show to continue beyond the limits Robert Holmes set for it in The Deadly Assassin way back in 1976.
To be fair to Holmes, that line was only to justify the fact that The Master looked like Skeletor and not Roger Delgado, and I don’t think for a minute that he thought “ha ha, let’s see the buggers get out of that one”. Nevertheless, thanks to a combination of Christopher Ecclestein MNG saying no to Day of the Doctor and RTD’s DWM-inspired fake regeneration for Ten-inch, we hit the Holmes Limitation Effect right here and it’s down to The Mofferator to come up with a solution that doesn’t break canon and avoids the show’s entire narrative collapsing in on itself and ceasing to function.
Prior to the episode TX-ing the theories mostly revolved around River giving him the extra regens when she saved his life in Let’s Kill Hitler but realistically, the Time Lords giving him a new set is the only realistic option. And that possibility was established back in The Five Doctors, thank you Terrance Dicks, when Borusa offered the Ainley Master “a complete new life cycle”. Which meant that the entire story had to be built up around the climax and to be fair much storytelling advice advises that you know where you’re going before you start.
So the entire plot of TotD was predicated on getting to that climactic moment which meant Moff coming up with a way for the Time Lords to gift the Doc a new cycle, which in turn meant finding a way to get them involved in the story so they could. The fact that we’ve had End of Time, Day of the Doctor and now Time of the Doctor all involving the Time Lords only goes to show what a good idea it was getting rid of them back in 2005. If them being trapped in another Universe is meant to set up the next fifty years of the show then that means we’ve got plenty of time to start looking forward to the 2063 Centenary Special The Return of the Time Lords.
It’s quite ingenious how Moffat has worked in the whole “Doctor Who?” thing into this and other episodes and there is a certain unique thrill of hearing those two words as dialogue within the narrative of an episode. Or is that just me? The whole “he’s not Doctor Who, he’s The Doctor” thing is now pretty much null and void now, he’s both, and it also allows fandom the opportunity to justify Wotan’s “Doc-tor WHO is re-qui-red! Bring! Him! Here!” moment. Almost. But, like Deep Breath, the episode is overlong though I only cut about ten minutes in the end, with most of the cuts coming at either end of the story.
First thing to go was the pre-titles so we can find out about Trenzalore at the same time as Clara, meaning we start with the Tardis cooking the Xmas turkey scene. Next thing to go was all that bollocks about wearing hologram clothes, which is just too silly for words. Clara’s family get the chop since I’m not at all interested in them and I really don’t like the fact that her Dad is clearly not her Dad. The middle of the ep is more or less untouched.
But of course the thing we’re really waiting for is Capaldi’s arrival which was way too sudden. I think it was a poor choice to do a “blink and he’s gone” regeneration, robbing Smiffy of his big death scene but the justification for it being different will probably be that its the start of a whole new cycle, something that’s never happened before. It’s going to be interesting to see if Capaldi will regenerate as quickly when it’s his turn, long may that day be postponed. Finally, I got rid of both Karen Gillan’s gratuitously indulgent cameo and all that bollocks about the colour of his sodding kidneys.