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Goodbye, Raggedy Man! Review of "The Time of the Doctor"

Goodbye, Raggedy Man! Review of  "The Time of the Doctor"

We are talking about the final 11th Doctor episode so... Spoilers Ahead!

In Matt Smith’s final bow as the loveable and benevolent Time Lord from Gallifrey, a lot of old-man make-up is lathered on the young actor’s face, giving our Doctor the appearance of being possibly every Doctor at once. It’s funny, too when you watch any of Matt’s episodes from season 5 of Doctor Who, as he looks significantly younger in 2010 than in 2011. Don’t get me wrong: Matt Smith is still crazy handsome, but it’s telling how much more of a grown-up he looks now as opposed to when we first met him. This time, the effect is more literal to the story because by aging the Doctor so conventionally, I think everyone began to realize just how much the character had really gone through on a three-season journey, a journey which seemed to start only yesterday.

At the end of the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” Matt intoned that his journey is just like everybody’s else, that he’s headed home. But the real journey of this Doctor was a kind of coming-of-age story. For a lot of American fans, Matt Smith was the first and only Doctor, and for those of us who loved the guys who came before, he grew on us as he grew up. And so, after running from falling silence for over three years, the centuries-long journey of this Doctor ended with a small story about the Doctor watching over a tiny town named Christmas. And as he says, if you can have an island named Easter, why not a town named Christmas?

Why does the Doctor need to camp out for seemingly the rest of his life on this weird little planet? Well, to explain exactly how he got to this point and why it’s all happening, it would probably be really handy to just rewatch all of Matt Smith’s episodes from “The 11th Hour” forward. If you had any nagging questions about the crack in time and space, the Silence, or what “the fall of the 11th” would look like, it’s all here. All *technically* wrapped up. Is it all totally satisfying? Come on! This is Doctor Who! What would it be if we weren’t going to complain and be skeptical about something? Steven Moffat does what he does both best and worst here: pack a lot of plot material into barely comprehensible moments, but coupling with it with moments of high sentimentality, all before finishing things off with a massive deus ex machina which, in this case, is literally the Time Lords helping the Doctor out.

What’s the big news? The Doctor’s regenerations have been reset, thanks to last-minute Time Lord intervention. The Doctor doesn’t really “die” on Trenzalor in this new timeline. And now, mostly thanks to Clara sort of chastising Amy Pond’s old crack on the wall, we’re not supposed to care about what the Doctor’s “real” name is anymore! Not all of these plot points are concluded with a lot of logic, but like that crack suddenly snapping shut, there does seem to the sense of an ending here. And to be fair, if you like Matt Smith and Doctor Who even a little bit, you’ll totally cry. There’s one heartbreaking cameo from Karen Gillan that makes the whole episode worthwhile.

And what about Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor? It’s probably too early to say for sure, but one thing is for certain: he can’t fly the TARDIS! Now, all that remains to be seen is if Peter Capaldi can fill Matt Smith's super-cool boots and fly this show into its perpetual future.

What did you think of the Matt Smith farewell?

Tags: tv, doctor who, reviews, bbc, matt smith, peter capaldi

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About the Author
Ryan Britt

Ryan Britt is the author of Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, forthcoming from Plume (Penguin) Books on 11.24.15. He's written for The New York Times, Electric Literature, The Awl, VICE Motherboard, Clarkesworld Magazine, and is a consulting editor for Story Magazine. He lives in New York City.

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