BLU-RAY REVIEW: Doctor Who - The Time Of The Doctor
2013 Christmas Special Bids A Fond Farewell To Matt Smith...
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2013 was a hugely important year for Doctor Who, mainly because it marked the 50th anniversary of the show. It’s never been more popular around the world, and of course the big celebration came in the form of last year’s Day of the Doctor special (see our review HERE) that brought back beloved Doctor David Tennant. That wasn’t all the BBC had in store for viewers, as they followed it up with a landmark Christmas special. Normal operating practice for the show, the special closed out the year/season and paved the way for the new one. Available on Blu-ray and DVD now is the momentous 2013 Christmas special The Time of the Doctor, featuring the final appearance of Matt Smith as the Doctor!
Last year’s Doctor Who Series 7 revealed a secret regeneration in the Doctor’s past that had to do with the Time War, which led directly into the Day of the Doctor special. In that episode the triumvirate of Doctors worked together to save the planet of the Time Lords, Gallifrey, literally removing it from the war and transporting it elsewhere. Not entirely sure if the gambit succeeded, the Doctors returned to their respective timestreams. In the present, Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor is optimistic and looks forward to what may come. The question of Gallifrey’s existence (and what has happened to it) will feature in the follow up and theoretically in the next season.
The Time of the Doctor opens on a planet in peril, surrounded by threatening aliens (many of whom will be familiar to Who fans) who seek to find the source of a mysterious transmission. The Doctor arrives on hand to investigate before popping back to Earth to pick up Clara. In the first of several references we see that it is Christmas back at home, and the awkward Doctor briefly meets his companion’s family. Heading back to the mystery planet, the Doctor and Clara board the Church of the Papal Mainframe (encountering and dealing with some interesting nudity laws). Their Mother Superious, notably in charge of an army as well as the Silence, quarantines the planet to protect it while the Doctor goes down to check it out. There he finds a town called Christmas, a perfect haven that must be protected at all cost... and which holds the key to the mystery of what happened to Gallifrey and where it may be! It’s up to the Doctor to maintain the balance of power.
Naturally, there’s so much more to this special, but I don’t want to give out too many spoilers in case people haven’t seen it. Suffice it to say that Time of the Doctor does several interesting things. It features a masterful final portrayal of the Doctor by Matt Smith including some lengthy monologues, emotional scenes, and a true send off before he exits for good. The episode also retcons some long-established “rules” for the Doctor which hardcore fans knew must be addressed at some point (specifically the number of his regenerations), all while tying it together with an advancing plot leading to the future. Finally, while it was known that Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi would be appearing in Time, I will say that his presence is very brief. This is definitely Smith’s episode, and we’ll have to wait for Series 8 to get acquainted with the Twelfth Doctor.
Time of the Doctor is approximately 60 minutes long and has tons of action, emotional farewells, and most of the aliens you’ve come to hate and love (and even some new variants!). It’s Matt Smith on screen for most of the episode, along with Jenna Coleman’s Clara Oswald in her supporting role. There are some great guest appearances like Orla Brady as Mother Superious Tasha Lem, and even Karen Gillan as Amy Pond! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll get a whole new look at the Silence, and you’ll even end up liking a certain Cyberman.
The 2013 Christmas special is now available everywhere on Blu-ray and DVD. Special features are numerous and lengthy, giving this set tons of extra value. Both versions have well over 60 minutes of bonuses including a “Behind the Lens” look at the episode, a special Alex Kingston-narrated “Farewell to Matt Smith,” and “Tales from the TARDIS” wrapping up the 50th Anniversary featuring interviews with former Doctors and Companions alike! Along with the previous Day of the Doctor, Time of the Doctor is going to go down as one of the most important and emotional stories of modern Doctor Who, bookending Smith’s run and introducing the new era of Peter Capaldi. Who fans, get yours now!
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of BBC America