5 Hopes for “The Time of the Doctor”
Guest contributor Anthony Retondo shares his thoughts.
“The Time of the Doctor” is without a doubt one of the most important episodes in the history of Doctor Who. It has a grave responsibility on its hands, and in order to satisfy it has to fulfill quite a lot of requirements. According to Moffat and the cast, this episode represents everything the series has been leading up to since the day the Doctor landed outside Amelia Pond’s backyard. Will it deliver? Only time will tell, but I know precisely what it would need to do in order to satisfy me. I hope you enjoy my list of five hopes for “The Time of the Doctor.”
1. A dark tone
Doctor Who excels at humor. The dialogue is some of the wittiest banter I’ve heard in anything related to the science fiction genre. Even “The Day of the Doctor,” as pivotal as it was, left room for brilliant jokes. But there was leeway. It was an episode about celebrating the past 50 years, and that includes the humor.
But “Time of the Doctor” is no such celebration. It is the opposite. It’s a goodbye. I am hoping that the atmosphere in The Christmas special reflects that. A joke here or there is fine, but to truly sell the idea of this grand war, and the fall of the eleventh and the death of the Doctor we need a darker and more somber episode. The trailers seem to indicate that is what we’re getting.
It worked flawlessly in “The Name of the Doctor,” an episode that revolved around death, dark secrets and inevitability. Since the Doctor is returning to Trenzalore I want to see that unique take on an episode again. This episode revolves around very dark themes — even something as major as the Doctor’s final life — so I hope it acts that way.
2. Heavy emphasis on the Silence
The promo pictures and synopsis for “The Time of the Doctor” suggest that this episode will revolve heavily on the idea of the Doctor’s greatest adversaries teaming up against him — very similar to “The Pandorica Opens”. I feel as if this idea may simply be audacious solely to be audacious. We know that Trenzalore is the sight of a major battle that will result in the Doctor’s death. And unless that death refers to Eleven’s, (It is possible. Perhaps only the first 13 regenerations are buried in Trenzalore.) including so many extra enemies seems unnecessary.
The Silence, however, have been incredibly pivotal since the beginning of Eleven’s tenure. There are still dozens of unfinished plot threads regarding the Silence and their bitter war against the Doctor. They still need to realize he escaped his death, and the matter of the question, and silence itself falling, has to be resolved. I am hoping that they take priority over everything else in the special.
If “Time of the Doctor” is really going to conclude the three-year-long story arc that began in “The Eleventh Hour” then it is logical to assume that this will be the final appearance of the Silence. They are a religious order that exists solely to prevent the Doctor from what he is about to do. It wouldn’t make much sense to see them again, and so they deserve a proper finale.
3. A central villain
No matter how smoothly it is delivered, “The Time of the Doctor” will require a lot of exposition to tie up some loose threads. And since it involves the Doctor’s central adversary from nearly his entire eleventh life, a good villain is going to be needed to channel all of it.
Could Madame Kovarian be making one last appearance? It would certainly make sense, as the Doctor needs to find out why she despises him so much. It is my hope that the Doctor isn’t simply fighting herds of enemies throughout the episode. What the special needs is a good proper face-off with a villain, especially since strong, core villains are something that the Moffat era has struggled with. Tennant had the Master, and Davros. Smith needs a proper antagonist for his send-off as well — Someone to really challenge him before his death. Is Orla Brady’s Tasha Lem (pictured right) up to the task?
4. The Doctor gets to say goodbye to the Ponds
Of all the companions to exist in the history of the show, perhaps no other defines a specific Doctor than Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Amy Pond was the first face that Eleven saw. And like all companions in the series, she shaped the man that Matt Smith’s Doctor became. But above all, the Ponds gave the Doctor something that almost no other companion could give: A family.
He traveled with them for more than ten years — living with them for one of those years — and they provided a home to him. For a while, it seemed to the Doctor that he could be with them forever. But he lost them, just like anyone else. And while Clara has been a charming companion, she hasn’t spent as much time with the Eleventh Doctor as the prominent Ponds — who were also heavily involved in the story of the Silence.
And so, it wouldn’t seem right for Eleven to go without having his closure. It’s very unlikely that we’ll see the Ponds one last time, but it would tie a perfect bow on Smith’s story if they were to return. Hopefully, in some way, the Doctor will be able to say goodbye to his best friends. The farewell should not tamper with the impact of “The Angels Take Manhattan,” however. The best way to handle it would be to have the Doctor visit some sort of past version of them before he regenerates. Or not even the Ponds themselves. He could just have closure in his head as he envisions them. Or perhaps he could get one last glimpse of them.
Either way, for Matt Smith’s doctor to have a perfect departure he needs to take one last trip and get his reward the way Tennant’s Doctor did.
Is 60 minutes enough time to close the gap on everything that has happened to Smith’s Doctor in the past three series? I remain cautiously optimistic on this. The Christmas special looks like it could be congested with too many ideas and monsters. The only thing I am craving, above all else, is closure. Moffat’s era for the show has been remarkably intriguing. Smith’s Doctor has encountered numerous story arcs that raise more questions than they have answered. And finally, it seems silence is about to fall. The battle of Trenzalore is coming.
But I’m willing to sacrifice action sequences for explanation this time around. It’s not something that the special can be lenient with. We need answers. Otherwise, Moffat’s story arc risks becoming too long-winded and unsatisfactory. Until then, I will reserve all judgment. But this is it. This is the moment that the series has been leading to for a long time. It has to deliver… and make sense while doing it.
Whether it can be done or not is a difficult question. “The Time of the Doctor” has so much responsibility on its hands that it is worrisome. It has to answer several lingering questions, stage an epic duel between Doctor and enemies, introduce Capaldi and above all else, provide a satisfying conclusion to Matt Smith’s dramatic departure. It’s not going to be easy to pull off.
Regardless, I remain cautiously optimistic for the Christmas special. The promotional material has been spectacular. Let’s hope this story comes to the satisfying conclusion it so deserves.
Thank you for reading!