Why “Time” was the Perfect Summary of Smith’s Era
Guest contributor Connor Johnston gives his opinion on Smith’s swan song.
And so the time came where the Eleventh Doctor was to bid farewell to the fans one last time. An episode that promised it would do justice to the Doctor we’d all grown to love in his 4 years as our favourite renegade Time Lord. The episode also promised to answer all the questions that the fans had been asking since “The Eleventh Hour”. And with the Weeping Angels, the Daleks, the Silence and the Cybermen all to feature in the special, this was set to be the most difficult challenge the Time Lord had ever faced… This was to be “The Time of the Doctor”
Now that a few months have passed, and we’ve all had a chance to rewatch the episode once or twice (or 17 times) and have had a decent chance to digest it, I thought it best to look at how “The Time of the Doctor” succeeded (at least in this humble contributor’s mind) to pay tribute to the entire era of the Eleventh Doctor, from the music to the dialogue – Why “Time” was the perfect summary of Matt Smith’s Era.
Murray Gold is a musical legend. There are no ifs or buts about it. One need only look back at what this man has done for Doctor Who since its revival in 2005 – the composer for every episode and every special in each series. During the first four series of the show, Murray Gold shone with classics like “Vale Decem”, “All the Strange, Strange Creatures” and “This is Gallifrey” as they breathed life into the Doctor’s adventures. As the show matured, so did the music and it was when Matt Smith’s era begun that Murray Gold took full advantage of how the soundtrack could define a show. The Eleventh Hour was the first to include “I am the Doctor” which has gone on to be one of, if not the most iconic “Doctor-ish” piece of music of all time. It would be foolish to say that the music of Doctor Who hasn’t been a strong highlight of Matt’s Era, with unforgettable tracks like “Trenzalore” and “Together or not all” or musically defined episodes like “A Christmas Carol” or “The Rings of Akhaten” adding so much more emotion to every moment of an episode. ‘Time’ is no stranger to yet another brilliant score paying tributes to the musical highlights of the last four years, with a few more “I am the Doctor” variations, all cultivating to a brilliantly chosen “Infinite Potential” melody from “The Rings of Akhaten” – a piece so well suited to the regeneration, one wonders if that was Gold’s intention when originally writing the score from the episode it originates from.
Rest now…..my warrior.
Rest now, hardship is over.
Live. Wake up. Wake up.
And let the cloak, of life – cling to your bones. Cling to your bones.
Wake up, wake up.
Echoing the words of Madame De Pompadour, “The monsters and the Doctor, it seems you cannot have one without the other.” And boy oh boy did we have monsters! Throughout his time as the Doctor, Matt Smith did battle many foes, the more iconic ones including the Weeping Angels, the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Silence, the Silurians, the Ice Warriors and the Great Intelligence. It seemed fitting then that for the end of his days he would once again face every enemy he had ever encountered, as they all followed the bell to Trenzalore. I say ‘all’ even though we did only see a small portion of what was whizzing about above the planet at anyone time – who’s to say there weren’t spaceships full of Chloe Webbers, Abzorbaloffs and Vinvocci? Maybe all together in one ship! Oh Lord imagine the fan-fiction…. Even the Sontaran’s made a short cameo obviously to appease to the children, that once again portrayed them in a comical light – Cue complaints… now!
I for one think that Time delivered brilliantly on the enemy criteria, managing to include some of the greatest villains of all time in a way that wasn’t ‘unnecessary’ like some have labelled it, but that served a real threat to the Doctor, and a real purpose to show the seriousness of the situation, and I don’t believe anything could be more threatening than legion upon legion of monsters, sparked by a fear so great that they would do anything to ‘Exterminate’ it.
Series 5-7 had been very heavily driven by plot twists, story arcs and questions riddled throughout. Steven Moffat distinctly made his mark on the show by introducing long-lasting arcs to add an exciting and wonderfully frustrating experience as fans. Years of speculation and theories would inhabit our mind – to which I personally thank Steven for, as it kept Doctor Who ticking over in our tiny little heads constantly even during the Dark Ages* (*times without Doctor Who!) Since the Eleventh Doctor’s very first adventure, we were introduced to many story arcs that would last until the end of his era. “The cracks in the universe”, “Doctor Who?”, “Silence Will Fall,” “The Death of the Doctor” and “The Impossible Girl” were the main mysteries that featured during the Eleventh Doctor’s tenure.
It seems somewhat ironic, yet at the same time so perfect, that after years of questions and mysteries Matt Smith’s final bow was chock-a-block full of answers! So what were some of the things we learn (or in some cases what was re-affirmed) in “The Time of the Doctor”?
- What were the cracks in the skin of the universe? The cracks were caused by the TARDIS exploding, and was perfectly described by Matt: “That’s a tiny sliver of the 26th of June, 2010. The day the universe blew up.” . The cracks were the weakest points in the universe, and the perfect place to try to break back into it! Which is exactly what Gallifrey was trying to do! All they needed was for the Doctor to answer the question, to serve as a gateway and in they pop!
- What is “The Silence” and why must it ‘fall’? The Silence was a religious order that devoted themselves to one cause – Silence: that the Doctor would never speak his name. This was because if the Time Lords did return, even thought they would arrive in peace, they would be met with a war as all of their enemies sat in the skies above – ready for them. The Question must never be answered, Silence MUST Fall – If not for the Fatuous Egotist … then for the peace.
- Who Blew Up the TARDIS? During the Endless Bitter “Stalemate War” on the fields of Trenzalore, that lasted for centuries and centuries, there was one woman who decided to take matters into her own hands. Madame Kovarian (Bless her cotton socks) and her Rogue Chapter of the Church of the Silence decided if they traveled back along the Doctor’s timeline and prevented him from ever reaching Trenzalore – the whole war could be avoided. They blew up the Doctor’s TARDIS, and in turn created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords made contact. The destiny trap… “You can change history if you’re apart of it”.
- Why do people forget the creatures of the Silence when they look away? The creatures of the Silence were Confessional Priests, who were genetically modified to make the confessor forget anything they told them – Nifty trick I know! Imagine if one went rogue! What evil they could…. oh
- Doctor who? **Channels Inner-Coleman** You’ve been asking a question, and it’s time someone told you you’ve been getting it wrong. His name, his name is the Doctor. All the name he needs. Everything you need to know about him. Case closed.
A Strong Guest Cast
Apart from the main reoccurring cast since 2010, there have been many exceptional actors and actresses that have had guest roles during the Eleventh Doctor’s era. To name a few standouts: who could forget Tony Curran’s incredibly moving role as Vincent van Gogh; Michael Gambon’s beautiful transition from a stern old Scrooge to a warm-hearted, changed man; Suranne Jones’ captivating portrayal of the TARDIS in human form; Celia Imrie’s cold and villainous Kizlet; and of course, the super mother/daughter acting team of Dame Diana Rigg and Rachael Stirling as the totally bonkers Mrs Gillyflower and her daughter Ada respectively.
“The Time of the Doctor” continues its tradition of such a strong and scene stealing guest cast that truly do define the episode. The first is Jack Hollington, who like many young Doctor Who stars (Caitlin Blackwood and Emilia Jones spring to mind) provides a touching performance well beyond his years, of the young boy Barnable, who constantly looks ups to the Doctor, and reminds the viewers how much impact the Doctor can have on the lives of children, and vice versa – what an impact the children can have on him. The second noteworthy guest star is of course the stunning Orla Brady as the Papal Mainframe of the Church of the Silence, the ever flirtatious and mysterious Tasha Lem. Orla brings so much chaos and fun to the role, it’s very difficult not to instantly fall in love with her. How she holds such authority so entertainingly in every scene is a real testament to her acting abilities and really is a highlight for the episode.
The Nods to the Past
Since the very first episode of Series 5 , it’s been evident Steven Moffat wanted to include many nods to the ‘history’ of the show during Matt’s era, from the first 11 faces of the Doctor being projected by the Atraxi, to the spine-tingling opening scene of “Name” as Clara, the impossible girl infested the Doctor’s timeline, much to the audience’s delight. One needs only listen to the dialog passed around during Series 7 Part 2 to find little references here and there (“My grandaughter”, HADS, Metebelis III, “gobby Australian”), let alone a viewing of “The Day of the Doctor” possibly the greatest love letter to the history of Doctor Who imaginable. It comes with a sad, sad realization that now-Matt’s era is also concreted into the past and the history of Doctor Who, no longer being lived out in front us. And so many nods to the recent past were also included in Time.
Here are my personal top 4:
- Behind the Scenes
The wardrobe department would have had an absolute ball creating Clara’s COOL Cardigan, dotted with Bowties – a direct tie to one of Matt’s well known catch phrases, as well as dusting off Matt’s previous costume from the last Christmas Special “The Snowmen” . Another tribute to Matt’s time in the TARDIS were the children’s drawings appearing throughout the episode of the 11th Doctor’s victories both in Trenzalore and beyond.
- River Song
Even though Alex Kingston didn’t appear in the episode itself, a small comment from the Doctor was enough to send me into a hysterical display of emotion, and to prove what a magnificent part Melody had in the 11th Doctor’s life
- Fish Fingers and Custard
The scene that made so many fall in love with this strange new man in “Davey Baby’s” costume was echoed in the final moments of the episode, as OUR Doctor felt the need to have one last taste of his favourite dish, knowing full well his taste buds might never crave it again! One can only hope that Capaldi will be curious enough for a taste… “This tastes like ******* sheep’s *****”
- Amelia Williams
Simultaneously all around the world, our eyes lit up and our hearts tore in two as Karen Gillian paraded right on straight ahead to her Raggedy Doctor, reminding us of all the times the Doctor had shared with the Ponds, the family we grew to love. He started as her imaginary friend, and in the end, she become his, finishing this little old bedtime story…. “Raggedy Man… Goodnight”
Throughout the 50 year history of Doctor Who, there have been moments that have broken us all. From William Hartnell’s heartfelt farewell speech to Susan, to Jon Pertwee driving into the night after Jo’s decision to leave him. Emotion is what defines Doctor Who from other “sci-fi” shows, the heartbreak being as important as the aliens as a core ingredient to the success of the show for over half a century. And no era has been more filled with tears and tissues than that of the Eleventh Doctor.
I believe it’s safe to say that the Eleventh Doctor era has been definitely the most emotionally invested than any other era before it, with many moments like the Doctor taking Vincent to the the Musée d’Orsay, Idris finding her word, Amelia’s last farewell or River’s Songs ‘goodbye sweetie’, enough to throw fans everywhere into hysterics. “The Time of the Doctor” has no shortage of its own tear-jerking moments- keeping with tradition!
From about the midway point, it’s very clear this episode it getting very sad, very fast- moments like “The Deletion of Handles,” “Clara reunites with the aged Doctor” and basically every second of the last 10 minutes piercing the sharp dagger of Moffat into our already weeping hearts! It here I’d like to highlight Jenna’s magnificent performance, as it became clear that she was losing her Doctor, and more importantly – Her friend, which posed the question, maybe some real life emotions became visible through her dialogue.
The Epic 11 Speeches
It’s no secret that when Matt Smith delivers an incredible speech, it leaves everyone with goosebumps. He has this ability that ensures every audience member sits in silence, usually with their mouths open wide in awe, hanging on every single word that he delivers and the passion that he delivers them with. Some absolutely EPIC examples are his Pandorica Speech, the belief and power during his speech to House as the TARDIS Matrix takes back control, and the stunning speech to Grandfather during “The Rings of Akhaten”. In ‘Time’, the epic moments on the clocktower continue to show us how much a few words from the mouth of this brilliant and passionate man make our knees shake and our spine’s tingle!
We cannot forget however that some speeches don’t have to be epic and “explody” to have an impact – especially not Matt’s! Looking back at the more touching and gentler speeches of the Eleventh Doctor we have the emotional speech during “The Big Bang” dubbed as, “We’re all stories in the End,” the beautiful speech to Stormageddon or ‘Alfie’ during “Closing Time” and of course his ‘story’ to Merry in “The Rings of Akhaten” – This one’s my favorite, I admit, and not just because of the Alice in Wonderland reference. Every human being is unique –‘one of a kind’, and unbelievably lucky to be here. We’re only here for a short while, which means that every moment of our lives is precious and should be lived in the best way possible. The Doctor understands this. There is no person who isn’t important. There’s no such thing as little people. Each one of us is worth protecting, is worth saving. The Doctor’s final regeneration speech about breath on a mirror, is another of these “subtle” but moving speeches of Matt’s, and along with the epic ‘explody’ clocktower speech- shows us exactly who the Eleventh Doctor is.
Poetry in Writing
Moffat’s episodes are no stranger to rhymes and poetry, the “Dr Seuss” of Doctor Who one might say! Cast your mind back to the most innocent (not) poem of “The Beast Below,” or the climaxing moments of “A Good Man Goes to War,” or even the haunting words of Clarence in “The Name of the Doctor” to truly appreciate how words and rhymes have affected us so much throughout this era. “The Time of the Doctor” nears its close with a beautiful yet heartbreakingly relevant poem “An extract from thoughts on a Clock”
And now it’s time for one last bow, like all your other selves.
Eleven’s hour is over now.
The clock is striking twelve’s.
Not to forget the final yet most important thing Time reminded us of… The Brilliant, Unforgettable, and Outstanding Matthew Robert Smith
And so we have it: “The Time of the Doctor” and why it was in my view it was “The Perfect Summary of the Smith Era”! Finally, if you honestly couldn’t find one thing about “The Time of the Doctor” that you enjoyed then I hope this article has opened your mind to what a sensational swansong it was in at least one way. The clock is striking Twelve’s and a new era has begun, but we will never forget 11!