Review: “Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013: The Time of the Doctor”

The Time of the Doctor I watched the new Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013, called The Time of the Doctor, the day after it first aired. For my money, Doctor Who has always been one of the more uneven TV shows out there (please don’t burn down my house) and the Christmas Specials even more so. Alas, some of them have been truly awful, while others have been truly great. I realize that part of this is because Doctor Who is first and foremost a kid’s show. But I’m not a kid. I have, at times, wished for a more adult version of Doctor Who. And no, Torchwood isn’t it, so don’t even go there.

So, was this Christmas Special a good one or a bad one?

I officially rate this Doctor Who Christmas Special 2013 as … not too bad. Gird your loins for spoilers, kids, because they’re on their way.

This one starts out pretty good. The Doctor is quipping, being clever, and we’re given a few jokes about the quirkiness of alien cultures and the freedom that only total nudity can bring. We also meet with an old girlfriend of the Doctor’s, which is pretty cool. But things start to go downhill when the Doctor goes down to the planet.

Here’s the thing about Doctor Who for me. The writing is often sort of lazy. Even the best Doctor Who episodes often have enormous plot holes, inconsistencies, and logical problems. I can deal with a certain amount of this so long as you keep me focused on the characters, but the really obvious problems are just annoying. Worse, it completely gives up sometimes and just goes with whimsy to cheat its way out of many corners it writes itself into.

I realize that this is a kid’s show, but a large part of its fan base is made up of adults. Based on other BBC scifi shows I’ve seen, I suspect that the U.K. (or at least the BBC) is more accepting of things like this than we Americans are. I also realize that this is a question of taste. But for me, these are the things that ruin more Doctor Who episodes than anything else.

Whatever the case, the Doctor ends up in a town called “Christmas,” and thus, ends up literally protecting Christmas. Turns out Fox News was right all along … there really is a war on Christmas. (This is not how you get on my good side, Doctor Who.) They also found the crack in the universe from previous series and discovered that the Time Lords are using it to send a message across all of time and space. I’m not sure how you can really say it’s being sent across all of time without it being an issue starting with episode one, but OK. Once translated, the message is simply, “Doctor Who?” over and over again.

At this point, half the intelligent species in the universe have sent spaceships to surround the planet in response to the message. And all of them are prepared to open fire on the planet if the Time Lords do try to come through. I’m not clear on their reasons for doing this. It makes sense that the Daleks would react this way given the Time War. It seems that the other races want to prevent a second Time War, maybe (?) but I’m not sure how the first Time War affected any of them.1 So why would they do that?

We learn that the Time Lords will come through if the Doctor just speaks his name, which we’ve been told is the oldest question in the universe in previous episodes. Or something like that. I realize that some will say this is a mystery due to the message, which was projected through all time and space and may answer the problem I had with this earlier. But I don’t think it does for the same reasons I don’t get the purpose of the truth field the affected the town, Christmas.

Some have suggested that the Time Lords are projecting a truth field throughout the village to keep someone else from pretending to be the Doctor. This would have actually been clever if the message asked something like, “What is your name?” But it doesn’t. It just asks, “Doctor Who?” So it seems like anyone who knows the Doctor’s name – like River Song – could answer. In addition, this sort of negates this message being the source of the mystery surrounding the Doctor’s name. At least for me it does.

Then the Doctor sends Clara back to the Tardis. This is just a ploy to save her since the Doctor knows she’ll insist on staying at his side during a 300+ year long stalemate. She falls for this not once, but twice. Clara, who is probably my favorite companion, is too smart to fall for this a second time in the way she fell for it. But OK, you win this time Doctor Who.

There are other problems that I don’t want to go into. One of the biggest is the climax, which annoyed a lot of people. It was a bit of an overdose of whimsy as the Time Lords went all deus ex machina and gave the Doctor more regenerations. At least one more, at any rate. He then used his regeneration energy to destroy all his enemies, including the Daleks, which – I call – is totally bogus. We have seen regeneration energy do small amounts of damage before, but taking out entire ships and Daleks … I was overdosing on lameness at that point. If it’s that easy to kill Daleks and even entire battleships, how was the Time War even a big deal?

The Time Lords decided to do this, apparently, when Clara went to the crack in space and told the Time Lords that, if they loved the Doctor, they should help him. This is a problem since I’m pretty sure the Time Lords hate the Doctor’s sorry ass in a lot of ways. Some might argue that the Time Lords had to help him because they needed his aid to get through the crack, but that’s just wrong. They could have come through right then if they’d chosen to. They just wanted the Doctor to let them know when it was safe. Why couldn’t they just send a probe through instead if the Doctor didn’t answer in a reasonable amount of time? And why send a message through all space and time that summoned half the advanced species in the universe, thus creating a danger for the Time Lords in the first place?

All in all, I was puking on whimsy by the time he got back to his Tardis. I am, after all, filled with hate. They did give the 11th Doctor a nice send off, however, though the regeneration scene also annoyed some people because it was too short. Not me. They would have been milking it at this point if they hadn’t made it quick and easy after such a long sendoff.

Ultimately, I consider this Christmas Special to be fairly watchable, but as often happens with Doctor Who Christmas Specials, I really wanted it to be better.

Peter Capaldi does make an appearance as I suggested. We even get a few seconds of screen time with him. I think he’s totally creepy. But I’m hoping he’ll make an interesting Doctor.

  1. The more we learn about the Time War, the lamer it sounds, so I really wish they’d either stop revealing stuff about it or only do so when they have something awesome to reveal. Dang it.

About The Atheist Geek

The Atheist Geek is a former Jehovah's Witness turned secular humanist. He's a lifelong sci-fi geek and a writer wannabe.
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