Well, a big shout out to Steven Moffat for turning me into a crippled emotional husk on Christmas day. As a longtime fan, I’ve always loved regeneration stories. I know the show is all about change (how else would it have made it to 50 years?) and I’m pretty much always ready to see a new Doctor take over and move things forward.
Matt Smith was The Doctor. Without a doubt, from the moment his head popped out of the TARDIS asking a young girl for an apple he has continued to absolutely own the role without faltering. Kind, funny, great dress sense, a pro at physical comedy (he could make walking through a door fascinating viewing) and above all, he had a great rapport with kids.
He was definitely the kids’ Doctor, and please don’t read into that as a dig or a downgrade, because kids are the hardest buggers to please. Capaldi is going to have a serious job winning the nippers over after Matt’s big brother act.
The episode itself tied up issues that have been plaguing me since the end of series 5. Seriously, I thought we’d never find out who blew up the TARDIS. And it turns out Gallifrey is knocking around behind the crack in the wall, back in 2010 I’d never had guessed that. Sadly, a lot of the exposition felt a little rushed and The Christmas element really did feel shoehorned in. Just be bold and ignore the fact it’s Christmas day. No one will care, because Doctor Who is on an that’s enough.
Still, the scenes with Clara’s family were sweet (and no sign of those bloody kids) and watching The Doctor pretend to be her boyfriend really made me realise how much unused potential the pair have.
There were, fittingly for 11’s last stand, a horde of aliens and nasties from all over. Some of them didn’t get much to do (like The Weeping Angels) and anytime The Daleks are involved it’s pretty much a given that they’re coming out on top. But it wasn’t about them, it was about Smith and all they needed to do was provide a fitting backdrop to his swansong.
The idea of The Doctor sticking around for centuries to protect a small town is nice. I’m glad the TARDIS was out of the equation for the first few centuries though, or I’d never believe in a million years that he would’ve stayed. 11 essentially got to enjoy some kind of retirement, even if he did have to fight off the odd wooden cyberman every now and then.
And then the end. Bloody hell. A rule that has been hampering Doctor Who is finally bloody gone. The Doctor can now regenerate another 13 times, so every Tabloid writer or smug so and so that comes up to me gleefully informing me that “Doctor Who has to end soon” can go into hibernation for at least another half century.
Matt Smith doesn’t go lying down, or in a self referential drawn out mess of goodbyes (cough, Tennant, cough). He explodes with energy, taking out as many Daleks with him as he can (and it’s a lot).
While it would have been nice for Clara to come running into the TARDIS, only to find a new man, it’s only fitting that Matt gets a proper goodybe. Young, as we remember him. What a doozy it is too, anyone that wasn’t a blubbering husk by the time the bow tie is on the floor, or by the time that cameo came about is a cold hearted fiend.
Then, without warning, or a glow of light, 11 is gone. It’s as if Matt sneezed himself into Capaldi. In thirty seconds I was already convinced by him, although conflicted. Because, to paraphrase the eleventh Doctor’s final words; I will always remember when The Doctor was Matt Smith.
Like Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, this episode was burdened with perhaps an unfair level of expectation for two reasons. Firstly, the return of the Cybermen. But more importantly than that, the fact that Neil Gaiman was writing the episode.
Of course it didn’t do anything to numb my excitement that Coraline, Neverwhere, and Anansi Boys are some of my all time favorite reads. Factor in that Gaiman also wrote series 6’s sublime The Doctors Wife (probably the best episode of New Who) and watching the episode was more a case of “how shit you’re not” rather than “how good are you?”.
So get the most boring and unfair part out of the way before I review the episode on its own merits: Yes, I was expecting a lot more from Gaiman. Unfair, I know, but there it is. Moving on…
The main draw of the episode for me was the upgraded Cybermen. I was never a fan of the stompy Cybus variety, they looked too much like plain old robots and never really hammered home the point that Cybermen are supposed to be us.
These new chaps are much more muscular and humanlike. A welcome new look after the misfire that were the rainbow Daleks. The fan boy in me also adores the facial resemblance to the Tomb of the Cybermen model.
But besides a new look, it was the fact that they were a real threat again which delighted me. In my opinion the Cybermen haven’t been taken seriously since the Daleks laid a smack down on them all the way back in Doomsday.
Here are a race that can move at super speed, sneak up on you, turn their heads exorcist style and upgrade to overcome any weakness. I’d be interested to see the Daleks take on these Cybermen.
Sadly, the scariest thing about the episode were the child actors though. The girl in particular was such an infuriating little shit that I found it a struggle to care about her at all. Not good when they’re meant to be in peril. Thankfully, they didn’t take up too much screen time, or this episode could have been a hell of a lot worse.
Matt Smith nailed his internal struggle with the Cyber Planner (sadly not the most threatening name going). It’s always good to see a slightly darker side to Eleven, although I do think it could have been a little darker. Ah well, any internal battle which has a brief slideshow of all 11 Doctors does me just fine.
Warwick Davis was great, more of him please. The other soldiers were forgettable and ever so slightly annoying though it was cool to see Clara take charge of the situation. The way she knew it wasn’t the Doctor because he’d never admit how he felt was a nice moment too.
Overall, the Cybermen are scary again. If nothing else this episode achieved that, so that’s cool. It was a fun enough romp but I doubt it’ll stay in the memory for as long as something like… I dunno… The Doctor’s Wife? (sorry).
As a closing remark, I would just like to point out that the fantastic Jason Watkins was wasted as the eccentric park manager. He could have been a fantastic Master, or in my ideal world, The Doctor. Go ahead and watch him again with that in mind. I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.