Raggedy man… good night.
And ‘good night’ we say — to the Eleventh Doctor, to the raggedy man, the madman with a box, to fish fingers with custard. But even as we say good night, we say hello — to the Doctor. The same man, who will never forget who he used to be. Still is. Always will be. Just with new kidneys.
As with the Anniversary Special, there are so many nods to the Doctor’s past in this — Clara seeing the Doctor without his clothes much as Donna did during the Metacrisis, Captain Jack clinging to the TARDIS all the way through the Time Vortex to Utopia… just that this time the TARDIS was kind enough to extend the shield. And again, the Doctor sends his companion away to keep her safe. What’s new, though: Handles. This Christmas is the time when the Doctor had a Cyberman friend, and we liked him. Poor Handles.
All of this, all of the past from Series 5 onwards led to this: Trenzalore, the graveyard of the Doctor. The Silents, a fraction of the Papal Mainframe that split and really actually confessional priests, were trying to prevent the Doctor from ever coming there, blowing up the TARDIS and creating the cracks in the Universe — which now none other than the Time Lords are using to try and come back. That’s what the Doctor saw in the hotel room marked 11 in Series 6 (The God Complex) — the crack. It wasn’t over yet, it was never gonna end. Until now.
There’s been a lot of confusion about the Doctors and renumbering after The Day of the Doctor, and it appears that someone’s been both miscounting and sort of… not. While Steven Moffat confirmed in Doctor Who Magazine that Eleven will remain Eleven, and Peter Capaldi will be Twelve, the point of the whole thing is which Doctor calls himself the Doctor. There are, however, a few more versions of him that still count as regenerations, physically. Including the War Doctor and TenTwo, we’ve not got the Thirteenth Doctor, technically — which is the last. The Doctor will die, old and grey and looking suspiciously like William Hartnell, and unable to tell anything but the truth.
Trenzalore is enveloped in a truth field, which the Time Lords had counted on Tasha to place on the planet, to make sure that the Doctor, and only the Doctor would be able to answer the question. Remember?
Silence will fall when the question is asked.
The oldest question in the Universe.
Only one man can answer that question truthfully, and only the Time Lords can tell that he’s telling the truth — or so everyone thinks. ’cause that’s not it. It’s his companions that can really answer that question and know the truth better than anyone else. He’s the Doctor, and that’s all you need to know. That name is who he is, who he chose to be so many centuries ago.
Listen to me, you lot. Listen! Help him, help him change the future, do it! Do something! You’ve been asking a question, it’s time someone told you you’ve been getting it wrong. His name… his name is the Doctor. All the name he needs, all you need to know about him, and if you love him — and you should — help him. Help him!
And that’s how the Time Lords know it’s really him. Only the Doctor could inspire such love and loyalty — and it’s right there, in Clara. Tasha came to get her so the Doctor wouldn’t die alone, but then she goes and saves his life, with a little help from through the crack. When was the last time the Time Lords listened to a human without much complaint? So they send the Doctor regeneration energy, enough to blast the Daleks back to hell and save Christmas. Aha! Christmas is saved! And as long as the Doctor’s there, it always will be. I wonder if the Master was up there, hearing Clara’s voice…
So many musical cues, too. We’ve heard Gallifrey’s theme, Amy’s theme, all of that music that Murray Gold has created through the years, that remind us of the things we’ve seen. And then, there’s a new one at the end. A new Doctor’s theme for a new man, and yet the same.
It all just disappears, doesn’t it, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now… he’s a-coming. But times change, and so must I. We all change, when you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives and that’s ok, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day. I swear, I will always remember when the Doctor was me.
After Ten’s unholy struggle, this is one of the most life-affirming regenerations we’ve ever got to see. Eleven’s fine, he’s good. He’s made his peace with dying long ago, and now, unexpectedly, he’s got a new chance. A whole new cycle, even, apparently? That’s what the Time Lords gave him, a whole new life, a whole new life cycle. If I understand that correctly, then that’s the regeneration limit gone, and they won’t have to worry about this again until 2063. He saved them, and they remembered. And just this once, they broke the rules. Because it’s Christmas, and the Doctor’s got to save it, for the love of the people. He stayed for Christmas, and he was content to stay. The man who can’t sit still, the man who went mad waiting for the cubes to just do something for one year, sticks around and defends one small town agains the Time Lords’ enemies for 300 years. This song has ended, but the story never ends. The bow tie’s on the floor — but the new man’s got new kidneys.
And now, Gallifrey, we know, is definitely out there, in a parallel universe. They seem to be able to close the cracks at will, so… couldn’t they set up a meet that the whole bloody Universe doesn’t know about? The Doctor knows they’re fine now, and trying to get back to him — but how will he find them now? What will he do? Will they try again? This time, did they really come in peace? We know that the High Council had different plans from what the Time Lords that the Doctors dealt with in The Day of the Doctor did, though both councils were aware of the Doctor running off with The Moment. What if the High Council around Time Lord President (Timothy Dalton) are still thinking of doing what they were doing at The End of Time?
I have a few niggles with this episode: was the bit with Clara’s family really necessary? Was the naked bit really necessary at all? Those awkward moments and the flirty interlude with Tasha — love her, though (very clever of the Doctor to break through the Dalek’s hold on her mind by angering her saying sexist shit he 100% doesn’t mean) — interrupted the flow of the narrative a bit and made the beginning feel a bit cobbled together, trying to be comedic when we all knew how it’d turn out in the end. There’s regeneration eps that managed that very well — this one didn’t, not quite.
Edit, because Inkie mentioned it and I just hadn’t connected the dots until she said it: getting definite River vibes from Tasha — not just because of the flirting, but because she knew how to fly the TARDIS, knew the Doctor so very well, and because of this:
You’ve been fighting the psychopath inside you all your life.
It would be just like River to infiltrate the Papal Mainframe after being used as a weapon by a split fraction… I don’t know if this is valid, but the use of ‘psychopath’ twice within a short span of time triggers the implication.
Be that as it may, I’m so very much looking forward to Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor — the post-regeneration confusion, the new internal organs, new everything! Well, not all new. He’s still our Doctor. Always will be.
Next: Series 8.