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Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Time of The Doctor - Thoughts to Ponder and a Podcast Discussion

And now, the end is near....

With "The Time of the Doctor", we come to the close of the Matt Smith era of Doctor Who. It's been an era that introduced the majority of us on the GeekRex team to the mythos of the franchise, made fans out of us, and was the ruination of my own DVD cabinet; causing me to fill it to the brim with Classic Doctor Who serials in an attempt to understand the deepening web of continuity that Steven Moffat was continually pulling from during this run of episodes.

Rather than giving a full blown review of the episode, which most critics have already done over the past half-week since the Christmas Special's airing, I'll simply say that I very much enjoyed "The Time of the Doctor" as the culmination of a run that I was already fully invested in. Was it a satisfying ending for the Matt Smith era? For the most part. Moffat's script answered every question that had plagued viewers since Series 5, and created a fairly breakneck pace that may have also been a bit of a hindrance for the emotional resonance that Matt Smith's final scenes in the role could have contained. But only a bit, as I couldn't help but get a little bleary-eyed during certain scenes that will surely grow in estimation for me upon repeat viewing. What Steven Moffat has built during the Eleventh Doctor's tenure is a massive Ontological Paradox that's perhaps bigger than any ever seen on television before, this is something to be admired. If I had to give "The Time of The Doctor" a grade, it'd be an A-.

Now, let's dig in a bit at some of the answers revealed herein:

Just who are the Silence and what was the deal with Madame Kovarian?

Since Series Six, we had glommed some tiny bits of information related the purpose of the Silence, their now fairly iconic "Silents", and their role in preventing the prophecy of the "unanswerable question" being asked. We now know officially that the Silence is a part of the Papal Mainframe (which could be have been assumed through "A Good Man Goes to War" as Papal Soldiers were involved there as well). Additionally, we learned that Madame Kovarian had her own sect of the Order, which broke loose to prevent the Doctor from ever reaching Trenzalore. So, The Silence isn't an evil organization and they're simply acting to prevent galactic war from returning, it's just that Kovarian and her followers were zealots when they attempted to kill The Doctor in "The Impossible Astronaut".

Oh, and "The Silents" are genetically engineered to provoke confession, which you then forget you confessed to. This makes sense when you consider the idea that confession = interrogation. Remember, the Papal Mainframe is a military order, not just a religious one. Can we now start calling them "Confessors" or something akin to that instead?

And really, how awesome was it when we learned that the term Silence is in relation to the Doctor NOT answering the question of "Doctor Who"? We basically knew that already, but to see it take shape on screen was quite exciting.

The Crack is back!

Not only does The Silence return, but so does the Crack in the Universe from Series 5. We learn that it was Kovarian's sect, again stirring up trouble, that caused the TARDIS to explode in "The Pandorica Opens", creating the crack that was the backbone of that series arc. The Crack is also what was hiding behind Door #11 in "The God Complex". This is notable, as what was in that room was supposed to be the Doctor's greatest fear. One more question answered.

In "The Time of the Doctor", this crack is a weak point in the universe that allows Gallifrey to attempt to return provided The Doctor gives the "all-clear" by answering their calls of "Doctor Who?". So, much like the majority of Moffat's major plot mechanics, the reason the Silence exists (preventing the Doctor from coming to Trenzalore to answer said question) is created by the Silence itself, or at least its most radical branch (by exploding the TARDIS and creating the very crack/weak-point that the Gallifreyans use to ask said question).

Also, with this plot device, we now have another Superman analogy to pull from, as instead of his race being destroyed in planetary destruction, it's more like they're trapped in the Phantom Zone.

Do we have a new replacement for River Song?

Moffat's Who has a bit of a history of introducing characters that pop up out of nowhere with pre-existing ties to our protagonist, such as Madame Vastra and that crew, Nefertiti, etc...This makes sense, he's a time traveler with 1,000s of years on him and his companion isn't with him 24/7 generally, so he's likely off making other friends and creating his little "gangs" where he can. Tasha Lem is fascinating, because she has a bit of a flirtatious relationship with The Doctor, knows how to fly the TARDIS, but has apparently never seen this particular incarnation of our protagonist before. This means, most likely, that her interactions with The Doctor are from a previous regeneration. Which Doctor could that mean? I put my bets on Eight or Ten, but I'd love to see just a little more history for Nine if it were possible.

Regardless, Orla Brady is great in the role, and since we've likely seen the last of River Song (per "The Name of the Doctor"), I wouldn't be shocked to see Tasha return as a potential interest for the Twelfth Doctor, either romantically entangled or not.

The question was officially asked, and the Siege of Trenzalore happened.
On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature may speak falsely or fail to give answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never, ever be answered.
Doctor Who?
We now have the answer to why "Silence Will/Must Fall" which has been floating out there since "The Eleventh Hour" when Matt Smith first took over the role. This is where the episode's almost "too-fast" pace may start to overwhelm some, but on subsequent viewings the actual scope of what's occurring there in the Town of Christmas starts to settle in a bit better. 

As it stands, The Silence were, more or less, successful, as the question was not answered.

Also, all of this business led to The Doctor and The Silence teaming up to fight The Daleks, and a smattering of Cybermen, Weeping Angels, and Sontarans (at least). Pretty darn exciting and epic stuff for those that have been following along. 

Clara has a family, beyond just parents!

Much like Tasha Lem, I'm going to gather that our meeting further extended family for Clara, is to develop her character further for the upcoming Series Eight. One of the biggest issues with her development has been that she's been a plot device (and a very good one) but not a fully fleshed out character in her own right. This is certainly Moffat's attempt to change that, and having her interact with a Doctor that has no stakes in her status as "The Impossible Girl". We'll be seeing more of this Grandmother at least, I'd wager.

A reverse "Girl in the Fireplace"

One of the more popular episodes that Moffat penned, "The Girl in the Fireplace", where the Tenth Doctor was visiting someone multiple times and each time he saw her, she aged due to the passages of time, where each time he left seemed like only minutes to him. This on-going issue for our Immortal Doctor has often been cited for the reason why he dumps companions, because "he doesn't like endings". With "The Time of the Doctor", we get the reverse of that, as a companion is seeing him age instead. It's a fairly startling turnabout for the character.

Many have wondered why The Doctor would age so suddenly over the course of the 300 years spent on Trenzalore, and I would cite that as a result of the wages of war. We've only ever seen The Doctor age in two circumstances, and both of them fairly recently: During the War Doctor's tenure (as in "The Night of The Doctor" short, he was much younger looking post-regeneration than he would appear in "The Day of the Doctor") and in this episode. The common denominator? War. The stresses of battle can age even the youngest of us, and I think that's what Moffat is trying to get across here.

A brand new Regeneration Cycle is granted by The Time Lords

It's official, The Hand Doctor counts....I'll say it again, the ridiculously awful Davies "Meta-Crisis" Doctor counts as a regeneration. My disappointment is palpable, but it allowed Moffat to tackle this issue of the Regeneration limit head-on. Which 100% puts the old piece of history of 13 incarnations of a Time Lord (that initially appeared in the Tom Baker serial, "The Deadly Assassin") as a part of new-Who canon. This is admirable in respect to Classic Series history, which Moffat and his team have really done a heck of a job paying heed to.

Now, with this new Cycle having been granted by the "trapped in the Phantom Zone" Time Lords, this will no longer be an issue, at least for a very, very long time. While Peter Capaldi is indeed the Twelfth Doctor, he's now Regeneration Number One in this new cycle, leaving twelve more possibilities to emerge behind him.

For the record, after McCoy as number seven it goes:

8a - McGann (Eighth Doctor)
9a - Hurt (The War Doctor)
10a - Eccleston (Ninth Doctor)
11a - Tennant (Tenth Doctor)
12a - Tennant (Tenth Doctor post Meta-Crisis)
13a - Smith (Eleventh Doctor)
1b - Capaldi (Twelfth Doctor)

You're welcome.

What are the time-line implications for the changing of The Doctor's history?

Now this is the one area where I felt a sticking point bothering me a bit, in "The Name of the Doctor" we visited the Doctor's grave on Trenzalore, where "The Impossible Girl" Clara jumped into The Doctor's timestream to save him from The Great Intelligence. But due to the actions that occurred on Trenzalore in "The Time of the Doctor", that grave could no longer exist, thusly how could Clara ever become "The Impossible Girl"? At first it would seem like Moffat may have got himself into a jam here. But on the podcast, Hannah, Harper and I may have worked this out.

Here's a helpful chart that I drew, forgive the hand-writing and shadow:

What we're looking at is a divergent time-line. Clara jumping into The Doctor's personal time is an "unnatural act" in so far as time-travel goes, so all bets are off in relation to her. While The Doctor cites that having The Time Lords in existence would allow him to change the future, it's the existence of Clara that convinces them to do so. Were she not there in the first place to convince them to save him, the Doctor would have died on Trenzalore and the grave would have been created. So, in short it's an Bootstrap Paradox that creates a Divergent timeline. Lost meets The Terminator in other words.

Raggedy Man, Good Night!

Amy appears to The Doctor in a bit of a vision before he regenerates. Not much to say here, other than it was a nice moment and it makes sense in context of this iteration of The Doctor. As much as I like Clara, Amy was his companion. Clara's future lies with the Twelfth Doctor. Too bad he didn't think enough of Rory for him to appear as well, I could have done with another Arthur Darvill appearance.

I've got new kidneys! 

We got less than ten seconds of Peter Capaldi's Twelfth Doctor and I'm already pretty excited, but I will say: Boo to BBC America for the odd fade-out after he asks Clara if she knows how to drive the TARDIS. We've got an 8 month wait until we get another episode and the odd cut there took out some of the "oomph" of the scene. I look forward to getting my Blu-Ray of the episode, to see how it was actually intended to end. As much as I like BBC America, they can be their own worst enemy sometimes.

Want to hear more? Here's our podcast discussion about the special from last night! Take a listen to Harper, Hannah and I chat about "The Time of The Doctor"

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