The Doctor Who Christmas Special has come and gone. We’ve bid farewell to Amy’s Raggedy Man and have welcomed the 12th Doctor, his 14th regeneration.
It’s not just the holidays that have prevented me from writing about “The Time of the Doctor.” I’ve been trying to mull through my thoughts on Matt Smith’s tenure as the Man Who Forgets. I absolutely adored him as the Doctor and there was something truly magical on screen when he was paired up with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill. The three of them made it so easy to fall in love with 11 and the Ponds. And yet, as I looked back over his four years as our madman with a box, I felt wanting.
The Atlantic’s Ted Kissell wrote an excellent analysis of Matt Smith’s tenure putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the writers and ultimately concluding that Matt Smith deserved better. I think Kissell’s piece is spot on. In the hands of a lesser actor, Steven Moffat’s version of the Doctor would not have been so lovable. I mean, how amazing is it that Matt Smith was able to turn a disembodied Cyberman head into one of my favorite companions in the space of a single episode?
Jenna Coleman has already fallen victim to the writing. Clara should be one of the Doctor’s most challenging companions. She’s super intelligent, quick witted, self assured, a fast talking version of Donna Noble. Donna was always willing to call the Doctor on his shit forcing him to reexamine himself. On paper, Clara seems to be cut from a similar cloth. But thus far in practice, she’s more like an accessory. If you can replace a companion with a severed Cyberman head, you’ve got a problem. Handles had more of an impact on the Christmas Special than Clara which makes me very uneasy about her future with 12.
THE FIRST QUESTION
Though the show is called Doctor Who, it’s never really been about the Doctor. The companions, the alien creatures, the civilizations, the show has always been about exploring high concepts and challenging ideas with the Doctor as our haphazard guide. The early episodes hardly stand the test of time from a production point of view. But the themes that they explored still hold up. I think that’s why Doctor Who has such staying power and what made the Russell T Davies revival so successful.
Steven Moffat’s version of the show is different. He’s more interested in the Doctor than anyone or anything else, so much so that the entirety of season 7 was about the Doctor’s freaking name! Certainly, that’s a question that’s been on fans minds for ages. But because there was so much emphasis on the Doctor, Clara was more like an afterthought than a true companion.
The show is now entirely about the Doctor with seemingly no room for anyone else.
A new Doctor’s in the TARDIS with new kidneys and new eyes. Oh, the eyes!
I am so conflicted. The Christmas Special wrapped up a lot of loose threads from Matt Smith’s entire run tying them up into a somewhat wibbly wobbly bow. In a sense, it was a culmination of Moffat’s study of the Doctor, sort of like his final dissertation on the character.
Now that we’ve new kidneys, does this signal a new direction? Or will Moffat continue with his exploration of the Doctor with an entire season dedicated to the color of his kidneys? If Clara was replaced by a lamp, would we know the difference?
I will miss Matt Smith and the way he swung his long arms around the TARDIS like a frantic Muppet. I will miss his quiet moments like him staring at the cold husk of Handles as its lights blinked for the last time. I will have fond memories of his time as the Doctor.
Farewell Raggedy Man. You were absolutely brilliant. And you deserved better.