'Doctor Who' Recap: 'The Time of the Doctor'

The Doctor and Handles, courtesy BBC America

A shielded planet has been sending out a message into all of time and space, drawing a crowd of the most horrifying villains in the universe. The Doctor has also been drawn in by this message, which not even the TARDIS can translate. So, like the rest of the growing army, he waits above the planet, though not at all patiently.

With the help of Handles, a decapitated Cyberman head, he transports onto other ships regaling the inhabitants with tales of his heroism and seeks their camaraderie. He is waving the eyestalk of a defeated Dalek, gesticulating his points with it, when he realizes that he is aboard a Dalek ship. High-tailing it out of there, he transports back aboard the TARDIS, when the phone rings. 
The telephone is no longer patched to the console of the TARDIS, so he asks Handles to remind him to fix that tiny inconvenience. Being a Cyberman, Handles requests details, which causes a teensy spat between the odd couple.

Eventually, the Doctor answers the phone and is greeted by a frantic Clara. She begs him to help her cook Christmas dinner and pose as her boyfriend, as she may have lied a little to her family about having one. He happily agrees to be her boyfriend, though it has been quite awhile and he might be a little foggy on the details of being a significant other. Like wearing clothes, for example. He did try, though it seems his hologram clothing didn’t appear to anyone aside from Clara. She whisks him into the kitchen and explains to her family that the Doctor is “Swedish,” hence the public indecency. Looking around at the catastrophic dinner, the duo rushes to the TARDIS to finish cooking the Christmas turkey.

The Silence, courtesy BBC America
Upon entering the ship, Handles has new information about the planet; it appears to be Gallifrey. Indignant, the Doctor refuses to believe that the planet below them is his home. Clara gently reminds him that he might have saved it after all, but he chooses to continue pouting. A foghorn blast cuts through his grumpiness and Tasha Lem, Mother Superious of the Church of the Papal Mainframe, invites them aboard the ship responsible for shielding the planet. The Doctor and Tasha Lem, as their greeting dictates, are old friends. While they have a private conversation in Tasha’s quarters, Clara waits outside in the hallway. Though she is not entirely alone; the Silence are there to keep her company.

Tasha explains to the Doctor that the planet she is helping to shield below is a human settlement and a sort of farm. When the Doctor asks why no one has gone down to the surface of the planet yet, she tells him that no one wants to go first. Everyone who has heard the mysterious message all feel one thing...fear. Now that fear has turned into anger and aggression, and once the shield is broken, the entire planet will be destroyed. Clara bursts into the room, though she is perfectly fine and can’t remember why she ran from the hallway.

After surrendering his TARDIS key to Tasha, she teleports him and Clara to the snowy surface of the planet. Alarmed at the sight of an arm peeking through the snow, Clara laughs and tells the Doctor not to worry for it’s only a statue. With fear in his wide eyes, he warns her to get away from it, but it grabs her ankle and they are soon surrounded by Weeping Angels. Acting quickly, the Doctor whips of his wig and pulls out a spare TARDIS key. Once they are safely aboard the ship, he admits that he got bored one night and shaved his head. After replacing his wig and putting on some physical clothes, they head into town, which so happens, is called Christmas. The Doctor and Clara head inside of what appears to be a church, where he is confronted by the familiar sight of a crack in the wall. The same crack that terrified a little girl called Amelia Pond. The very same crack that forced him to reboot the universe.

Tasha Lem (Orla Brady), courtesy BBC America
Using the Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey, which he stole from the Master, the Doctor attaches it to Handles and forces him to finally translate the message, but not before the fallen Cyberman warns the Doctor that everyone surrounding the planet will be able to hear the translation. It appears that the Time Lords are trapped in another universe and are trying to get Gallifrey back into this universe via the crack. The message is a question, the oldest question, hidden in plain sight; “Doctor...who?”

The Doctor faces quite the conundrum; if he reveals his name to them, the Time Lords will know that it is safe to cross through and Gallifrey will return, by bringing hell with it. Waiting above, thousands upon thousands of his enemies are now eager to begin a new Time War. A siege is beginning and it will cost the innocent people of Christmas their lives, no matter what choice he makes. Tasha Lem sends a message to the Doctor, demanding that he not reveal his name to the Time Lords. She also tells him that the town of Christmas is located on the planet Trenzalore. Inciting an immediate change of faith, Tasha Lem vows to the Papal Mainframe that silence will fall.

An abandoned Clara, courtesy BBC America
The Doctor sends Clara to the TARDIS to run an errand, which sends her home. Once she realizes what he has done, she tries to unlock the doors as the TARDIS vanishes. With Clara safe from harm, the Doctor is now free to defend Trenzalore. Years pass and many enemies attempt to invade the planet, though none are successful. Between fighting off foes, the Doctor becomes part of the town, making toys for the children and teaching them how to dance. Three hundred years have passed since his arrival on Trenzalore, and it is beginning to show. The once sprightly young man, now moves much slower and with the aid of a cane. Out of nowhere, the TARDIS appears with a near frozen Clara, clinging to the front. After the initial shock wears off, they have a quick spat (“You sent me away!” “I’ve been here for 300 years!”) and reconcile with a long awaited hug.

Gifts from the children of Christmas, courtesy BBC America
He leads Clara to his home, where he gives her a brief tour and tells her of his time there. He takes her to the roof to witness the sunrise and sunset, as it happens so quickly here. They roast marshmallows and he tells her that this centuries long stand off is wearing him out. Trusty cyber-companion, Handles, pipes up and states that he has a fault. The Doctor, not wanting to admit the inevitable, cradles his old friend. Handles reminds the Doctor to reconnect the TARDIS phone to the main console, and with that, he dies.

Clara asks the Doctor why he sent her home and he tells her that he would’ve ended up burying her, so to keep her safe he sent her away. When she asks why he doesn’t just get in the TARDIS and leave, he tells her that there is no one else to protect Trenzalore. He reminds her that they have been there before, when it was covered in graves. He tells her that everything ends. Almost pleading, she tells him that he didn’t have the TARDIS before. He sadly explains that Time Lords are only allowed twelve regenerations, or thirteen Doctors.

Clara points out that he’s only the Eleventh Doctor, so why does he keep telling her that he’s dying? He tells her that even though he didn’t call himself the Doctor during the Time War, he still used a regeneration to do the job. He also regenerated into a half human incarnation once, though he was going through a vanity phase and kept the same face. Now all that he can do is protect the people of Trenzalore and Christmas, until he can no longer fight.

Dalek Tasha Lem, courtesy BBC America
Tasha Lem summons the Doctor to her, for the Church of the Silence wish to speak with him. He explains to Clara that the Silence are genetically engineered priests, made so that you forget everything you’ve told them. Tasha tells the Doctor that another chapter of her church, the Kovarians, went back in the Doctor's timeline to create the Destiny trap. This includes events such as River Song, the crack in the wall and blowing up the TARDIS to prevent the current events from taking place.

Ironically enough, their attempts to stop it from happening, had an equal part in causing it to occur. She then reveals to the Doctor that Daleks had invaded the church. He demands to know why she didn’t call him for help and she tells him that she did, in fact she died screaming his name. An eyestalk protrudes from her forehead as Daleks infiltrate the room. The Daleks now recall who the Doctor is and threaten to kill Clara in order to keep the Doctor from announcing his name. Clara says that they will just kill her anyway, so what does it matter.

The Doctor senses that his old friend Tasha is still inside that body somewhere, so to ferret her out, he states that you should never send a nun to do a Doctor's work. She awakens, slaps the Doctor and blasts three Daleks into oblivion. She agrees to send Clara and the Doctor back to the TARDIS, but before he goes he urges her to keep fighting, for the siege is over and a war has begun. She tells him to fly away.

Once back in the TARDIS, Clara begs the Doctor to look into her eyes and promise to never send her away again. He does. She goes to get the turkey, and the Doctor has disappeared. She opens the TARDIS doors and is back home. Stunned, the TARDIS disappears. Back on Trenzalore a boy called Barnable asks the Doctor why he brought the TARDIS back if he’s not leaving. He tells the boy maybe he’ll leave tomorrow or even the next day.

The war on Trenzalore begins and everyone has another go at taking over the planet. The war continues until only the Daleks remain and he is left fending them off with the Silence, for a very long time.

The Daleks, courtesy BBC America
A troubled Clara returns to the Christmas dinner with her family, when she hears the TARDIS. She runs outside to find Tasha Lem at the controls. She takes Clara back to Trenzalore because the Doctor is dying and shouldn’t have to be alone. Clara finds him sitting by the crack in the wall, and he is very old. She sits with him and reads him a poem from a Christmas cracker. Ever the comedian, he tells her he doesn’t get it and that the jokes are better.

The Daleks demand to see the Doctor, and he asks Clara to stay inside. It will keep her safe, which is one last victory for him. He shuffles away and Clara begs the Time Lords to help him, to save him. His name is the Doctor and if they love him, and they should, they’ll help him. The crack in the wall seals shut. On the roof, the Doctor and the Daleks square off. They say he is dying, and he says they haven’t killed him yet because they’re worried he has one last thing up his sleeve.

He is right. The crack in the wall becomes a crack in the sky as Gallifrey sends him the help he desperately needed. “THE DOCTOR IS REGENERATING! THE DOCTOR IS REGENERATING!” The Daleks yell in fear and full of fight, he makes this gift of regeneration count as he destroys the last of the Daleks. After the explosion, Clara searches for the Doctor in the rubble, but spies the TARDIS and enters it.

Courtesy TardisSoup
His clothes are strewn about, a bowl of fish fingers & custard sit on the console. She is greeted by her restored Doctor, as he has reset his regenerations. He tells her that it seems to be taking longer because it’s a new cycle. Clara begs him not to change, but the change has already started. He tells her that "We all change when you think about it. We are all different people all through our lives. And that's ok, that's good. You have to keep moving. So long as you remember all the people you used to be." As his regeneration continues, he sees an image of young Amelia Pond, running through the TARDIS. Staring at the first face that that face ever saw, he continues to try and soothe Clara.

“I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” In his final moments his best friend, Amy Pond, appears to him. “Raggedy Man, goodnight.” He takes off his bow tie and lets it fall to the floor.

Introducing Peter Capaldi as the Doctor
In the blink of an eye, the Eleventh Doctor has changed into a new man. A Scottish man with wild eyes and apparently differently colored kidneys. As the TARDIS begins its crash course, he looks to Clara and asks “Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?”

Though there were certain spots that seemed a little drawn out, and those that felt a little rushed, the Christmas special was a fantastic send off for Matt Smith. Questions were answered as only Steven Moffat could answer them (“Did you say something about RULES?”) and though Eleven’s hour is over now, Whovians are ready to run away with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor. The eighth season is set to air later in 2014.