Countdown to Eleven- The Conclusion
Hey Towelites! This is the final chapter in our coverage of The Time of the Doctor. If you haven’t had a chance to, or want a refresher, you can read Parts One and Parts Two on the links! Enjoy the Conclusion!
That was a summary of a one hour episode?
Yeah… I told you there was a lot crammed in there.
Wow.. Well, let’s get to it then. So the crack in the universe is back even though it was closed? I’m officially confused. What the hell is going on?
We all knew Moffat was a fan of the timey-wimey aspects of Doctor Who. That’s been evident from the episodes he penned during the Russell Davies years right up through the series under his control. This episode is no exception, and as with most timey wimey ideas, it can get a bit confusing. Allow me to try my best to clarify (assuming of course that I’ve interpreted correctly).
What we knew:
The crack in the wall is actually a crack in the fabric of space and time in the universe. The Doctor first encountered it as a crack in the wall of Amelia Pond’s bedroom just after regenerating into his 11th (12th?) incarnation.
The Doctor is inadvertently responsible for the crack existing as it was his own TARDIS blowing up that created the crack in the first place.
The crack was sealed after The Doctor flew the Pandorica into the heart of the explosion and rebooted the universe.
The Time Lords were thought to have been destroyed in the last day of the Time War when the Doctor used The Moment to destroy Gallifrey and the attacking Dalek fleet. Per the events of The Day of the Doctor we now know that The War Doctor, along with help from all twelve of his other incarnations, assisted in freezing Gallifrey and keeping safe in a pocket universe, which is apparently lost.
In the episode The God Complex the various characters find rooms in a hotel that contain their worst fears. The Doctor finds his room (appropriately Room 11) and opens it. We are not shown what he sees that represents his fear.
What we know now:
The crack is sealed but it left behind scar tissue.
The Time Lords are trying to use the scar tissue as a doorway back into our universe. They need to contact the Doctor and have him confirm that it is safe for them to come through. He can do this by speaking his real name. The Time Lords are sending the message through the crack from Trenzalore because of the truth field so that they can be sure it’s the Doctor that is answering.
A rogue faction of the Church of Silence was responsible for the destruction of the TARDIS. This is the same faction that we’ve already known were responsible for the abduction of Melody Pond and turning her into River Song. Much like destorying the TARDIS, they’d intended that River would kill The Doctor and prevent him from ever reaching Trenzalore. In another ironic bit of wibbley wobbley timey wimey, the TARDIS’s destruction was the event that created the cracks in space and time in the first place. By attempting to prevent the Doctor’s interferance, they ensured it.
The Doctor’s greatest fear that he saw behind the door to Room 11 was the crack.
That whole regeneration limit issue that everyone was harping about seems to have been resolved pretty easily. A bit of a copout, eh?
Ah, the regeneration limit. Those of you who’ve read my previous dissection of The Night of the Doctor will recall my theorizing that the kick-started regeneration of the Eighth Doctor brought about by the Sisters of Karn may have been the answer. It would appear I was wrong.
Now, I do see your point. On the surface the idea of the Time Lords just magically granting more regenerations may seem like a cop out; a convenient and somewhat uncreative fix to a major issue. I’d be inclined to agree with you on that point, if there weren’t precedent for it. The idea of the Time Lords having the power to grant additional regenerations has actually been brought up before in the classic series as well as the new, in both cases relating to The Master.
Good question. Those of you who’ve only been watching the show since Matt Smith came aboard will have never met the Master. I don’t want to get on too much of a tangent, but just to give some basic background:
The Master is a Time Lord who, like the Doctor, grew bored with life on Gallifrey and took off to the stars. But where the Doctor went out seeking adventure, the Master sought conquest and power. Although originally boyhood friends, The Doctor and The Master went down extremely different paths and became each others arch-nemesis. Think of them as kind of intergalactic Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty.
The Master was first introduced during the eighth season of the classies series in the serial Terror of the Autons featuring Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor. The Master (played by actor Roger Delgado) would plague The Doctor several times throughout the remainder of Pertwee’s run. Unfortunately, the untimely death of Roger Delgado in a car accident in June of 1973 would bring a temporary end to his attempts to kill the Doctor and take over Earth.
The character wouldn’t appear again until 1976’s The Deadly Assassin, this time with Tom Baker playing the Fourth Doctor. Rather then explaining an off-screen regeneration, this incarnation of The Master (played by Peter Pratt) is a decaying skelatal creature, nearing the end of his final life. It’s during this story that the idea of a regeneration limit was first introduced. During an exchange between the Doctor and Coordinator Engin, discussing The Master’s plans to extend his life past his final incarnation, Engin states that:
“After the twelfth regeneration, there is no plan that will postpone death.”
Unknowingly, with this one line, a standard throw-away piece of exposition, writer Robert Holmes painted the current writers of Doctor Who into a corner by putting an actual limit to the number of times that a Time Lord is capable or allowed to regenerate. The Master, of course, is not one to accept his fate. His main objective in The Deadly Assassin is to find a way to prolong his life. These attempts would eventually culminate in two instances of The Master literally stealing another beings body; first in 1981’s The Keeper of Traken at the conclusion of which he steals the body of counselor Tremas (played by Anthony Ainsley) and then again in the 1996 TV Movie where he possessed the body of Bruce, an American ambulance driver played by Eric Roberts. The theft of another body is only a temporary measure, however, as neither of these forms had the ability to regenerate and would eventually wear out. The Master’s main objective at this point was not to kill the Doctor but rather to steal his body and with it all of his remaining regenerations.
The idea of the Time Lords being able to grant a new regeneration cycle is also a concept that originates with The Master. In 1985’s anniversary special The Five Doctors, The Master is offered a new regeneration cycle by the Time Lords in exchange for his aid in rescuing The Doctor and after his final death in the 1996 TV Movie, the Master is actually resurrected by the Time Lords and given a new regeneration cycle in order for him to fight in The Time War. True to form, The Master took his new body and regenerations and fled to the end of the universe and used a chameleon arch to assume a completely human form, allowing him to hide from the Daleks.
So yes, as much of a cop out as it may seem, the idea of the Time Lords granting a new regeneration cycle is not something new. And if they’ve been willing to do as much for the Master not once, but twice, then it’s certainly feasible that they would grant the same gift to the Doctor.
Didn’t they mention The Master in the episode?
Good catch, and a nice little nod to classic Who. When the need arises to decode the message from the Time Lords, The Doctor removes the Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey from his pocket, mentioning that he had “nicked it” from The Master in the Death Zone. The events mentioned occur during The Five Doctors that I mentioned above. When The Master agrees to the Time Lords proposal and rescue the Doctor, he assumes (rightly) that The Doctor will assume that he’s lying. The Time Lords give The Master the seal to present to The Doctor as proof that he’s speaking the truth. As predicted, The Doctor doesn’t believe The Master’s story, assumes the seal is either stolen or a fake, and takes it from him. Apparently he’s a bit of a pack rat since he’s still carrying around the seal all these years later. Since the seal is of Gallifrayan origin, it allows “Handles” to translate the message coming from the crack.
What’s the deal with The Doctor tricking that wooden Cyberman? I thought that truth field meant he wasn’t capable of lying?
He isn’t, and he didn’t. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver on the Cyber-Woodman and tells it that he’s just sent a signal that will reverse the polarity on it’s weapon so that it’s fires out of the back end. He even invites the Cyber-woodman to scan his screwdriver and confirm that that is exactly what he’s done. Confirming this, the cyber-woodman rotates it’s weapon in the opposite direction and promptly shoots a hole through it’s chest. Everything The Doctor said was true. He just neglected to remind the Cyberman that his screwdriver doesn’t work on wood. He’s transmitted the signal, but the Cyberman’s new wooden frame never received it. Since the polarity of it’s weapon never changed, changing it’s direction only resulted in the Cyberman shooting itself. The Doctor lies, but not in this case. In this case, Cybermen are just really stupid.
Along the same lines, what’s the deal with that one shot of the Weeping Angel looking through a window with the words, “With Love From The Doctor” written on it?
That’s not a window, it’s a mirror. It happens pretty quick and isn’t very clear. I’ve heard several people who actually blinked and missed the whole thing (no pun intended). Essentially, The Doctor set a mirror up in front of one of the Angels to trap it. Since a Weeping Angel assumes it’s static stone form whenever someone is looking at it, seeing itself in the mirror not only ensures it can’t move, but that it will never move. Since it can’t move it will constantly be staring at itself. And stone can’t blink. So the Angel is trapped there unless something shatters the mirror.
So, about the regeneration…did he regenerate twice?
No. As he explains to Clara when they’re back in the TARDIS, the regeneration is already in process. The fact that it’s the start of a whole new regeneration cycle is making it take longer then normal and the fact that he’s young again is just part of the “reset.” I’ve been referring to this ideas as the Steven Moffat “Double Whammy.”
Moffat had stated in interviews just before the episode aired that he wanted to try and make the regeneration not as much of somber event as what has gone before. He felt that it was odd to always give it this funerary feel when really nobody is actually dying, and he wanted to do his best to make this one a more triumphant moment. I feel he succeeded in this respect. The moment The Doctor absorbs the regeneration energies sent through the crack by the Time Lords is one of the best moments in the whole episode and one of the best I’ve seen from Matt Smith during his tenure as the Doctor. The look in his eyes and the wiggle of his mouth when he realizes what’s happening, the speech given to the Daleks, the happy little old man dance around the bell tower; it all builds to a wonderfully dramatic and positive moment and I really think everyone involved nailed that moment perfectly.
But as good as it is, it did leave (momentarily) one small problem. As upbeat and triumphant as the moment was, it did cheat fans out of a chance to really give a proper goodbye to Matt. Not only that, but the version of him we did get to say good-bye to was him caked under layers of old age makeup. Hence, the “double whammy.” I’ll admit now, I think it would have been an amazing and daring thing to do on the show if they’d truly had Matt regenerate on that clock tower and then have the figure walking up the stairs of the TARDIS revealed as Capaldi. Even so, I am thankful that we were at least given a chance at a proper goodbye, even if the reasoning for it kind of stretches credibility. Again, Matt Smith is at the top of his game in these moments. Some might call the entire sequence overly sentimental, but really that’s what it was for. Trust me, I’ve viewed several reaction videos to this scene on YouTube from both men and women and gotten to witness screaming, weeping buckets, and even some hyperventilating as they all said goodbye to their favorite Doctor.
But what about the actual regeneration? Wasn’t that a tad quicker than normal?
It was, and I actually thought that was one of the best moments in the episode. With effects work being what they are these days, the tendency lately seems to have been to keep going bigger and more extreme with the regeneration. The drawback is that by having more technology at hand, it may be making the regenerations less creative. As much as I enjoyed the regeneration of both Eccleston and Tennant, they were essentially the same. And neither of them are quite as creative or interesting, in my opinion, as Tom Baker’s or Peter Davison’s regenerations (look them up on youtube if you don’t believe me). The other drawback is that the more we see of the same thing, it eventually gets tedious and repetative. Keep in mind, since 2005 we’ve already seen this same regeneration effect eight times.
Eight times? C’mon…
Eight times damn it! I counted:
1) Eccleston to Tennant (The Parting of Ways) 2) Derek Jacobi to John Simm (The Master in Utiopia) 3) The Meta Crisis Regeneration (The Stolen Planet) 4) Tennant to Smith (The End of Time Part 2) 5) Smith starting to regenerate (The Impossible Astronaut) 6) Melody Pond (Day of the Moon) 7) Mels into River Song (Let’s Kill Hitler) 8) John Hurt into Eccleston…sort of (The Day of the Doctor).
Up until this point, the only regeneration that didn’t use some variation on the same effect was Paul McGann’s in The Night of the Doctor, and even that wasn’t too far off. It was definately time to freshen things up a bit, and I think they managed to do that. Although the effect isn’t really different when the regeneration starts on the clock tower, the more positive vibe around the moment definately gives the feeling of something different. The quickness of the final regeneration is, admitedly, abrupt and I think it’s meant to be. Keep in mind that the regeneration has already been going on for a while and that moment is really just the culmination of it; the final bang to the build up.
What it also does, that I think works brilliantly, is put us as the viewer into Clara’s shoes. I’m fairly confident that the look of shock on her face as Capaldi first appears probably mirrored the look many of us had at that instant. For that one brief moment we got to literally share the feelings of the companion: a deep sadness at losing someone followed by the abrupt shock of having that person replaced with a stranger. It was a really brave choice to introduce the new Doctor in this way. I think it paid off and I applaud all involved for it.
That leaves Capaldi. What do you think?
I never like to judge based on the few brief moments that a new Doctor gets at the end. The actor in question is always under a huge amount of pressure to make a strong first impression with very little. That being said, I’m highly intrigued but what I’ve seen. Some reviewers disliked the whole “kidneys” line, but I personally loved it. Admittedly it does seem like a slight rehash of Matt Smith’s first moments; issues over new body parts followed by the TARDIS crashing. Then again, he does say “probably crashing.” We won’t know for sure what’s going on with the TARDIS until the next series. Two questions I am left with in terms of Capaldi are his accent and his last line about not knowing how to fly the TARDIS. Regeneration usually leaves the Doctor confused and erratic for some time. This could account for his not knowing how to fly the TARDIS. But let’s also remember that he’s been living on Trenzalore for a few more centuries. Maybe he actually forgot how to fly her.
As far as the accent, its clear from the spoken dialogue that Capaldi is using his natural Scottish accent. Though this really doesn’t require explanation (seeing as how the Doctor isn’t human), it’s possible that if he continues to use it throughout the rest of his run, Moffat may attribute the accent to the time he’d spent with Amy and also the fact that he heard Amy’s voice shortly before finishing his regeneration. Even if he decides to drop the accent for his regular run, they could also use this same explanation for the temporary change.
Any parting thoughts?
I think everything that needed to have been said has been said. Again, I’m not 100% satisfied with the episode and definately feel it would have benefited with more of a build up and more time to play out. But none of those flaws (which may just be flaws I’m finding) take away from the significance and emotional impact of the episode itself. While it may not have been my ideal version of a swansong for Matt Smith and the Eleventh Doctor, Smith did give one of his best performances in the part and he got the opportunity to go out with a bang (literally) and with a tear. His final speech likely tugged on quite a few heart strings and caused many a man and woman to shed more then a few tears at his parting. So in the end, I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye then to remind everyone of those wonderful words:
“We all change. When you think about it, we are all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you’ve gotta keep moving. Just 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.”
And so will we.
Good night raggedy man.