So, to the main attraction: The Time of the Doctor, Matt Smith’s swansong as the Doctor. It’s an odd affair. The Doctor goes to Trenzalore where he’s been warned time and time again that he’s going to die. He takes Clara there and then tries to dump her back on Earth but she keeps coming back to save him. Loads of his enemies turn up – Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels – to try and kill him, then Trenzalore goes to war.
Time Lords are mixed up in it, behind that crack that appeared in Smith’s first story (remember? Never mind…) then throw in a bit of explanation about why Smith is playing the 13th Doctor rather than the 11th – and Time Lords can only change 12 times – and you have what should be the Doctor’s final years. And Moffat gives him precisely that – years. The Doctor settles on Trenzalor, ages and should eventually die – he finishes the story an old man. Except of course we knew that Peter Capaldi had already been cast.
The problem with the story is that it tries to cram too much in. Some readers might have been confused by the reference to the change in numbering for Smith’s Doctor, and this would be understandable. Others won’t remember the crack, or why it needed explaining that the Tardis blew up. Then there are all the monsters. The wooden Cyberman makes a lovely visual but that’s about it. The Angels make for a couple of nice shots – but I’d rather have had a single really good Weeping Angel story; instead we get an unsatisfying round-up of greatest hits.
The regeneration, when it happens, isn’t as drawn out as the previous one which is a relief. Smith gets to act his heart out as an old man and then we’re teased about the new Doctor – instead we get to see Smith young again, in "reset" mode, offering a speech about accepting change and hallucinating about his other companions. Then suddenly and somehow anticlimactically he’s gone, the new Doctor is in place, looking a bit like a lizard.
Smith’s great, he’s stretched in all sorts of emotional directions by the script, and it looks spectacular. I just wish I’d been stretched by watching it, too.
The other Christmas stories are fine – A Christmas Carol shows the Doctor meeting Katharine Jenkins and Michael Gambon recreating the Dickens story; the Doctor, the Witch and the Wardrobe is based on guess what, and The Snowmen introduces the Great Intelligence and kills Clara for the second time (remember when she kept dying..?) They’re good stories, often, but why they’re presented here is anybody’s guess.
EXTRAS ★★★ Behind-the-scenes "Making Of" is likeable enough with Smith getting quite emotional; also a farewell to the actor himself, narrated by Alex Kingston. Also "Tales from the Tardis" in which people reflect on 50 years of Doctor Who; sorry guys, but even as a diehard fan I’d had enough of the 50th anniversary by the time this one came around.