DOCTOR WHO: ‘The Time of The Doctor’ Review

Episode Title: “The Time of The Doctor”

Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Jamie Payne
I knew that Matt Smith was going to be a great Doctor very early into his first full “Doctor Who” episode, “The Eleventh Hour.” There was something infectious about Smith’s manic energy the first time that he popped out of the TARDIS to meet the young Amelia Pond.
My first impression of Smith from “The End of Time” wasn’t as generous. It’s tradition to bring in the new Doctor at the conclusion of the current Doctor’s last adventure, but they always seem weird to me the first time that they appear on screen. I’m not quite sure what to make of Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor just yet, but his final line in this episode was quite funny. And it leaves us in almost the exact emergency that Smith’s Eleventh Doctor faced at the beginning of his life.
“The Eleventh Hour” was essentially a second pilot for the current “Doctor Who” series, as it fully introduced Smith’s Doctor, two new companions and started the long-running “Silence” subplot that finally concludes in “The Time of The Doctor.” In many ways, this episode felt like a series finale. And if Smith’s Doctor had truly met his end, this would have been a good way to close out the series.
But unlike other TV shows, “Doctor Who” never has to end. And even the 12 Regenerations rule is only a minor impediment for this Time Lord. 
There are full spoilers ahead for “The Time of The Doctor,” so if you missed this year’s “Doctor Who” Christmas special then you should probably skip this review or else that TARDIS cooked turkey will never be done.
Picking up at an unspecified time after “The Day of The Doctor” and the Doctor’s apparently successful gambit to save his homeworld Gallifrey, “The Time of The Doctor” finds the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) using a severed Cyberman head (called “Handles” by the Doctor) as his personal assistant while Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) has resumed her life in the present. 
So while Clara faces a disastrous Christmas dinner with her family, the Doctor and Handles investigate a transmission from an unknown planet that has drawn in several of his greatest enemies, including the Daleks, the Cybermen and even the Weeping Angels. And of course, the Silence, but not as we know them. This story serves as an origin for the Silence as their influence on the Doctor stretches backwards in time; which is one of Steven Moffat’s favorite tricks. 
I wonder how much of this was planned from the beginning by Moffat and what was made up along the way. Watching the Church of the Papal Mainframe become the Church of the Silence made sense. And I can even buy the offhand explanation that a breakaway faction was behind the Doctor’s exploding TARDIS in season 5 and the creation of River Song (Alex Kingston) in season 6. Although, both of those attempts on the Doctor’s life nearly destroyed the very universe that the Silence supposedly wanted to protect, which seems excessive. 
However, the motivation of the Silence was surprisingly altruistic. The unknown planet was receiving a transmission from Gallifrey that contained the oldest question, “Doctor Who?” as a way to determine whether it was safe for the Time Lords to return from the pocket universe where all 13 Doctors had sent them in “The Day of The Doctor.” As an aside, that means that the Time Lords are not as frozen in time as we were led to believe. Someone on Gallifrey has to be working on the return trip if they’re sending out signals to the Doctor.
If the Time Lords return, the Time War will resume and that’s why the Silence can’t allow it to happen. That’s an elegant answer for the Silence’s motivation. And I loved the reveal that the Silence had a completely different use for their abilities to be instantly forgotten by anyone who looks away from them.
Putting a human face on the Silence is Tasha Lem (Orla Brady), the Mother Superior of the Church who has a flirtatious relationship with the Doctor that seems to go back centuries. Tasha reminded me of the Shadow Proclamation leader from “The Stolen Earth” in season 4. And although it isn’t directly stated, I believe that the Church’s troops were also used in “The Time of Angels” back in season 5.
The Weeping Angels have been my favorite new villains from the current “Doctor Who” series and “The Time of The Doctor” used them in an innovative way that helped make them frightening again. Angels in the snow. That’s brilliant. Other than that scene, the Weeping Angels didn’t contribute much to the episode. Likewise, the Cybermen were barely utilized. Although I did like the Wooden Cyberman who was introduced late in the episode. Handles also received a good send off, as the Doctor seemed to become quite fond of him.