Matt Smith takes his final bow as the Doctor

42545IN THE LAST few years, it seems a new Christmas tradition has been established in Great Britain: the always-highly-awaited Doctor Who Christmas special. Every year we crash on our sofas, a little drunk and full of chocolate in full anticipation for the next adventure through time and space.

However, we all knew what to expect in this special. We all knew that it was time to say goodbye to the raggedy man who’s graced our screens for the last three years, and hello to the new Doctor. But this time, it was also time to face that regeneration issue that’s been cropping up for some time.

In this special, the Doctor travels to an unfamiliar planet, to trace a seemingly untranslatable message which was being broadcast across the entirety of the universe. He isn’t the only one that took notice, and soon the planet is swarming with the Doctor’s greatest enemies; Daleks, Silence, Cybermen, Sontaren… you name it. Luckily, the planet has been shielded and with the help of an old friend (Tasha Lem), he finds a way to the surface where he comes across a small town named Christmas. After locating the source of the message he realises that this is a problem that he can neither fix nor ignore, it is something that makes him stay to protect both what he found and the citizens who inhabit the town. It seems that after running for all of his life never staying in the same place, he has finally found a reason to stay.

I heavily criticised the 50th anniversary special back in November, and despite the rejection I was met with, I still stand by it when I call it disappointing and full of plot issues. I decided to give the franchise another shot with this special, and it is an improvement, it’s not great but it’s an okay episode with a superb send-off.  There are lots of emotional scenes with the Doctor, talking about his achievements and accepting his death, as he is completely unaware that he is going to regenerate.

If you’re not familiar with the backstory and the ‘rules’ of Timelord regeneration, this is because of the 12 regeneration rule. For a while we assumed that Matt Smith was the 11th Doctor, which means he could regenerate twice more, however whenJohn Hurt came along, that made Smith the 12th Doctor, but we also learn that David Tenant’s trick of regenerating into himself a few years back had also counted, which lands us here, Matt Smith as the 13th Doctor about to face his death… yeah we don’t exactly understand it either. Despite the fact that we’re all aware that somehow there’s going to be a way around it, the Doctor doesn’t know and accepts his death.

It’s during these scenes that Matt Smith really does deliver a great performance, it becomes very emotional and very sweet, definitely a great send-off for his Doctor. It’s not just Matt Smith; credit should also go to Jenna Coleman who really does deliver a great performance as the supporting character, making the conversation between the Doctor and Clara all that more powerful. It becomes even more bittersweet as the Doctor ages quite a lot being in that town for many hundreds of years, making some of his final performances in the body of a very frail but also very childlike old man.

There are two sides to any coin. If we removed the send-off parts and focused on the story itself, I would honestly be struggling to list the positive aspects of this episode. I mean it’s not bad, but it certainly doesn’t aspire to greatness. There are quite a few elements to the story that are not really used that much or just dropped completely, for example there’s a truth field in place around the town, and it’s used for a couple of scenes but I can’t say that it added much to the story. There’s also a side story with Clara’s family back home, again doesn’t really feel like they did much, the nan delivers a speech but they treat it like it’s deeper than it actually was. The biggest case however, was after the Church of the Silence has been established, there’s a big plot reveal scene about them, and it goes nowhere, nothing changes because of it, which is quite surprising because a lengthy scene was devoted just to reveal it.

This special does face the same problem that the 50th anniversary did, and that’s overuse of deus ex machina, which is when something incredibly convenient shows up at the climax and solves everything. It wasn’t pushed as bad as in the anniversary special but still feels like lazy writing to me, which is strange because Stephen Moffat has proved himself to be a great writer on more than one occasion and yet still he resorts to just convenient events solving the climax. I really hope it’s not a practise that continues.  However it’s not all bad, there’s a wooden Cyberman which is always fun, also the Doctor gets to be quite badass as he defends the town throughout the years.

As I said, okay episode, great send-off, considering it is meant to be episode devoted to saying goodbye to Matt Smith I’m willing to overall say it was a good special. I really hope that the Capaldi years turn out to be an enjoyable and well-written series… and I also hope that he keeps his Scottish accent.