TV & Radio
Blu-ray review: Doctor Who - Time of the Doctor
(BBC/Roadshow Entertainment, PG)
Reviewed by Chris Gardner
The internet is full of stories of Matt Smith bursting into tears when he read his final lines as the Doctor for the first time.
REVIEW: Now Kiwi Doctor Who fans can finally see those scenes in a Blu-ray extra Behind the Lens. It shows the moment in the first cast read through when Smith read the Doctor's lines:"I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when The Doctor was me."
It's not surprising that Smith, sat next to co-star Jenna Coleman, would have such a reaction as many who have worked with him have found it hard to discover where Matt Smith ends and the Doctor begins.
"All I could see was your hair," Smith tells Coleman in an interview afterwards. "I am not really a sort of a weepie guy. I don't know what happened to me to be honest with you."
The Blu-ray edition of Smith's final story, the 2013 Christmas special aired in New Zealand on Boxing Day within hours of its UK screening, is the best way to see this story.
It was somewhat hard to follow on Prime on Boxing Day in a room full of people, some only half watching, with frequent advert breaks.
Upon a second viewing I discovered the plot was much simpler than I thought on Boxing Day.
The Doctor, with his new Cyberman head of a companion Handles, investigates a mysterious signal believed to be coming from his lost home planet of Gallifrey. But the Church of the Papal Mainframe, headed by the mysterious Tasha Lem, has got there first . . . along with just about every adversary the Doctor has faced.
Of course show runner Steven Moffat has thrown in a twist that will send chills down the spine of Doctor Who fans . . . it wouldn't be a Moffat script if he didn't . . . and it all ends with Smith's Doctor regenerating into Peter Capaldi. This is, of course, impossible. Smith's Doctor reveals that he is not number 11, as assumed until November's story, but number 13 thanks to John Hurt being a messing link and his immediate predecessor David Tennant's Doctor using up one of his regenerations in the Dalek story Stolen Earth. According to Time Lord rules he should only have 12 regenerations.
This story, then, works hard to explain how a 13th regeneration is possible and enables television's longest running series to set itself up for another 50 years.
The inclusion of Smith's 3 other Christmas specials only goes to show the range that both the show and the actor are capable of.
His first, A Christmas Carol from 2010, might just be my favourite Doctor Who episode ever. It might be short on companions Amy and Rory but includes one of the best guest casts ever. Michael Gambon is epic as a future Scrooge like character, who is so mean he won't lift a finger to prevent the crash of a starship on his "halfway out of the dark" world. And then there's the sublime singer Katherine Jenkins who he has sentenced to death.
The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe, which followed in 2011, was not quite as successful but is still a wonderful Narnia themed story with a good cast. Comedian Bill Bailey, however, is wasted.
The Snowmen, from 2012, was Coleman's second appearance in the show but not as companion Clara Oswald. It also brings back Richard E. Grant to Doctor Who as The Great Intelligence. Grant had appeared in the 40th anniversary web serial Scream of the Shalka.
Back to The Time of the Doctor, though. Alex Kingston fans will be disappointed that the Doctor's wife, Professor River Song, is absent from this adventure? She is the most obvious character to appear in Smith's last episode. Or is she absent? Tasha Lem, who we learn is disguised as a hologram, could well be the good professor. The Doctor does reveal that it's possible to be trained to see through the holograms. It's only a suspicion, but this is the sort of thing Moffat would write into a script if he had written the part for River Song only to discover that Kingston was not available.
There's lot of other clues for devotes Whovians to follow.
"Times change and so must I," says Smith's Doctor in the closing minutes. "We all change when you think about it. We're all different people all through our lives. And that's ok, that's good, as long as you keep moving, as 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."
RIP Doctor, you're the toughest act to follow.