This past December’s Doctor Who Christmas special featured Matt Smith’s very last appearance (as the lead, anyway) as the Eleventh Doctor. Called “The Time of the Doctor,” it brought him to Trenzalore, the planet of his death, and included a war with his greatest enemies, such as The Angels, The Silence, The Daleks, and The Cybermen. Now, that special is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
At the beginning of the hour, The Doctor (Matt Smith) travels to a busy planet that he is told is Gallifrey, though it clearly isn’t. There, all of his enemies have gathered, and the Papal Mainframe, led by old (though never seen before on screen) friend Tasha Lem (a terrific Orla Brady, Fringe, Jo). Gallifrey is present, trying to break through the cracks in space time, but only if The Doctor tells The Time Lords his name, confirming they have reached the proper universe.
This seems like a good thing, but it’s not because the return of The Time Lords to the universe would reignite The Time War, meaning a LOT of death would follow. Tasha wants to prevent this, even if it means killing The Doctor, which makes her a tad bit dangerous. The Doctor realizes the predicament, and decides to stay at the planet, not making a decision about his people or not, while his enemies attack.
Like last year’s holiday outing, “The Time of the Doctor” is not a fluff, stand-alone installment. Instead, it’s a huge adventure, a culmination of many things. We’d long heard that “silence must fall when the question is asked,” and the unanswered question is “Doctor who?” Now, those things come together, along with a dozen other minor plot threads, all culminating in The Doctor’s last battle.
“The Time of the Doctor” does an excellent job tying up all of the continuity bits, really feeling like a satisfying capper on The Eleventh’s run. Perhaps the battles could have been bigger, but this is also a very personal tale, and on that end, it completely satisfies, not just for The Doctor, but also for Clara, who has taken awhile to grow on me, but proves her mettle here. It presents The Doctor himself as we’ve never seen him before – settled and aging – and as the tale spans centuries, it really gives us a full view of the incarnation that has now lived at least a third of The Doctor’s total existence thus far.
In this episode, Smith shows us just how great his skill as a performer is. He gets to run the gamut of emotion and experience in his final installment. He plays old and young, he plays brave and desperate, he plays friend and betrayer, he plays hero and the man who has given up. This is a tour de force performance, the kind that makes a career. To get this kind of material for his last hour, and to execute it so well, is incredible.
The very end of “The Time of the Doctor” is the perfect tie back to the beginning of The Eleventh’s story. I won’t reveal the details of it here, but it gives The Eleventh a touching, meta send-off, sure to resonate for both the character and the actor.
There are a scant three bonus features in this release, sadly. The “Farewell to Matt Smith” TV special that aired is included, as is “Behind the Lens” and “Tales from the TARDIS.” The first felt a little light to me, not quite giving the substance I desired. “Behind the Lens” is enjoyable because it’s a behind-the-scenes of this one episode, but at only twelve minutes running time, is a bit too short. I don’t know that “Tales of the TARDIS” really needed to be included here, since it isn’t Matt Smith-specific, but I guess Doctor Who fans in general will like it.
Blu-ray is the format to get this in because “The Time of the Doctor” is so effects-heavy. It’s a beautiful special, with swirling snow and a detailed setting. As usual, there are some dark, shadowy scenes, with crisp definition and layered shading. Plus, a sweeping score enhances without overpowering. A science fiction adventure like this begs for high definition.
In short, this is a visually impressive, powerfully told story that’s weak on bonus features but still worth your time. “The Time of the Doctor” is available now.