The following contains minor spoilers from Doctor Who‘s Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor.
Given the great hullabaloo that surrounded the casting of Matt Smith, then just 26, as Doctor Who almost exactly five years ago, it’s funny that for much of his final turn he appeared in old age make-up.
In the series’ latest Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, the 11th-ish Time Lord found himself tasked with protecting a sleepy town called Christmas from no less than “all Hell” — in the form of a new Time War, were he to speak his name and thus open the door for the Time Lords to return, through a crack in the universe.
So diligent is the Doctor in assuming this role as “protector” that he’s still at it, and looking markedly older, when Clara — whom he tricked/left behind (and not for the last time!) before committing to his peacekeeper fate — returns some 300 (!) years later. He can’t run from his responsibility, lest he leave Christmas (aka Trenzalore) vulnerable. And he cannot regenerate any further, he explains, given 10′s second regeneration and counting the War Doctor. He is, technically, 13. No tricks left.
But just as this Doctor, looking very much an old man, prepares to face his last battlefield, with Daleks dead-set on delivering destruction, Clara makes an appeal to those listening from the other side of the crack in the universe. “His name is the Doctor,” she asserts. “If you love him — and you should — help him.”
Moments later, as the Doctor wages his seemingly last war of words with the grouchy, terse Daleks from atop a bell tower, a crack forms in the night sky, and through it pours the sparkles of regeneration — which a rapturous “13″ promptly uses to fend off his frequent foes.
Once the dust settles, Clara goes searching for her Doctor in the TARDIS, and for a moment it appears that the regeneration has already taken place. But it hasn’t, not just yet. Not before Matt Smith/this Time Lord can say a proper farewell to his role and Clara/Jenna Louise Coleman — “I will not forget one line of this, not one day, I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me” — and then share a lovely final scene with the spirit of Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond, so happy to see her “Raggedy Man.”
But then, a few instants later, the regeneration takes hold, and suddenly, we have a new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi — one who is alternately thrilled to have new kidneys (though not fond of the color) and desperate to know how to “fly this thing.”
What did you think of Matt Smith’s swan song as Doctor Who? Did the clunky-ish storyline surrounding the town of Christmas bog things down some? Or, all things considered, did the tale dot enough I’s and cross enough T’s in dangling mythology to satisfy?