According to the statistics I’ve seen, the programme that attracted the most viewers on Christmas Day was the unfailingly brilliant Mrs Brown’s Boys – a notable achievement given the competition from soapland, the dancefloor, 1950s London and, of course, Trenzalore. Apparently, Doctor Who did achieve the highest peak rating, pretty much around the moment when Matt Smith regenerated into Peter Capaldi at the end of a story that once again seems to have divided fans.
Many moons ago, I stated that Matt Smith’s Doctor was the best since Patrick Troughton, but that his performances may be over-shadowed by the overly-involved threads that were interwoven throughout his stories. Obviously any “favourite” is purely subjective, but it is perhaps more difficult to argue against the complexity of the plots during Matt’s tenure.
I’ve been a fan of the programme for more years than I care to remember and whilst I wouldn’t class myself as an expert, I like to think I have a reasonable knowledge of the Doctor’s on-screen exploits. That said, there have been a number of times when I’ve struggled to keep up with the various storylines, some of which are left an inordinate length of time before being resolved.
In some ways, I will doff my proverbial cap to Steven Moffat, the writer who has never shied away from offering the fan science fiction drama that is sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes mind-numbingly hard to grasp, but always extravagant and impressive.
Let me say here and now that I’m old school: twenty-five minutes, a cliff hanger and back for more the following week. The casual viewer could dip in and out without losing too much of the thread, but times change and there is perhaps a danger that Doctor Who has become almost self-indulgent given the nature of recent series. Moffat clearly likes his multi-monster spectaculars too, and The Time of the Doctor was no exception, but he is also capable of penning the most brilliant one-off dramas - Blink is still as good an episode as there has been since the programme returned to the small screen.
The Time of the Doctor was certainly better than the fiftieth anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. It was less self-congratulatory and despite some confusing moments and perhaps a monster or two too many, the story afforded Matt Smith the chance for a wonderfully acted and poignant (albeit slightly extended) departure. The dropping of the bow tie was a nice touch, but the big surprise was the brief appearance of Karen Gillan as Amy Pond. She stood in front of her “Raggedy Man” and the pair (both wearing wigs incidentally) tenderly placed a hand on each other’s face in a genuinely touching farewell moment – and the highpoint of the episode for me.
I’m still not totally convinced by the drop-off, pick-up nature of the Doctor’s relationship with Clara, and a perfectly good performance from Jenna Coleman was almost overshadowed by Karen Gillan’s few seconds on screen. That said, I really like Jenna in the role and I’ll be interested to see how she interacts with a much older Doctor – Peter Capaldi being the most “mature” Time Lord since William Hartnell. Obviously we are all keen to see what Peter Capaldi will bring to the character, and the series. Personally I believe his casting is a potential masterstroke, but as always with Doctor Who, only time will tell...