Even more than Doctor Who‘s “The Day of the Doctor” fiftieth anniversay special on Nov. 22, that special’s effective sequel, “The Time of the Doctor,” celebrates all that is wondrous about great storytelling.
Th recent Christmas special also showed a distinct difference between the cyclical (and often dystopian) sci-fi emphasis of Russel T. Davies’ Doctor Who (from 2005–2009) and Steven Moffat’s linear (though still timey-wimey!) fantasy bent.
I had wondered if something like this might happen:
I wouldn’t be surprised if, when Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith is ready to explode into Twelfth Doctor Peter Capaldi, Moffat answers Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s anguished cry “I don’t want to go” with a quietly resigned admission from Smith such as, “I’m ready to go.”1
In “The End of Time, part 2,” the Tenth Doctor famously begs, “I don’t want to go,” before he must regenerate.
But in “The Time of the Doctor,” the Eleventh Doctor has long since made peace with his inevitable finale. Instead of begging, he quietly reminisces about his life and stories, and ponders deeper meanings of his own impending transformation into another person.
Clara: You — you are the Doctor.
The Doctor: Yep. And I always will be. But times change and so must I. We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay. That’s good. You gotta keep moving, so 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.
From the Nov. 15 piece:
Do I conclude that Moffat’s work tops Davies’s? Not at all. Moffat’s stories shine brighter in contrast with Davies’s equally truthful darker tones. The Who-verse needs both great evils and great goodness, both sci-fi dystopias and eucatastrophic fairy tales, to balance its stories. If I had to choose, however, I’d have to pick Moffat. Fairy-tale endings more closely reflect the greatest Story in which everybody — all the heroes, anyway — truly lives.
The Twelfth Doctor may no longer know “how to fly this thing.” But thank God that his stories’ showrunner does.
- Doctor Who’s Doctrine, part 9: From Dark Sci-fi to Joyous Fantasy, Stephen Burnett at Christ and Pop Culture, Nov. 15. ↩