Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor Blu-Ray Review
Posted by Jeffrey Harris on 03.13.2014
The final adventure of Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor is here. The Doctor returns to Trenzalore and uncovers a universe-shattering secret. Jeffrey Harris checks in with his review of the Blu-ray release for the final Eleventh Doctor special.
"We all change. When you think about it, we are all different people, all through our lives. And that's OK. 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."
-The Eleventh Doctor, Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor
And so we come to the final adventure of Matt Smith in his tenure of The Eleventh Doctor for the hit sci-fi show Doctor Who. Despite the overwhelming popularity and growth of the show under David Tennant’s run, it seemed with Smith, the growth only continued. It got to such a level, I’m curious to see if the popularity of the show is going to level off under Peter Capaldi, since it’s an older gentleman playing the good Doctor again. Smith’s run as the Doctor lasted for three seasons, going from 2010 to 2013. His incredible run of popularity took the show through the franchise’s 50th anniversary, a massively successful global event. The popularity translated over to the US as well. The 50th Anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor,” drew BBC America’s biggest ratings ever. A special limited theatrical engagement of the special in theaters also grossed about $5 million in one day in North America. Again, it will be interesting to see if Capaldi can draw similar interest to the franchise.
In the finale for Matt Smith’s Doctor, “The Time of the Doctor,” it’s Christmas Day on Earth. Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) is trying to get out of an awkward situation by having the Doctor over to pose as her fake boyfriend for dinner. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the Tardis are orbiting a quiet backwater planet that is broadcasting a message across the universe that no one can understand. The message is drawing out the Daleks and the Cybermen alike and the The Doctor wants to know why. After being humorously introduced to Clara’s family, they return to the Tardis to use the engine to finish cooking her Christmas turkey. The Doctor’s robotic companion, the disembodied Cyberman head “Handles,” identifies the planet as Gallifrey…the Doctor’s home planet which he and his previous iterations had hoped to save with their plan in the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.” The Papal Mainframe, led by Mother Superious Tasha Lem (Orla Brady) invites the Doctor onboard their ship and transports him to the planet’s surface. After avoiding an ambush from the Weeping Angels, the Doctor and Clara discover a town called Christmas, where no one can tell a lie. However, it is here that the Doctor discovers the crack in the universe. The same crack that was causing so much trouble in season 5. And so all the pieces are coming into place for The First Question, the question that must never be answered. The question of “Doctor Who” is a message from the Time Lords of the planet Gallifrey, which is on the other side of the crack in the universe. So if the Doctor answers the question and the Time Lords and Gallifrey escape, surrounded by all the malevolent races in the universe, the Time War will start all over again. The Doctor whisks Clara away and decides to protect Christmas and Trenzalore from attacks, but also opting not to do anything about the crack, lest he free the Time Lords from the pocket universe and restart the war. And he keeps things at a stalemate for centuries.
I think this story is a good Doctor Who story, but it’s one of the stories where the parts are greater than the whole. As a regeneration story, and a grand finale for Matt Smith, it serves its purpose. And the story is very funny and humorous. Matt Smith gets to have some genuine, tear-jerker moments with Clara, and The Eleventh Doctor gets to go out with a bang. The problem is, the special came a short time after the 50th anniversary special. I’d say “The Day of the Doctor” overall trumps “The Time of the Doctor” in terms of overall storytelling.
The main problem with “The Time of the Doctor” is that it crams a lot of exposition and story into 64 minutes. And by that I mean that writer and executive producer Stephen Moffat basically crams several years worth of storytelling all into one episode. All the big conclusions for storylines that have been built up throughout Smith’s run are suddenly all revealed here, and it’ s a bit too much. It comes off as rather forced that everything has to come down to this episode. It’s a bit difficult to process all of these revelations that should be grander, more sweeping revelations, which are more or less explained in offhand remarks. The truth behind the Silence? That’s here. The truth behind River Song and her captors who raised her to assassinate the Doctor? That’s here. The truth behind the crack in the universe? That’s here. The prophecy on The First Question? That’s here. Suddenly you are losing track of all the parties and stakes because there are quite a lot of spinning plates.
The other issue is that the plot becomes incredibly contrived as the Doctor essentially strands himself on Trenzalore and basically maintains the stalemate on the planet for hundreds of years. The town of Christmas never seems to change despite being attacked by the likes of Daleks, Cybermen, and the Weeping Angels constantly. It’s a miracle and borderline nonsensical that the town’s population manages to remain and somehow endure. Yet the town never changes for some reason. The other issue is that it’s somewhat unbelievable that even being stuck on the planet for centuries without the TARDIS, it’s hard to believe the Doctor would not have come up with some sort of solution at some point. But again, this story more or less basically sacrifices story and logic for big moments and performance. And honestly, for what it’s worth, that’s fine. The Eleventh Doctor gets to have one last big heroic finale as well as a heart-breaking, tear-jerker of a goodbye. It’s an incredible monologue and transition to Peter Capaldi, and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next.
The Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0
“The Day of the Doctor” on Blu-ray is presented in 1080p HD and with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Video presentation looks overall fantastic. The colors and environments look vibrant and pop off the screen really well. The picture and visuals look sharp, crisp, and pristine. Overall, a great transfer.
The Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
The audio is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. Optional English subtitles are available. The audio mix is clean and strong. The music and score for the special sound great.
The Rating: 9.0 out of 10.0
The Extras And Packaging
“The Time of the Doctor” Blu-ray release is packaged in a standard Blu-ray clamshell case. It comes with a slip cover case that has the same image as the insert jacket. Since this is a single Christmas special Blu-ray release, special features are sort of on the small sides. Here is what’s available:
Behind the Lens
Tales from the TARDIS
Farewell to Matt Smith
So there are only three extras, but they are really good for what is available. Behind the Lens is a 13-minute, behind the scenes featurette for “The Time of the Doctor” Christmas special. It’s a good, quick look at the production of the special with behind-the-scenes footage and new interviews with the cast and crew. One fun little anecdote is the actors who played Clara Oswald’s grandmother and mother in the special actually appeared in Doctor Who previously in bit parts.
Tales from the TARDIS is a 45 minute documentary-style feature that gives a nice general overview of the Doctor Who series and franchise over the course of 50 years. This extra features interviews with many of the surviving actors who have played the Doctor over the years as well as supporting cast members from the 1960’s to today. I recall similar programming such as this was also shown on BBCA, so it’s not really original to the Blu-ray release, but it’s still good to have it collected here.
Farewell to Matt Smith is probably the best feature on the Blu-ray and is a 45 minute look at Smith’s epic run as the Doctor. It’s a great feature, and it’s really great to see how genuinely moved Smith is when he plays the Doctor. There is footage of his table read from the special on the Blu-ray, and Smith nearly breaks down from the emotions he’s feeling. It’s quite special to see things like this captured on video.
The Rating: 6.0 out of 10.0
The 411: Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor doesn't quite surpass the 50th anniversary special, but in terms of moments and the historic end to Smith's run as The Eleventh Doctor, it's quite momentous to see. The moments in this special are great, but there are a lot of big conclusions that are crammed in. At times, all the revelations that are thrown out are tough to process. The final scene of Smith's Doctor is especially memorable and one I will not soon forget. Keep in mind, this is not a packed release, and just the special and few token extras, but what is here is decent.