Farewell Matt Smith, you will always be my Doctor. For a show that celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, its longevity has always depended on the lead role changing; but the departure of Matt Smith will hurt more than most. His animated energy and otherworldly intensity was simply astonishing, capped of here with a wonderful final bow in this Christmas Special. The Time of the Doctor might not have been the perfect send-off we hoped for, as it unfortunately couldn't avoid the bombast and sentimentality that plagued previous regeneration tale The End of Time, but it did answer many of the questions that hung over the Eleventh Doctor's tenure, as well as give us a brief glimpse of what the Twelfth might be like.
The Fairytale Doctor
The Eleventh Doctor's journey has been propelled by mysteries, from the source of the crack in Amy's wall to the nature of the Silence to the answer to the question that must never be asked – Doctor Who? Papering over the "cracks" as it were, we discovered that the original source of the fractures in the space-time continuum was not the exploding Tardis from The Pandorica Opens, but the Time Lords of Gallifrey trying to break out from their bubble universe. The origins of the Silence was also explained, with the concept of them being priests to whom you always forget confessing your sins an ingenious idea.
The town of Christmas, where the cracks from Gallifrey were emerging, was also a brilliant and unique concept, a way of recognising the occasion without shoehorning in the same old clichéd elements. A pristine town where everyone can only speak the truth, this Bedford Falls trapped inside a snow globe provided a real magical send-off for the Eleventh Doctor. From crash-landing in to Amelia's garden as the raggedy Doctor to making his final stand here as the man who saved Christmas, Matt Smith's reign has been defined as a fairytale.
Here we saw him grow old defending the town from the Daleks, trapped in perpetual stalemate as he tries to both save the lives of the people of Trenzalore whilst averting the start of another Time War. Even without the abundant energy normally associated with his Doctor, Matt Smith got a chance to show off his range as the cane-swinging elderly man with a twinkle in his eye. He rightly dominated the episode, even if it did mean the plot was rushed and Clara was often sidelined from the story.
It was also a shame that the Doctor didn't get to face a great foe in his finale. Trailers had teased Daleks, Cybermen, Silence and Weeping Angels, but none of them made their mark on the episode. The Daleks could not be less scary, and are now used as the vanilla villains of the show whenever the writers want to focus more on the Doctor than the enemy. The Weeping Angels were wasted in a frightening cameo in which their stone hands clawed their way out of the snow, and the Cybermen, with headless assistant "Handles" in tow, were there to be made fun of. The Silence-Dalek we saw was also a missed opportunity – can you imagine a rampaging Dalek that you forget the moment you turn your back?
"I will always remember when the Doctor was me."
Clara's plea through the crack didn't make much sense, a giant deus ex machina that solved the stalemate as well as giving the Doctor a whole new set of regenerations. And from the Doctor yelling at the Dalek spaceship, to that vision of Amy Pond at the end, it was an ending far too overbearing and overdramatic. Matt Smith needed to be granted a final monologue, but it would have been great to see him give it in his elderly form, rather than turn the Tardis in to a stage for his grand speech to Clara (but really us viewers at home). No way near as bad as the, "I don't want to go" mawkishness of Tennant's departure, it was still disappointing to see writer Steven Moffat could not reign in the grandiloquence, especially when he did such a good job of avoiding it in the 50th anniversary special.
After this long goodbye in the Tardis, the sudden snap regeneration of Matt Smith into Peter Capaldi certainly catches you off guard. In typical fashion we're granted precious little time with the new incumbent before the credits roll, but in Capaldi's erratic motions and cluelessness behind the control, asking "Do you know how to fly thing thing?" to Clara, perhaps the Twelfth Doctor will be even more bonkers than the Eleventh?