Steven Moffat proved one thing with last night’s Christmas special of Doctor Who: when it came time for his Doctor’s regeneration, Moffatt was in over his head.
This episode put a fork in the drop in quality that has come with Moffatt’s time as a show-runner. First, this was nothing like every other Christmas special of Doctor Who. What, did they finally run out of things to make scary? Snowmen, Christmas trees, presents - it’s all been done. Here, we got nothing. The only thing that even remotely made this a Christmas special was that the town the Doctor vows to protect on the planet of Trenzalore just happens to be named “Christmas.” Oh, also, it snows.
Any reference to the holiday season ends there, aside from some silly sub-plot in which Clara is trying desperately to cook Christmas dinner for her family, so the Doctor offers to cook it for her using energy from the TARDIS (yes, really). Would anyone be comfortable actually eating that thing? We saw what that energy did to Rose back in season one. But no matter, because this sub-plot disappears in a sea of other sub-plots in an episode that struggles to figure out what its main plot actually is, aside from it being the end of Matt Smith’s reign as the Doctor.
As for Trenzalore, this is supposed to be the planet on which the Doctor ultimately dies for good, which he didn’t. It’s also supposed to be where the TARDIS dies for good, which she didn’t. Moffatt’s getting a little carried away with his “changing history” and “time can be rewritten” bravado. When the Doctor essentially yells “screw the rules!” to the Daleks, you can imagine Moffatt standing in his place, yelling that to former show-runner Russell T. Davies.
Matt’s regeneration was a mess. First, Matt explains that he is the final regeneration and, therefore, the 13th Doctor. Then, the Gallifreyans, who are apparently only a crack in the sky away (and therefore should be less difficult to locate) pass on what appears to be one additional regeneration so that the Doctor can use that energy to destroy the monsters that are increasingly bearing down on the planet. No explanation is given as to why this happened or what’s to come after Capaldi’s Doctor’s time is over. Was the Doctor bestowed with a whole new set of regenerations, like the Master was back in the day? It’s not entirely clear. We’d be satisfied in knowing that this will be answered next season, but there’s no indication as of yet that it will be.
Then, instead of regenerating immediately into Peter Capaldi as he should have because that’s the way it always works, they toyed with us and dragged it out. First, the Doctor’s clothes are strewn all over the floor, indicating that he may be in his new body. Then we get a close-up of his feet, which we are supposed to wonder to whom they belong, but oh, look, it’s just Matt in his normal clothes. Matt reveals that the regeneration is taking a longer “re-set” this time, which was basically an excuse to grant Matt his final monologue, a melodramatic dropping of his bow-tie onto the floor (which he seemingly put on just to drop, that drama queen), and a (what, memory? mirage?) of Amy Pond, who we see both in her young form from when he first met her, as well as in her older form.
Did the TARDIS grant the Doctor another of her famous holograms of former companions so he wouldn’t have to die alone? Well, no, because he had Clara by his side (even if she is Navi from the Legend of Zelda series), so we’re left to assume that this was Moffatt’s way of both trying to dredge up symbolism and to get you to cry more, even though Clara’s (stepmother?) already chided us earlier when she broke the fourth wall about crying on Christmas.
By the time the credits rolled, we couldn’t remember what Matt’s last line was, thanks to all of the distractions and the ship-shod way he regenerated. That was a travesty; he deserved better for all he has put up with.
Following this was Capaldi’s first scene as the Doctor (not counting his blink-and-you-missed-it cameo in the 50th anniversary special), and Moffatt would have you believe that the first thing he would notice is an internal organ. How the hell would he know what color his kidneys are? Eccleston noticing his ears? Yes. Tennant being stopped by his own teeth? Yes. Matt taking stock of his hair and legs? Yes. But kidneys? Now you’re trying too hard. Add to that the swelling of the music drowning out the audio, and we could barely make out what Capaldi’s first lines were as the Doctor. He too deserved better.
This haphazard and sudden jump-cut of a regeneration scene won’t be one we’ll be interested in re-watching, much like most of Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor. When it comes to Moffatt and Smith’s time together coming to a close, it ended with the wrong man stepping down.