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What Went Wrong With 'The Time of the Doctor?'

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Jan 02, 2014 | 12:00pm EST

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Everyone has their preferences when it comes to New Who – Tennant vs. Smith, Russell T. Davies vs. Steven Moffat, the hating Martha contingencies, the Clara-has-no-personality clubs – but I think I can safely say that all parties awaited the recent Christmas special with similar fervor.

But did it deliver? Alas, it seems that most Doctor Who  fans agree that it did not. It should have – it had all of the trappings of a great episode: a regeneration, a Doctor-as-fake-boyfriend (my favorite sitcom trope), a surprise-naked scene, flirtations with a fabulous priestess, a town called Christmas, and wooden cybermen – heck, silence even fell "when the question was asked." It should have, by all accounts, been awesome, but it decidedly wasn't. What went wrong?

The list above, though full of strengths, was actually one of the problems – there was simply too much going on to cram into one episode. With so much plot, we were presented with an equal number of confusing plot holes. True, there were an awful lot of answers in this episode – pretty much every question set up in the Eleven arc, except the eponymous "Doc-tor WHO? Doc-tor WHO?" (groan). Sure, it was great to find out that the terrifying Silence were engineered to be the perfect confessors, but the idea that the Time Lords created the cracks in the universe that we've been chasing since series 5? Disappointing, just like the mysteries of "The Impossible Girl," "The Girl Who Waited" and River Song (does she have an obnoxious moniker?).

Also, two flirtations in one episode was too much, even for New Who's Lothario-esque Doctor. It was hard to sustain the Clara/Doctor love storyline with Tasha Lem around, no matter how fabulous she happened to be (also, personality-wise, she was a dead ringer for River Song – a clue to a new mystery, or Stephen Moffat's inability to write women rearing its ugly head again? Only time will tell). The whole "she's just your type" joke didn't play well against the "I secretly fancy [him]" joke, not to mention all of the meaningful face-caressing going on (I'm still mad we didn't get the kiss we deserved).

There were a lot of truly great moments in this special – the way that the Doctor decides to spend his last regeneration defending Christmas, his farewell to Amy, the final removal of the bowtie (sob), and our first glimpse of Twelve – all pitch-perfect. But like a stomachache-inducing binge of Christmas cookies, this episode just had too much of a good thing to truly give Matt Smith the send-off he deserved.

Stray Thoughts

* The Naked Doctor was another example of "too much of a good thing" – it just didn't fit in with the episode. Besides, there may be no beating Naked!Ten in "Journey's End."

* The fake-boyfriend storyline also failed to live up to its promising sitcom-esque potential. It could have been glorious!

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