In many ways, Matt Smith's final episode of "Doctor Who" seemed an apt reflection of the actor's particular take on the character. The show was strikingly poignant, charming, a little sexy and yet sometimes bordered on frantic. Maybe too frantic; by the end, the show was playing so fast and loose with mythology it felt as if Steven Moffat was trying to pull a fast one on all of us.
Of course, a lot of "rules" had to be addressed (and broken), plus homages need to be made to Eleven, plus there was that Christmas theme that had to be wedged in (though I loved that Easter Island joke, didn't you?). Most of it was smart, some of it was just smart-assed. While I'm going to withhold judgment on some twists until I can watch the episode again (no one thought to just ask the Time Lords nicely for a hand for hundreds and hundreds of years?), I think it's safe to say that Moffat and company just decided, eh, we're boxed into a corner since some dummy tossed in limited regeneration back in the friggin' olden days, so, well, Time Lords, wooga booga, look over there! Maybe there will be a more detailed or convincing explanation later in the show, but, since this was the last episode for Smith, I think everyone's willing to let it pass. There was so much more to focus on, after all.
Smith definitely got a whiz banger of a goodbye, of course, one that pulled our heartstrings (Jenna Coleman could not be a better foil for this) and gave them a chance to swap jokey repartee. Really, at the beginning of the episode, it seemed as if we were headed for a light, wacky show that somehow zapped in Peter Capaldi for no particular reason. I was reminded of some of the Billie Piper episodes, when Rose seemed stuck on more real world problems than big picture space travel; I would have expected her to need help cooking a turkey more so than Clara. I couldn't see how we could possibly switch from such a featherweight tone to more serious issues, but with just one word -- Gallifrey -- the show somehow managed to do just that.
The Siege of Trenzalore wasn't entirely successful from a storytelling perspective -- I think, even with over an hour to fill, it was just too much to squeeze in along with everything else -- but watching Smith galavanting in Christmas, far from his Tardis and Clara and (for a while) his usual time-tripping adventures, was nice for us as an audience and for Smith as an actor. Given that he followed in pretty exceptional footsteps (a lot of people, myself included, are still a little sad that David Tennant isn't the Doctor anymore, even with "Broadchurch" to make up for it), Smith managed to put his own unique spin on the character and make him his own. Part of the fun in watching this episode was being reminded of all that we've been through with Eleven -- the Silence, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, Amelia Pond -- and also seeing the story moved forward. It did get a little confusing, unfortunately, and after a certain point I just had to pause the television to clear my head.
Sidebar: Was anyone else shocked that Karen Gillan showed up for that brief cameo, especially after we missed her in "The Day of the Doctor"? I'm assuming that was not some fancy editing of old footage, right? If so, that's such a testament to her respect for Smith -- and, more importantly, she wasn't bringing back the character for any reason. The only thing that could have made this better would have been some reason to have River Song stop by his daydream. Or, you know, Rory.
I'm sorry we won't be getting to see more of Smith with Orla Brady (Tasha Lem), as that relationship looked awfully nuanced and interesting. But, even with a Dalek in her, she's not really dead yet -- and I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing her going toe-to-toe with Capaldi.
There was a lot to like in this final farewell (and this very, very short hello to Capaldi), and there was some to groan about, too. But I think it was a more than decent send-off for Smith, who managed not to make some of the more sentimental moments sappy (Though he had many, many lines of dialogue along these lines, I still loved, "It all disappears, doesn't it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror."). I'm sorry to see Smith go, but I'm awfully interested to see what Capaldi does with the part. I guess that's all anyone could hope for, isn't it?
What did you think of "The Time of the Doctor"?