Could The Time of the Doctor being drawing to a close? That’s the name of the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, which will see Matt Smith bow out of the iconic role to make way for Peter Capaldi. It follows the same naming pattern of much of the Who material we’ve seen since last spring. The seventh season finale was The Name of the Doctor, followed by the Night of the Doctor minisode, followed by the Day of the Doctor 50th anniversary special. You can see the first teaser for The Time of the Doctor up top, and the official synopsis below. And you can read as far as that without really spoiling anything. Below the synopsis, however…things are going to get heavy (with apologies to another well-known time traveler).
Orbiting a quiet backwater planet, the massed forces of the universe’s deadliest species gather, drawn to a mysterious message that echoes out to the stars — and amongst them, the Doctor. Rescuing Clara from a family Christmas dinner, the Time Lord and his best friend must learn what this enigmatic signal means for his own fate and that of the universe.
HARK! MIGHTY SPOILERS LURK BENEATH!
The folks over at Bleeding Cool have had a very good record when it comes to Doctor Who rumors. They’re the folks who broke the story about the BBC recovering previously thought-lost Who material months before it was officially confirmed. Now they purport to have gotten their hands on an outline for The Time of the Doctor, and while they aren’t sharing it in full, they did serve up some tasty and intriguing tidbits. Via Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston:
A bell tolls across the Universe. Many are afraid, The Doctor and Clara are… curious.
You will come to Christmas Town, a place of peace, welcomed by Rob Jarvis and Tessa Peake-Jones.
You will come to Trenzalore, a planet of war.
You will find out where Gallifrey went.
You will discover what the Silence are.
You will see who the voice in the TARDIS was.
The episode will be nine hundred years long.
There will be Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels. Some of them will be wooden. So will The Doctor.
He always has Handles. And grab hold, as you will find out what the hell that crack in space and time actually was. Because The Time of the Doctor will be going right back to “The Eleventh Hour.”
One month to go folks. Until The Time of the Doctor
It sounds like Matt Smith will be given quite the send-off. But we’re just getting started.
In the aftermath of Day of the Doctor, executive producer Steven Moffat addressed the whole Time Lord regeneration limit, and how the insertion of John Hurt’s “War Doctor” affected the numbering of the Doctor’s incarnations. After all, Matt Smith was previously the Eleventh Doctor, but if you count Hurt then he’s the Twelfth, which would make Capaldi the Thirteenth and final Doctor. Not necessarily so, says Moffat. While at the show’s 50th anniversary celebration at London’s ExCel, Moffat said Hurt’s incarnation wouldn’t change Matt Smith being the Eleventh Doctor, since Hurt’s character never used that name — he was the War Doctor. However, name changes aside, Hurt did still use up one of the Doctor’s regenerations, didn’t he? So whatever you call him, Matt Smith’s Doctor should be one more regeneration toward his end than we previously thought, right? Moffat explains:
Paul McGann turns into John Hurt so they’re not the same incarnation. He used up another regeneration and I expect he’ll be in trouble shortly — you can’t break rules laid down in ‘The Deadly Assassin’.
“The Deadly Assassin” is the Tom Baker story that first introduced the Time Lord 12-regeneration limit that’s become part of the canon. And Moffat’s comments are certainly ominous, but not surprising. The show has been destined to have to tackle that rule head on sooner or later. Given how popular and successful the show is, there’s no question that they’ll figure out a way around it. When Peter Capaldi decides to bow out a few years down the road, don’t worry, the show won’t be closing up shop. This is a show that specializes in finding twisty ways of making us think one thing’s going to happen and then surprising us with something else.
But according to new rumors from the Mirror, it sounds like Moffat will be tackling the regeneration limit sooner rather than later, and that Matt Smith may actually be not the Eleventh Doctor, nor the Twelfth Doctor…but the Thirteenth and final Doctor. Scoop yourself up a pinch or thirteen of salt and read on:
Doctor Who will face the end of a 50 year story in the Christmas special — when Time Lord Matt Smith reveals he is actually the 13th and ‘final’ Doctor.
Actor Matt, 31, has long thought to have been the Eleventh Doctor on the hit BBC sci-fi show, which can only regenerate 12 times according to the show’s folklore. Fans have worried for years that the show will have to end once the 13th Doctor dies.
But on December 25, current theories among millions of fans will be exterminated once and for all when Matt says in a dramatic speech he is the 13th Doctor and adds: ‘I’m dying and there is nothing I can do about it.’
On Saturday night at the end of the show’s 50th anniversary special, all the Doctors lined up, including John Hurt who was previously not thought to count. David Tennant’s Time Lord also used up an extra regeneration to save himself in an episode called Journey’s End.
A show source explained: ‘There have been two David Tennant Doctor Whos technically and with John Hurt playing another Doctor in the film, it basically means he can’t regenerate again.
‘The riddle of the regeneration problem, something fans have talked about for decades, will be faced head on at Christmas. There is going to be another huge cliffhanger and somehow Peter Capaldi has to join and the series has to continue.’
‘The show’s big fans, known as Whovians, won’t believe their eyes at Christmas.’
Now it’s the Mirror, so obviously it’s a long way from take-it-to-the-bank reliability, but it does track with things Moffat has said, the official details that the BBC has released, and where The Day of the Doctor left us. Moffat has specifically hinted that fans had been “miscounting” the Doctor’s regenerations. He’s also said that with The Day of the Doctor he wanted to change the course of the Time Lord’s life, give him a new defining purpose. He’s not just bouncing around time and space, he’s always working toward the goal of restoring Gallifrey. Given that, and given that the show is celebrating the monumental achievement that is hitting five decades, it would make perfect sense that Moffat would want to address the long-standing elephant in the room and resolve the regeneration limit definitively so the show can carry on into the future unfettered.
Furthermore, while Moffat hasn’t shown any hints of planning to leave the show in the immediate future, but it will inevitably, eventually pass on into other hands. Resolving the regeneration problem on top of revealing the Doctor’s actions during the Time War and given him a new defining purpose — not a bad legacy to leave, all things considered.
We’ll find out what’s real and what’s just smoke in the wind when The Time of the Doctor premieres on Christmas Day.