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New Series Episode 109:
The Time Of The Doctor
A message echoing through all of time and space emanates from the farming village of Christmas on the planet Trenzalore. With the assistance of Clara and Tasha Lem, pontiff of a mysterious religious order, the Doctor discovers that the signal is a message from Gallifrey, coming through a crack in time from another universe. Soon Trenzalore is under siege from massed hordes of the Doctor's worst enemies, as the spectre of the Time War is raised anew. Years pass into centuries, and it seems that the last days of the Doctor's final life are destined to be spent saving Christmas...
Steven Moffat accepted the offer to become Doctor Who's showrunner in 2007. By early 2008, he knew for certain that his first episode would introduce the Eleventh Doctor. But Moffat had the idea that the new Doctor's first adventure could actually tie into his last, presenting the Time Lord with a challenge which emanated from his own future. In this manner, Moffat could develop a complex storyline throughout the Eleventh Doctor's tenure, which would eventually climax in the events surrounding his regeneration. His early intention was to build to a war in which the Doctor was trapped; other details (such as the relationship of this conflict to Gallifrey and the Time War) would only present themselves during the ensuing years.
With this plan in mind, the story which introduced Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor at the start of Season Thirty-One, The Eleventh Hour, also featured the notion of cracks in time and space spreading throughout the universe and the mysterious assurance that “Silence will fall.” In the subsequent season finale, The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang, the TARDIS appeared to explode as the result of the intervention of an unknown force, while many of the Doctor's enemies were brought together because they believed that he would be the cause of the universe's end. The next year introduced the sinister creatures who referred to themselves as the Silence. Their associate, the enigmatic Madame Kovarian, kidnapped the Doctor's pregnant companion, Amy Pond, and tried to brainwash her daughter (who would become River Song) to compel her to assassinate the Doctor, all to avert an unspecified war. In Season Thirty-Two's final episode, The Wedding Of River Song, another prophecy was uttered: “On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered.“ This was “the oldest question in the universe” that was “hidden in plain sight”: “Doctor who?”
From the start, Matt Smith had suggested to Moffat that he wanted to limit his time on Doctor Who to three seasons. In mid-2012, Smith and Moffat agreed that the actor would remain for The Day Of The Doctor, the special episode which would celebrate Doctor Who's fiftieth anniversary on November 23rd, 2013, before making the subsequent Christmas special his final adventure. As such, Moffat began to move his overarching storyline towards its final phase. The Season Thirty-Three finale, The Name Of The Doctor, saw the Eleventh Doctor discover his own tomb on the planet Trenzalore. Then The Day Of The Doctor revealed that the Doctor's home planet, Gallifrey, had not been destroyed in the Time War, but in fact had been hidden and lost in a pocket universe.
This set up the major elements which Moffat would need to cover in the Eleventh Doctor's last story. Here it would be shown that the Time Lords were reaching out through a remaining crack in time, broadcasting a truth field and the question “Doctor Who?”. Should the Doctor arrive and answer the question by speaking his true name, they would know that it was safe to return to the normal universe. However, the return of the Time Lords raised the spectre of the Time War reigniting, inspiring the creation of the Church of the Silence (of which the previously-seen Silents were confessional priests) to prevent the Doctor from answering the question. A breakaway chapter led by Madame Kovarian would seek to use time travel to eliminate the Doctor before he could arrive on Trenzalore, but would inadvertently create the cracks in time in the first place as a result of their attempt to destroy the TARDIS.
The development of The Day Of The Doctor added an extra wrinkle to these proceedings. The anniversary special introduced a hitherto unknown Doctor who fought in the Time War. As such, the Eleventh Doctor was really the Time Lord's twelfth incarnation -- pushing him precariously close to the thirteen-body limit which had been established in 1976's The Deadly Assassin. The Tenth Doctor had also used regeneration energy to create a half-human version of himself in 2008's Journey's End. Moffat now reasoned that this would count towards the overall total, making the Eleventh Doctor the last of the Doctors (although this would seem to contradict dialogue in some of his earlier stories). Consequently, the Christmas special would also resolve the question of what would happen when the Doctor ran out of regenerations -- a conundrum which had vexed Doctor Who fans for many years.
Moffat completed his first draft of the Christmas special in mid-August. At this point, it was called “Twelfth Night”, referring to the festival which celebrated the end of the Christmas season and had inspired the title of the William Shakespeare play Twelfth Night, or What You Will. Two elements were included to reflect events in Smith's life since he had finished recording The Day Of The Doctor in April. First, he had shaved his head for his role in the movie Lost River. This would force him to wear a wig for “Twelfth Night”, and so Moffat decided to incorporate this into the narrative. Furthermore, Smith would be undergoing knee surgery shortly before filming began, and so Moffat had the Weeping Angels injure the Doctor's leg, resulting in it eventually turning to stone and being replaced with a prosthesis. (References to this wooden leg would ultimately be deleted in editing, when it was decided that because the artificial limb was never shown on screen, the notion came across as superfluous.)
During the regeneration scene, Moffat initially hoped to include cameo appearances by many of the Eleventh Doctor's friends. Apart from Clara, these included Amy Pond, Rory Williams, River Song, Brian Williams, Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, Commander Strax, Dorium Maldovar, plus Craig Owens, his wife Sophie and their son Alfie (aka Stormageddon). Later, these plans were scaled back, eliminating some characters but adding Barnable and Handles from “Twelfth Night” itself, before it was finally decided that only Amy would appear.
Directing the Christmas special would be Jamie Payne, who had made his Doctor Who debut on Hide for Season Thirty-Three. First on the recording schedule was Clara's flat, with interiors erected at BBC Roath Lock on September 8th and 9th, and the exteriors really Lydstep Flats in Gabalfa on the 10th. For the town of Christmas, cast and crew travelled to a FIBUA (Fighting In Built-Up Areas) village at the Sennybridge Training Area in Powys -- a Cold War-era mock-up of a German hamlet used for simulated exercises. Filming there took place on September 11th, 12th, 15th and 16th. On the 17th and 18th, the top of the clock tower was erected at the Mamhilad Park Estate in Pontypool. September 19th saw Puzzlewood near Colesford serve as the Trenzalore forest.
The rest of “Twelfth Night” was recorded in the studio -- chiefly at Roath Lock -- beginning on September 23rd and 24th with the clock tower basement. The Papal Mainframe entrance chamber was the principal set for the next three days, together with the Dalek spaceship and the effects shots of the Sontaran tank on the 25th, the Cyberman spaceship on the 26th, and the TARDIS plus the Mainframe corridor on the 27th. Cameras were rolling on the corridor set again on September 30th, as well as Tasha Lem's chapel. More TARDIS and chapel material was recorded on October 1st and 2nd, respectively.
On the night of the 2nd, Payne invited Peter Capaldi onto the TARDIS set in order to make himself comfortable in advance of filming the regeneration scene the next day. October 3rd was dedicated to the special's closing moments, with Karen Gillan also present for her cameo as Amy Pond. (Ironically, like Smith, Gillan had shaved her head for a movie role -- as the blue-skinned Nebula in Guardians Of The Galaxy -- and so she also donned a wig for her return to Doctor Who.) In the past, the young Amelia had been played by Gillan's cousin, Caitlin Blackwood. However, Blackwood now looked much older than when she had first appeared in The Eleventh Hour, and so it was Jessica Davies who was glimpsed running through the console room.
More TARDIS and chapel sequences were recorded on October 4th. Then, on the 5th, Matt Smith filmed his final Doctor Who scenes. The day was again spent on the TARDIS set; Smith's last shots concerned the business with the external police box telephone. Producer Marcus Wilson had been delighted with the model filming undertaken for The Day Of The Doctor and so three days were set aside for miniatures work on “Twelfth Night”; spanning October 14th to 16th, this took place at Halliford Film Studios in Shepperton, Middlesex.
In post-production, the voices emanating through the crack in time from Gallifrey were provided by Ken Bones, who had been the Time Lord General in The Day Of The Doctor. Given the close connection between “Twelfth Night” and the two preceding episodes, it was decided to give it a new title which made this link explicit: The Time Of The Doctor. And on Christmas Day, Matt Smith's time as the Doctor was up. But with Peter Capaldi taking the reins -- and considering his pedigree both as an actor and as a Doctor Who fan -- there had perhaps never been such anticipation for a new Doctor.
|Updated 26th June 2015|
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