In a town called Christmas, the Doctor’s life cycle comes to an end.
It is a quiet, snowy town, where dawn lasts mere minutes and the truth must always be spoken. But above this town–a human settlement on the planet of Trenzalore–a war is brewing. All of the Doctors enemies have come to call. But what draws them to such a sleepy place?
From the other side of a crack in the wall, Gallifrey is calling. The wound in time and space has closed, but scar tissue has been left behind. And through that open wound, in an alternate universe, the planet of the Time Lords calls to the Doctor, beseeching him to answer an essential question: “Doctor who?”
If he answers with his true name, the Time Lords will know that it is safe to come back to their home universe…but his enemies above will not have that. Neither will Mother Superious Tasha Lem of the Church of the Papal Mainframe, who is determined to keep the universe in tact. If the Time Lords come to Trenzalore with all their enemies present, the Time War will begin again.
Before any of this can happen, however, Clara calls the Doctor in for a Christmas crisis. She’s invented a boyfriend, and now must produce him for a family dinner. He shows up naked–after all, one must attend church (of the Papal Mainframe) in his or her birthday suit. At Clara’s shock and dismay, he creates a holographic projection of clothing around himself…but forgets to make it visible to the rest of her family.
There’s also a turkey emergency, and Clara and the Doctor bring the bird back to the TARDIS to cook. Which brings us back to their trip to the Papal Mainframe, where the Doctor shares a flirtatious encounter with Mother Superious and Clara spots her very first Confessional Priest (previously known as “the Silence”). She bursts in on the pair, only to forget why.
Once the Doctor discovers the danger posed to the planet, however, he tricks Clara into leaving. Unwilling to part with the Time Lord, she clings to the outside of the TARDIS upon arriving back on Earth. In this way, she travels through the Vortex, Captain Jack style, and returns to Trenzalore 300 years later, only to find that the Doctor has aged a great deal.
In that time, the Church of the Papal Mainframe has become the Church of the Silence, hellbent on keeping the Doctor from answering the Time Lords’ call. We learn, however, that the Order run by Madame Kovarian was a renegade group; the Mother Superious had no intention of killing the Doctor, and remains his ally. Still, battles rage on – the Doctor’s enemies land on the planet, and he must constantly fight them off.
He has become a fixture in the town of Christmas–a part of their daily lives. He even teaches the children to dance in the unique and bizarre style that we fondly associate with the Eleventh Doctor.
He is angry at Clara for returning–after all, he wanted to save her life–and she is equally angry that he sent her away. They quickly forgive one another, and the Doctor takes her into his home, decorated with children’s drawings.
Inside, he keeps a cyber head that he has named “Handles.” His constant companion for 300 years finally shuts down for the last time. And Handles is not the only one whose time is coming to an end.
Clara is in the bizarre position of standing in the Doctor’s shoes. For once, instead of watching his companion age and die, Clara is watching the Doctor do so. After all, he explains, even his life cycle is not unlimited.
A Time Lord is granted but thirteen lives, he explains, and he has used his up. Not only did the War Doctor count, but so did the Tenth Doctor’s aborted regeneration. “I had vanity issues at the time,” he says, by way of explanation.
Tasha calls the Doctor and Clara to church, but she and her fellows have been murdered and overtaken by Daleks. Still, she is a strong woman, and the Doctor helps her fight back, keeping the Dalek within at bay.
Once again, the Doctor sends Clara back home, where her stepmother tries to console her by giving her a list of eligible men. Her grandmother tells the story of how she met Clara’s grandfather, bringing tears to Clara’s eyes. Just then, the TARDIS reappears, and Clara returns to Trenzalore.
There, the Doctor has finally taken on the appearance of an old man, and war is being waged outside. But all is not yet lost; Clara speaks to the crack in the wall, imploring the Time Lords to help the Doctor. And from across the multiverse, they do.
The night sky opens, and a burst of regenerative energy hits the Doctor. The Time Lords have granted him the gift of a new life cycle. “If you want my life,” he shouts at the Daleks, “come and get it!”
Regenerative flames burst from his hands and face, attacking the Daleks as they approach. The town is in ruins, but the battle is won. Clara makes her way back to the TARDIS, where she sees the Doctor’s clothes strewn about, and an empty bowl of fish fingers and custard on the console.
The Eleventh Doctor reappears, young again, but not for long. His regenerative cycle is starting anew, and he’s only temporarily been reset to his previous self. He makes a beautiful speech about the nature of change, and Clara, with realization dawning, begins to cry.
A young Amelia Pond runs past–a hallucination of the Doctor’s disappearing self. Foots descend the TARDIS steps, and, lo and behold, Karen Gillan arrives for one final appearance as Amy Pond. She’s there to take her Raggedy Man and wish him goodnight.
His last act is to remove his bow tie–a symbol of the change that is to come. Clara moves toward him, begging him not to change, but it’s too late. The Twelfth Doctor has arrived.
“Kidneys! I’ve got new kidneys!” he spouts, then adds in distaste, “I don’t like the color.”
This results in Clara’s baffled reply: “Of your kidneys?”
Before he can begin to explain, however, the TARDIS lurches. It’s an emergency, but there’s a slight problem; the Doctor’s forgotten how to fly!
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