As the Doctor grew older, he had begun to talk about retiring from traveling in his final days (believing this to be his last regeneration) and in this episode, he retires in the only way he knows how - by staying in one place to save whoever he can.
As Eleven’s final episode and one that I think got a little twisted by feeling like two episodes that were forced due to unfortunate timing to combine (both a Christmas special and Eleven’s very dark final outing that doesn’t fit Christmas at all), this was a hard episode for me to rank, but in the end, when I watch this episode, I get completely absorbed into the story that’s being told. I truly do enjoy the end result even it’s not an episode worthy of topping my list of 25. It’s definitely worthy of opening the top 10.
The basic outline of the Trenzalore storyline that had been building for the past few series plays largely how I would have expected but fills in the blanks as the Doctor fights for hundreds of years in a seemingly endless war causing Madam Kovarian to take a group back along the Doctor’s timeline creating the events of series 6 as they use and abuse the people of Earth, River, and Amy in an attempt to prevent the Doctor from ever arriving on Trenzalore, ever fighting to save the town, or ever answering the question the Time Lords ask that could lead to potentially disastrous results (something the Doctor himself also fears).
In the events outside the war, handles gave me far too many feelings for a broken cyberman head, Clara was great in everything from her adorable inability to successfully cook anything ever to her heartbreaking moments as she says goodbye to Eleven, and Matt Smith’s final speech was a perfect way to turn regeneration into a relatable experience for everyone in the audience rather than something quite so alien and final as it can seem.
The Doctor may physically show how he changes over time by regenerating into what looks like a new person on the outside, but the rest of us go through so many internal changes as we age that, just like the Doctor, none of us are the same person all throughout our lives. That’s something I feel I can relate to very strongly as I watch myself grow older feeling both absolutely the same and yet so completely different from who I was 5, 10, 15 years ago that it’s almost strange to think I really am the same person.
And finally, Amy Pond’s return. I didn’t know how much I needed Amy back until I saw her standing there and was absolutely in love with that moment. While Amy had said goodbye to him, he never really said goodbye to her and even though he doesn’t say the words, hallucinating her telling him goodnight and pushing him towards his regeneration was his acceptance he never got when Amy left him behind.
This moment, being a hallucination of a woman long gone, very clearly brings back memories of only two episodes ago when the Doctor was forced to say goodbye to the ghost of his dead wife after having let her both metaphorically and physically haunt him since her death. These two moments combined paint a picture of a broken man who was tragically clinging to whatever he had left of the people he lost until he had no choice but to face reality.
Seeing Amy Pond standing there is simultaneously so tragically final and so uplifting, but it puts closure on a loss the Doctor suffered that had been hurting him for so long. Goodbye Amy. Goodbye Eleven. The two of you defined this Doctor’s era and we will never forget one day of any of this, but Eleven’s hour is over now.