Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who Christmas special 2013

The Time of the Doctor finally arrived – and it proved something of a shock for companion Jenna Coleman

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Matt Smith regenerates into Peter Capaldi in Doctor Who Christmas special 2013
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"Times change and so must I."

Matt Smith’s Doctor bid his final farewell tonight, ushering in a new era for the Time Lord as he regenerated into 13th incarnation Peter Capaldi at the end of Christmas special The Time of the Doctor.

The change seemed to come as something of a shock for companion Clara Oswald – maybe she had been hoping for another young, dishy model, or perhaps it was just the suddenness with which Smith’s face was replaced by Capaldi’s, but Jenna Coleman’s character appeared to recoiled at her first sight of his rather fearsome looking visage.

In the past, newly regenerated Doctors have checked out their new teeth and facial features or regretted not being ginger, but Capaldi’s first comment was “Kidneys! I've got new kidneys!” Perhaps these are the concerns of an older Doctor (at 55, Capaldi is the same age as the original and second-oldest Doctor William Hartnell when he started in the role). But at least he didn’t complain of a dodgy hip.

In fact, Matt Smith was the one more likely to do that in his final episode – viewers saw him age and wither as he spent centuries defending a town called Christmas on the planet of Trenzalore from the massed forces of the universe’s deadliest creatures, including Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels.

After over a thousand years spent travelling the universe, and with his 12 allotted portions of regeneration energy used up, the Doctor was finally staring death in the face until – phew! – the Time Lords from his home planet of Gallifrey stepped in, apparently handing the Doctor another full cycle of regenerations in recognition of his heroic actions.

Of course the last glimpse fans got to see of Smith as the Doctor was never going to be as an old man and before the regeneration process took hold he was "reset" to the young Doctor we know and love. Then Capaldi finally appeared, looking almost as taken aback as Clara and asking her, "Just one question: do you happen to know how to fly this thing...?"

Viewers will get to see how the dynamic between Capaldi and Coleman works – and whether they can successfully land the Tardis – next year, with filming on series eight of Doctor Who set to begin in January.