Doctor Who fans watching Peter Capaldi’s debut episode Deep Breath on Saturday were treated to a surprise reappearance from his predecessor Matt Smith, as the 11th Doctor crossed space and time via a poignant phone call to his friend Clara.
As Capaldi’s new Doctor handed a mobile phone to Jenna Coleman’s companion outside the Tardis, Smith’s Doctor was seen inside – on the other end of the line, but in another place at another time.
In an emotional conversation that will have had many viewers choking back the tears, the Doctor told Clara that his regeneration was on the way, before asking her to give his strange new incarnation a second chance.
“It’s me, Clara. The Doctor. I’m phoing you from Trenzalore. It’s all still to happen for me, it’s coming. Oh, it’s coming… Not long now. I can feel it.
“And I think you might be scared. And however scared you are, Clara, the man you are with right now… the man I hope you are with, believe me, is more scared than anything you can imagine right now and he needs you.
“Go on and don’t be afraid. Good-bye Clara. Miss you.”
After the 11th Doctor had signed off, a stunned Clara approached the new Doctor, looking for the man she had just been speaking to, before finally telling him “Thank you. For phoning.”
Smith’s scene was filmed at the same time as his farewell episode The Time of the Doctor, and harks back to a moment on the planet of Trenzalore, in which Clara steps inside the Tardis and absent-mindedly hangs up the phone, which is dangling from its cord. We now know that the Doctor had just finished the call she would receive all those light years later.
It’s a smart idea from writer Moffat – an attempt to reassure both Clara and many young Doctor Who fans that the older, fiercer Time Lord they’ve been left with is really the same gangly, exuberant young man they previously knew as the Doctor.
Moffat will only be hoping that the reappearance of Matt Smith is treated by viewers as a final farewell from the 11th Doctor – and a positive endorsement of Capaldi – rather than just another taste of what they were missing.
The Doctor Who issue of the new Radio Times iPad and iPhone edition features an exclusive animated cover and photo galleries, a 68-page bonus magazine looking back at the 10th anniversary of Doctor Who, an interview with Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat’s series-eight episode guide