As the days passed, and the years, the Doctor stayed true to his word. On the fields of Trenzalore, he stood as protector both of his own people and his new home.
Sontarans attack, but the Doctor disrupts their invisibility cloak, leaving them susceptible to the Papal Mainframe’s weapons system. A Weeping Angel is stopped by itself – or at least, an image of itself in a mirror. A wooden Cyberman, low-tech so as not to alert Tasha’s army, is tricked into destroying itself. He fights Ice Warriors, Autons, Krynoids and the Mara. And the Doctor becomes a key part of Christmas, socialising and dancing, regaling tales of time and space and saving the town from the evils that try to destroy it.
Then the TARDIS materialises.
Clara clings on to the outside. The TARDIS has extended the air shelter (no wonder she’s late, dragging Clara around with her), and is back on Trenzalore just minutes after it left – and yet, decades later. The Doctor tricked her; only to save her. She’s furious. But they hug and laugh nonetheless, old friends reunited.
He shows her around the tower, his home for so long now, and go up to the roof to see daybreak. “The light here lasts only a few minutes,” he says. “You don’t want to miss it.” He carries Handles up as well, resting him on a pillow. “Comfy?” he asks.
“Comfort is irrelevant,” Handles replies. The Doctor readjusts him.
“Is that better?”
Handles, however, has developed a fault. He’s lasted 300 years, but he has one final message for the Doctor: “Urgent action required. You must patch the telephone device back through the console unit.” And he powers down. Gone. Forever.
The sun comes up. It lights up that little town, halfway out of the dark, reminding the Doctor of what he’s protecting. Every single life saved is a victory.
The Doctor tells Clara that he sent her away because otherwise, he’d have had to bury her already. He saved her too – or thought he had. The Doctor can’t run away. He dies here. His regenerative cycle has come to an end. Both he and Clara saw his grave in the future; he dies among millions.
Tasha Lem requests parlay and the Doctor agrees to go up the Mainframe. The sun’s already gone down. Day only lasts a few minutes in Christmas. “Everything ends, Clara,” the Doctor says. “And sooner than you think.”
Before he goes, a small boy called Barnable asks him if he’ll come back. “I’ll wait,” Barnable says.
The Doctor and Clara meet with Tasha, passing by a line of confessional priests aka. Silence. “Genetically engineered so you forget everything you told them,” he says.
Tasha explains that “the Kovarian Chapter broke away. They travelled back along your timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore.” By blowing up the TARDIS and creating the cracks through which the Time Lords are sending their message, they became part of the destiny trap. They even engineered a psychopath to kill him. “Totally married her,” the Doctor says.
But the siege on Trenzalore is getting worse. The Daleks, especially, are focusing their attack. Three days ago, they even attacked the Mainframe. There was slaughter, and Tasha died screaming for the Doctor. A Dalek eye-stalk bursts from her forehead and a Dalek enters.
“You shouldn’t even know who I am,” the Doctor says, remembering that Oswin deleted all information from the Pathweb about him in the Dalek Asylum.
“Information concerning the Doctor was harvested from the cadaver of Tasha Lem.”
“But she never told you how to break through the Trenzalore forcefield, though. She’d have died first.”
The Dalek threatens to exterminate Clara if he doesn’t die in silence. Fortunately, Tasha breaks her conditioning and destroys the Dalek. The Doctor plans to get back into his TARDIS, but Tasha tells him that “the forcefield will hold for a while, but it will decay, and there are breaches already.” She’ll fight the Daleks above the planet.
The Doctor and Clara run back to the TARDIS – and oh look, the turkey’s cooked! The ship lands outside Clara’s block of flats and the Doctor says he’ll join her for Christmas dinner. “One thing,” Clara says. “Give me those big sad eyes, look at me so I know you’re not lying, and tell me you will never send me away ever again.”
“Clara Oswald, I will never send you away again.”
But on the TARDIS monitor, he watches an image of Barnable, waiting for him to save them all.
Clara grabs the turkey and heads out of the TARDIS. And then, it dematerialises.
Back on Trenzalore, Barnable asks why the Doctor, if he isn’t leaving them, brought the TARDIS back. “It’s a reminder,” he replies. “Besides, I might leave tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that.”
And so, to the fields of Trenzalore came all the Time Lord’s enemies. For this was the winter of the Doctor.
In time, when all other races had retreated or burned, only the Church of the Mainframe remained in the path of the Daleks. And so those ancient enemies, the Doctor and the Silence, stood back to back on the fields of Trenzalore.
Clara has rejoined her family. The Doctor has left her. Again.
Linda suggests further ‘boyfriends,’ while Gran moans about the crackers. They’re rubbish. They don’t have jokes in them – they have poems. Linda bought them.
Gran goes to tell a joke – but instead, reminisces about her husband. “I saw him on a pier on a rainy day,” she says. “I’d seen him before – lots of times – but he just looked so beautiful standing there… I wanted everything to stop. I wanted nothing to change ever again. If he could just keep standing there – so beautiful. A long time ago.”
A crying Clara hugs her… then hears the distant noise grinding noise of engines. The TARDIS. She grabs a cracker and runs out.
But the Doctor doesn’t wait for her in that blue box. It’s Tasha.
“What’s happened to him?”
Trenzalore is burning. The Daleks approach, getting closer to Christmas every second.
The TARDIS materialises in the midst of it all, and Clara and Tasha come out. “He shouldn’t die alone,” Tasha says, and Clara runs to the tower.
Inside, she finds an old, greying Doctor, his face etched with the years. He’s so happy but surprised to see Clara again – and look! She’s got a Christmas cracker!
He touches one end of the cracker, but he’s simply too weak to pull. She helps him. A poem falls out, and Clara reads it to the ancient Time Lord:
Extract from Thoughts on a Clock by Eric Ritchie Jr.
And now it’s time for one last bow; like all your other selves;
Eleven’s hour is over now; the clock is striking twelve’s.
“I don’t get it,” the Doctor says dismissively.
The people of Christmas can’t stand against the Daleks any longer: they’re too strong. And they demand to see the Doctor. This is it.
“Change the future!” Clara begs him.
“I could have once – when there were Time Lords,” he replies. “Not anymore.”
He says goodbye to her for the last time, and heads towards the tower’s top, ready to face the Daleks.
Clara, though, runs up to the crack in time, speaking directly to the Time Lords. “Listen to me, you lot. Listen! Help him. Help him change the future. Do it. Do something,” she says. “You’ve been asking a question, and it’s time someone told you you’ve been getting it wrong. His name – his name is the Doctor. All the name he needs. Everything you need to know about him. And if you love him, and you should, help him. Help him.”
She looks away… and the crack snaps shut.
She joins the villagers, watching as a huge Dalek ship hovers over the tower. “You still can’t work up the courage to shoot me, can you? You’re still worried I’ve got something up my sleeve!” the Doctor yells to them. “Well, you knock yourselves out, boys. I’ve got nothing this time.” But they’re too scared.
Then the crack appears in the sky. Shining energy billows out and heads towards the Doctor, and he swallows it up.
“The rules of regeneration are known. You have expended all your lives,” a Dalek boasts.
“Sorry, what did you say? Did you mention the rules? Now, listen – bit of advice,” the Doctor says, his hands glowing with power. “Tell me the truth if you think you know it. Lay down the law if you’re feeling brave. But – Daleks: never ever tell me the rules!”
“Emergency! Emergency! The Doctor is regenerating!”
Clara ushers the citizens of Christmas into the tower, away from harm, right as Daleks amass on the Doctor, trying to exterminate him before he regenerates.
“If you want my life,” the Doctor shouts, grinning wildly, “come – and – get – it!”
Regenerative energy bursts out of his hands, arching across the sky and crashing through the Dalek ship. It falters, falling, breaking off.
“Love from Gallifrey, boys!” the Doctor yells, and a final wave of energy ripples across Trenzalore, levelling it and destroying the Daleks.
And then. Silence.
Clara makes her way to the TARDIS. The phone hangs from the door and she puts it back on the hook. “Doctor?” she tests, entering.
His cold-weather gear lies on the floor. A bowl of fish fingers and custard waits on the central console. And the Doctor, renewed, makes his way up the stairs.
He’s young again, only a reset, and dressed in the clothes he wore when Clara met him in London. Since then, they’ve fought Ice Warriors, and Hiders, the Old God and the Great Intelligence – but now he’s here, at the fall of the Eleventh. He can’t stop it now.
He sets the TARDIS into flight.
“It all just disappears, doesn’t it?” he says. “Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now, he’s a-coming.”
“But you – you are the Doctor.”
“Yep, and I always will be. But times change and so must I.”
His hands are shining, tears rubbing at the edges of his eyes. And around the TARDIS, he sees a strike of red hair. Amelia. Rushing around, past drawings of his life and times, pinned around the control room. The Weeping Angels, the Time War, the Gunslinger, Cybermen, the Silence, the Minotaur, Idris, the Pandorica, Vincent van Gogh, Prisoner Zero…
Amy Pond reaches him, touching his face. The first face his face saw. She wishes her Raggedy Man good night. Slowly, painfully, he takes off his bow tie – and watches as it falls to the floor.
“We all change, when you think about it. We’re all different people all through our lives. And that’s okay – that’s good – you’ve got to keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
Clara eyes fill with tears, as she reaches out to the Doctor. “Please don’t change.”
A new man appears, disoriented and concerned about the colour of his kidneys. Most importantly, he has just one thing to say.
“Do you happen to know how to fly this thing?”