Doctor Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor” (SPOILERS)

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Wait, so this WASN’T the 50th Anniversary special? It’s an episode in which every single incarnation of the Doctor we know (and also…) is featured, and in a way that makes sense and isn’t stupid. It’s full of past characters and references and mystery and intrigue and loss and sadness and endings and beginnings and…. Man, “The Name of the Doctor” had everything. It was even about what it said on the tin, and we didn’t have to hear it. So, let’s dive in, I guess.

Vastra calls a meeting of all the awesome people who help the Doctor and are still available to be shown onscreen. That means herself, Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River, whom we haven’t seen since she left the Doctor crying and alone at the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Apparently, with the proper fragrance, people can lucid-dream their way into a Matrix construct. I did not know that. It’s a good way of getting people in the same room at once without having to mess around with pesky science or technology. They are gathered because some crazy murderer knows information regarding the fields of Trenzalore. We know this, of course, as the site of the Fall of the Eleventh, as told to the Doctor by Dorium at the end of “The Wedding of River Song.” This is bad news.

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The Great Intelligence, again played by the iconic Richard E. Grant, sends the Whisper Men, another in a long string of Moffat’s terrifying henchmen, to take/kill the members of the pentagon whilst they’re asleep. Clara wakes up and tells the Doctor what happened, causing him to cry. He knows where he must go, but he daren’t. If you could travel anywhere in time and space, obviously the one place you’d avoid is the place where you breathe your very last. We see terrible things on Trenzalore, not least of which being the remains of the TARDIS, its dimensions broken down so that the outside matches the inside. River is also here — not real River, mind, but the River that’s mentally linked to Clara.

I don’t actually understand what River is doing there and why the Doctor, we eventually learn, can see her. I get that she’s supposed to be the “saved” version of River from “Forest of the Dead,” but why wouldn’t they just pick a River who’s alive? I mean, she’s out of sequence with the Doctor; does that mean the very next thing she did after Amy and Rory got sent back to the ’40s was go to the library? Either way, I think we’re led to believe that she’s not going to be in the show anymore. I’ll miss her, I think, but I can live with it.

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The Great Intelligence’s plan is downright horrific, to jump into the Doctor’s time stream and un-right all the un-wronging he’s done throughout eternity. What a dick. Planets, galaxies, people, begin to disappear from existence, including Jenny and evil-again Strax. There is but one thing left to do – for Clara to jump in herself, completely forsake her own life, and get split into a billion pieces to save the Doctor and ensure things happen the way they should. She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

Since “Asylum of the Daleks,” back when we were surprised to see Jenna-Louise Coleman on our screens, we’ve been wondering who exactly she is, and what exactly she’s doing in multiple places in history. Now we know; she’s not a trick, or a trap, or some weird alien, or a robot, or anything like that. She’s a young lady who essentially allowed herself to be fragmented throughout time and space to save the Doctor time and time again. We see her “interact” with the Doctor throughout his whole life. I don’t care if it does look fake, seeing Clara and William Hartnell share the same frame is magical. And Tom Baker and Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton and everybody. It’s awesome. I love it.

Once things are righted, the Doctor does something even more insane that what Clara did: jump into his own time stream to save her. She eventually ends up in some horrible, bleak place and, miraculously (or not), the Doctor finds her, the real her. Except there’s another guy standing there… We do not know this guy; who’s this guy? Evidently, he’s the man who had forsaken the name of the Doctor. There have only been 11, but this one’s a mistake or something. Is he the Valeyard, is he a future Doctor, is he… a third thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and see once the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors team up.

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I’m sure there’s a lot of nitpicking to be done about this episode, but none of it really bothered me in the least. I thought everything paid off what was promised, and River’s ghost being able to open the tomb’s doors aside, the episode wasn’t a cop out. It WAS about the name of the Doctor, it WAS about finding out who and what Clara is, it WAS about something that completely changed what we knew about the show, but it doesn’t besmirch or negate any of it. It’s an episode about the past, present, and future of the character, which is something everybody can enjoy.

I adored this entire series, from “Asylum” to now. It really only had a few missteps for me, but I almost don’t care at this point. This is the show that I love to watch every week and the one I’ll be excited to watch for the next six months until the special. So, to sum it up, I loved “The Name of the Doctor,” and if you didn’t, that’s cool.

I’ll be back at some point this summer with a more thorough postmortem of Series 7 in its entirety, but right now I’m gonna go to sleep. No 50th trailer yet, but there is this very nice little bit of interview with Matt Smith and David Tennant. Excite!

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  • I don’t care what anyone says, this episode was incredible. I laughed, cried and fangirl screamed. I love the way they fixed the issue about Clara being the impossible girl without resorting to some sort of cheesy plot device.

    I’m excited to see what happens with the 50th and the start of the new season.

  • Also,It seems to me that that man in the doctors timestream was the time war doctor.When he say’s “what i did i did without choice.” it appears to me at least this is a doctor we have never been informed of.This is the doctor who was in the time war.(at least i think)

  • Here’s an idea: what if John Hurt isn’t Doctor 12, but Doctor 0? What if he’s The Doctor before he became The Doctor? What he’s looking out at looks an awful lot like some massive war. The Time War, perhaps?

  • Loved this episode!!!!! The writing was so good and as always I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Every time Doctor Who is on the whole hour just fly’s by. I hope River is not totally out of the picture. This did answer a lot of the questions about Clara but I still wonder if she could possibly be the reincarnation of Jenny, The Doctor’s Daughter. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part.

  • I liked this episode and loved the idea that John Hurt is going to be the 12th Doctor but I’m confused about something. It seems that John Hurt’s Doctor is going to be the Doctor from the time war. I’m probably mistaken but I thought that Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor was the Doctor from the Time War? Am I wrong? Won’t be offended if I am! : – )

  • In response to jcalabre24:

    While it has been implied in some of the novels, comics, and audio adventures that the 8th Doctor is the one that ended the time war, those aren’t officially canon to the show. In the show, no mention is made as to which Doctor ended the Time War, so perhaps this John Hurt Doctor is a forgotten Doctor between 8 and 9.

  • I loved this episode! I am a hopeful romantic, so I loved it when The Doctor and River kissed *sigh*…..Can’t wait for the 50th special.
    Don’t hate me, but I hope John Hurt doesn’t replace Matt Smith.
    I think they need to keep The Doctor a younger character.
    Love, love, love the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctor.

  • I have to say I agree, I thought it was a great episode. There’s a lot of naysayers and haters especially among the RTD fans, both have their fine qualities though I have to say prefer Moffat to RTD and Moffat really paid off (interestingly I find Lady Vastra and Jenny a more tender and well realized relationship than ANYTHING from the RTD era and that was hammered home). I’m sad to hear the rumour this coming season 8 is the last for Moffat and the last for Smith (with rumour of a midseason regeneration) but if tonight’s episode is any indication it will be a season where we see many rewards for our time and efforts (and also means probably more Sherlock as well so that’s a balm for the weary soul).

  • He can still be the Doctor from the Time War and still be 8. Don’t forget 8’s death/regeneration was never shown. No one knows when or how it happened.

  • Re. the assumption that Hurt is the Valeyard and came between the 8th and 9th it’s not impossible this is an aged Valeyard (as he is an incarnation that did forsake the name The Doctor) but he came between the 12th and 13th regenerations and was pulled out by The Master. Alternately it could be an aged 8th Doctor as we know he did commit some rather nasty atrocities towards the end of the Time War in an effort to end the war once and for all. I’m putting my money on Moffat pulling an entire new rabbit out of the hat but time will tell.

  • I think John Hurt will be revealed as the Time War Doctor, therefore actually being the 9th doctor and displacing the ones we know about (Eccleston really the 10th, Tennant really the 11th, Smith really the 12th). Since the Doctors have never really been “numbered” on screen (at least in the new series), I think this Time War Doctor is the secret he’s been keeping. This Doctor did something so horrible, that he’s tried to bury it deep within his own history.

  • But the Doctor has never hid the fact that he destroyed Gallifrey and the Daleks (and many other places/races) in the time war so that isnt much of a secret. I think it is something different. Pretty sure he isnt a future incarnation, as the 11th doctor wouldnt know him. So he must be a prior one. That must mean that there are 12 incarnations so far…but who can guess what Moffat has up his sleeves?

  • @Larry Yes, but rule #1: The Doctor always lies. Who’s to say he didn’t lie about the reasons he needed to end the Time War. Maybe it was a more dubious reason to it. Maybe he is taking the fall for someone else? Susan maybe?? Just throwing out random theories.

    I’m am disappointed we haven’t gotten any resolution on who is responsible for the cracks in time and the exploding TARDIS from series 5. I’m really hoping Moffatt ties that storyline up somehow.

  • The Doctor said the mystery man forsook the name “Doctor”; Clara said that the current was “the 11 Doctor”. The mystery man could be a regeneration between 8 and 9, but not a “Doctor.” It’s almost like the name “Doctor” is also a role.

  • The moment I saw the trailer and the heart of the tardis and Artron energy glowy thingy reminded me of “Bad Wolf” from Season 5. Given how the entity placed hints and entered the Time Vortex, I knew Clara would go into the Vortex.

    And for the 50th (This might make Moffat pissed that I’ve peered into the future so accurately )I’ll be betting a lot that the Trickster is going to unveil himself , he’s attempted to kill the Doctor before in “Turn Left” (he probably suggested to the GI to mess with the Doctor’s timeline at Trenzalore). Note: the whispermen look a lot like him (faceless and with those sharp teeth).

  • @Barry you never heard his name, River said it (off screen and unheard) he was saying please begging for his friends’ lives. It was not a Never Ending Story moment though I rewound four times to make sure. :-P

  • The GI said that tranzalore was one of the doctors battlefields which implies that the John hurt doctor will revert to a doctor that kills, and forsake the title of The Doctor, and die after the battle is won from shame or guilt at taking life once more.

  • So the title The Name of the Doctor wasn’t really about The Doctor’s name, I mean yeah it was, but taken a different way could also mean what the name The Doctor means. Because at the end, when the 11th doctor explains the name he chose The Doctor and how John Hurt wasn’t really The Doctor, because of what The Doctor’s name means, AKA The Name of the Doctor. Or I could be reading into it a little too much.

  • I’m new to the show (spent the last 3 weeks watching all the episodes) and this one was awesome. I’m a huge fan of 11 and River so I’m hoping this won’t be the end, but I’m getting a gut feeling it is. My silver lining to this though is that maybe because she was mentally linked to Clara, Clara will now have her memories/bits of personality, so she won’t really be dead. I’m not sure how I feel about it but that’s a theory.

  • I’ve read a few reviews of the episode and noticed no one seems to have gotten Moffet’s sneaky trick regarding the legend about “the first question”: Maldova said at Trenzalore when “no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer” which everyone assumed meant a living person would be compelled to speak, but instead it was a dead person, who is no living person, River, who couldn’t speak falsely fail or to answer.

  • There are just so many mysteries surrounding Doctor Who that if you google one it just leads you to another and another. There are still so many unanswered questions from “The End of Time” that I did not realize were there. Also WHY DID THE TARDIS EXPLODE IN SERIES 5! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  • Why doesn’t he just go to the Library and put river song info “The Flesh” It would work! She can live again, just transfer her “soul” “internal energy field” or what ever you want to call it into a new body and she’s back. She can’t be gone!

    Also, what makes everyone think that the Time Wars were the worse thing he’s ever done. He actually talks about those and Galafrey occasionally. People like The Doctor don’t reveal the worse thing they’ve ever done. Plus the wood people say “Doctor” is their word for “Great Warrior” and this is something River Song knows, I think he’s about to do, or in the case of the 11th Doctor undo, something much worse than the Time Wars. I think this all still has to do with “The Silence”

  • I think this episode is quite brilliant although I am a bit worried that the ending will be too rushed when they still set up the story 30 minutes into the show.

    However one thing that bothers me is that there’s a huge narrative jump somewhere in the middle (between the scene where Clara just regain her memories and the Doctor confronting the Great Intelligence).

    Personally what I don’t really enjoy about series 7 is that the story-telling seems too rushed. “Rings of Akhaten” could be even better if they give the characters a chance to develop and not rush the story. “Nightmare in Silver” is another one. The only exception so far that I can think of is “Hide”, the pace for that episode feels exactly right for me.

    Maybe the producers need to consider having a two-episode story lines again for stories that are really good (we haven’t had a two-parter since “Rebel Flesh”/”Almost People”).

    As for John Hurt’s character, from the exchange between him and Matt Smith, I tend to think that he is from the Last Time War as they go back and forth in past tense. (The Doctor might be a time traveler and things can go Timey-wimey but one thing I notice is that The Doctor is extremely pedantic when it comes to tenses ha3)