Doctor Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor” (SPOILERS)
By Kyle Anderson on May 18, 2013
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.
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.
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.
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!