Doctor Who: “The Name of The Doctor” is wonderful, full of laughter, tears and everything in between
Note: The following contains spoilers, Sweetie.
So we have finally come to the end of The Doctor’s journey for this season of Doctor Who – an end that segues right into the 50th Anniversary Special that will air later this year. The journey so far has been mostly a wonderful one (with some minor missteps) that takes us into the very heart of The Doctor and his biggest secret.
“The Name of The Doctor” begins with Clara seemingly floating in and out of The Doctor’s timeline. As she narrates and tells us that she was born to save The Doctor, we get to see all of the wonderful previous incarnations of The Doctor (save the 10th – did anyone catch that?). This is obviously an explanation of things to come in the episode, but it also gives us a good synopsis of the 50 years of the series that we have all grown to love. Who would want to steal a faulty TARDIS? Who… indeed?
Flash forward to Victorian England. A mass murderer has been captured, but he seems to know more about The Doctor’s nature than anyone else. Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax create a conference call and have a virtual meeting through space and time with Clara and post-library River Song (who still exists in the library’s database). They discover that The Doctor has to go to some place he’s not supposed to go – the planet where he is buried. Meanwhile, Jenny is killed (I freaked out) and Madame Vastra and Straxx are captured by the Great Intelligence, who is obsessed about learning The Doctor’s real name.
Clara comes back to the present and tells The Doctor about what happened. As expected, The Doctor goes where he’s not supposed to in order to save his friends. Clara and The Doctor find his grave, inside the TARDIS. There, they face the Great Intelligence. It seems the only way to open the grave is by using The Doctor’s name, which explains why the GI wants it so desperately. The Doctor refuses to say it, but as River Song knows it, her incorporeal being mutters the magic words and the doors to the grave open.
Inside The Doctor’s tomb is the energy that comprises him and all of his timelines. The Great Intelligence jumps into it to destroy all of the good things The Doctor has accomplished. Everyone he has saved begins to die – including whole planets. Clara has begun to remember the events of “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS,” and knows that it is her fate to save The Doctor by jumping into the time stream and getting splintered into The Doctor’s timeline. In the future, part of her becomes the Dalek in the asylum. In the past, part of her becomes Victorian Clara. Other parts of her scatter throughout the universe and become other versions of who she is.
At the end of this episode, a strange man in the shadows of The Doctor’s mind emerges. He is the one who broke the rule, according to the 11th incarnation. He is… John Hurt as The Doctor. End Scene.
Whew – that was a lot, wasn’t it? To say this Doctor Who episode packed a huge punch in just an hour is the understatement of the century. And you know what? I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT. This is the culmination, the high point of season 7.5, and is definitely my favorite Matt Smith episode of all time. This particular story played on every emotion I have – I laughed (oh, Straxx, I adore you), I cried (Jenny!) and I cheered (Clara!). This was the story I had hoped for and serves as a very good teaser and prequel to the 50th Anniversary Special.
Let’s start with the story. Moffat loves his overreaching storylines in Doctor Who. And usually, I’m not fond of them. But this time, he got it right. The story of Clara and why she keeps popping up did get a little bit tiring by “Nightmare In Steel,” but seeing where the writers were going with it and finally getting that answer felt good. It doesn’t feel convoluted like some of Moffat’s previous big storylines and the way Jenna-Louise Coleman plays the character just made it work.
Also, we do not learn The Doctor’s name and for that I’m grateful. That is a secret I never want this show to tell us. I almost feel like if we were to learn The Doctor’s name, he would die.
Speaking of which, the idea of The Doctor having a grave somewhere in the future really made this episode dark. I can’t imagine a world without The Doctor, but like all things, he, too, must die. I’m excited that Moffat decided to actually go there with this story. It was ballsy, but paid off in the end. I got goosebumps seeing the large dead TARDIS (I also sniffled a little, I won’t lie) in the middle of this graveyard on this alien world. It was surreal and laid home the fact that no one is truly immortal, not even The Doctor.
As always, I adore Jenna-Louise Coleman. She brings to life this character who is also a million other characters. Her pain is palpable as The Doctor lays in front of her suffering. Her insistence on saving him – the strength and courage she shows as she steps into his timeline, is bloody brilliant. These scenes required some heavy acting and Coleman handled them as if they were a walk in the park.
Matt Smith is a darned fine Doctor and is still climbing up to the top of my list as one of my favorites. When Clara tells him what’s happened with the “conference call,” the pain and tears in his eyes when he realizes he must go to his own grave was wonderful – I, too, caught myself weeping with him. And how about that final goodbye to River Song? OH!!! I’m getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. Smith felt like a combination of David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston in this episode – in one moment, he’s extremely human and vulnerable. In the next, he’s an alien who is beyond anything we can ever comprehend.
So what’s next? Well, we must live without Doctor Who for a little while – which makes seeing his final resting place all that much more painful. But don’t fret because the 50th Anniversary Special will be airing later this year. I, for one, can’t hardly wait!