Season 7, Episode 14: The Name of The Doctor
– Posted by Sage
Soooo, that happened.
At least some aspects of the leaked 50th Anniversary details were accurate, as the seventh series finale of Doctor Who introduced John Hurt as the Doctor’s greatest secret: a secret Doctor. How we doing so far? You guys with me?
Moffat has been winding us up for months with promises of revelations that would change the very course of the show. Add those to the reveal of the cheeky episode title and baby, you got a troll in the dungeon. Thought you oughta know.
So, it was with breath more baited than usual that we clicked over to BBCAmerica or pressed play on our slightly left of legal mp4s last Saturday. Had the powers that be really decided that it was time to reveal the Doctor’s given name? The very idea is fandom sacrilege.
Put your pitchforks down everybody, ’cause our man’s Gallifreyan identity is still as hidden as Strax’s mood levelers. As promised, the episode DID end with a pretty massive reveal – even bigger than the origin of The Impossible Girl. But let’s back up for a mo, shall we?
The Scooby team of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are back for the finale – no surprise considering how linked they’ve been to a post-Manhattan Doctor and the mystery of Clara Oswald. Vastra comes into contact with Clarence DeMarco, a condemned murderer who tries to buy his freedom with some critical info about the Doctor and his enemies. He also knows a nifty little rhyme about the Whisper Men, a pretty blatantly Whendon-esque group of villains who are somehow involved. Who is Clarence DeMarco and how does he know these things? We don’t get an explanation, but Vastra finds the information trustworthy enough to place a “conference call” with Strax, Jenny, and “the women” – Clara and Professor River Song. Hello, sweetie.
The “conference call” is essentially a group lucid dream. “Time travel has always been possible in dreams,” says Vastra, so all the gang has to do is knock themselves out to meet up for a non-corporeal tea party. But wait: why doesn’t the Doctor use this method of communication ALL THE TIME? It seems dead useful. The Moffat era is known for rewriting some rules and introducing devices that service the story at hand, but, in the dubious tradition of Hermione’s time turner, never are mentioned again. Think of what he could do with this though. I doubt it’s limited by the barriers between universes, so the Doctor could have a standing date with one Rose Tyler. He could even visit Donna Noble, who would awake to her average life with a lingering suspicion that she might just be more important than her circumstances suggest. He could check in on a pregnant Amy and Rory and see how things are going with Mickey and Martha. Maybe it IS possible. But – as we find out when the Doctor shows River that he can always see her – it might also be too painful to even consider.
Anyway, some shit goes down when Jenny realizes that she forgot to lock the door and the Whisper Men are attacking their physical selves. Clara wakes up to find the Doctor playing a game of Blind Man’s Bluff (in a very jaunty blindfold, I might add) with Angie and Artie and tells him what she heard. And it makes him do this:
Whatever your opinion of this season, it’s almost impossible to deny that it was a tour-de-force for Matt Smith. For every monster speech, there were ten tiny moments like this one, where he gets right down to the heart of the Doctor. This scene reminded me of Ten’s conversation with Wilf in “The End of Time.” No matter how many friends he surrounds himself with, the Doctor is completely alone in the world – especially when he faces death. And it terrifies him. Of course, he’ll be brave and take the TARDIS to Trenzalore to rescue his friends. But he needs this moment to break down and pick himself back up. He asks Clara is there’s any point in telling her how dangerous it will be, and his little grin in response to her answer is everything. He will always be surprised and humbled by the lengths that people will go to to protect him. Maybe he’s not so alone after all.
Trenzalore is an awfully pretty name for an awfully ugly place. Pretty much the worst place in the world, in fact, since it’s where our Doctor is buried. (This was a rough episode for me, as my throat starts to close up any time anyone alludes to him being dead.) As if the burned-out, battle graveyard wasn’t a depressing enough setting, Dr. Simeon (aka the physical form taken by The Great Intelligence) shows up with the Whisper Men, who are essentially TGI’s muscle. There’s something in the grave that they want, and the grave can only be opened with a password. The answer to the eternal question. Doctor who?
It’s not, though you know we all wildly thought so for one frantic second. No, while the Doctor was begging for mercy (ouch), River’s echo said the name. (And I assume that River herself created the secret entrance to the tomb, using her name as a clue.) The party moves into the overgrown, dead TARDIS (ouch again) and we see the final resting place of our Brave Little Toaster. It’s not a body. “Bodies are boring.” It’s the Doctor’s timeline – everything he was and will be. The Great Intelligence is not just going to kill him. It’s going to take out his entire history and future, reversing every good (and bad?) deed he’s ever done.
And now, we learn two things about Clara Oswald:
#1: She looks fantastic in clothing from any period.
And #2: She was born to save the Doctor.
Thanks to her second journey into the centre of the TARDIS, Clara remembers what the Doctor told her about meeting her other selves in her first. Smart cookie that she is, she realizes that, just as Simeon can destroy the Doctor at all points in time, she can rescue him in the same way. And actually, she already has. She’s not the little girl from the Library. She’s not the Bad Wolf. She’s not the Doctor’s daughter. In the end, it turns out that Clara IS just a regular human girl who did an extraordinary thing. And it’s pretty bad ass.
Which is one reason why the Doctor politely ignores everyone who warns him not to go back into the timeline to save the one, true Clara. Let’s just take a moment to reflect on the fact that he didn’t hesitate for one second in the decision to rescue her, despite what must have been his CERTAINTY that the trip would result in him coming into direct contact with a part of himself he is so ashamed of that he doesn’t even consider it to be his true identity. Could John Hurt’s character be the true Ninth Doctor? If he is the one who destroyed the Daleks and the Time Lords (“in the name of peace and sanity.”), it makes sense that our Nine started his adventures in such a dark place. (It also makes Rose’s influence on him even more remarkable. #shippergoggles #doesntmakeitanylesstrue) Nine’s sole purpose of existing was to EARN back his chosen name. To keep the promise that his last self broke.
I wish I were more well-versed in Classic Who, but I do know a bit about the Valeyard, who was mentioned as another name for the Doctor in this episode. If the true Ninth Doctor didn’t end with his regeneration into Eccleston, is there a version of the Doctor (without that name) who, as the result of some very un-Doctorlike decisions, BECOMES the Valeyard who testifies against Six to the High Council?
Whoever this guy this, the Doctor sure isn’t happy with him. And with that, the stage is set for the epic 50th Anniversary special. Which is SIX MONTHS FROM NOW. SIX MONTHS. SIX. MONTHS. Seis meses. And normals wonder why Doctor Who fans are so slap-happy most of the time.
Timey Wimey Observations:
- “If you hear the Whisper Men, the Whisper Men are near. If you hear the Whisper Men, then turn away your ear. Do not hear the Whisper Men, whatever else you do. For once you’ve heard the Whisper Men, they’ll stop and look and you. ”
Again, these guys are a direct homage to Buffy‘s Gentlemen, right down to the creepy rhyme.
- The first rule of Strax Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Strax Fight Club.
- “Sleep well, my love.”
- “How did you do that?” “Disgracefully.” The Sass Master is back, ya’ll.
- “They cared for me during the dark times. Never questioned me, never judged me. They were just…kind.”
- We finally know why the TARDIS didn’t like Clara. She knew that being with Clara would eventually lead the Doctor to Trenzalore, and she was trying to protect him.
- What is this battle that the Doctor died in? TGI describes it as a “minor skirmish by the Doctor’s blood-soaked standards,” but it’s obviously a pivotal moment in the universe.
- “Jenny.” The Doctor’s reaction to Jenny being alive was precious. He has such a crush on her.
- “You are always here to me. And I always listen and I always see you.” In the entire show, this is the moment where Doctor/River felt most real to me. I don’t think it negates or lessens Doctor/Rose in any way. What I understand about River now is that she needs for him to show, in a romantic way, that he loves her. If it’s not that, then she thinks that she was meaningless. That kiss is his gift to her, to show how well he knows her and to prove that she is a force in his life. I hope that this is where we leave River, not because I don’t like having her around, but because it was such a satisfying end to her story. And it was an ending that she always wanted. Also, it was the first time in ages that we’ve seen the Doctor INITIATE a kiss that wasn’t played for laughs. And it was hot.
- “Since nobody else in this room can see you, god knows how that looked.”
- “You’re my impossible girl.” Killing me softly with this pronoun change, Doctor.
And that’s a wrap on Series 7! What did you think of the finale, Whovians? Were you satisfied or disappointed with Clara’s explanation? Do you think John Hurt is playing the Time War regeneration? And finally, HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE IT TILL NOVEMBER?