2nd Opinion: The Name of the Doctor
John Hussey and Adam James Cuthbert each give their own verdict on the finale.
Series 7 has finally come to its conclusion, and what a series it has been, with tons of fun-filled, action-packed blockbuster adventures. ‘The Name of the Doctor’ certainly left us with a great revelation; the grand-daddy of all cliff-hangers leaving us all in shock and confusion.
Finally after fourteen episodes we have finally discovered the secret behind ‘the impossible girl’. Clara was in fact spliced through the Doctor’s own timeline in order to save him from the wrath of the Great Intelligence. That I certainly didn’t see coming until the last second when I saw the Doctor’s time-stream within his tomb. Steven Moffat is certainly a brilliant writer and delivers fantastic revelations to his plots which always leave me stunned.
The finale really did develop the Doctor’s character to new depths. Moffat has really done well in bringing mystery back into the Time Lord, an idea Andrew Cartmel incorporated during the Seventh Doctor’s era. Along with Clara’s secret, we were finally given the answers to another story-arc that has been going since the beginning of Moffat’s tenure; the meaning behind Trenzalore and the First Question. I must admit I never thought in a million years Trenzalore would be the planet in which the Doctor was buried. It added to the mystic and dark nature of the plot. Tone is one thing, but the location can also have a significant affect over the plot and how it’s perceived. It was a dark journey not only for the viewer, but also for the Doctor. He was confronted with the dangers of his most darkest secrets that must never be told or revealed.
It’s interesting that the Doctor was lured to Trenzalore by his greatest weakness; compassion. The Doctor has always been sentimental to his closest friends and would travel to the end of time in order to save them. It was fitting that this ultimate weakness was used to bring him face to face with his own grave. The most tension-filled moment (besides the final few moments which I’ll get to later) was most definitely when the Doctor came face to face with the First Question; Doctor who? This question scared the Silence to the point that they wanted the Doctor killed in order to make sure it was never answered. The question that filled our minds was what did the answer entail and we finally got told in ‘The Name of the Doctor’. His name is the password for opening the Doctor’s tomb. I was literally at the edge of my seat as the Great Intelligence tried to force the Doctor to reveal his name as I was unsure whether or not his name would be revealed and if it was what would happen once he spoke it. Unfortunately we never got the answer but perhaps this was for the best. Maybe one day we shall find out the oldest secret, but for now the show will continue to withhold that secret until the time is right.
I will admit it did seem a little strange that only his latest friends were taken out of time in order to lure the Doctor to Trenzalore. It would’ve seemed more appropriate to steal friends from across the ages in order to make a bigger impact. Just stealing Vastra, Jenny and Strax seemed small scale and less of a reason for the Doctor to risk everything by travelling to Trenzalore. Putting that aside, it didn’t really matter all that much because at the end of the day, I really like their characters so ‘The Name of the Doctor’ really reinforced their importance to the Doctor and how much he cares about them for helping him out in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ when saving Amy Pond from the Silence and in ‘The Snowmen’ during his deep depression. This story really placed them in dark territories I found, especially with Jenny nearly being killed by the Whispermen. I will also admit it did seem like a cheap trick when Strax restarted her heart so easily. It may have given more impact her dying, but then again I like Jenny’s character so in many ways it was better her surviving in order to come back for more stories. Vastra retained the spotlight within the Paternoster Gang and really showed emotional depths towards her wife Jenny and her good friend the Doctor. Like Jenny in ‘The Crimson Horror’, Vastra really gave off a new side to her which gave her more personality and depth which I enjoyed seeing. As usual, Strax was the comedian of the group and it was extremely funny seeing what he got up to on his weekends off from investigating crime. Also it was a tense moment when he reverted back into his old Sontaran way of thinking and almost struck down Vastra. For a moment, I thought Vastra was going to kill him.
It was nice to see River Song return once again to aid her mad time-travelling husband. It was interesting seeing her from after the events of ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’ and seeing how she and the Doctor incorporated with each other. At first we were led to believe that she was merely a ghost that only Clara could see. It was a nice revealing that the Doctor could in fact see her the whole time and refrained from speaking to her because he thought it would’ve brought him too much pain to do so. This scene nearly made me cry. Their entire relationship was displayed in that one scene and the love they have for each other, especially from the Doctor who on past occasions seemed a bit distant to the whole relationship between them. Like in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’, we are further told that the Doctor hates endings and this was why he saved her to the Library databank in order to keep her alive. It was sad and happy all at the same time and reinforced why I love River’s character so much. Plus, as usual, River left us a little parting present for future events; hints to what things might or might not mean. Why was River mentally linked with Clara? This is the next question we shall be asking about ‘the impossible girl’. My first thought was Clara might be River’s child but knowing Moffat, it will be more complicated and timey-wimmy than that.
As indicated at the end of ‘The Bells of Saint John’ the Great Intelligence was still alive and had now taken on the form of Dr. Simeon. Now the Great Intelligence returned to seek revenge on the Doctor for its past defeats. I’m assuming that this Great Intelligence is one from after the events of ‘The Web of Fear’ and had simply gone back to using its original mind-link form as it was the only means of possessing a psychical body. This would make more sense as it wouldn’t seem that valid for the Great Intelligence wanting revenge after one major defeat in ‘The Snowmen’ and a manner one in ‘The Bells of Saint John’. Richard E. Grant was on fine form again, like in ‘The Snowmen’ with his appearance in ‘The Bells of Saint John’ being too brief and simple for his excellent acting skills, and delivered what I define as the perfect portrayal of a Doctor Who villain; cold and without mercy. It was nice seeing Richard E. Grant allowed to expand his acting skills further but unfortunately I felt he played the wrong villain. I feel out of all the Doctor’s enemies, the Great Intelligence wasn’t the one I’d choose for such an event. The Master, in my personal opinion, would’ve suited the finale a lot more as he has the most background with the Doctor and would have the most reason to want to discover the Doctor’s oldest secret and thereby use it against him. Plus as I say above, the Great Intelligence has minimal reasons for wanting revenge on such a scale as destroying his entire life. Again, this seemed more fitting for the Master. I won’t complain about that too much but it was a little disappointing. But at the end of the day Richard E. Grant’s performance was outstanding so it did still play out well to a certain degree.
The Whispermen were another fantastic addition to the story. They were sinister and completely freaky in both presence and design. Moffat is certainly good at turning the most normal things into something deadly. It was a slight shame though that the Silence haven’t appeared at all this series. It would’ve been nice to see them try one last time to silence the Doctor and prevent him from reaching Trenzalore.
The part I found most exciting was the inclusion of all the Doctors. I am disappointed they didn’t appear in person but at least they still appeared. They managed to splice the two images together in order to make it seem like Clara was encountering the Doctor throughout his eleven incarnations. Most brilliantly of all Clara was the person who aided the First Doctor and Susan in stealing the TARDIS and escaping from Gallifrey, beginning his long, mad adventures in time and space. Here’s hoping they have another or bigger inclusion within the 50th Anniversary. After all, it has already been made clear David Tennant will return as the Tenth Doctor, so who’s to say others won’t too.
Last but not least, the revealing of the Doctor’s darkest secret. It was certainly shocking while at the same time interesting. The Doctor in fact has a hidden incarnation that has been banished from his life due to him doing something terrible. According to the Forgotten Doctor, he was forced to make a choice for peace and sanity but as the Eleventh Doctor stated, ‘not in the name of the Doctor’. It implied that that statement means more than meets the eye. There is some sort of code, or as the Doctor put it, a promise, that must be followed in order to remain the Doctor. As someone pointed out, the Doctor means to heal and protect others. Perhaps this was what the Forgotten Doctor went against, saving the day but not doing it in the right way. Assuming the rumours are true, the Forgotten Doctor lied between the Eighth and Ninth Doctor and if so, he was the one who ended the Time War. All I can say is that was one hell of a cliff-hanger, one that has certainly left me and my girlfriend crying out for more. Unfortunately though, along with the rest of the world, we have to wait to find out what happens next. Bring on the 50th Anniversary.
Unlike many, I’m ambivalent towards Moffat. I’d like to praise him – if I didn’t feel his scripts undermined their own potential. The Name of the Doctor does not, for lack of a better expression, feel ‘special’ or ‘memorable’, in the way that it perhaps should. It reaches for grand, dramatic heights, and tantalising teasers; it aims to fuel speculation – yet, somewhere along the line, it falls apart. I find myself rooting for supporting characters like Vastra and Jenny, instead of the protagonist and his companion, the dynamic that’s supposed to captivate our attention. Personally, I couldn’t care less about River Song these days – whatever intrigue her character originally possessed has dissipated.
The Name of the Doctor represents the culmination of, and closure to, Clara’s character-arc this series. It’s revealed the “Impossible Girl” was scattered throughout the Doctor’s timeline, “like confetti”, in order to reverse the damage caused to the Doctor’s timeline by the malevolent and vindictive Great Intelligence. Sadly, I’m apathetic towards what’s supposed to be a poignant, noble gesture. I’m not heartless, but I’ve found myself unable to care about, or connect with, Clara in ways I could about past companions. Her character hasn’t evolved beyond the generic attributes you’d associate with the companion-figure. She’s not truly entered into her own. Just another mystery, and once the case has been solved, move on to the next one. Much like River Song – once we had the answers, there was little else to go on.
Like I said, the supporting characters were the highlights. Both Catrin Stewart and Neve McIntosh were delightful. While Jenny’s death is only ephemeral (cheapening death, if no-one stays dead), Stewart manages to elicit a patina of pathos through her understated performance; a silent tear, begging for forgiveness. There’s a touching line of dialogue that consummates their now-poignant love, when Vastra responds to Strax’s observation of the heart as but a mere organ: “I have not found it to be so.”
[You can read Adam’s full verdict here.]