Making Sense of Moffat’s Story Arc
Guest contributor Ben Strachan pieces together Steven Moffat’s story arc.
When Moffat took control of Doctor Who, he introduced a new Doctor, companion and TARDIS in ‘The Eleventh Hour’. Not only that, he also introduced a story arc that wouldn’t be finished until 18th May when ‘The Name of the Doctor’ was aired. This story arc has been a bit confusing for some fans, me included. I am writing this article to go over the story arc, and hopefully make sense of it all.
Act 1: The Cracks in Time
In ‘The Eleventh Hour’, the newly regenerated Doctor meets a brave young girl who is not scared of anything, apart from the crack in time on her wall. The Doctor seals it for her with the magic wand, sorry Sonic Screwdriver, however not before Prisoner Zero gets through, chased by the Atraxi. (They and the Doctor are 12 years late, Amy is 19 now) They threaten Earth’s safety, only sparing it if Zero is found. The Doctor saves the day, and whisks Amy Pond the night before her wedding; however there is another crack on the TARDIS’ screen.
During the duo’s travels they are warned about the Pandorica opening, it’s later dismissed as a fairytale by the Doctor. The crack seemed to follow them during their travels and their nature isn’t revealed until ‘Flesh & Stone’. They are a much bigger threat than the Weeping Angels in the episode; the cracks leak time energy that could erase you from existence. The time travellers eventually escape, but the Doctor learns the explosion that caused the cracks exploded on the 26th June 2010 – Amy’s wedding day. Amy doesn’t seem to be bothered about the cracks, or her husband Rory who just joined the crew. This is rectified, when it is shown how important the two are to her in ‘Cold Blood’. The most terrible thing happens: Rory is erased from time. The Doctor remembers him because he wasn’t that important to his life, but Amy can’t. We and the Doctor finally discover the TARDIS exploding is the thing that caused the cracks; a piece of shrapnel in the crack confirmed this.
A painting by Van Gogh is delivered to the Doctor, showing the TARDIS’ destruction: it’s named ‘The Pandorica Opens’, just like the episode. He, Amy and River find the Pandorica, where it is revealed as a prison created by an alliance of the Doctor’s enemies to stop him from erasing the entire universe (they believed this because they believe only he can pilot it). The TARDIS destroys every star in the universe to ever exist, which in turn stops any planet or life from ever existing. River is at the centre. Amy is killed by an Auton Rory, who is created from Amy’s memories. He redeems himself when he helps the Doctor escape from the Pandorica, who then uses the cells of the original universe in the Pandorica to recreate the universe. He does this by flying the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS, which blasts the cells to every point in space and time, in a second Big Bang. The Doctor survives with Amy and River’s memory, but like us, is puzzled as to the cause of the explosion.
Act 2: The Death of the Doctor
In ‘The Impossible Astronaut’, the TARDIS gang witness the Doctor’s death on Lake Silencio. The killer is the titular Astronaut, who the three vow not to mention to the younger Doctor when they encounter him. While stopping the Silence, the four discover that the Astronaut suit was once occupied by a young girl, later revealed to possess the ability to regenerate. The Doctor discovers that a pregnant Amy has been kidnapped by Madame Kovarian and the church. He builds up and army to save her and the baby, Melody. However, it is only a half success on Demon’s Run, they get Amy, but Melody is taken. Melody is going to be trained to kill the Doctor. She is chosen to be the killer of the Doctor because she has Time Lord DNA due to being conceived on the TARDIS. Hope is lost, but River finally reveals her identity: she is Melody Pond.
As the Doctor looks for Melody, she becomes the Ponds’ childhood friend Mels. They discover this when Mels forces them at gunpoint to kill Hitler, but ends up dying herself and regenerating into River. River poisons the Doctor, nearly killing him; however the Ponds use the Teselecta to persuade her to save him with her remaining regenerations. The Doctor takes River to hospital, leaving her there. He uses the Teselecta’s data banks to find out about his death on Lake Silencio, which is a fixed point in time. It was created by the mysterious Silence he met earlier, they are behind it all. The Silence and Kovarian kidnapped Melody to kill the Doctor, they want Silence to fall. The Doctor is clueless as to what this means, but now works out that the Silence blowing up the TARDIS was an assassination attempt (I assume they didn’t know the universe will be erased).
When River recovers, she studies archaeology to track down the Doctor, but is soon recaptured by the Silence and left in Lake Silencio wearing the astronaut suit, forced to wait for the Doctor. 200 years after leaving the Ponds, Dorium tells him why he must die and the reason the Silence wants him dead, it is because of a prophecy:
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked, one that must never, ever be answered: Doctor Who?”
The Doctor now knows that Silence will fall means the question can never be answered, so he goes to Silencio. However, not everything goes to plan. This time the younger River discharges her weapon, saving his life. Because it is a fixed point, the whole of reality stalls, with everything happening at once. Time is restored when the Doctor marries River; their contact when they kiss shortens out the differentials (?). With the Silence’s goals completed, the Ponds believed the Doctor was dead for 2 years, but River reveals that the Doctor who died was actually the Teselecta. The fixed point wasn’t his death; it was the destruction of the Teselecta and the deception itself. The Doctor begins to wipe himself from history’s records, stopping the Silence ever finding out he is alive.
Act 3: The Woman Twice Dead
Clara Oswin Oswald is the impossible girl. In the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London; she dies saving the Doctor. This brought him back into the world after the tragic loss of the Ponds in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’. He found her a third time in Modern London, where she helps him save the world from Miss Kizlet and the Great Intelligence. Clara survives this time, and becomes the Doctor’s companion during Series 7. The truth of Clara was never revealed despite his efforts, until they go to Trenzalore.
The Great Intelligence and his Whisper-Men kidnap the Paternoster Gang, trying to force the Doctor to go to Trenzalore to save them. Trenzalore is revealed to be where the Doctor is buried, and his grave is somewhere a time traveller can never go, especially the Doctor. His tomb, an aging TARDIS, is where the Great Intelligence waits. The Doctor arrives and the prophecy is fulfilled: the question “Doctor who?” is asked. The answer, his name, will open the tomb. Luckily for him, River whispers it in secret.
Inside the Doctor’s tomb it is revealed why the Silence wanted to stop anyone ever opening it: it is the Doctor’s own personal time tunnel. If any of the Doctor’s enemies ever got their hands on it, they could do untold damage; they could rewrite the whole of history or destroy the universe. The Great Intelligence does both, even though he will die. Clara was told about her being impossible in ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’, but only remembers when she enters the aging TARDIS. With this knowledge, she realises what she must do. She enters the Doctor’s time tunnel and stops everything the Great Intelligence has done to the Doctor’s timeline, that is how she meets the Doctor not just twice, but at nearly every adventure of his life, including when he and Susan stole the TARDIS nearly 1000 years ago.
This article intended to look back on Moffat’s fantastic 3 act story arc and hopefully explain some of the loop holes Moffat has yet to mention since they happened (e.g. the explosion of the TARDIS). There’s a theory about Trenzalore that the prophecy is yet to be fulfilled, this is because the ‘no living thing can speak falsely’ part of it wasn’t significant. I hope this isn’t the case, because the episode was the best possible ending to the arc, I am not sure Moffat could write a better one. I hope you enjoyed the article, and are looking forward to the 50th, which was superbly set up by Moffat in a fantastic cliffhanger.