Raiders of the Time Lord’s Tomb: The Name of the Doctor in Perspective
Guest contributor Gustaff takes another look at Steven Moffat’s Series 7 finale.
So how do you approach an article such as this? What opening line or quote from a series that has had so many seasons and has been alive for almost 50 years do you give that covers the magnitude, the majesty and the impact an episode like The Name of The Doctor has had? Everything you’re about to read and what you’ve seen so far can be summed up in two glorious, everlasting words: Doctor Who?
Now onto the most important question answered in this story: Seven down, twelve letters, it’s been bugging me for YEARS! (Seven down…get it?) If nothing else, at least now we know why Sylvester McCoy randomly and quite pointlessly hung himself from the guardrail in Dragonfire. Just kidding. Not the most important question answered, but it was nice resolving that little slip-up.
“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…”
Every era of Doctor Who has added a little something special to the mystery that has helped raise it, cultivate it into what we regard as outstanding today. You have to understand that at every one of these junctures, people like you and me begged and pleaded with whoever was in charge not to do it…but they did it anyway and look how it turned out! In The Tenth Planet we learned of the Doctor’s ability to regenerate. In 1969, in a story entitled The War Games, we finally found out the name of the Doctor’s race. Seven years later in The Deadly Assassin, the Doctor revealed the regeneration limit of the Time Lords. Another seven years passed and in 1983, the exact number of the regenerations the Doctor had left was addressed in Mawdryn Undead. The Valeyard, one of the darkest secrets of the Doctor, made itself known three years later in Trial of a Time Lord. The Doctor announced that he was ‘more than just another Time Lord’ in Remembrance of the Daleks, leading us to belief that there was indeed something sinister, possibly evil and terrible lurking in the shadow of the Doctor and it certainly wasn’t his ‘half-human’ side he blurted out in the movie eight years later.
Don’t think the New Series took a backseat though; 2005 revealed that the Time Lords were now extinct and at the start of 2010 we learned just what led the Doctor to wipe them out. As you can see, the gaps in time between each new revelation is moderate, so it was inevitable that the Eleventh Doctor’s era would reveal another dirty little secret in our favorite Time Lord’s bag and that secret was explored in The Name of the Doctor. Not only did we find out where the Doctor will eventually die (for real this time), but we also learned of another ‘Doctor’, but not one of the Doctors that stands as the Time Lord’s biggest secret. The G.I also learned that the name doesn’t make the man and it’s really quite irrelevant apart from opening a Time Lord’s tomb. We also learned why the Doctor keeps his name so close to his hearts. On Gallifrey, Time Lords might use their true names at the drop of a hat and outsiders might even learn them, but most Time Lords, if the legacy of the moniker is to believed, will have died on Gallifrey at the end of their last life and their Time Scars will have existed on Gallifrey where intruders were not allowed, thus aliens such as the Great Intelligence wouldn’t be able to access them to cause havoc like they did in this story. For Time Lords such as the Doctor and the Master, who are constantly meddling in history and outside of Gallifrey and the Time Lords’ protection, it becomes even more crucial that nobody ever learns their actual identities.
“You didn’t listen, did you? You lot never do! That’s the problem.”
I sort of felt like the Doctor was addressing the viewers at home as opposed to Clara, but then again, Steven Moffat has a habit of supplying viewers with information that can easily be interpreted in a large assortment of ways. Silence Will Fall. Notice how nobody was speaking or gossiping when Simeon asked the Doctor’s name? Silence did fall. Moffat wasn’t talking about the species or the religion; he was addressing the people present at the event. The Fields of Trenzalore. A field, according to definition is an ‘open area free of wood and buildings or an area marked by the presence of particular objects’. I will admit I was expecting an actual field not as described above, but Moffat didn’t lie about it. The Fall of the Eleventh. We now know it was a literal fall and as for the speaking falsely part, the only lie I managed to spot in that scene was Strax boasting about defeating the Whisper Men. Although, given his personality, he might’ve actually believed it to be true. The Doctor’s greatest secret revealed. That was sort of what was put on the poster for this story. The word ‘reveal’ means to ‘cause or allow something to be seen or make previously unknown information known to others.’ His secret WAS revealed, it just wasn’t explained very clearly. The Name of the Doctor will be revealed. Yes – by River Song – inaudible to the audience. Steven Moffat would make a terrific lawyer don’t you think?
While Series 7 has had a bad case of rushed endings, Moffat’s story suffers from no such weakness. To be honest, I was expecting it to as it seemed so unmanageable to close a three year arc, along with the Doctor’s Name and the Impossible Girl in just 44 minutes. Plus you have to give the Paternoster Gang and River Song something to do as well. That is a lot of stuff that needs to happen. Fortunately though, Moffat managed to do everything I just mentioned seemingly easily and then open the door into a new mystery. Did I mention he managed to do all of this in just 44 minutes? Just checking! There is just so much that happens in this episode! Do I mention how Strax as usual can’t get any of the genders correctly and comically misses the point or what about poor Jenny getting killed twice! It can’t be done as the episode essentially felt like 44 minutes of pure overwhelming awestruck. There isn’t a second wasted here: From Clarence in the beginning to John Hurt at the end.
As mentioned, this episode had one of the largest gatherings of ‘gangs’ in Doctor Who. Not as many as Journey’s End, but keep in mind that that story was contained within two episodes.
“…do not see the Whisper Men, whatever else you do…”
Someone has been reading up on the Slender Man, hasn’t he? No explanation of their powers, origins, upper-limits – Yes the Whisper Men are clearly inspired by the Slender Man, but look more like the Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, minus the eyes but plus the rhyming couplet shtick because nothing says menacing like a maniacal nursery rhyme. Now Moffat has managed to take away the only good thing from Zagreus as the Whisper Men’s rhymes beat out the Zagreus melody. What we do know about them is that they are nothing more than Snowmen or Yeti – something that the Great Intelligence has sculpted. If I had to select one thing, then the Whisper Men drew the short end of the stick in this story. They serve only as Simeon’s bouncers (nigh-immortal bouncers mind you), but they do a smashing job of being creepy, eerie, and like the Weeping Angels, Vashta Narada and even the Silence before them, indestructible.
“You are always here to me. And I always listen. And I can always see you.”
The above should just about cover the Doctor and River’s relationship. That one sentence should be enough to prove to everyone that there may have been predecessors, but there is only one River Song and she is the Doctor’s wife whether you like it or not. If you’re clever like me and you’ve been paying attention, then you would’ve come to the realization that the River Song in this episode should’ve been the one who first learnt the Doctor’s name (from her respective viewpoint), but if you’re as clever as Moffat, you’ll have noticed that he threw fans like me for a loop by announcing that a post-Library Song was going to show up for what felt like the last time. Alex Kingston gives probably the best, if not the greatest performance of any story she’s been in so far. The idea of River being present, but also being absent from the story is a novel one as River has the tendency to steal the show whenever she pops up. This was a River Song at the very end of her timeline. She is a full and well-rounded character and this was a Doctor who was still mourning her death almost three hundred years after the fact. How utterly selfish was it of him to pretend that he couldn’t see or hear her? And at the same time, how utterly human was it to not give in to the pain by confirming her presence? Even in an advisory capacity, River managed to in-avertedly steal every one of her scenes one last time.
“I think I’ve been murdered.”
My blood froze when Jenny murmured that she might be dead and it nearly stopped when she was confirmed to be. The use of Jenny throughout her run has been hit and miss lately. Her character in this story served as something of a plot device inserted just to torture us. Although she didn’t get to utilize any of her chambermaid ninja skills here, her presence was felt even if she wasn’t in the story as considerable as her associates.
“Do not divulge our military secrets!”
There has never been any doubt that Strax’s only real purpose is to provide comic relief and make awkward situations even more awkward with his limited understanding of humans. There is no character development for him in this story and he doesn’t get to shoot someone, even though we all know he desperately wants to, but out of all the characters, Strax usually has the finest lines. This doesn’t change here as his character seems to attract great dialogue. Regular people go to parties on the weekends; Strax just goes to the pub to beat people up. Sontar-Ha!
“He saved your life when we first met.”
Vastra has given us a multitude of performances in the past. Humorous lizard, as well as cunning tactician and combat specialist, but here, we see the soul. Although still the leader, Vastra confirms that she is not stoic and her love for Jenny is explored when the poor chambermaid dies twice. The fact that she even threatens to kill Strax if he doesn’t help should be a clear indication of what position Jenny holds to her as opposed to Strax.
“The girl who dies he tries to save, she’ll die again inside his grave.”
I’m not going to go on about who she is. We all know that by now. I am however going to thank Clara for jumping into the Doctor’s Time Scar and providing viewers at home the chance to see our favorite Doctors again even if it was only stock footage and Fake Shemps. I will thank her for dressing up as Ace and finally explaining why the Seventh Doctor…no wait…I already covered that bit. Never mind.
Jokes aside, Clara fulfills her destiny and completes another bootstrap/predestination paradox, but we also get to see that she isn’t as fearless as she pretended to be in Nightmare in Silver. Her characterization felt a little off in that story. We also get to see another childhood fear from Moffat’s bag of tricks. This time, it’s Mazeophobia – the fear of being lost. Who hasn’t had that at some stage in their lives? We also get to see the human side of her when she breaks down because, essentially, she is lost in the Doctor’s timeline and just like a child; she acted impulsively at the start and now she doesn’t know what to do to get back out again.
“What were you expecting? A body? Bodies are boring. I’ve had lots of them.”
Is it just me or does Matt Smith get better and better with each episode? Pity he’s leaving. It feels like he’s reached the top of the mountain in his third season. Here, he reminds us of Tom Baker – an emotional ticking time bomb! Happy, grim, sad, pained, guilty, passionate – he does it all effortlessly! How devastating must it be to visit your own gravesite? Usually people don’t get to see where they’re buried. Those are some of the perks of being dead, but imagine what was going through the Doctor’s mind when he saw Trenzalore. The man who makes people better will eventually be buried on a battlefield, surrounded by individuals who have died placing their trust in him. It’s not even remotely beautiful and surely not someplace I’d want to be buried one day. As covered earlier, we learn that despite her not always being there, the Doctor always sees River by his side. I don’t recall that happening to Rose, Charley, Sam or even Grace. The man who hates goodbyes is finally forced to do a proper one. Can you count Sarah Jane’s? I mean, she did meet the Doctor four times after their ‘final’ goodbye. We also learn that not only will the Doctor take his name to his grave (I realize that was an awful joke), but he’ll also take whoever is with him since he still refused to tell it despite the danger his friends were in…which is ironic as he went through hell trying to rescue them.
“I said he was me, I never said he was the Doctor.”
Enough articles on this site surrounding him. Let’s move on. What I will say is this; Moffat managed to set up the 50th in quite the clever fashion. The Doctor and Clara didn’t make it out of the Time Scar and are now still inside the Doctor’s timeline. This is the very timeline where we might be able to see cameos from his past companions if the story chooses to branch of in that direction. Having past characters show up in this fashion doesn’t feel forced at all since the story acts as a surrogate shield. We might even be able to see another bunch of Fake Shemps pretending to be Doctor. Who knows?