The Name of the Doctor Review (Part 2): Questions, Questions
Clint Hassell concludes his Series 7 finale review.
Series 7’s blockbuster-of-the-week format expanded Doctor Who’s scope to include a variety of genres. Episodes have been styled variously as a western, a gritty noir, as historical fiction, as both techno- and political thrillers, and as a horror. Perhaps, however, “The Name of the Doctor” introduces the most unique category yet: Doctor Who-as-book-club. While Steven Moffat has always crafted his scripts to encourage speculation about the episode’s twisty plot, the Series 7 finale raises meta questions that inquire about the series’ real-life aspects, and its mythology as a whole. So, grab a cup of tea, help yourself to a Jammie Dodger, and let’s begin the discussion!
Does Moffat hate Eight?
After Clara is spread across the Doctor’s time line, she is shown to encounter each of his eleven incarnations, and Susan. While the first seven Doctors receive more attention than the next three, it is Eight who fares the worst – his only presence in the episode being a quick brush past Clara that is so blurry, only his collar and cravat identify him as Eight. The clip is but twelve frames, and is repeated twice, meaning Eight’s entire presence in the episode lasts one second. While it is certainly arguable that, with only one TV movie to his tenure, appropriate footage or a good sound bite simply weren’t available for inclusion. Or, maybe, Moffat just doesn’t like Eight? Which is fine – everybody has their favorite and least favorite Doctor – but it’s definitely a departure from the revived Who’s prominent placement of Eight within the canon.
Why do we need a monster in every episode?
The Whisper Men seem to exist merely to have a monster in the episode. They are a bit of handwaving – solid when necessary, ephemeral when needed, seemingly unstoppable, but with no discernible motive – and are only present to serve as henchmen to the Great Intelligence. Granted, a lot occurs in Moffat’s script and there is precious little time to develop these new characters beyond being “atmospherically creepy,” but it does raise a point: there are times when the monster-of-the-week format has a negative effect on the show. “The Rings of Akhaten,” which already had two monsters in the Mummy and the giant parasite, became overcrowded by the underused Vigil. “The Power of Three” disposed of the Shakri so quickly as to prove their lack of importance to the episode. Even “Hide,” which was revealed to have atypical monsters – the “ghost” was a trapped time traveler, and the “crooked man” was a similarly stranded alien – was affected, as viewers rejected the separated alien couple as not being “monstrous” enough. The monster-of-the-week format establishes an expectation that causes writers to shoehorn in unnecessary characters, or to disappoint fans by breaking with typical “monstrous” behavior.
Where were the Silents in “The Name of the Doctor”?
Their murderous methods aside, the Silents did have valid cause to prevent the Doctor from answering the “first question” on Trenzalore, as doing so opened the Doctor’s tomb, exposing his time scar – and therefore all of the good he had ever accomplished – to the crazed Great Intelligence. Across the universe, stars faded from existence and countless beings ceased to exist. The Silents weren’t trying to kill the Doctor out of revenge or malice, but to preserve the good he had done. Much like the Alliance before them, they feared him because of his universe-ending potential. That, Moffat, is a mind blowing twist! So, why no mention of the Silents, to wrap up that two-year-old subplot?
Why does the Doctor cry?
Because Jenny is dead? Because the Great Intelligence endangered his friends? Because he has to face his “fall” at Trenzalore? We have seen a maudlin Doctor worried about facing his apparent death before, spending 200 years running from it between “The God Complex” and “Closing Time”/”The Impossible Astronaut.”
I do love how taken aback Clara is by seeing the Doctor in tears. By only serving as a companion on Wednesdays, she is less familiar with his personality; seeing him this emotionally raw should surprise her, and the scene is beautifully done. (Now that she’s saved all of his existence, can she please become a proper, full-time companion?)
Will the crack in the TARDIS’ window remain? The narrative gives an indication that it might – it is reflected in the eventual, enlarged TARDIS-tomb – and it would certainly be a lasting change to an icon of the show. Can you imagine a time, 30 or 40 years from now, when we aged fans will claim to remember “when the TARDIS didn’t have that crack”?
What’s the nature of the Great Intelligence’s indictment of the Doctor?
The Great Intelligence refers to the Doctor as “the cruel tyrant,” “the slaughterer of the 10 billion,” and “the final darkness.” Why? The Daleks have similar names for the Doctor, and we know their reasoning. Is the Great Intelligence referring to the Doctor’s role in ending the Time War? Is this foreshadowing for the 50th anniversary special? Why would the Great Intelligence care, as the Time War was primarily between the Daleks and the Time Lords (though, yes, it did involve some other worlds)?
Much like the Weeping Angels in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the Great Intelligence serves as more of a plot device than a developed villain. Because it is so singularly focused upon its goal – but for reasons not truly explained – the Great Intelligence becomes a nefarious caricature from some melodrama. Revenge at the cost of one’s own existence seems ignorant. (That being said, being a disembodied, ancient god from before this universe, I guess in some classical sense, it is fitting that the Great Intelligence’s reasons are so primeval.)
Does River regret her fate?
Notice that River – a woman whose “real” form died in order to save the Doctor, who now exists as a “copy” – admonishes Clara against doing the exact same thing. This is a very different River than the one we saw in “The Wedding of River Song,” who called an entire universe to the Doctor’s aid, who was willing to let all of time disintegrate to spare herself the pain of killing the Time Lord. However, those events preceded her death in “Forest of the Dead.” Does her changed attitude indicate that she now regrets her fate
Have we, in fact, seen the last of River?
The Doctor knows, without asking, that Clara hasn’t met River at some random point in River’s life. This indicates that the Doctor and River have filled in every gap in their respective diaries and that there are no more shared adventures to expect. This fits with Night and the Doctor, which revealed that River probably never met any Doctor past Eleven. Still, River’s “spoilers” comment could be interpreted to indicate a connection between Clara and River that results in River’s continued existence. So, have we seen the last of the Doctor’s wife? (No, not that that wife.)
And, how about that kiss?
Considering how Eleven and River have been written in Series 6 and 7, it seems out of character for the Doctor to choose to passionately kiss River. Normally, I’m of the mind that writers should give the fans what they need, and not what they want. However, seeing as how this may be the last we see of River, don’t the Doctor/River shippers really deserve this moment?
Is the Doctor immortal now?
Dorium’s prophecy regarding “the fields of Trenzalore, the fall of the Eleventh, and the question, ‘Doctor who?’” has come to pass – the “fall” being a literal plummet from the sky via an uncooperative TARDIS. (Clara: “How do we get there?” The Doctor: “We fall.”) Does this mean that, as with his death at Lake Silencio, the Doctor has managed to fulfill his destiny in a way that did not end in his demise? Or does the presence of the TARDIS-tomb on Trenzalore and the Great Intelligence’s story of a “minor skirmish” indicate that there is more to come? Does Eleven’s comment that Trenzalore is a “battlefield graveyard” mean that the “skirmish” in question will occur on Trenzalore proper? Would that mean that, once the Doctor is off-world, he is free to laugh in the face of danger, knowing that he cannot die until he has returned to the place of his prophesized death?
- The Whisper Men brought Strax and Vastra to Trenzalore to force the Doctor into speaking his name and opening his tomb. Why did they bring Jenny? She was dead.
- Who built the secret entrance to the tomb? For what purpose? Could it have been the work of one of the many Clara echoes?
- Why did River open the door to the Doctor’s tomb, knowing that it would devastate both the Doctor’s existence and the universe?
- Why does the Paternoster Gang do nothing when the Doctor calls out to them to stop the Great Intelligence as it approaches the time scar?
- Why is the Doctor only incapacitated in the presence of his time scar before the Great Intelligence tampers with the Doctor’s timeline and not after Clara fixes it?
- If the time scar represents all of the Doctor’s time line, past and present, why did Clara not see any manifestations of the Doctor beyond Eleven? Even with the John Hurt Doctor taking one of the regenerations, shouldn’t there still be one more face? Could this be a subtle, even unintended indication that Moffat may be aware of, but is not planning to write for, any Doctor beyond Eleven?
- Why didn’t Clara see the John Hurt Doctor? Could it be that whatever act he committed to violate the name of “the Doctor” erased him from time (and possibly the Doctor’s conscious – but not subconscious – memory)?
Rose < Martha < Donna < Amy & Rory < Clara?
Rose disintegrated the Dalek fleet to save the Doctor. Martha single-handed saved the entire world. Donna became “the most important woman in the whole wide universe.” Amy and Rory ended up being the Doctor’s parents-in-law. Now, Clara is responsible for setting the Doctor off on his very adventures, and has been present in the background, saving him, the entire time. The companion role is growing successively bigger and more “important.” Where will this all end?