Doctor Who Season 7 Review “The Name of the Doctor”

Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 13 The Name of the Doctor (23)

Right then. After that whirlwind of a Doctor Who finale, ‘The Name of the Doctor’ I can’t be alone in scratching my head and desperately trying to put the pieces together. If you were one of those lucky people that managed to avoid the big John Hurt spoiler, then even more so I expect. But what does it all mean? Well, Moffat wasn’t lying when he said it would change the show forever and, while the title of the episode might have been a big red herring, we did reach a resolution for both River Song and Clara Oswin Oswald. How satisfying those conclusions were depends on what kind of fan you are.

Starting with the set-up of the episode itself, the opening sequence was all kinds of awesome. The flashback to old faces throughout the show’s history, with Clara unexplainably and mysteriously dropped into various points in the Doctor’s lifetime, was a huge treat for fans and begs the question: if this is what they pull out of the bag in the finale, what wonders can we expect from November’s birthday celebrations? It didn’t stop here either, with glimpses of Doctors one through eleven popping up throughout. You don’t have to be brushed up on your Who history to appreciate this kind of thing, and I’m glad the writers know that.

We knew it would be a special episode with things we’d never seen before, and that certainly came with the idea of visiting the Doctor’s final resting place. Torn down in a battle on Trenzalore (mentioned in the Clara/Doctor prequel clip), the Doctor and his TARDIS reside on the planet – a place the living Doctor has been avoiding for some time. Paradoxes you see. What’s much more intriguing is the way the Great Intelligence and his (underused) Whispermen lackeys described our great hero – a cruel tyrant living in darker and darker hues – which would come into play to a great degree much later.

While there, we find the corpse of the TARDIS, no longer smaller on the outside, and enter to find scar tissue of the Doctor’s journey through time. This takes the form of a big glow-ey column which actually looks lovely, adding mood to the already incredibly dark and muted colouring of the episode. The Great Intelligence decides that to kill the Doctor he must enter his timeline and destroy him multiple times simultaneously, but Clara, realising who she is and what she must do, enters after him. She was “born to save the Doctor”, and scattered throughout time to do so.

The Great Intelligence was the villain of the season, but it’s surprising that the episode had any time for them at all. His brilliant plan to destroy the Doctor was merely a device to explain Clara’s impossible-ness, for example, and that explaining is done pretty seamlessly. If, like me, you are the kind of Doctor Who fan who loiters on spoiler websites and Tumblr accounts for theories on the show’s yearly mystery, then this fairly simple answer to Clara’s identity may indeed have been a little disappointing but, taking a step back, it’s also a fairly graceful and sensible way to go.

I mentioned that River was also in this episode, and all signs point to this being Alex Kingston’s final Who appearance. A lot of us feel that it’s been around the time for a while and her final farewell to the Doctor – with a big passionate snog goodbye – felt just right. The implication is that she, in her post-library data form, has been haunting the Doctor for a while, so fans are left to fill in the gaps as to what happened between them off-screen. I don’t believe everything about their relationship had to be overtly demonstrated to fans of the couple, and I feel like this closes the chapter in a respectful way.

But the final moments of the episode are where things get really mad, as the Doctor risks his own life to save Clara from certain death inside of his own time-stream. Having the Doctor enter his own timeline is mind-boggling stuff on its own but, when a mysterious figure emerges in front on him and his companion, things take a turn. It’s a gut-punch moment which I won’t spoil here because, having known about the twist ahead of time, I can’t help but feel it’s better left unspoiled. It’s also where we leave the show until November, with as a good a cliffhanger as the show has likely ever produced.

So we don’t know the Doctor’s name, as semi-promised, but we do know the meaning of his moniker. ‘The Doctor’ is a title he chose for himself – a promise – and a version of himself who breaks that promise can no longer call themselves by the same name. Where does this leave us for the 50th anniversary? We have discovered the Doctor’s biggest secret, the thing he is most ashamed of, and we can assume he’ll remain trapped within his own timeline. This is the perfect excuse for old characters (such as David Tennant and Billie Piper – yay!) to return, and a fabulous set-up for the celebration we have been promised. Great stuff.

What did you think of the episode? Were you satisfied with the answers we got? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.