Now I’m the one feeling like I don’t know where I am. Wow. Now that is how you finale a beloved television show about to come upon its 50th anniversary. Steven Moffat, I knew you’d pull through with the finale of Doctor Who, but that ending? I am positively walloped. And could not possibly be more annoyed that November 23, 2013 is so far away.
At long last, season seven’s finale episode “The Name of the Doctor” answered some of the major questions fans faced this season. And yet, so many more were raised. But rather than being frustrating (as certain fans across the Interwebs have felt this year), the whole thing was truly (to steal a phrase from Nine) fantastic. “The Name of the Doctor” is far and away the standout episode of season seven. You went and saved the best for last, didn’t you, Doctor?
First of all: I told you! I told you, I told you, I told you: always have faith in Steven Moffat, you guys. Always. This man has been planning this storyline since — very likely — the beginning of his tenure on Who. Naysayers worried about classic Who are welcome to shut the s**t up from now on.
And then, of course, there’s our Impossible Girl. Turns out Clara was born to save the Doctor (which makes sense, considering how often she’s saved the day in her episodes) in his every iteration. A theory so simple, it was perfect and ensured the human aspect of the Doctor’s travels remained intact. The episode opened with a bang: Clara, falling through the Doctor’s timeline, splintering off into an infinite number of pieces to ensure any life-ending decisions were avoided. We are zoomed through Clara’s many lives: from Gallifrey (how cool was that, by the by?), to the earth, the TARDIS, and beyond: she may have never known him and he may have never known her, but she always did her duty. She blew into our world on a leaf (the leaf is back!). But: where did that leaf come from? Wasn’t it destroyed by Grandfather in “The Rings of Ahkaten”? What makes this leaf so special? As is often the case on this show, by merely answering one question you create several others. But since we know Clara’s back for the 50th anniversary special, we’re hopeful that those others will get their explanation in due time.
The other important woman in the Doctor’s life — River Song (played by the delightful Alex Kingston) — has finally made her return. But this is not just any River Song: Professor Song is coming to us straight from The Library! (And those of you who have been reading along since I began recapping Who know that I’m a total nutter for “The Library”). And in this instance of River, we saw a return to form — less snarky, super cheeky, holding secrets, but still full of the vim and verve we expect from the Doctor’s wife (well, the one that isn’t the TARDIS, natch).
The episode really began when River and Clara were summoned by Vastra and Jenny, (alongside Strax — love anytime the Paternoster Gang gets together) to a dream-state conference call. The Doctor is in trouble, and the Whisper Men have arrived. Vastra assumed that River Song and Clara had not yet met, but (at least to me) it seemed fairly obvious that River has 100% met Clara before (spoilers, sweetie!), especially considering her statement at the end that their mental link was still alive and well. That, naturally, didn’t stop her “goodbye” from being one of the most heartfelt and lovely of the series, even if I still don’t understand how the Doctor could see her but no one else could. Many a Whovian had some rain on their face at that point.
Let’s talk about those creepy Whisper Men, though, eh? Our merry, motely crew were stolen up by the truly unsettling new baddies and brought to Trenzalore: the burial place of the Doctor. Moffat has done gangbusters to create what I’m considering to be an extension of the Great Intelligence — or at least the henchmen that do its bidding. And what made them so unsettling? The fact that they were nothing at all: merely hollow, whitewashed shells in a humanoid shape, with some seriously killer dagger teeth. While they didn’t do much outside of get manipulated into the image of Dr. Walter Simeon when needed, something tells us their power is quite impressive. There’s still much to learn about these creepy, creepy dudes.
And then the time came: the name of the Doctor, the key to opening his grave. Some of the more cynical fans out there were worried that the lore and magic of the series would end the moment the Doctor’s name was revealed, but in a stroke of ingenuity, it turns out to be Echo River that says it. And all without us hearing a peep! Good.
Returning to our Impossible Clara, her journey through time encapsulated thousands of lifetimes. River Song’s echo tried to convince her otherwise — telling her she would die, claiming that it wouldn’t be her saving the Doctor, just copies of her — but Clara knows that a copy is enough — after all, “The soufflé isn’t the soufflé: the soufflé is the recipe.” Clara is a recipe crafted to be perfect. The Doctor’s perfect companion: a soufflé made just for him.
And those last four minutes (a.k.a. the reason your almighty recapper didn’t have her review finished until after the episode aired, as they were removed from press screeners)? Wow. Doctors dashing to and fro, a confused Clara caught in their midsts, that damn leaf, and: John Hurt… the Doctor?! S**t, you guys. You guys! Here I thought this show had gone as dark and devious as it could, but now we have two Doctors at once — and this dude seems hardly the good cop to Eleven’s bad cop. Cue the ominous and vague: Hurt’s Doctor “what he did without choice” in the name of “peace and sanity,” but not in the name of the Doctor. So he is, but he isn’t? TWIST, y’all.
50th Theories (a.k.a. My Favorite Part)
So, we know that John Hurt is the Doctor in another iteration. As I’ve thought for a few episodes now, I still believe him to be the Valeyard. Why? Well, because he was mentioned in this episode (by Dr. Gideon) when he mentioned the three iterations of the Doctor — The Storm, The Beast, and The Valeyard — and there have been allusions to him all season: including talk of a “mad man” who created the laws of physics during “The Rings of Ahkaten,” (The Valeyard would’ve, essentially by existing, created his own alternate timeline and universe — often known as the Dark Matrix), and Madame Vastra’s talk of killing Jack the Ripper — an alias assumed by the Valeyard — in “A Good Man Goes to War.”
So that would mean we still have The Beast and The Storm to deal with. We have heard mention of the Doctor being known as “The Oncoming Storm” (and Alfie Owens fancied himself Stormageddon as you might recall from “Closing Time” — P.S. I’m convinced these two are coming back thanks to James Corden a.k.a. Craig Owens — mayhaps he be someone to help the Doctor in the 50th?), and we know that David Tennant is coming back (though as 10 or 10.5 we can’t be sure) — but that could make him The Beast.
There’s a big gash that we saw in “Nightmare in Silver,” between Ten and Eleven is probably exactly where John Hurt’s character is situated. True, in the history of Who, they explain that he is created “sometime between the twelfth and thirteenth iterations” — but, if he happened between Ten and Eleven, that would make him eleven, Matt Smith is then bumped up to Twelve, and in turn still hold up the idea that the Valeyard was created after the twelfth regeneration. But then it would be HIS fall, (the Valeyard/John Hurt/whatever his name is) that ends the Silence and the myth.
Another interesting coincidence is from the episode of “The Crimson Horror” we saw two weeks ago. There, we encountered Mr. Sweet, a creepy-crawly parasitic entity that was never named (but Vastra knew well) and had some mind control over Ms. Gillyflower. What if Mr. Sweet was actually an Es’Cartrss of the Tactires (a cranial parasite from Callufrax Minor)? Interesting to note is that the Es’Cartrss actually called itself the Valeyard and in a comic called “The Forgotten,” he battled Ten. Chances are slight, obviously, but it certainly is interesting.
Either way, there is so much good coming our way. I just wish I had a TARDIS that could take me to November 23 right now.
For those of us dying for even a taste of what’s to come will be happy to see two fan favorite Doctors together at last in this special behind-the-scenes video from the 50th of Ten and Eleven (a.k.a David Tennant and Matt Smith) talking shop:
– OBSESSED WITH: The visible seething River Song attempted to hide when Clara said she never “realized Professor Song was a woman.”
– If this is the end of River Song (or at least, her end in her time — but not necessarily the last time the Doctor sees her?), that kiss and goodbye were lovely, but I still don’t understand how he was able to see her if Vastra/Strax/Jenny couldn’t!
– Loved when Clara said to the first Doctor as to which TARDIS to steal: “The navigation’s knackered, but you’ll have much more fun.” Ooh, has every journey in the Doctor’s life been pre-destined thanks to Clara, to bring him to the point in the 50th?
– What’s up with the Doctor’s seemingly special interest in Jenny? First the kiss in “The Crimson Horror,” and then when he only said hello to her in tonight’s episode: what’s the deal there?
– Also: does anyone else think that maybe River Song has something to do with Clara’s actual creation? I mean, I have a feeling it also has something to do with UNIT (she was wearing the UNIT necklace during earlier episodes), but I can’t help but feel like there’s a possibility that the remnants of River’s echo iteration is what ends up on that leaf.
– The crack in the TARDIS window: looks a heck of a lot like the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall and the general crack in time, eh?
– I’m glad that it was River who said the Doctor’s name. But no one really thought we’d find out his name, right?
– On the discovery that the dead Doctor is merely a tunnel of time travel scar tissue, states: “What were you expecting, a body? Bodies are boring, I’ve had loads of them.”
– At one point, we hear the Whisper Men say “the trap will be set” when his friends travel to “where the Doctor ends.” Was this all just a trap?? [Time] Lord, sometimes I wish he didn’t lie so much.
– “He’s the one who broke the promise.” Ooh girl, what’s that promise?
– Do you think that the Doctor saw the Valeyard in his room in the hotel of “The God Complex”? Because I’m betting so!