Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Review of Doctor Who's 7x14: "The Name Of The Doctor"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Saul Metzstein

Clara: “I’m Clara Oswald. I’m the impossible girl. I was born to save the Doctor.”

Not only that, Clara but you were also born to debunk a gazillion baseless theories surrounding your mystery and this episode skilfully debunked the lot of them in great style. Sometimes it really is the most simple of explanations that manage to be the most effective and here, it definitely proved to be.

Clara becoming the woman who would go into the Doctor’s own time stream and meet all of his incarnations and undo the Great Intelligence’s plot to make every victory for the Doctor into a defeat was a beyond satisfying explanation for her storyline all series along and the fact that Doctor himself was determined to return the favour and save her life too worked perfectly well for me as a viewer.

In some ways, Steven Moffat has continued to try and have his cake and eat it with this series. He’s had an ongoing mystery with Clara’s identity and the Doctor’s name under the guise of standalone, movie themed stories. For the most part, this format has worked in comparison to the more serialised previous series but the splitting of this series hasn’t been quite as advantageous as it was to an extent back in 2011.

With this episode alone, well did anyone really think we were going to learn the Doctor’s name? If so, you’ve should’ve seen what actually happened here coming a mile off. River knows the Doctor’s name and under duress, she spoke it (which we never saw her do onscreen) and gave the Great Intelligence entry into the Doctor’s tomb of all places.

Then there’s Trenzalore. I honestly did think that it would’ve literally been in the last story for Matt Smith that we would’ve seen this place so I’m actually pleasantly surprised that it came early and the whole silence will fall/fall of the eleventh thing was seemingly answered here with the TARDIS crash landing on the creepy graveyard world and everything becoming undone as the Great Intelligence nearly succeeded in annihilating the Doctor as well.

Having the whole gang here (excluding the Ponds of course) for Trenzalore gave this episode the right amount of scale needed. It’s amazing to see that amidst the chaos we were given more insight into the extent of the Doctor’s relationship with the Paternoster Gang and having River and Clara themselves finally meet was a delight too.

Speaking of River – this was the post Library version of the character. A ghost who spent a good deal of the time communicating with Clara and advising her whilst at the same time seeking a last goodbye from the Doctor too, which she got with a beautiful scene in the decaying TARDIS. If this was River’s last appearance on the show, it was a wonderful way of writing her out but I wouldn’t be too shocked if she’s seen again next series. Either way though, River’s story really is drawing closer to it’s very natural conclusion.

As for the Great Intelligence though, this episode certainly utilised him in a better way. Richard E. Grant definitely gave a more lively performance than he did in “The Snowmen” and while the Whisper Men were somewhat underused, I do think they made for a suitably creepy and effective set of henchmen, particularly in the way they went after the Paternoster Gang and Clara in this one too.

There are so many things about this episode that I want to rave about – the conference call with the companions, the Doctor’s tearful reaction upon realising that Trenzalore was imminent, the soufflé allusions, the return of that particular leaf, Clara remembering all of her times with the Doctor (and all of his incarnations as well) but mainly there’s also that final scene as well – is John Hurt really a forgotten version of the Doctor?

I know that instead of this episode revealing the Doctor’s name it was more about that things that are done/promises that are made in his name and that Hurt’s Doctor was the one to break it but I don’t think it’s that straightforward really. Besides would Moffat really mess around with the numbering of the Doctor completely?

The Great Intelligence made a point of referencing the Valeyard and the last time we saw Omega, he looked very much like the Fifth Doctor, so in some ways it does seem more like that Hurt’s Doctor will be revealed to being either one of them. If I wasn’t excited for November to come around the corner, I certainly am now after seeing this episode.

Also in “The Name Of The Doctor”

The opening sequence with Clara meeting the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Seventh Doctors was wonderful, especially considering that she’d persuade one of them to pick a certain TARDIS.

Jenny: “How did you do that?”
River: “Disgracefully.”

Vastra’s method for getting everyone for a conference call was pretty interesting. It’ll also make Clara more wary of stationary in the future I’d imagine. Artie and Angie also made a point of ridiculing Clara’s soufflé techniques as well.

Clara (re the Doctor): “What, you know his name? He told you?”
River: “I made him.”

Jenny (to Vastra): “I think I’ve been murdered.”

Along with the multiple versions of Clara (and various costume changes), it was a certainly Clarence di Marco that got Madame Vastra’s attention about Trenzalore while Strax was in Glasgow too.

Great Intelligence (re the Doctor): “His friends are lost forever more, unless he goes to Trenzalore.”

The Doctor: “Trenzalore is where I’m buried.”
Clara: “How can you have a grave?”

The idea of a dead TARDIS ballooning in size is actually kind of horrifying when you think about it. Visually though, Trenzalore did look rather creepy.

Strax: “The heart is a relatively simple thing.”
Vastra: “I’ve not found it to be so.”

Great Intelligence: “Doctor, what is your name?”

Who were the body doubles we got for the Fourth, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Doctors? Oh and I did smile upon seeing Bessie as well in this one.

The Doctor (to Strax): “I didn’t do it. I didn’t say my name.”
River: “No, but I did.”

Great Intelligence (to the Doctor): “I can rewrite your every living moment. I can turn every one of your victories into defeats.”

Clara and the First Doctor interacting is still a surreal moment to be honest. If Moffat’s willing to represent former Doctors like this here, then I’ll be intrigued to see what he does for them in the actual anniversary special itself.

Clara (to the Doctor): “Well, how about that? I’m soufflé girl after all.”

The Doctor: “Well, then see you around, Professor Song.”
River: “Until the next time, Doctor.”

John Hurt got a special credit as the Doctor before the end credits actually aired and the BBC also released a behind the scene feature with Matt Smith and David Tennant after this episode aired.

Other Doctor: “What I did, I did without choice.”
The Doctor: “I know.”
Other Doctor: "In the name of peace and sanity."
The Doctor: "But not in the name of the Doctor."

Chronology: 2013 briefly for the scenes with Clara, Artie and Angie and 1893 for the Vastra, Jenny and Strax stuff too and Gallifrey for Clara, the First Doctor and Susan.

I know the split series format hasn’t worked in Series 7’s favour as well as it should’ve and that the movie poster theme hasn’t been a roaring success but personally, I’ve enjoyed this series a lot and with some sublime performances from Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman and Alex Kingston, “The Name Of The Doctor” has been an incredible finale to watch. I really cannot wait now until November 23rd.

Rating: 10 out of 10

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