Of the seventh season of Doctor Who the finale, The Name of the Doctor, has undoubtedly been the best so far. That should be the case for any show but for Doctor Who and this season it has been particularly true. Taking just this latter half of the season, the episodes have ranged from the good (Cold War, Nightmare in Silver) to the dull (The Rings of Akhaten) to the incomprehensible (Journey to the centre of the TARDIS) and everything between. The episodes have also been the most diverse, dipping their toes into genres such as war thrillers, paranormal ghost hunts and Victorian high society, almost to the point of seeming unfocused. However, Doctor Who has always been the type of show that builds towards an exceptional finish and this year was no exception.
The pacing and structure of the episode felt right and, although it could be argued there was a lot of exposition, I was on the edge of my seat awaiting each new piece of information. There was a lot to take on board throughout the episode but I think the episode allowed ample time for each slice of information to sink in before it fired out the next. There was a good, sustained threat throughout as well. The Great Intelligence and his Whisper Men goons were introduced early, subduing the Doctor’s allies and demanding his presence on the mysterious Trenzalore. And it wasn’t simply a physical threat but the tears cried by Jenny and especially by the Doctor added an emotional weight to the severity of the situation. It was extremely good storytelling.
At Trenzalore is the Doctor’s final resting place, marked by a giant, monolithic TARDIS. The size manipulator leaked when they grow old apparently. But it isn’t the physical body that The Great Intelligence is after but rather the time stream. Held within the TARDIS, which could only be unlocked by the Doctor’s name, was the Doctor’s time tunnel, an open wound of time representing all that he had done, is doing and will still do. It’s interesting that Steven Moffat decided to actually give the Doctor a grave considering that he may not even be around when the Doctor finally dies. They will probably never show that anyway.
Perfect it wasn’t, but it was a very interesting episode and there was a great atmosphere and tension throughout that really made me anticipate each new scene with renewed vigour. The show had a certain power, thanks to both the writing and the acting. The new villains, the Whisper Men were intimidating, although they could have been better utilised. An early rhyme about not wanting to hear them didn’t actually seem to have any bearing on how they hunted their prey and didn’t explain their sudden appearance. It would be interesting to have them reappear in a later episode where their existence could elaborated upon.
How the Great Intelligence discovered Trenzalore is never explained, nor is it ever really explained why a time traveller should never travel to their final resting place. I have to assume that it does not apply to companions, since Clara walked right past the resting place of an earlier self at the end of The Snowmen, and both Amy and Rory were standing in their final resting place in The Angels take Manhattan. It’s probable that by time traveller they mean Time Lord but even at that, it must only be Time Lords who have travelled extensively through time. The Time Lords, before the Time War, had a strict policy of non-interference and opted not to affect the time lines, yet the time tunnel is explained by the Doctor as scar tissue caused by his time travelling. So, the Doctor should really be one of the few Time Lords to even have a time tunnel, or at least one with scars. The Master might have one too.
There is also a failure to explain why exactly there is a paradox killing the Doctor. Is it like Schrodinger’s cat in that time is confused because is both dead and alive? The paradox also seems to render the Doctor into a fit before the Great Intelligence even does anything but yet after Clara saves him, he’s able to stand up and kiss River Song without any trouble. I get that Doctor Who is soft science fiction but it wasn’t even abiding by its own rules there. That being said, I can look past those inconsistencies because the show did manage to answer some pretty major questions without making me weep.
Clara, the Impossible Girl, turned out to be simply a human, scattered throughout the Doctor’s time stream by the time tunnel, saving him from the Great Intelligence (somehow), although it took him eleven incarnations to even notice. Talk about ungrateful. The time tunnel, or perhaps the psychic link with River, must have given her the power to override the Great Intelligence, such as was seen in The Snowmen. Thankfully, the bigger question of the Doctor’s name was never actually revealed. As I said way back on October 2, 2011, his true name must remain hidden. There is no name that they can append to the Doctor that would adequately encompass all that he has been over the course of both the old and current series.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Doctor Who if it answered all the questions without leaving us without a few more, such as; if the Great Intelligence went into the time tunnel to kill the Doctor and Clara followed to save the Doctor, what happens now that Clara has left? Probably nothing but it could come up again. However, the biggest question is what the hell kind of role John Hurt is going to play. I know he was introduced as the Doctor but we already have a Doctor and at the 50th Anniversary, we will have a third. Hurt mentioned in an interview that he, Smith and Tennant will be a kind of trinity in the 50th anniversary episode but the Doctor’s comment that he’s the one that broke the vow seems more similar to the Dream Lord, a manifestation of the Doctor’s darkness and self-loathing that appeared in the fifth season episode, Amy’s Choice.
The exact of role John Hurt’s character and whether it will be a benevolent or villainous role will likely be kept a tight lipped secret until the anniversary episode, much like Clara appearance in Asylum of the Daleks and his own appearance in this episode were kept hush-hush. That means we have a lot to look forward to but unfortunately means we also have to wait until the 23rd of November. Six months will pass in no time at all…won’t it?