Doctor Who Review: The Name of the Doctor

“On the Fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked, a question that must never ever be answered: ‘Doctor Who?’”

Series 7 Part 2, #7 of 8:

The Doctors friends are being kidnapped by an unknown menace leaving him and Clara with no choice but to venture to a place he can not go…Trenzalore. FIRST BROADCAST: 18th MAY 2013

There are episodes of Doctor Who that give you a tingle. Episodes that make you squeal with glee. Episodes that draw from and build on 50 years of storytelling and hit new heights of epic epicness. The Name of the Doctor is one of those episodes. It opens on Clara, seeing her recurring throughout time, encountering different incarnations of the Doctor. CGI is used to insert her (sometimes a little shoddily) into old episodes. The line “Gallifrey, a very long time ago…” pops up on screen, we see The First Doctor (William Hartnell) stealing the TARDIS, then The Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) running past her in his hoboish fur coat, the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) whizzing past in his car Bessie and on, all the way up to our present incarnation. All this occurs in the first minute of the episode. Overwhelming joy and excitement washing over every Whovian glimpsing these scenes and only to raise hopes that this episode would be something special. Thankfully it did not disappoint.

The episode really begins with a psychic conference call across time between Clara, River Song (Alex Kingston) and the Victorian trio of Madam Vastra, Jenny and Strax. A call initiated due to the discovery of some information about the Doctor. It is revealed to be a trap by the creepy Whisper Men to incapacitate and kidnap the Doctors friends with only Clara leaving the trace-like state, able to inform the Doctor as to what has occurred. The group have been taken to the one place in the Universe the Doctor fears and can not go. Trenzalore. To save his friends, the Doctor must go to the site of his own grave.

When you are a time traveler there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never, ever find yourself.

This episode was just visually and emotionally stunning, real iconic images and moments were show that only add to the weight of history behind this show. We had a fascinating glimpse into the Doctor’s resting place, a massive battlefield and equally large cemetery, the haunting image of a dying TARDIS suffering a ‘size-leak’ and serving as the Doctor’s tomb. But while epic, it also served up some more intimate moments, notably revolving around the Doctor himself. There is a scene near the beginning where Clara informs him what has occurred and the reaction of Matt Smith in the role is just perfect. Restrained, yet a crack shows as he chokes back the emotion upon hearing about Trenzalore and the reappearance of River Song to his new companion. The latter also contributes to a great scene where the Doctor finally confronts his feelings and loss for his wife. Smith has continued to impress this season in the role even with some weaker scripts and this episode further solidifies his acting ability.

Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) really shines here too. We finally get the answers to this ‘impossible girl’ and there is no trick or twist, it’s a pretty straightforward, satisfying, and logical conclusion to her story (if it is indeed the end of any further mystery behind her). Her confidence and relationship with the Doctor have strengthened and it cumulates here in some very emotional scenes, she does a lot of growing up in this episode as she realises the importance of the Doctor as well as her own place in the Universe. The Victorian trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax continue to impress, Jenny in particular being part of a very well done yet very shocking moment that I feel was a tad undermined by later events in the episode. The other real presence on the cast if that of Alex Kingston as Professor Song. Here we get a more melancholic and restrained performance which is fitting for the tone of the episode and a nice contrast to the overly confident version we have seen on the last few outings. She also plays well off Clara with the usual prickly moments as well as more heartfelt ones. If this is the last sighting of her in the Who-niverse, it was a fitting and emotionally satisfying sendoff.

“The universe without The Doctor…there will be consequences.”

My only grievances about the episode concern the preceding ones and what was done to build up to this finale. The Great Intelligence is again involved and yes he has popped in two recent episodes but it carried little weight in the buildup, despite Richard E Grants effective portrayal. It’s hard to fathom the The Great Intelligence holding such a need for vengeance against the Doctor. his role as the architect behind this scheme may have been better served by someone like The Master. Again, had a full season led to this and each episode had the Doctor defeating the GI, either knowingly or not, it would have better setup this climax. Likewise the Whispermen… blank faced monsters uttering whispered rhymes to terrorize people before they reach into their victims and stop their hearts. A solid and impressive villain even though only really introduced for the first time here. I would have liked to see them pop up a few time n the past season to lay out their involvement in driving the Doctor on to Trenzalore. I felt like the Silence (Season 5/6) were more likely to do this but they seem to have been supplanted in this regard. Similarly, Claras actions, her realization of the Doctor’s importance would have carried more conviction had she spent more time with him seeing the lives he has saved and plots he has foiled.
 “The name you choose, it’s like a promise you make”
 The episode was called The Name Of The Doctor, and while some may feel the lack of a solid answer to this question is unsatisfying, what we get is so much more. “The name you choose, it’s like a promise you make” he utters at one point. We get more knowledge about the Doctor and his motives and his priorities than we have done in a long time and it leads into a bigger question which looks to be answered in the shows 50th Anniversary special. Trust me when I say the last 2 minutes of this episode will make you totally flip out.


Where the hell do I begin? Well, the trap is set to lure the Doctor to his tomb, whereupon he needs to speak his own real name to open the doors. Threats to his companions do not compell him to do so however a digital projection of River Song saves him from the choice and whispers it…we do not hear the name and the tomb opens. Inside we find no body, but a tear in time, the embodiment of the Doctors path through time, from birth on Gallifrey to his death on Trenzalore. His path described as a ‘would in time’, an open wound that the Great Intelligence opens to attack the Doctor throughout his timeline. Turning victories into defeats. Clara becoming more aware of her connection to the Doctor and presence throughout time follows through the tear to be there and combat him, helping the Doctor when he most needs it.

A pretty nice resolution to why Clara kept existing but I would like to have perhaps seen more incarnations or seen this plot peppered more long term over the show as I mentioned earlier. Clara is seemingly lost in the timestream, but the Doctor, restores, risks himself to enter and drag her back out. While in there Clara is trapped and sees all the incarnations of the Doctor, appearing when needed in his life. When our Doctor finally find her, in the distance is stood an unfamiliar figure, Clara has not seen before. This follows…

Clara: I never saw that one. I saw all of you. Eleven faces, all of them you. You’re the eleventh Doctor. Doctor: I said he was me, I never said he was the Doctor. Clara: I don’t understand. Doctor: My name, my real name, that is not the point. The name I chose is, “the Doctor.” The name you choose, it’s like a promise you make. He’s the one who broke the promise. He is my secret. Dark figure: What I did, I did without choice. Doctor: I know. Dark figure: In the name of peace and sanity.

Doctor: But not in the name of the Doctor!

the dark figure turns, it’s GODDAM John Hurt (Alien, The Elephant Man, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Spaceballs, Hellboy and on and on)…then this…

Fuck me…

Epic, old school caption introducing him. We end and have to wait till the 50th Anniversary special to figure out what this is all about. Hurt is known to be cast and the return of Ten and Rose is also known. But we can speculate as to what this is about, or at least what I think it is about.

It is seemingly clear that this is a past incarnation of the Doctor. He is known to ‘Eleven’ so must have come before. We had mention by the Great Intelligence of iterations of the Doctor earlier in the episode, “The Doctor lives his life in darker hues, day upon day. And he will have other names before the end; the Storm, the Beast, the Valeyard.” The first two are nicknames from other races in the galaxy who have been foiled by the Doctor. The last is interesting, Valeyard. In a classic Who episode (Trial of a Timelord, 1984) the Doctor is put on trial for his actions and a figure persecuting his is revealed to be himself, his final incarnation twisted and evil, a personna known as the Valeyard. But as Hurt’s Doctor is some past one the current Doctor refuses to acknowledge, it’s unlikely to be the Valeyard.

Some have pointed to the similarity of the costume to that worn by Nine (Christopher Eccleston). So my personal take is that this Doctor is the one who fought in the Time War. The showdown between the Time Lords and Daleks that led to the near total annihilation of both races. His words about ‘peace and sanity’ seem to reinforce this. If the Doctor took on the role of warrior in the war more than he has previously admitted, it could be that shame that forced him to disavow this regeneration. With Ten returning and a new Doctor to figure out, possibly prompting a reshuffle of our numbering scheme, we’re in for something big when the show returns to our screens.

A epic end to the series whose only weakness is that the buildup to it was not handled with as much depth to the threat of character development to justify the immense end payoff. It built on 50 years of Doctor Who and paid great service to fans with its nods to the past while still telling an original and exciting tale. One of the best episodes to grace our screens in years and an ending that just makes be long for the 50th Anniversary special this November to see what happens. Simply fucking brilliant.

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