Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor

Posted on May 19, 2013

We admit it; we’re impressed. Season seven may have been one of the least consistent, most frustrating seasons of Nu Who, but at least it ended really, really well; so well, in fact, that we’d call this one of the very best episodes of the relaunched series.

But let’s backtrack, because we stopped reviewing the show shortly after it came back from its hiatus and we clarashould probably explain why. Long story short: we weren’t happy. The first half of season 7 had its problems (not the least of which was the ill-thought-out manner of dispatching the Pond-Williamses), but the second half of the season went completely off the rails. There was far too much repetition, far too much bombast, and far too little explaining to the audience what the hell was going on. We were actually angry when we got to the end of the Neil Gaiman-scripted episode “Nightmare in Silver,” an episode that seemed to consist of nothing more than a lot of shouting. Sitting through it a second time, we realized there was a great story there and even some great scenes with crackling or poignant dialogue. The problem – and this has been a general problem for the last 6 episodes or so – was that a 90 minute or even two-hour story was being crammed into 60 minutes, including commercials. Which means exposition got glossed over or spoken so rapidly that no one could possibly make sense of it and entire bridge scenes were missing, leaving us with a very jerky story told in rapid, barking shouts.

Even worse, we were presented with this “impossible girl,” storyline, which not only felt like warmed-over Amy Pond, it actually wound up being a much less impressively told tale in comparison to Amy’s. The “mystery” of Amy’s existence (as well as River’s) was a storyline that played out over many episodes, spanning multiple seasons. After the initial presentation of the “multiple Claras” conceit, we literally got no more information on the topic, in order to further the mystery and keep the audience involved. Instead, we got a lot of scenes of the Doctor, yelling, in effect, “WHO ARE YOU, YOU IMPOSSIBLE GIRL?!?!?” Rather than write the same whiny review pointing out the same issues every week, we optrivered to sit back and wait for an episode to wow us enough to jump back into the fray.

This was the episode we were waiting for. In typing the following sentence, we’re just now realizing how difficult it must be to write a good Doctor Who story. This one worked because it had the best balance of adventure, pathos, humor, and darkness that defines the very best Who stories.

For the first time in a while, it really felt like the stakes were high. We’re used to Moffat setting up big stories that tend to fizzle out, but this one didn’t. From the very second the episode opened right up to that jaw-dropping (if you don’t scour the internet looking for Who news) final shot, the quality of the story remained very high.

In the end, it was all a fakeout on Moffat’s part. “Silence will fall when the Doctor is asked the one question that shouldn’t be asked, in the one place where no false word can be uttered.” That all turned out to be exactly true, although not in the way that anyone expected. It turns out the Silence actually had a good reason to stop the Doctor before he got to Trenzalore; because once he goes there, the prophecy is fulfilled and dozens of worlds and trillions of people will wink out of existence. In other words, the Silence wasn’t trying to kill the Doctor in order to stop him from doing good. The Silence was trying to kill him in order to preserve all the good he’d done. That’s quite a lovely twist, actually.

riverdoctorBut the biggest, best fakeout of all was saved for the very end. “The Name of the Doctor,” which has been a plot point ever since River whispered it into his ear so many years ago, is actually not the point. In fact, he comes right out and says so. The name of the Doctor was merely a key used to open a door to destruction, which is why it had any power at all. But the real meaning behind the phrase has to do not with the actual, true name of the character, but what is done in the character’s name.

“I did what I had to in the name of peace and sanity.”


Oh you clever boy, Steven Moffat. “The Name of the Doctor” doesn’t refer just to his actual name. It’s about the meaning and philosophy of the Doctor; the promise of the Doctor. Which is why our Doctor refers to the other one as, “the one who broke the promise.”

Having said all that, there were still some weak points to the story and they all refer back to the poor storytelling that’s been going on all season. The Great Intelligence’s spitting anger was never really explained or explored. He just hates the Doctor so much that he’s willing to destroy himself in order to destroy his nemesis. Well, fine. That’s classic villainy stuff. But without motivation (and we realize he’s an old character with roots going back to early Who) he becomes a cardboard cutout of villainy, just short of twirling a clara doctormustache and tying a girl to train tracks. The same problem pops up when you consider Clara’s great sacrifice at the end. It was a wonderful moment, but it would have been even more wonderful if we had a better understanding of who the hell she is. Sure, we got her life story. Sort of. But all we really know about her is a couple bullet points and the fact that she can speak as quickly as the Doctor does. Aside from that, she’s generic “plucky English girl,” which is a Doctor Who character trope that could probably use a little rest.

Oh, and the Whisper Men were essentially The Silence (hissing men with unformed faces) in Victorian dress, which is yet another point in the column titled “Moffat is Running Out of Ideas.”

But really, we loved it. We’re pretty sure if a camera had been trained on us the whole hour, it would have caught a succession of facial expressions ranging from excitement to delight to sadness.

Okay, we’re getting long-winded here. Bullet time:

  • Excellent use of Vastra, Strax and Jenny. Loved the time-traveling seance concept but found ourselves wishing Amy could’ve been one of the participants. “Not the one with the gigantic head” was a laugh-out-loud moment and not for the first time we find ourselves wishing that the show would ditch the “plucky English girl” companion model and just put these three on the TARDIS full-time for a season.  Loved the creepiness of the seance being invaded. “I’m sorry, mum. So sorry. So sorry. I think I’ve been murdered.”
  • It was wonderful to get an ending (although it’s one we’re not sure we buy) for River Song, even if it felt shoved into the story at the last second. The real shock with River was the reveal that we were dealing with the post-Library version of the character, something we’ve never seen except for in the epilogue of “Silence in the Library.” It was also nice to get a sense that the Doctor really did love her; something Moffat routinely failed to get across because (and this is another reason we took a break from recapping) he clearly has some women issues and can’t portray strong characters like Amy and River without making sure everyone hears the Doctor say how annoying he finds them – and women in general.  Still, it was a truly fantastic goodbye to River; full of stubborness, wordiness, romance, anger, and frustration – all in a 3-minute scene. “Spoilers. Goodbye, Sweetie.” A beautiful payoff for the character; in some ways, a much better, more emotionally satisfying sendoff than Amy’s.
  • “How did you do that?” “Disgracefully.”
  • Matt Smith knocked it out of the park this week. His near-sobbing reaction to the word “Trenzalore” did more to ramp up the tension than five-hundred words of exposition dialogue.
  • The “scar” wasn’t really explained very well.
  • “How do we get there?” “We fall.” “The fall of the Eleventh” = turning off the antigrav. That one’s perhaps not so clever. Too cute by half.
  • The Doctor’s immense sadness at seeing the TARDIS essentially in its death throes was heartbreaking.
  • What exactly did Clara do to stop the Great Intelligence? What did the G.I. have to do with the Dalek Asylum, when we first met her?
  • Why did River open the door, knowing that it would be catastrophic for the universe?
  • We’ve always had one question in the back of our minds every time we see Madame Vastra in her Victorian finery with her Victorian sense of propriety; one question that Vastra answers just by existing: What if Mary Poppins was a lizard? Now do you see why we love her so?
  • Clara’s timeline thing only gets confusing the more you think about it. She had different mothers and fathers each time? How does that work?  And she’s on Gallifrey in one of her lives, which implies that at least one of them wasn’t human. But why do the versions of Clara we see throughout the timeline appear to be self-aware? The one on Gallifrey seemed to know the whole story of the Doctor. The other versions of Clara we met had no idea about the Doctor.
  • The use of archival footage was great fun, but kind of distracting because the characters never seemed to occupy the same space. It’s not that hard to match eyelines, even if the reverse footage is shot 40 years later. And all the Great Intelligence seemed to do was stand and stare menacingly at the various versions of the Doctor.
  • On the other hand, Clara’s ’70s and ’80s fashion was a treat for the eyes.
  • “Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor.”  That ranks right up there with “The Doctor will return in LET’S KILL HITLER” for great teases.
  • Hurt is wearing what appears to by #8’s waistcoat and #9’s leather jacket. Hmmm.





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  • So John Hurt is The Valeyard then?

    • It’s interesting that the GI mentioned the Valeyard, but isn’t he a post-12th Doctor regeneration, or something like that? It seems they’re implying that Hurt is the previously unknown Doctor between #8 and #9.

      • briktrn

        Hurt seems to be a “non-Doctor” Doctor between 8 and 9. He’s a regeneration that rejects the title “Doctor” because of whatever horrible, Doctor-rule-breaking things he had to do to end the Time War.

        • The 9th doctor was pretty angsty with regards to the Time War and was very cagey about what happened.

          Does that mean we might find out what the Nightmare Child is?

          Maybe John Hurt’s Doctor is meant to represent the gap between the 1996 TV Movie starring Paul McGann and the 2005 revival.

          So. Many. Theories. This is so exciting!!

        • fursa_saida

          They’re retconning it because Chris Eccleston refused to appear in the 50th anniversary ep. So now John Hurt is the ninth Doctor that none of them remember being because I guess we’ll find out why, and all three New Who Doctors get bumped down the line–Nine is now Ten (I guess there’ll be some explanation for why he’s not there?), Ten is now Eleven, and Matt Smith is now Twelve–which means they’re out of regenerations. Wonder where they’re going to go from there.

          • It’s a shame. No actor should be required to return to a character they’ve long since left behind, especially if they didn’t have great memories of playing the character the first time. But as much as we loved that final reveal, it would have been about a thousand times more shocking if Christopher Eccleston turned around to face the camera instead of John Hurt.

          • Candy Kane

            ” it would have been about a thousand times more shocking if Christopher Eccleston turned around to face the camera instead of John Hurt.”

            I KNOW! Even though I knew it was a long shot when they started talking about the terrible thing the Doctor did and then started doing the close up on the back oh John Hurt, I was literally standing in my living room going, “Is it Christopher Eccleston?! Could it be Christopher Eccleston?! Is it Christopher Eccleston!!!!!” It’s probably for the best that it wasn’t ’cause my heart might of stopped.

          • CommentsByKatie

            We thought it was Eccleston too! I almost started jumping on the couch with glee! And then Ollivander turned around and we were very confused.

          • watchmeboogie

            I am so sad that Chris wouldn’t come back.

          • Supernumerary

            I would fall over from stupid animal joy if Eccleston returned, but I have to say that provided Moffat sticks the explanation landing for this not-Doctor Doctor, I’m ecstatic to have John Hurt on board. Other than Matt’s incredible and emotional moment during the initial Trenzalore revelation, Hurt gave what I thought was the second-best emotional scene. In just a few frames’ worth of time, that *look* he shared… like he’d been bathed in grief and sadness, and that was all he’d been left with. It was haunting.

          • porcupie

            That would’ve been amazing, but then I guess that wouldn’t be a secret? As in, the 9th Doctor definitely went by the name of the Doctor and had been referenced before. So it couldn’t have been him that ‘broke the promise’.

          • gabbilevy

            That’s all true, but it sounds like Moffat had him in mind while writing the 50th special, and had several meetings with Eccleston, who the later decided not to be involved. We’ll never know exactly how far planning went before Eccleston made his final call. I just wish it didn’t seem like he strung Moffat along.

          • Tsk, they always manage to come up with something. The Master from the 1996 film got thrown into the Eye of Harmony and still managed to make a return for the 10th (or 11th now?) Doctor.

          • Frank_821

            the timelords get 13 lives. so he’s allowed at least 1 more regeneration

          • watchmeboogie

            River gave The Doctor the rest of her regenerations. He’s set up for a while.

          • porcupie

            I also thought that it was more of a rule set by the Time Lords to stop everybody going Time Lord Victorious-style. So now they’re not there anymore, I guess there’s nobody to enforce it. But yeah, the BBC definitely dropped the set number of regenerations:

          • MilaXX

            RTD or Moff changed the amount of regeneration a Doctor to have to limitless. Nonetheless yes we are on 12, but he does’t count because he was not worthy of the name The Doctor.

          • korilian

            Actually I don’t think it’s the case that the doctor doesn’t remember this incarnation.He just refuses to acknowledge his existence.

          • William High

            Well, the regeneration thing is easy enough to be handwaved away as a Time Lord rule to stop immortality, not biological fact.

            Just look at it this way; John Hurt is the Doctor, but he isn’t “The Doctor”. So 11 is still the Eleventh Doctor, but he is the 12th body.

        • So if Hurt is the incarnation that actually killed the Daleks and all the Time Lords, then Eccleston would actually be the 10th incarnation, Tennant the 11th, and Matt Smith the 12th. Next up, Valeyard!

    • So glad I’m not the only one who thought that. 🙂

  • hac51

    I’ve tried to watch this show a couple of times and could only go about 5 minutes before changing the channel. (I’ve been following along with TLo and AV Club recaps, but couldn’t ever get into actually watching it.) This was the first ep that held me all the way through, for what that’s worth.

  • Sam

    Hurt’s doctor came from the time between 8 and 9?

    • Pterodactyl111

      This is what I think. Early in Eccleston’s series, the Doctor checks himself out in a mirror and says something like, “Oh, that’s what I look like!” I think he’d just regenerated or something like that. I think the Hurt Doctor is the one who actually fought in the Time War.

    • MilaXX


  • briktrn

    Clara’s “Impossible Girl” storyline was definitely a retread of previous seasons, but I think it wouldn’t have been as obvious had they not tried to shoehorn the whole thing into half a season. Prioritizing the Great Intelligence as a mini-Big Bad for this half of a season and then actually exploring Clara as ~timey-wimey~ impossible-whatever next season would have been more fulfilling, I think.

    And really, I don’t buy the way this episode wrapped up the Silence–by which I mean it didn’t at all.

  • hyperionic

    I’d really like to know how the Doctor was making out with River. And how did she say the name of the Doctor? She wasn’t even there. She had a direct connection to Clara’s brain which allowed her to communicate with Clara. It was completely ridiculous when the Doctor grabbed her like she had a physical body.

    • I believe River said she still had a psychic link with the Tardis. She said the name and since the tomb is part of the Tardis, the door opened.

      • I’m 99% certain that the psychic link was with Clara—something about Clara can’t be dead because River has a psychic link with her, and if Clara were dead then River couldn’t be there. But then the Doctor goes and says that River’s just an echo, at which point River disappeared, at which point the only thing left to say is “goddamn it, Moffat.”

  • mightbewrong

    “We’re used to Moffat setting up big stories that tend to fizzle out”

    This pretty much sums up my feelings on Doctor Who lately. What I’m noticing with Moffat is that he has brilliant ideas that tend to fall flat in execution. He can write a HELL of a one-off episode and great finales, but to me his style doesn’t work spread through whole seasons. Davies was very good at the ‘day-to-day’ episodes that just did their job and were perfectly entertaining. Not every episode in a season needs to be Blink or The Pandorica Opens, and I’m seeing that it doesn’t quite work when Moffat tries.

    • porcupie

      I do think some of the things such as the scrapping of two-parters (which I think was a big mistake) and splitting the series into 2 were things he was made to do by the BBC. For its flagship show it’s weirdly adverse to spending lots of money on it.

  • We only saw the GI standing around because they can’t re-shoot scenes from 50 years ago. It was implied that he went back and interfered with The Doctor’s missions and un-did them. Same for Clara. They did show the one scene where she interacted with the first Doctor. She even said that “most of the time” he couldn’t see or hear her. They were both able to influence events but not necessarily be a part of those events. I don’t think the Great Intelligence had anything at all to do with the Dalek Asylum just like he didn’t have anything to do with most of the other things in The Doctor’s timeline. The Dalek Asylum was just one time that The Doctor could see Clara. It can make your head hurt if you think about it too much, lol.

    As to Clara’s timeline, I think the only time she was actually born was in this timeline. The other versions of her just popped into existence wherever they were needed to help The Doctor. She said she never knew who or when she was but she always knew that she needed to save The Doctor. I have a theory about why she sometimes knew who he was but that’s nothing that can be proven by what’s on the screen.

    I think River opened the tomb to save The Doctor from having to make a horrible decision. Either he didn’t open it and his friends all died or he did and something bad happened. Either way, catastrophic for him and she was just trying to protect him. I know that Alex Kingston will eventually age to the point that she can’t believably play River Song anymore (when she looks noticeably older than when River dies in the library) but I hope that’s not the last time we see her. I love River.

    • “As to Clara’s timeline, I think the only time she was actually born was
      in this timeline. The other versions of her just popped into existence
      wherever they were needed to help The Doctor.”

      She was shown as a baby and then a young girl in one of her other timelines.

      • I think River may have known that it would all turn out okay. The last scene with her, she knew that Clara wasn’t dead but wouldn’t tell The Doctor why. “Spoilers” I don’t think she wanted him to go after Clara because she also knew about the other version of him.

        This show leaves SO much up to the imagination of the viewer. I have an idea as to why Clara might have been a baby, then a girl in one of her timelines but there is absolutely nothing in the episode to support it.

        • “I think River may have known that it would all turn out okay.”

          Then why did she first beg Clara not to go into the timestream and then beg the Doctor not to, going so far as to attempt to slap him? She did the latter thinking no one in the room could see or hear her, so there’d be no reason for her to keep up any charade. For all she knew at the time, she was talking to herself.

        • Ash

          Care to share?

          • River said that the real Clara would be gone, she’d be dispersed into a million different versions of her, all of them an echo of the real her. That would include the child versions of her too, would it not?

        • MilaXX

          I wondered about that and River saying she and Clara are still psychically connected. Got a theory brewing, but I want to rewatch and think on it.

          • Jessi03

            I want to hear your theory!

        • Corsetmaker

          She says she was born and lived lives, remembering some of them. So every Clara seems to have been a separate life.

      • Corsetmaker

        I think some of the reason the CGI old doctor scenes weren’t expanded more would be plain old budget. Perhaps part of why we got more of Hartnell than others is there’s a drama planned for the 50th showing the origins of the show. So the Hartnell footage is probably getting extra attention anyway. But yes it could’ve been better done.

        The door: the way I took it is that she knew the Doctor would’ve caved and said his name to save his friends anyway. This way they were saved but the name wasn’t said aloud as who knows what other implications that would have (also it would be a huge anti-climax for us to ever hear an actual name). Getting them all in there alive gave them better odds than the GI getting in eventually anyway with just an even more broken Doctor. Plus she had to keep Clara alive to keep her link.

  • Frank_821

    Yes this was a better episode to a weak season. like the season as a whole was just priming for the anniversary.

    I’m glad we saw dead River. It gave some needed closure to the story

    and am glad Jenny was saved. I love those 3 characters. They should be really have their own spin off show. And how perfect that Strax gets it on with a bunch of Scotsmen

    • Jessi03

      I really want their spinoff to happen. I could watch Strax all day.

      • The Doctor needs a full-time set of “Scoobies”, a la Buffy!

        • Jessi03

          So I was writing a recap of Scandal and I kept calling Olivia’s minions “the Scoobies.” It took a friend going “um…they’re actually called the Gladiators” to make me stop. I miss Buffy.

    • porcupie

      I’ve never liked River (in fact most of the times she’s appeared I’ve hated her), as I felt she was always sass over character. To be honest, I couldn’t really see why the Doctor would like/love her, she just kind of told him that he did. But I felt this time she really worked well, and that scene had me welling up. I’m terrified Moff is going to pull her out of the Library though or create some stupid cyber-Doctor to go in there with her (a la half Time Lord half human Doctor clone for Rose). It’d be mega stupid, seeing as Moff was apparently skeptical of the massive romance between the Doctor and Rose in series 2. But apparently Alex Kingston is coming back, so I guess we haven’t seen the last of River…

      • Oh, thank you for that!! I don’t have the DVDs and had no idea that little mini series existed!

        • porcupie

          You’re welcome! I would post it but I wasn’t sure if the link would be deemed ok or not, seeing as the BBC evidently doesn’t want it on the web!

      • Frank_821

        I understand your reaction to River. When she was first introduced, she was utterly fascinating. Moffat more successfully built on his idea concerning Madame Pompadour. In that initial 2 episode run, you can see this woman had a deep relationship with the Doctor. Her musings on “her” Doctor were proof of that. Sadly the successive episodes never lived up to her initial introduction.

        Also all this timey-whimy stuff of Moffat really has gotten old.

  • Ash

    River’s final scene made me tear up. Despite the problems with her characterisation, she really is an amazing character: fierce, intelligent and daring.
    I hope we don’t meet her again, at least not for many years and not with Matt Smith’s Doctor, as that really was the perfect goodbye.

    • SaraQ

      Agreed. I know this show doesn’t always have problems with retcon, but River says that she needs to keep a spotters edition so she knows when she sees him, implying she’s met up with more than just 10 and 11. The goodbye, technically, is just a way for River to move on, as 10 never knew her and so she never got to say goodbye. Although, I do wonder how a memory chip is supposed to “fade away.” Kind of ruins the idea that “everybody lives”

  • “What if Mary Poppins was a lizard?” This is why I love you boys more ‘n my luggage.

    • You can’t NOT see it now, can you? Honestly, from the minute she was introduced, we thought she looked and sounded just like Julie Andrews in lizard makeup and prosthetics.

      • Snailstsichr

        Thank you. I am a huge Mary Poppins fan and this just made my day. Not only can I not unsee it, I don’t want to unsee it.

      • Corsetmaker

        Now if only Mary Poppins had a Jenny instead of a Dick Van Dyke!

        • Lattis

          I’d like that times 1000 if I could.

    • MilaXX

      I so want Jenny/Strax/Vastra and the next companions.

      • Jessi03

        Do you think the Doctor would put Jenny and Vastra in bunk beds?

      • MoHub

        I’d rather they got their own show. I’m still in mourning that Jago and Lightfoot never got their own spinoff.

  • OMG thank you for this! I feel like I understand so much more about what actually happened from this recap than from the episode itself. Time for a rewatch…

  • Qitkat

    Thank you for posting this. Best review from a fan perspective who still has questions, but doesn’t obsessively nerd out over discontinuities. Can’t argue with anything you said. I loved this. LOVED IT. River Song was utilized in the most perfect way possible. She’s always been a favorite character for me, my first Doctor Who episode ever was Silence in the Library, and the reason I signed up for Netflix, to get into NuWho properly. For so long, during Nine and Ten, it rarely felt like a kid’s show at all, but Eleven has been so all over the place, story-wise, and bouncing back and forth, trying to please both the children and the adults in the audience, and frequently failing both sides.

    This one worked because it had the best balance of adventure, pathos, humor, and darkness that defines the very best Who stories. Exactly. Finally some depth of story, and references that meant something to me, especially the NuWho audience who doesn’t always know much canon; but the wonderful thing, was to see all the previous Doctors, and feel more connected to the old canon, the stories that seem to mean so much to viewers who were there from the sixties.

    • BBCAmerica has been running a series called The Doctors Revisited which gives a brief rundown of each Doctor followed by a classic episode from their run. They run about once a month in the wee hours (each episode is three hours). The next one to air will be The Fifth Doctor, if you’re interested.

      • And they’re all listed OnDemand. They’re a great resource for the Nu Who fan. Even if you don’t want to watch the old serials, there’s a roughly 40 minute documentary at the start of each one explaining the highlights of each Doctor’s run.

        • That’s what I’ve been doing. Watching the doc and skipping the ep. Except for Tom Baker. I watched re-runs of The Fourth Doctor on PBS when I was a kid. 🙂

        • MilaXX

          I didn’t realize they were all available On Demand.

        • Well now I know how I’m spending my evenings this week…

      • stoprobbers

        The Doctors Revisited series has been *super awesome.* It’s also nice to have them pick an episode for each Doctor; there’s so much, it’s hard to know where to necessarily start.

      • Qitkat

        I have watched the first three of these. The serials are a bit much sometimes, even though I’ve tried to respect them in terms of the technology/sets available in the day, but the documentary sections have been helpful and interesting.

        • Corsetmaker

          You have to embrace the clunkiness. Egg whisks and big capes are part of the charm 😀

          • Qitkat

            I’m beginning to realize that 😉

            The Tomb of the Cybermen was quite funny, though I’m not sure intended as such. The Pyramids of Mars moved at such a glacial pace, and then speeded up ridiculously for the final 5 minutes. But I certainly can see why Tom Baker was known for his charms. Those electric blue eyes! The TARDIS is definitely clunky, I think they built the first console out of cardboard.

            Egg whisks? Something I missed?

          • Corsetmaker

            Daleks, one ‘hand’ an egg whisk, one a sink plunger ;D My favourite was an video screen in a Pertwee episode that was just an internal window with a venetian blind LOL!

            I loved Tom Baker. What struck me when I rewatched a story was the double entendres that passed me by first time around.

          • MoHub

            Not to mention that the show originally aired as weekly serials and were not meant to be completely absorbed in a single sitting.

          • Corsetmaker

            One of the reasons I’d prefer to go back to two parters – I miss the cliff-hangers! I miss sitting open-mouthed with my toasted cheese going cold on my lap as Tom Baker was left stuck in some impossible to escape from situation awaiting a fate worse than death… until 5pm the next Saturday 😀

    • Frank_821

      Oh getting John Hurt is a very big deal. He’s probably 1 of the biggest stars ever to be booked on the show. It would be like getting someone like Glenn Close

    • porcupie

      How utterly, ridiculously brilliant was Matt Smith? I mean, he always is, but that moment where Clara brought him tea and he started to cry was just absolutely heartbreaking, and showed that he can act the little moments just as much as the big ones. He’s wondrous.

      • Absolutely. It was such a short moment, but good lord! My immediate reaction upon seeing him make that face was, “nobody was ever meant to see the Doctor do that,” which is weird because we’ve seen the Doctor cry loads of times before. But this time it was alarming—like the first time you see a parent, or some sort of authoritative/responsible adult figure in your life cry. Well done, Mr Smith.

        (Wait… Did I just describe the Doctor as a responsible adult?)

        • porcupie

          Yes! You’re exactly right, it was like seeing your parents cry. Heartbreaking.

  • Pterodactyl111

    Thank you!!! You’ve pretty much articulated my exact feelings about this episode, when all the other reviews I’ve read have been hating. I loved it, despite the flaws. It was wonderfully entertaining.

  • MilaXX

    I think people may have jumped the gun. I was told a bunch of spoilers about this ep. Most were true, but the person was a little off the mark about what happens to River. I loved the old Doctors mixed in even when the CGI didn’t actually match up. Thankfully I watched anyway and found myself enjoying it. I may go back and rewatch the Neil Gaiman ep. I love his writing and was disappointed that I didn’t feel mote than “meh” about his ep. I won’t deny that I am a bit weary of the Nu Who sidekicks, being “plucky English gals.” & Moffs redundancy issues are not nearly as cleaver as he seems to think they are. Still when he gets it right, he can deliver an enjoyable show. Now to wait until November.

    • harlowish

      If I remember correctly from the Jenna-Louise Coleman post a few days ago, you said you weren’t happy about the spoilers you had heard. So I’m curious, which spoilers did you hear and how do you feel about how they played out?

      • MilaXX

        Everything except River’s outcome. What happened to Clara, River getting out of the library (sort of), and the appearance of John Hurt and who he is. The only thing incorrect was the person said that River got
        erased from the timeline. *That* would have pissed me off, so I’m glad it did not happen.
        Overall I enjoyed the episode.

    • Tatiana Luján

      I loved the old doctors part too.

  • jennygirl73

    I could not agree with you guys more. Your post clarified things for me, because I can’t possibly remember everything on Who and how it all ties.

    This episode saved Who for me because I was seriously considering giving the clever boy up because he hasn’t been clever in a long time.

  • Sara L.

    This was the review I was looking for! I, too, loved this ep, and actually Nightmare in Silver as well, because they felt like Doctor Who episodes finally, after a half season of something else that wasn’t that interesting. I agree that these stories need some room to breathe, and wish Moffat would reconsider his “no two-parter” stance (found here: ). River’s goodbye was so wonderful, and unexpected, and the dialogue was at turns heartbreaking and funny. And despite the heavy exposition, I was never bored. The ending was a delicious little WTF. Can’t wait for the next adventure!

  • VanessaDK

    Thanks for reviewing! I couldn’t agree more.

    I rewatched Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead last night in time for the finale and it was well worth it! Made me realize two things–

    First, the two part episode felt so luxurious and rich in character and plot development it was thrilling compared to the current (Series 7) breakneck pace. The introduction of the neural relays through a beautiful and sustained death scene would never have happened now, but it added so much to the episode.

    Second, I think that River Song the archaeologist had to meet the tenth doctor, or the eleventh would never have “fallen” for her. She had to die to have all those adventures, not just to save the doctor, but to meet the doctor. It was great fun watching her performance after seeing the rest of her arc.

  • VanessaDK

    Almost forgot — I was really disappointed in the archival footage. So poorly executed. Fan videos on you tube do better mashups!

    • Tatiana Luján

      I loved that it looked like fanvideos. I don’t know why I loved it.

  • stoprobbers

    I don’t understand what episode you watched at all. 1/3 of it was the same voiceover and CGI sequence repeated over again. There were absolutely zero stakes. The villain came out of nowhere and went nowhere. The solution to Clara was a poor rehash of season one’s (truly excellent) Bad Wolf. By the time we got to the John Hurt reveal I had to pause my DVR just to check that an hour had passed because that’s how incredibly little happened in this episode.

    The back half of this season was a disgrace and this finale was the topper on that shame cake. How you loved it is beyond me. A fakeout is not a twist; nothing that happened last night was a twist. Nothing really happened at all.

    The only thing we agree about is that Matt Smith acted his butt off. I wish he was given material worthy of his skills to work with. It’s a shame he got stuck with Moffat.

    • Corsetmaker

      I’m no Moffat fan ( I think he’s a great episode writer, but poor showrunner) but I really disagree and going by various forums ets so do the majority of fans, even ones who have been vocally very unhappy with Moffat and series 7.

      The last series has been very patchy, although I’ve preferred episodes like The Crimson Horror and Journey to the centre of the Tardis more than I did the likes of Dinosaurs on a Spaceship! For me 7b has been better than a (with the exception of Asylum)

      The villain didn’t come out of nowhere when he was back from the Christmas episode and is an old foe in to the bargan. And the stakes were about high as they can be in Who.

      • stoprobbers

        The villain DID come out of nowhere. We saw the GI in The Snowmen, and again in the Bells of St. John, and then there was *literally* no hint that anything was going on with it until the finale. There was nothing to indicate it would have built up this kind of hatred for the Doctor or why. The Great Intelligence played a role in *2* Classic Who episodes, and other reviewers have rightly pointed out that between that grand total of 4 episodes, NOTHING happened that would explain why the Great Intelligence would unleash such an elaborate plot to destroy the Doctor.

        Thus, there are no stakes. The GI stepped into the Doctor’s timeline; 2 seconds later, so did Clara. All the Doctor did was writhe in pain as stars went out. He even said “stop him” BEFORE it happened, and everyone just stood around looking confused. So what are the stakes? The universe? His name? Moffat never does anything for keeps. Three seasons of resets, takesies-backsies, and not!death means we all know everything is just going to reset itself in the end. I figured out the Great Intelligence was likely the Big Bad after The Snowmen, watched it go nowhere, and knew that everything was going to reset itself the moment the door opened behind the Doctor when River silently said his name or whatever that was. Moffat never plays for keeps. Even Clara had no stakes to her story – we knew she’d jump in the time stream, that’s how Dalek Clara and Victorian Clara existed in the first place. Everything was inevitable, nothing was a surprise. What “pathos” people are talking about, I couldn’t see. I don’t know a single person who enjoyed this episode – the friends I have who watched it were as underwhelmed as me, the fans I see on tumblr and facebook and twitter are all disappointed, the reviews have been mediocre at best (except this one). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just me.

        • Corsetmaker

          Hmmm, well the Who forum I visit fairly often, which is usually very split on Moffat, was positive. There have been a few things debated over but the overall poll that’s up weekly gave a pretty overwhelming 80% ‘excellent’ result. More dramatically, much more, than any other episode this series.

          The reviews I’ve read have been similarly positive. In fact I’ve read three this evening (Guardian, Telegraph, Den of Geek) and all have given a resounding thumbs up.

          The responses I’ve seen on the Who facebook page seemed mostly to go along the lines of ‘aw why’s Matt left for that old guy’. So not much faith there.

          I suppose I just don’t see a problem with a villain not having a lot of obvious lead in. I thought he signposted well enough, he didn’t need more. And this premise of stopping the Doctor before he allegedly becomes darker, which was the G.I’s reasoning as well as plain old revenge, has been on the go for some time now and with the introduction of this not-Doctor is presumably the running theme for the 50th.

          Stakes, well we always know the Doctor is going to survive or there wouldn’t be a show. So there’s never a real peril. And we did know Clara was going in. But the performances were enough to put their fear over. Especially Vastra. I do agree the fact nobody stays dead is a problem.

          Pathos was there in bucketloads. Jenny, Matt’s marvelous reaction to Trenzalore, the parting with River and Clara’s willingness to sacrifice. Like most I haven’t warmed to Clara but I thought her realisation of what she had to do was nicely done.

          But if you hated it, you hated it. However, as I said, despite being lukewarm about a lot of the last series, I thought they nailed it with this one.

    • “I don’t understand what episode you watched at all.”

      Yes you do. You’re just being condescending in your disagreement.

  • >>Season seven may have been one of the least consistent, most frustrating seasons of Nu Who,

    I thought it was MILES above series 6. They at least figured out, for the most part, how to write a series arc without constantly stopping and starting it.

    >>Aside from that, she’s generic “plucky English girl,” which is a Doctor Who character trope that could probably use a little rest.

    kind of the point of her character is that she’s entirely ordinary, though.

    • stoprobbers

      Rose, Martha, and Donna were all ordinary girls who came to travel with the Doctor and grow and become special (not some sort of great mystery to be solved off the bat), and were also richly developed, interesting, and nuanced character with flaws and strengths and growth and dimensions. “Ordinary girl” does not equal “boring character.” Moffat is bad at writing companions and especially women.

      • Yeah. Donna (my favorite companion) had plenty of attitude and pluck, but she wasn’t at all like a stereotypical Moffat’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl (TM). Maybe I’m giving Moffat too much credit, but I don’t think he’s bad at writing female companions—it’s just that he’s been writing the same character in different outfits.

      • I never said “ordinary girl” equals “boring character”. Wot?
        Also, Rose, Martha and Donna all had pointless, boring lives until the Doctor wooshed in to make it all better. And then Donna’s entire growth was erased. Yawn. Clara, at least, had a fulfilling life outside the Doctor.

        The “Moffat can’t write women” meme is so old now I couldn’t care less. Your particular idea of what a “strong woman character” is isn’t universal.

        • And nothing you’ve said in this thread is anything but your own interpretation. Stop acting like you’re coming in to explain the show to the slow people.

        • stoprobbers

          Clara, like Amy and River before her, has no life outside the Doctor. That was actually the resolution of her “Impossible girl” thing. I’d call it an arc, but it’s not really a character arc at all is it?

          Yawn. Another Moffat fanboy. Zzzzzz.

          • I’m not a male, fyi. And yeah, she actually does.

            And say what you will about Moffat, but none of his female characters ended up as paving slabs.

            If you’re going to defend Rusty as a paragon of feminist virtue – the guy that completely undid the progression of his best character, that made a joke of every woman over 30 with a sexuality, and that reduced a female character to a LITERAL object- like that isn’t bad enough, adding a blowjob joke on top of it- I’m like, entirely uninterested in what your definition of “good writing” is. Sorry.

    • Supernumerary

      I’m not sure I can agree with your ‘the point of her character is that she’s entirely ordinary’.

      That’s just not the case with Clara, or Amy. Theirs weren’t/haven’t been stories where they begin ordinary and are made extraordinary — Moffat started them as Unique & In Need Of Solving straight off the bat, and but I imagine that’s not *all* he can write, it does seem to be his preferred Companion model. Modern!Clara is only remotely ordinary on the surface. It’s a nice little patina of normalcy which wasn’t even scraped away for the viewers, but rather painted on after we’d already seen how Strange & Important she was.

      • They drew big exclamation points around what a normal girl Clara was. She didn’t even have a special time-head like Amy did, she’s a normal girl with a normal job and a normal family and part of the arc was about the Doctor’s frustration with that.
        And then she, an entirely ordinary girl with no special powers, went on to have a huge influence on crucial moment’s in the Doctor’s life.
        In case you don’t realise.. that’s huge. Moffat’s reversed the gender dynamic that’s been at the heart of the show since it’s inception. It’s no longer the dashing heroic male lead having problematic levels of influence over young girls who are powerless to reciprocally affect him. An entirely normal girl now defines the Doctor’s entire life. If that’s not “ordinary becoming extraorindary” … I don’t know what is.
        Also “generic plucky English girl” doesn’t apply to Amy because she ain’t even English. I wouldn’t call a Scot English unless I had an active death wish…

        • You’re being rather silly if you’re going to pretend that “plucky English girl” hasn’t been a Who companion trope for the last 50 years.

          And she’s a normal girl with a normal job and a normal family …. just like Rose, Martha and Donna.

        • Corsetmaker

          LOL I was going to raise the point about Amy not being English. No, we don’t take too kindly to that 🙂

  • Couldn’t John Hurt be an old Doctor #8? We never saw that one regenerate right?

    • stoprobbers

      This is sort of what I hope, but I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be reality. I don’t know, something about the “sekrit doktah between 8 and 9” just feels so disrespectful to both Paul McGann and Chris Eccleston. ESPECIALLY Paul McGann. Poor dude gets no respect (but has such a rich and incredible life in the Big Finish audios) and now his one big canon contribution – being the Doctor who ends the Time War – is going to be taken from him.

      And also if John Hurt’s Not!Doctor is the one who ends the Time War, and that’s this supposedly horrifically disgraceful thing… what? Ending a war by sacrificing his own people (and presumably himself; Nine talks about not expecting or even wanting to survive, I think) for the safety of trillions and trillions and trillions of planets, galaxies, and civilizations isn’t disgraceful! It is absolutely in line with the Doctor’s chosen name. I don’t get it. My expectations for the 50th are very, very low.

      • KristinW

        To be fair, the Doctor was pretty clearly horrified with the genocide brought by the Time War, he just also understood that it was necessary for the greater good. If they can find a way to have John Hurt’s character do something terrible that helped end the Time War without retconning anything from 8 or 9 then I will be satisfied (something along the lines of how the Valeyard was created maybe?). That said, Moffat probably isn’t up to it, but we can hope.

        • stoprobbers

          It’s territory he shouldn’t be messing with, period. It has “bad idea” all over it.

          • KristinW

            No, it’s really not. Still, trying to look on the bright side and all that.

  • Jessi03

    So glad you guys put this up! I had very conflicting feelings about the episode, and I’ve missed your Whocaps.

  • JauntyJohn

    I am deeply conflicted but there are a few things I’m sure of:

    –>The cut to Vastra, Jenny and Strax after The Doctor kisses River and then says “since no one else can see you I have no idea what that looked like” — V, J & S’s expressions are effing brilliant.

    –>Smith is a gifted, brilliant actor. Entirely natural and believable in his emotional extremes.

    –> I’m sorry but it felt to me like we really took the long way around to make “Run you clever boy, and remember” pay off.

    –> Love Clara or hate her, I think the Impossible Girl was such a vibe echo of The Girl Who Waited that it was ultimately a fault line running through the foundation of the whole season.

    –> “All that Bigger-on-the-inside comes leaking out. It’s a Size Leak.” was actually really imaginative.

    –> I would have been bereft if they hadn’t brought Jenny back.

    –> Richard E. Grant as the G.I. spits lines with venom better than practically anyone.

  • Corsetmaker

    Good review guys, I was hoping there would be one here when I looked 🙂

    Like you I’ve been unhappy with the series until Saturday night. I thought it was patchy, rushed and lacking heart. I agree with your statements in the past that Moffat can’t write women well and I haven’t warmed to Clara. It seems that the writers haven’t got a grip on here but then Gaiman apparently said he was told it was to be Victorian Clara in his episode then it was changed later to modern Clara. If that’s the sort of switching that’s been going on then it explains the lack of depth to her character. Plus I’m not too keen on Jenna Louise Coleman as an actress, and that dates back to soaps etc I’ve seen her in before.The only episode I’ve thoroughly enjoyed was the Crimson Horror, and that was Clara light (thought Jenny made a better companion in that). Plus, too rushed. 45 minute episodes aren’t long enough. It needs to be an hour, or two parter. But I believe that’s partly down to the BBC America deal and them putting ads into the timeslot,

    The finale was brillliant though. The pacing was spot on. Endings tied up and more questions raised. The Whispermen were chilling and just where we go with the Hurt incarnation is intriguing. And I loved River’s goodbye. Also loved Jenny’s sorry ma’m moment as well. Although her revival by Strax annoyed a bit, much as I didn’t want her gone. The archive footage wasn’t handled as well as it could’ve been but it was lovely seeing classic Who properly tied up with NuWho. Also the premise of these ‘bad guys’ justifying their actions by stopping a future Doctor they see as a monstrous dark lord is interesting.

    There were issues, there always is. Little plot holes, things you just know Moffat will never get round to returning to or explaining and a few problems that were probably down to budget constraints more than anything else. But all in all I thought it was pretty wonderful and it made up for a lot.

  • JP

    Oooh, I missed the Silence actually trying to do good — interesting!

    To me, Clara is actually Rose Mark II. Rose looked into the heart of the TARDIS and retconned her Bad Wolf message all over her past adventures; Clara goes into The Doctor’s time stream and inserts herself in all his adventures.

    I’m not trying to speculate too hard on the John Hurt moment (incidentally, I think “the John Hurt moment” that was such a thing in COUPLING should be changed to refer to this episode).

  • I have not had the rabid dislike that a lot of fans have had to this half of the season, but I definitely understand the issues with the show.

    That said, I loved this episode. LOVED. IT. I don’t think Doctor Who has moved me to tears in a very long time, but this episode did. And the opening sequence – it was incredible. I was watching with about 15 other people and we all cheered and grinned at that.

    Watching with a group may be why I’ve liked the show more – you get a totally different feel for the show when you watch with a group and can bounce ideas off each other during the commercials and afterwards. It’s definitely more fun than watching in a vacuum.

  • MoHub

    And this is what consistently drives me back to classic Doctor.

  • marymaryk

    while this was a great episode, I’m not sure it redeems the entire Clara arc. It feels like they came up with an idea – impossible girl! saves the doctor in all his lives! and then attempted to stretch it into a season / companion. and, frankly, the actress so far hasn’t been strong enough to carry it and, as TLo says, there’s been precious little development beyond Smith saying she’s impossible over and over again.

    I AM disappointed by the River / Clara interaction. Moffat teased us by saying something along the lines of “And wait until you see how River handles it”

    What I don’t have any problem with is the thought of each incarnation / appearance of Clara having been born / raised in each milieu – she simply has an imperative, when she encounters the doctor, to jump in & help him / save him, without perhaps knowing why. Consider her behavior in the Dalek Asylum, or in the 1800s – she saw him and immediately started helping / following / saving him. I’d accept that behavior as evidence for all her iterations. It would, however, to have been shown, not told, over the course of the season.

  • fuflans

    am i the only one who thought the ‘opening of the tomb’ (by a woman) and the ‘what you did in my name’ might refer to…i don’t know…other mythology?

    (speaking as a secular humanist).

  • fuflans

    oh and i love me some dr who, but the whisperers were a total buffy ‘gentlemen’ ripoff.

    with less Danse Macabre

  • Lattis

    I really liked the explanation of why Clara was the impossible girl – why she was everywhere in the timeline. And really loved the ending for River who I’ve always liked.

    Also, love the way Strax always mixes up gender. Clara to Dr. Song: I didn’t know you were a woman. Strax: I didn’t know you were a woman either.

  • So what’s this ish about Eccleston not even being ASKED?? Was it Moffat going FRD (fuck Russell Davies), or what??

    • Corsetmaker

      He was asked, there were meetings apparently. He declined.

  • Whee! As much as I like to whine, I like to fangirl more, and this was an AWESOME episode. Deliciously creepy, and for once I empathized with almost everyone involved. I’m still not happy with Moffat as a showrunner but he appears to deliver enough good episodes to keep me watching. The November special looks like it could be fun!

  • Taylor Jones

    It’s not i’m so sorry mum… it’s Ma’am… mum makes no sense whatsoever.

    • I’m sorry, but the lack and/or misuse of punctuation in your comment renders it complete gibberish. I can’t understand a word of it. It’s just strings of pointless letters. I wonder if you were trying to convey something. Oh well. We’ll probably never know.