Season Finales have become rather important to episodic television. A spectacle is now a standard expectation, which often comes at the expense of a good story. Doctor Who finales, in particular, have become bigger and more grandiose in nature. Stephen Moffat had to write an episode that fulfilled expectations that he set up when he introduced Clara “The Impossible Girl” in Asylum of the Daleks. Why does Clara keep popping up through time? What connection does she have to the Doctor? Are these hints about the past really building to an incredible 50th? The Name of the Doctor is not a perfect way to answer those questions but it is very effective and quite a bit of fun. Spoilers ahead…..
The episode begins a very long time ago on Gallifrey with two guards witnessing a theft. Then Whovians everywhere proceeded to geek themselves as Susan and her Grandfather begin to step into a TARDIS and are interrupted by Clara. In the earliest part of the Doctor’s timeline ever shown on TV, The Impossible Girl telling colorized footage of William Hartnell from The Aztecs that he is about to make a very big mistake. A 50th anniversary dream parade unfolds as Clara sees a variety of Doctors, Three driving Bessie in The Five Doctors, Four running in The Invasion of Time. Five trapped in Arc of Infinity, Six walking behind her, Seven hanging from the cliff in Dragonfire, Eight running by, Two running in The Five Doctors, Ten studying in Silence in the Library which was not aired on BBC America. Clara is falling and saying her catchphrase of “I don’t know where I am” and informing us she was born to save the Doctor, she always sees him, and he almost never hears her. This sequence is astounding as it quickly establishes anything can happen while everything is at stake.
In 1893, Madame Vastra is told that a great secret about the Doctor has been discovered. She sends an invitation to a conference call to her crew Jenny and Strax the Scottish Sontaran, a trio who would make for a fun spin-off. It seems that time travel is possible within dreams so the crew is joined by Clara by way of a drugged letter send Back to the Future 2 style and also joining the circle is Professor River Song who is interested in the Doctor’s new companion. Vastra tells the group about the secret the Doctor will take to the grave and a place called Trenzalore, where the Doctor must never go. The Whisper Men, top coat and top hat wearing blank faces with mouths, attack the unprotected and sleeping bodies of the conference call members. Vastra and crew are surrounded by the Whisper Men and the Great Intelligence in, what looks like, the body of Dr. Simeon from The Snowman and are taken.
Clara finally meets up with the Doctor who learns his friends will die if he does not travel to Trenzalore. In a very moving moment, the Doctor breaks down a little as he explains the his secret has not been discovered but his grave has been. Clara gets plugged to the TARDIS telepathic circuits to read the coordinates she saw in the call with Vastra. The TARDIS refuses to finish the trip to the planet and the Doctor is forced to crash as it is easier than jumping. River appears to Clara saying no one else can see her and offering some help on how to get to the Doctor’s tomb. Here the tomb is the Doctor’s TARDIS in its dying stages. The Sixth Doctor once saw his tombstone in Revelation of the Daleks but it turned out to be a fake, here the fake belongs to the tombstone for River Song. The Doctor and Clara take the secret passage in the fake grave to reach the Doctor’s tomb where the Great Intelligence is waiting
After the obligatory threatening of lives, the door to the Doctor’s tomb is opened and everyone enters. Inside is a beautiful blue electric storm which is the scar tissue of all the Doctor’s travels through time. A quick blast of the Sonic Screwdriver reveals voices from the First Doctor speaking to Ian and Barbra in The Unearthly Child, Nine talking to Rose in Parting of the Ways, Ten introducing himself in Voyage of the Dammned, and Six yelling at Time Lords in Trial of a Time Lord. The Doctor falls to the ground as the paradox of him being in his Tomb is a bit much. The Great Intelligence reveals it is tired of being thwarted by the Doctor. It plans to enter the Scar in time and undo all of the Doctor’s victories in time. Upon entering, the energy turns red and the Doctor’s body starts burning. Vastra, Jenny and Strax leave the tomb and see stars disappearing from the sky. Meanwhile, the River that is connected with Clara explains the Doctor is being re-written. Clara has been getting her memories back from Journey to the Center of the TARDIS thanks to the connection with the telepathic circuits. She realizes that these lives she led was because she has to help the Doctor. Though he tries to talk her out of it, Clara walks up to the energy and for the first time from her point of view says “Run… run you celever boy and remember me” and steps into the energy.
Clara is now floating through time like the opening of the show. She appears to the Doctor when he first sets out to tell him to take a different TARDIS as he will have more fun. Jenny, Strax and all the worlds reappear as the Doctor gets to his feet. He wants to save Clara as the River no can see yells at him not to enter his timeline. River goes to slap the Doctor who grabs her hand and says while he can see her he chose not to spoke as it would hurt him too much. River and the Doctor get to say a goodbye and before the echo of the backup disappears, she asks the Doctor if Clara is dead how could she be there since they were mentally connected. When the Doctor asks how, she just smiles and say…. “Spoilers.” Then the Doctor steps into his own timestream.
Inside Clara finally hits a ground where she sees images of Doctors One, Four, Five, Six, and Nine. The Doctor finally shows up begging Clara to let him save her this one time. As they hug, she sees a figure she has not seen before. The Doctor says it is him but it is not the Doctor. The person in front of is the one that broke the promise. The man says he had no choice in what he did. The Doctor agrees but again says what he did was not in the name of the Doctor. John Hurt turns around, we are told HE is the Doctor and To Be Continued pops up. November 23rd is a long time away.
Many things were learned in this episode. Clara has always been in the Doctor’s life but does not always know she is there. In fact, only Doctors One and Eleven ever heard her. That is an interesting link as Eleven has dressed more like One and the TARDIS looks like the classic console. Even if the Doctor cannot save her, Clara can still be in future episodes as she entered the Doctor’s time stream. The guy at the end sounds like a bad version of the Doctor. The Great Intelligence mentions the Doctor’s other names with one being The Valeyard as heard in Trial of a Time Lord. With two mentions to that eppy and a potential visit from him in Amy’s Choice The Valeyard is a good bet for the Doctor to have to face in the 50th anniversary special. The Name of the Doctor also faced the issue of the end of the Doctor. Everyone has a grave out there somewhere. This acknowledgement that the Doctor’s Regeneration “rule” means the 50th is going to reset things or end them and I do not see the latter happening. This eppy also had the most number of Doctors featured at the staggering number of twelve. We never did get an explanation for the leaf.
Moffat ends the season with a great episode for classic Who fans and one that must be exciting ad dangerous for new Who fans. This eppy gave me what I wanted to see with plenty of classic shout outs, a sense of big story with the cheese, and a sense of danger that held even though you know the Doctor is going to win. That victory will have to wait until November but for now we can try and figure out how. Doctor Who was celebrated in the season finale. It reminded everyone why they watch. You simply do not know who this madman is and where he is going. The fast pace kept you engaged and not questioning things too much. As a long time Who fan, I spent so much time with my mouth open during the eppy. I sat on the couch feeling like the Fourth Grader who first discovered this crazy show so long ago. It gave many things and made you want even more. In the end, that is what the Doctor Does.