Guest Post: The Name of the Doctor Review

I have re-watched this episode three times and even now I am not sure that this review can possibly do justice to what I saw on the screen. Yes. The Name of The Doctor was that audacious, that mind blowing, that earth shattering. It rarely happens that the press hype is actually met on a TV show. My imagination always comes up with something better, more interesting. The problem is, people say that their stuff is going to be gamechanging and the term has gotten to seem more than a little bit cliche. I should have known Steven Moffat would pull off something as crazy as this though. I mean, this is the guy who wrote the mind bender that was The Wedding of River Song.

A synopsis for those still confused? The Doctor goes to the one place he must never go, the one place he fears above all; Trenzalore and his grave. But as his friends are kidnapped he has no choice but to journey to the burnt out husk that is his TARDISY tomb and do battle with Doctor Simeon and The Great Intelligence one last time. Potentially mind blowing stuff.

And this time the mind blowing happened in the first five minutes. So I was right, you guys! Well sort of anyway. Clara is fractured throughout time and space. She is also a perfectly ordinary girl. “You know what? Run you clever boy, and remember… me.” I got shivers down my spine. Only, who could possibly have guessed that Moffat would dare to take Clara that far back in time and space. I admit it, the second that the first doctor appeared with Susan I let out a squeal of excited happiness. Christmas had come a good six months early. And then we get another fling with Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax (spin off, spin off, spin off) and some creepy rhyming couplets;

Do you hear the whispermen
The whispermen are near
If you hear the whispermen then turn away your ear
Do not hear the whispermen
Whatever else you do
For if you hear the whispermen
They’ll stop and look at you.

Can I just say how much I enjoyed the whole seance as a method of getting The Doctor’s friends in one place? Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Jenna Louise Coleman was wonderful in the scene with the candle as she dropped it in fright and disgust. Madame Vastra’s dry tone was also hilarious as she told Clara and the audience that the letter was infused with soporific. And then we had the return of River Song. And Moffat kept on giving because he didn’t do what I feared above all else and retcon the library two parter. I grinned from ear to ear when River declared that she had summoned her flute of champagne, “disgracefully.”

Wait, did I mention the acting? Matt Smith was a revelation this episode. When Clara first tells him of the message, watch Matt’s face. It’s a wonderful moment in an episode full of wonderful moments. And if that doesn’t convince you, what about The Doctor as he finally sees River, the data ghost of his dead wife, and kisses her with all of the passion that their relationship has ignited past, present and – dare I wish it? – future. Their final farewell tore my heart into thousands of shreds. I think I should stop gushing while I’m ahead, but that final ‘sweetie’ and ‘spoilers’ felt like icing on an already delicious cake.

And then there was Madame Vastra and Jenny. Jenny’s “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I think I’ve been murdered,” was one of the most chilling Who lines we’ve heard in ages. Steven Moffat is good at dialogue. In general, I think that the quality of the dialogue in Who has gone up since he has taken over as showrunner. Who could go past this wise gem of a quote:

Strax: The heart is a relatively simple thing.
Madame Vastra: I have not found it to be so.

Yes, Richard E Grant’s Doctor Simeon did little but pout and sport a stiff upper lip before a swift demise via The Doctor’s bleeding gash of a time line. Yes, this entire finale is a set up for the big 50th in November. Yes, it was a damned cheeky move to insert Clara into The Doctor’s entire existence as a time traveller like that. But THAT kiss. THAT moment when you just knew that the mad man with a box was going to leap in after Clara (presumably causing the TARDIS to explode in s5). AND LOOK. I HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN TO THE END YET. JOHN HURT. THEMATIC CONTINUITY.

Clara: Who’s that?
The Doctor: Never mind. Let’s get back.
Clara: Who is he?
The Doctor: He’s me. There’s only me here, that’s the point. Now let’s get back.
Clara: But I never saw that one. I saw all of you. Eleven faces. All of them you.
The Doctor: I said he was me. I never said he was the Doctor.
Clara: But I don’t understand.
The 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…  it’s like a promise you make. He’s the one who broke the promise. {Clara collapses} Clara? Clara! He is my secret.
The Old Man: What I did, I did without choice.
The Doctor: I know.
The Old Man: In the name of peace and sanity.
The Doctor: But not in the name of the Doctor.

This whole sequence filled my meta minded brain with sheer joy. Because this is where Moffat’s Who has been headed all along. Moffat is interested in the idea of what’s in a name. No one really thought that the Doctor’s name would be a literal reveal, did they? Because if you did, I don’t think you can have been paying much attention. When everyone kept repeating, “Doctor Who?” I never thought that they sought a literal name unless that name revealed more about The Doctor. I always thought, especially after River’s speech in A Good Man Goes to War, that the question was about identity. Who is The Doctor really? What is his essence? What does his story matter? Perfect set up meta for a show’s celebatory 50th!

Look. I’m sorry to regular readers of this blog. I can’t be coherant about this episode. It wasn’t as emotionally rewarding for me as The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, but it was certainly as interesting and as challenging and definitely more explosive. Doctor Who canon, much like it was after The Doctor’s Wife, will never be the same again.

The Name of The Doctor: 11/10 inky stars

Next time: See you in November, kiddos, just in time for some Time War angst if I’m not much mistaken. I knew that Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS had more about it than met the eye.

Maureen is addicted to all things speculative fiction, including Doctor Who. She guest blogs for MrsTribble but you can find her at her speculative fiction blog InkAshlings or on Twitter. She also reviews sci fi and fantasy books on Goodreads if you like that kind of thing.


About InkAshlings

Maureen, Australian, young aspiring writer.
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4 Responses to Guest Post: The Name of the Doctor Review

  1. InkAshlings says:

    Reblogged this on InkAshlings.

  2. Susanne says:

    I thought that this episode (series finale) was up there with some of the best in Moffat’s work since he started working on Dr Who. I really didn’t think they would reveal the Doctor’s name otherwise it would have made the story and his character is less interesting but I do love the use of the title to get people thinking and debating. It was also a good way to introduce John Hurt as the other Doctor. I wonder if he may be involved in a major battle in the past or the future. There are a lot of blanks in the Doctor’s timeline in regards of his identity so I think the November anniversary will be the start of something some wonderful.

    Riversong, riversong, riversong….what can I say? Bloody Brilliant!!!! Broke my heart to say goodbye to her and Alex Kingston has been a star! I remember seeing her on ER and in a few episodes of Law and Order SVU and I knew that she was someone very special. I love the goodbye scene between her and the Doctor, it was very heartbreaking and very emotional especially when River tries to talk him out of his plan to save Clara. Alex puts a lot of heart and love in that performance and when she asked him why he hadn’t spoken to her even though he knew she was there and can see her…I could literally feel my heart breaking for her. Matt Smith’s performance was gold, he put a lot of emotion and love into that scene like he did when Clara told him what had happened to his friends. That Kiss was gut wrenching and River’s sad goodbye smile was gutwrenching and to hear her say spoilers and sweatie for the final time just gave me the right amount of closure that was needed in that part of the Doctor’s life. It was low key and perfectly written and executed. Also….the doctor acknowledging how creepy and wired it must have looked to everyone else since strax, Jenny and Madama Vastra couldn’t see her. That was comedic gold!!! It may be just my inner mean girl here but did I notice a bit of jealousy coming from Riversong when she met Clara? Or maybe it was insecurity or anxiety that the Doctor found someone knew? I dunno I just picked up on a bit of awkward intense tension between the pair when they first met.

    Clara…I love love Jenna Louise Coleman! She is up there as one one of my favourite companions. She is quirky, fun and so confident in everything that she does. She has come off a times a little bit too comedic/robotic or as one person said…too much of a cardboard cutout but she really came through on this episode. I loved the way that Moffat had inserted her throughout the Doctor’s timeline but I think it was overdone… I much preferred the way they did it at the end of the episode when all those versions of the Doctor came running past her but we didn’t see too much of their faces but you could tell who was who just from their clothing.

    Richard E. Grant’s performance was great but the villians were a little bit of a letdown for me but it was onlt a minor thing since it wasn’t the central part of the mystery/story. But for him to walk through the Dr’s timeline and mess it all up is very twisted. The whisper men were quite well done and coupled with that chant it is enough to send shivers down your spine but I hope that Moffat further develops them to be a more stronger foe for the doctor and make them come into their own in the next episodes/series. After seeing his creation of the angels and how he developed them to be one of the most scariest and most formiddable villians in Dr Who I am hoping he could do more with the whispering men. They have great potential.

    Dialogue was fantastic…but since this is Moffat it comes to no suprise.
    I wish I could go on but there is just enough time for me right now. This is by far one of the best episodes I have seen in a long time. It was even better having the surround sound speakers on at full blast which helped the experience along. I recommend it to anyone.

    • InkAshlings says:

      I see that you enjoyed this as much as I did then! I liked Clara telling the First Doctor to pick out the TARDIS. That moment rocked my socks off!

    • I saw confusion and some jealousy when Clara was introduced to River as “The Doctor’s Companion”. Having said that, she’s said herself that The Doctor must never travel alone, and I suspect that she would be wary of any Companion who isn’t her Mum or Dad.

      I was on the edge of my seat for the entire episode; so beautifully put together and executed – and when Matt’s Doctor cries *I* always cry!

      I still have no words to describe such a beautiful, moving episode – so I’ll leave it up to Maureen 🙂

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