Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: Doctor Who 7.13: The Name of The Doctor

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Clara makes the choice to save The Doctor's life.
If you've not seen The Name of the Doctor, don't read this review. Thanks. Written between the 18th and 19th May 2013.

Possibly one of the most hyped up episodes ever, due to not just a massive scandal regarding some early American blu-ray copies and the threat of subsequent spoilers, this finale serves the duel purpose of answer all of this year's burning questions while also culminating Moffat's three-year arc story. While it certainly wasn't as brilliant as the hype would suggest, I don't think any story could be, and although my glasses of awe are still fixed firmly to my face it would seem that this is one of NuWho's better finales, especially in the way that it satiated fan demands for a Classic-filled 50th and a lot of the Moffat-era fans at the same time.
     Via time-transcending psychic commlink, the Padernoster Gang invite Clara and River Song (whose mind is in the Library) to a mental conference. A mad prisoner has exchanged his life for the co-ordinates of Trenzalore, the location of The Doctor's biggest secret, where the Silence wanted to prevent The Doctor from going. As the others are attacked by the Whisper Men, extensions of the Great Intelligence, Clara wakes up and meets the Doctor, who uses her memory of the co-ordinates to pilot the TARDIS. He reveals that Trenzalore is the location of The Doctor's grave, deep inside an overgrown and dying TARDIS. The door to the Tomb can only be opened by the Doctor's real name, which is whispered by River's psychic presence. (We don't hear it.) Inside the tomb is a web of time stretching back through The Doctor's past. The Great Intelligence enters it in order to kill The Doctor throughout time but Clara realises her purpose and jumps in as well, being split into a million lives across time and saving The Doctor in all of his incarnations. When The Doctor joins Modern!Clara at the bottom of the web, they find the one incarnation who failed to live up to The Doctor's name... the incarnation played by John Hurt.
     This episode contained a hell of a lot of things that I'd usually bash in NuWho. Unsubtle orchestras blaring over overly emotional scenes, cheese to the max with references to the past and retcons like there's no tomorrow. But there was something so awfully intimate about it at the same time. There was no reference back to the Silence or the grand arcs of Moffat's past. It was about The Doctor going to see his own grave, because he had to, because the Great Intelligence had kidnapped his friends and he was prepared to cross his own timeline and face his future in order to save them.
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I cannot quite describe the noise I made when Hartnell
appeared on screen.
     Unlike 2011's solution of "He was a robot after all," Series Seven's admittedly more technobabbley solution felt comprehensive and brilliant. It explained the two previous appearances as well as allowing us a heaping pile of cameos and altered footage. Clara became the cancelling factor to the Great Intelligence, unable to alter time too much except to push it in the direction of the world she came from. We also got that rather odd shot at the end, where the 50th was foreshadowed with the introduction of a previously unseen incarnation of The Doctor played by John Hurt. (My thoughts on which I will provide you in November).
     I thought I'd be upset at all the retconning, at the fact that Moffat has now re-written 50 years of Doctor Who to include his new character. But I'm not. Because what it feels like he's done is offered up a 50 year insurance policy for every single plothole in existence. How did the Doctor and Wells survive in Timelash? Clara did it. Doesn't matter how, just Clara. The Name of the Doctor was a barnstorming finale, and while there are cries from some circles that Moffat's overall attitudes and overall plot may be as wishy washy as Aladdin's mother, the finale hit the nail of the head for so many different things that I might as well like it. It's been a much better season with much better characters, and I'm actually looking forward to the 50th despite my misgivings.

Thanks.

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