Please note that as these are reviews, spoilers may be present within the text!
Overall, The Name of the Doctor has everything that you could possibly want from a good episode of Doctor Who. It was an utterly brilliant instalment, from the performances to the aesthetics. The archive footage was a big surprise but a welcome one. Those who say that Moffat has forgotten the classic series or suggest that the show is not what it used to be should watch this episode; it is a wonderful precursor to the 50th anniversary.
This has been a patchy series, to put it kindly, but thankfully it has finished on a high. The last two episodes – the Victorian romp, then the return of the Cybermen – have been a return to form. This climactic episode was even better. It was momentous, moving and thrilling, yet somehow still found time to be very funny in flashes (mainly thanks to the highly quotable Strax).
The only downsides? A tad too much clunking exposition, the odd spot of creaky CGI and some unconvincing metaphors about soufflés and leaves. However, the biggest catch of all is that it’s now a six-month wait for November’s 50th anniversary special. Still, that should be just enough time to digest this breathless, brilliant finale.
And so the mystery of Clara is finally resolved. Your demented theories as to her true nature have been fantastic, but I always thought it would be something much more simple than her being Susan or Romana or The Rani. She chases the Great Intelligence into the grave, fracturing herself through time and space, in endless copies and versions: sometimes Clara the governess, sometimes Oswin, usually souffle girl. The Clara we meet now is the real one, with different facets of her saving the Doctor in different eras. The pre-credits sequence, with all the Doctors, actually made me fall over.
The solution is both straightforward and mindbending. But that doesn’t quite get over any of the question marks about what Clara is like as a person. I still don’t feel I know her. Now this is all over with and we know Jenna is back for the 50th, hopefully that can change.
We know pretty much from the start (in fact, we’ve known since the end of last season) that The Doctor will inevitably end up on Trenzalore, so why on Jupiter’s moons does it take him so bleedin’ long to get there? The first half of the episode (if not more) is tense and occasionally effective, but boy, does it feel like padding.
Some of it is clearly there to bring the dozier viewers up to speed, but it also highlights another of the episode’s failings. The idea of the Doctor’s tomb and the vast web of timelines it contains is a good one, but it feels like everything’s written around it, a game of distractions until we get to that point.
There’s not an awful lot of story here, and the big ideas don’t get pulled off as interestingly or satisfyingly as the hyperbole surrounding them suggested. There’s also some niggling questions from the last couple of seasons that (as far as I’m aware) still don’t get resolved.
The Doctor’s name was obviously going to be a red herring. Did anyone really imagine that it would be revealed? Me neither. It is key to the story, however, as well as a key River uses to unlock the Tardis-tomb. So – phew! – the Doctor can safely remain Doctor Who into his golden anniversary. But his darkest secret tumbles out…
Arguably this story started last autumn with “The Asylum Of The Daleks” (arguably, because you could say it started in winter 1963) and it’ll (probably) end this autumn with the 50th anniversary. So, “The Name Of The Doctor” is just a lot of middle. A stepping stone. A mere cog in a massive continuity machine.
To be honest, who cares? Who cares when the cog is so gorgeously crafted it transcends mere function and dazzles in its own right? It may make no sense outside of the machine but that doesn’t make it any less striking. Viewers without a degree in Who-ology might miss out on some of the more esoteric references, and certain plot beats may not make a lot of sense to them, but they’re still going to love the broad strokes. Those of us who can spot a line from “Castrovalva” or a sound bite from the First Doctor or a reference to the Doctor’s penultimate incarnation, well… we’re simply being rewarded that little bit more.
Den of Geek:
The Name Of The Doctor was then, for our money, the most satisfying, brilliant finale in Steven Moffat’s run on Doctor Who, the kind of episode you rewatch for fun, as much as to solve mysteries (and we’ll be hunting for clues). Much better than The Wedding Of River Song and a real rival to The Big Bang, this was, for large parts, really gripping stuff, surrounded by an air of mystery, and a real sense that something big was going to be revealed. Fortunately, on this occasion, that was very much the case. And while series seven, in both parts, has been a bumpy ride (with Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara our highlight), Steven Moffat and his team pulled quite a rabbit out at the end. Just brilliant.
So ‘The Name of the Doctor’ has ingredients that ‘the casual viewer’ can enjoy – great monsters, some genuinely scary scenes, zippy dialogue and fantastic performances from the cast, particularly our two leads.
But despite Steven Moffat’s protestations, this finale is unashamedly a fanfest and it might run the risk of alienating any viewer who doesn’t know their Tom Baker from their Colin. Still, in this 50th anniversary year, just this once, I think it’s okay for Doctor Who to get its geek on.
After half a season of standalone episodes, all strung together by the question of what cosmic force kept bringing companion Clara back to life in different times and on different planets, the finale circled back to some of larger themes that Moffat has been tinkering with since season 5: The lasting impact of previous companions Amy and Rory; the lasting love between the Doctor and Professor River Song; the goodness of the Doctor’s friends; the havoc (both momentous and random) that time travel can wreak. Also: Trenzalore! We saw the Doctor and Clara forced to head to that long-talked-about place, which we learn is the Doctor’s future grave, in order to save their friends. Trenzalore is also the resting place of the Doctor’s greatest secret (and was apparently the site of a giant battle). Do we learn much more than that? Not really!