Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review - The Name of the Doctor

I have come up with a conspiracy theory all of my own - namely that this semi-series has been so patchy, often disappointing, that the finale would stand out as a beacon of genius.
They needn't have bothered, if this is the case, as The Name of the Doctor didn't need to be prefigured by those lesser stories to stand out.
It is a little work of genius anyway.
I was concerned that a 45 minute story would be too rushed to deliver on the promise of answers to a few mysteries. I sat down to watch it expecting to come away disappointed yet again (too much hype about changing the programme forever) - but was won over by the first 30 seconds.
The first Doctor and Susan, stealing the TARDIS and leaving Gallifrey for the very first time. (Nice to see that he was already an old man, and had already adopted the Edwardian clobber - and Susan wasn't someone he adopted on his travels).
Later we find out that it is Clara who points him towards the right TARDIS - which does slightly diminish The Doctor's Wife where the ship claims to have chosen him as much as he it.
What the second Doctor was doing by a Californian beach (in a fur coat) I suppose we will never know.
Interesting that three of Clara's encounters with previous Doctors took place on Gallifrey. A coincidence, or something more? Probably just coincidence.
I'm a bit disappointed that of all the McCoy clips they could have used they chose the utterly stupid Dragonfire end of part one "cliffhanger". If only Clara could have fixed that...
There were lots of theories about Clara kicking about the internet, and most were smart enough to recognise the TARDIS reaction to her as significant - it hating paradoxes.
The gist of the story is that the Great Intelligence steps into the Doctor's time-stream to rewrite it - to turn all his victories into defeats. Clara follows to undo this, and is split into multiple copies that interact with the Doctor throughout his incarnations. Handily, the Doctor follows and saves her.
This all takes place on Trenzalore - where the Doctor's grave is to be found.
One thing I would say is that we hardly know Clara (and she and the Doctor hardly know each other), and it seems slightly strange that she should be the one to sacrifice herself to save him. It would have felt better had this come at the end of a longer standing companion's story arc.
River turned out to be a post-Library projection throughout. Why the Doctor could see and interact with her was never really explained - not in any scientific way at least. She implies there is something more to the connection between her and Clara than the psychic link.

The Whispermen made for creepy new monsters - but were somewhat underused. They appeared simply to be empty shells for the Intelligence to inhabit. I sincerely hope that the Great Intelligence hasn't been destroyed forever. I'd still like it to turn up one day and revisit those Yeti robot blueprints.
I loved the Victorian Glasgow sojourn for Strax, but must admit some of his one-liners were quite misplaced as the story progressed.
Some stunning visuals on display - another glimpse of pre-Time War Gallifrey, the graveyard of Trenzalore, and the Doctor's tomb - the massive TARDIS wreck.
One thing which didn't work visually was the insertion of characters into the old material. It worked with Clara and the First Doctor, thanks to a grainy feel to the image, but on the rest of the occasions it was too obviously green screen work.
I suspect a lot of people will be unhappy about the whole "Name" thing. River says it off camera, and that's your lot. Of course, I never thought for a minute that we would be told the name. Frankly, I would have been annoyed if it had been stated - as I have a belief that, rather than adding to a character, revelations usually diminish them by demystification. Leave the Doctor as "Who?" for another 50 years, please.
And talking of "Who?", what are we to make of the John Hurt Doctor? He is the Doctor, but how so we will have to wait until the Anniversary to find out. I already have my theory (it involves Guilt and the Moment), but I'm sure there will be lots more over the coming six months.
Did The Name of the Doctor change the programme forever? Personally I don't think it did.

  • The Great Intelligence rewrote the Doctor's history - but Clara undid the damage. 
  • We've seen the Doctor's ultimate resting place - but even fixed points in time can be rewritten. (It was the Eleventh Doctor's TARDIS, and there were only 11 Doctor's in the time stream seen by Clara, so unless they plan to end the series forever with Matt Smith, Trenzalore is only one possible future).
  • So there's another Doctor we never knew about? We've already had the Valeyard.
  • The Doctor's name would be revealed - but it wasn't.
Quite what the game-changer was, I'd love to know.

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