New Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor”
Crossing one’s own timeline is a cardinal sin for a time traveler. Walking over one’s grave even worse. So when The Doctor is forced to do that…
THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR
by Steven Moffat
Directed by Saul Metzstein
Re-appearing after its defeat a year previous, The Great Intelligence forces The Doctor to the location of his grave, wherein is hidden the physical manifestation of his timeline, a map of his life, which in the hands of the wrong people could be used to re-write his life. The Intelligence chooses to do so, at the cost of its own existence. The only way to save The Doctor, and all the good works he did, is with another sacrifice.
Emotionally, the episode worked exceedingly well. We got a solid River Song story, one where we finally see The Doctor admit his feeling for her. But narratively, we’re very close to seeing the same story three years in a row. An attack on The Doctor results in all of time and space being thrown out of whack, and only through a well-placed sacrifice can everything be undone. We saw it even before the Moffat years in Turn Left, where Donna Noble is manipulated so as to have never met The Doctor, resulting in his death fighting the Racnoss queen, and all of the events afterwards changing. The big twist here is it’s The Doctor who makes the final save of his companion, and not them saving him.
Having The Crimson Horror so closely preceding this episode somewhat diluted the fun of seeing The Paternoster Gang back – it might have been better to be a week ot two back, spread them out just a tad more. As much as people are clamoring for a spinoff series, the characters would need more fleshing out to stand up weekly viewing.
It all got a little needs-more-explainy at the end, but as is traditional, the emotional impact trumps any questions about how things could have happened as they did. And just in case they didn’t, that last scene is enough to forgive all sins, real or imagined.
GUEST STAR REPORT John Hurt (The Doctor (?)) has a staggering list of work in sci-fi and fantasy. Perhaps best known for being the incubator for the eponymous creature in Alien, (not to mention a brilliant parody of that moment in Spaceballs), he was also in 1984, V for Vendetta, the Harry Potter films, really too many things to list.
THE MONSTER FILES – The Great Intelligence returns this episode, taking the visage of Dr. Simeon, last seen in The Snowmen. Considering the Intelligence seems to have been destroyed, the likelihood that they’re using the other media’s claim that it is indeed the Old One Yog-Sothoth (from the H.P. Lovecraft stories) is exceedingly slim.
The Whispermen didn’t get a whole lot of chance to do much save for showing off an ability to phase their hands into people’s chests and stop their hearts, and speak in verse. Like The Shakri from The Power of Three, they certainly are interesting enough to warrant a future return, but it’d likely require a bit more explanation. It’s unclear if they’re created by the Intelligence as temporary forms for its energy, or something else. They bear a great resemblance to The Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures, leading many fans to believe that’s who was coming back.
BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS – Trivia and production details
I CAN NEVER GET IT IN THE RIGHT ORDER – Once again we’re seeing River Song out of sync with past appearances. She’s calling herself Professor again, which means we’re seeing her from near the events of Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead. Indeed, since she has knowledge of her own death, she pretty much needs to be coming from AFTER that adventure, from when she was saved in CAL, the database in The Library. The whole point of the episode is about how you can’t cross your own timeline – she wasn’t aware The Library was where she was going to die when she got there, so somehow she was able to join them in their sleep-meeting from within CAL.
Which is why I can’t grasp why people seem to think this will be the last time we’ll not be seeing her again. What we saw was The Doctor coming to grips with the fact that River has at some point died. The image that faded was the mental link image Clara was connected to – River simply closed the link. We know for a fact that there are two adventures that have not yet occurred for The Doctor – he has not yet told her his name, and he has not giver her that adapted sonic screwdriver she had in that first/last story. She will be back, and that’s that. What we ARE seeing is their timelines starting to fill in. In the two hundred or so years The Doctor was away before The Impossible Astronaut (remember, he goes from nine to eleven hundred years old) a lot of the stories in their diaries match up (Jim the Fish!), but not ALL. Plenty more to come.
“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the eleventh” – Dorium first names the place and the prediction at the end of The Wedding of River Song. “Silence will fall when The Question is asked”, and indeed that’s what happened – When Simeon asked for The Doctor’s name, it gave him the opportunity to undo all of his deeds, including keeping Davros from destroying the universe. So indeed, it’s possible The Silence was fighting the wrong enemy, and they should have been trying to stop The Great Intelligence and The Whispermen.
“I was born to save The Doctor” – It’s funny that one of the rumors about the upcoming 50th anniversary story was they’d be inserting Matt Smith into past Doctor footage – it turns out it was done here. In addition to using Hartnell footage to present the first moment of The Doctor’s adventures, we see her appear in footage from The Invasion of Time, Arc of Infinity, and Dragonfire. Most impressively is we see her standing behind Ten and Donna as they survey The Library in River Song’s first adventure. We see Troughton and Pertwee from footage in The Five Doctors, and stand-in versions of the remaining Doctors.
“But not in the name of The Doctor” – As with the first episode of the semi-series, the title did not mean what it seemed it would. This new Doctor appears to have done things that the rest of his incarnations, the rest of himself, can’t bear to deal with. It’s fair to guess this includes causing the end of the Time War, but that’s not yet guaranteed.
BIG BAD REPORT / CLEVER THEORY DEPARTMENT – Pretty much we’re just looking backwards now. We can see what the common threads were during Clara’s appearances, and for the second half of the season.
“I don’t know where I am” Oswin says it in Asylum of the Daleks, Clara says it in Bells of St. John, and says it again here.
“They’re my echoes” – We heard references to ghosts and echoes throughout the series as well. The mysterious creatures in Hide (not to mention Clara’s statement that “we must all be ghosts to you”), the memories and experiences in Rings of Akhaten, the Ice Warrior out of time in Cold War, all creatures out of their proper place in time.
NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO – Well, we know a little bit. After that setup, there’s going to be a GREAT deal of rumormongering and Clever Theorizing over the next half year. But even what we know is pretty damn cool.
- David Tennant and Billie Piper are returning for the 50th anniversary episode, and so far, none of the other original Doctors are. We don’t know from what point of Ten’s timeline we’ll bee seeing him. Since it appears he and Rose are still traveling together, it’s likely from before Doomsday.
- Jemma Redgrave will return as Kate Stewart, new head of UNIT.
- The Zygons will return to the series, and appearances by Cybermen and Daleks are also rumored.
Other than that? Who the hell knows?