Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor

This is the episode I've been waiting for since April. It's not perfect. There are a few flaws, which we'll get to. But setting those aside, "The Name of the Doctor" is the best episode we've had since the season premiere. You can read recaps elsewhere, so I'm going to break down what I thought were the best aspects of the episode and a couple of things that Moffat and Co. could have done better.

Clara: The Impossible Girl
The mystery of the Impossible Girl was the No. 1 thing that I wanted this episode to tackle. Clara's character has suffered because of the focus on what she is instead of who. I'm glad to say that the answer for why she has been popping up all over time and space is simple, satisfying and believable. It didn't feel like a stretch at all, unlike the resolutions to some other Moffat mysteries over the years. And I loved the opportunity to see many of the older incarnations of the Doctor. Now that we're done with this mystery, I hope that Clara can simply be Clara and we will get some character development next season. (Because I've found Clara's echoes to be much more interesting and entertaining than Clara herself.)

(Side note: When "The Snowmen" aired, I wrote this, and it turns out I wasn't too far off the mark: "My completely uninformed guess: At some point in her travels with the Doctor, something happens to her that causes her to be born and reborn and reborn again. Because the reincarnations seem to span all of space and time, it might have something to do with the TARDIS. Or a temporal shift or loop. If it were the TARDIS, that would explain why her lives (and deaths) are linked to the Doctor. And I wouldn't be surprised if it also somehow plays into the Fields of Trenzalore and the question that must never be asked.") 

The Fields of Trenzalore
What a fantastic idea to make this planet the site of the Doctor's tomb. Besides the emotional trauma of seeing your own grave, the Doctor faces multitudes of paradoxes in crossing his own timeline. In fact, he literally comes face to face with his entire timeline, from the first time he set foot in the TARDIS to his death, in the form of a pillar of wibbly-wobbly light. And the huge TARDIS also blew my mind. But I do have a gripe with how things went down on Trenzalore and that is ...

Silence Will Fall
We've been teased about what will happen on Tranzalore ever since Matt Smith's first episode. From the Silents to Dorian's warnings, there's been a multi-season buildup to what will happen to the Doctor and indeed the entire universe if he speaks his name on the fields of Trenzalore. So here we are at the moment, and the payoff is not nearly big enough. What happens if the Doctor speaks his name? A door opens. Granted, that door leads to the Doctor's time stream, and if that time stream is destroyed, the universe goes with it. Hence the silence falling. But I can't help it: I wanted something more dramatic than opening a door. In the end, the catastrophe is averted too easily and too quickly, and the Doctor doesn't say a word. It's River who says his name, and she does it with such nonchalance that it cheapens the importance of the act. I wanted much much more. My only consolation is that we don't hear what River says, thank goodness. And speaking of River ...

River Song
I like the idea of seeing River after her death, but her appearance needed more clarity. If she's a digital echo of herself, how can she be physically there? How can the Doctor touch her? I loved the kiss between them, but it seems like it shouldn't have been possible. And did this feel to anyone else like River's final appearance? She might turn up again, but with the kiss and the good-bye, I felt that this might have been Moffat's way of closing out the character.

The Doctor and The Doctor
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the last few seconds of the episode. Another incarnation of the Doctor makes his entrance, and he's John Hurt, and he's the Doctor's deep dark secret. But what exactly is he? A future incarnation? The Valeyard? A previously unmentioned incarnation that, perhaps, ended the Time War? We won't find out anytime soon. All I can hope is that the new Doctor will not be made into a mystery, that we will be told straight up who he is, where he fits into the Doctor's timeline, what he did and, most importantly, what he wants now. Only when we have all the information will we be able to truly enjoy what has the potential to become an epic battle between the Doctor and himself.

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