Doctor Who 7.13 – The Name of the Doctor

Saving the Doctor?  Clara's ready to do it All the Time!

Saving the Doctor? Clara’s ready to do it All the Time!

After multiple episodes of watching the Doctor fruitlessly shake his tiny fist at the why-are-there-multiples-of-her mystery that is Clara “Oswin” Oswald, the seventh season finale of Doctor Who at last takes on the big question: the hell is up with Clara?

Cue “Gallifrey, a very long time ago,” where Clara pops up to tell the First Doctor, just before he steals the TARDIS (and if that isn’t inserting Clara into the seminal moment, well, I don’t know what is), “Sorry, but you’re about to make a very big mistake.” Sassy, starting to tell the Doctor what’s what on Day One!  Also, who, where, what, howLet’s let Clara try to explain:

“It’s like I’m breaking into a million pieces, and there’s only one thing I remember.  I have to save the Doctor”  As if in a dream, intervening Doctors rush by Clara; only One and Eleven will ever interact with her.  “I blew into this world on a leaf,” Clara declares, referring to the “hey, don’t get hit by that car — you know what, marry me!” wafting leaf that got her folks together.  “I’m still blowing.”

Oh, how I guffawed!  I mean, for real, that wasn’t the best phrasing.  Ahem.  Back to the mystery!

“I don’t think I’ll ever land,” she continues as we watch flashes of Victorian Clara (not that one, but that one) and Oswin Clara.  “I’m Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl.  I was born to save the Doctor.”  Well, that’s us told!  Mystery solved!  Except, wait, what?

Steven Moffat wrote this episode. *pauses* Just so we’re clear.

“Do you hear the Whisper Men?” a haunting voice asks (in London 1893, so expect the Paternoster Gang, okay?).  “Do not hear the Whisper Men, whatever else you do.  For once you hear the Whisper Men, they’ll stop and look at you.”  Hoh-lee-guac-a-mole, that’s already the scariest bit, and I haven’t even seen the Whisper Men yet (though at this point I was already imagining them as those horrifying Gentlemen from BtVS’s “Hush”, given the nursery-rhyme warning especially).

Our creeper-rhymer prisoner tells Madam Vastra “a word from you could save me.”  “Then you may rely on my silence,” she returns sharply, because damn, he’s killed at least fourteen women.  Nope, nothing he can say will save his neck!  “The Doctor!”  Welp, those are the magic words.  “In the babble of the world, there are whispers, if you know how to listen,” he says ominously.  Told the Doctor has a secret, Vastra snaps, “He has many.”  Not the one “he will take to the grave”:  “It is discovered.”  Uh.  That can’t be good.

Vastra and Jenny Flint spring into action, organizing “a conference call” with invitations and candles.  Hey, where’s Strax?  Where he is on all his weekends off: at some place in Glasgow where guys to go beat each other up for fun.  Wow, we’re starting the barely-sublimated male homoeroticism early days this ep, huh? When a telegram summons him back home, he asks his companion to knock him out cold, as one does.

“Sleep well, my love,” Vastra and Jenny wish each other before they slump at a séance table.  “We’ll trap them where the Doctor ends/The trap is set for the Doctor’s friends,” eerie voices intone.  They wake in a dream-state location tea party and are soon joined by Strax, who grumbles, “I was in the middle of destroying some very pleasant primitives.”  You can get back to your date later, Strax.

Strax gets pulled away from his man-beating session for tea with the ladies.

Strax gets pulled away from his man-beating session for tea with the ladies.

Who else is coming?  “The women.”  Hmm.

At the Maitlands, Clara’s all set to blow another soufflé!  I bet the Maitland kids eat pizza a lot.  “This time I will be soufflé girl,” Clara says (reminiscent of her Oswin incarnation), noting that her mum said, “The soufflé isn’t the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.”  Gosh.  I kind of think the soufflé is the soufflé (this could be a clue as to why Clara’s efforts fail all over the place).

Whoops, Angie almost forgot to hand Clara her letter, which instructs her to open it when alone.

Doctor Who 7.13 TNotD Clara Maitlands souffle letter

Souffle ruined? Check. Time to open a mysterious drugged letter. And later, die a thousand deaths.

Vastra has enclosed a candle which will “release a soporific” to put Clara in a trance state, but “I have taken the liberty of embedding the same soporific into the letter you are now holding.”  Ahahahahaha!  That’s both creepy and awesome.  Despite the inspiration-for-Sherlock-Holmes backstory for Vastra and Jenny, she’s a bit like BBC Sherlock‘s Mycroft at times; I can see her kidnapping the hell out of people in her coach.

“Time travel is always possible in dreams,” Vastra explains on Clara’s arrival.  Say what now?  *becomes a lucid dreamer*  Just waiting on the one last guest with the gigantic hair.  Ladies and Strax, Professor River Song!  Though offered tea, River is soon sipping champagne.  “How did you do that?” “Disgracefully,” River says with glee.

The Doctor's Wife? Bitch, I might be.

The Doctor’s Wife? Bitch, I might be.

Now, the party don’t start ’til River walks in!

Sure, the Doctor mentioned Professor Song, but “I never realized you were a woman,” Clara notes.  Gosh, gee, Clara would never ever think an expert the Doctor mentioned might be a gal! Strax’s “Well, neither did I,” is silly Sontaran gender-confusion diversion; if we’re going the petty jealousies between people in the Doctor’s life route, there are cleverer ways to go than this.

Here’s creepy!prisoner’s bargaining chip: “Space time coordinates,” River knows, because she’s awesome.  It’s the location of “the Doctor’s greatest secret.”  And hey, if anyone thought differently, the Doctor doesn’t share his secrets with anyone, nohow, contrariwise!   “If you’re still entertaining the idea that you’re the exception to this rule,” River tells Clara, “ask yourself one question: what is his name?”  Burn! But hey River, your mum got tripped up by this same question.

Guess who does know the Doctor’s name?  River, baby!  Clara looks slightly bamboozled at River’s claim she “made him” and revelation he’s “a little more than a friend” (well, mostly wide-eyed, which is sort of a thing for Coleman) while Jenny seems uneasy.  “He never contacted you?” Vastra asks River, who says “He doesn’t like endings.”  He sure doesn’t.

Creepy!prisoner bought Vastra’s attention with one word: Trenzalore.  While River demands Vastra explain, Jenny tries to interrupt, realizing “someone’s broken in” where their bodies are.  “Sorry, ma’am, so sorry,” Jenny breathes, crying.  “I think I’ve been murdered.”  She fades out of the liminal space.  Oh my god, this was a beautifully done devastating moment, but Jenny dying is NOT OKAY!  *breaks the teapot*

“You’re under attack,” River exclaims, she slaps Vastra and throws champagne on Strax, waking them in their respective locations surrounded by Whisper Men.  Hey, they ARE reminiscent of “The Gentlemen” of Buffy fame, though their Victorian garb replaces the Gentlemen’s mortician-style suits, and the Gentlemen’s defined skull-faces are replaced with blurs of white visages, only their toothy maws defining them.

Moments later, the Whisper Men menace Clara and River, causing the face of Walter Simeon (he of the Great Intelligence) to appear and utter a message for the Doctor: “His friends are lost forevermore/Unless he goes to Trenzalore.”

Clara returns from this stress-fess to find the Maitland kids have tricked the Doctor into letting them slip out to the cinema by pretending he’s it in Blind Man’s Bluff.  “The little…Daleks!” the Doctor exclaims.  Clara mentions River, who the Doctor acknowledges as an ex (Clara wide-eyes again).  When Clara explains the message, Matt Smith performs an absolutely lovely quietly emotional reaction, breaking into tears in the most heart-breaking way before he pulls himself together and rushes to the TARDIS.

“I’ve heard the name of course,” the Doctor mutters of Trenzalore, though he never wanted to find out.  “River would know, though, River always knows,” he says absently, and though I wish we heard more about River ALL THE TIME I like how quickly he slips back into counting her as so crucial in the game here.  Time to link up Clara psychically to the TARDIS: the coordinates will be in her memory.

Trenzalore is the Doctor’s version of Avalon, his own “place no time traveler must go in all of space and time”; it’s where he’s buried.  But he has to save Vastra and Strax, “Jenny too, if possible,” because they cared for him during the dark times.  Oh endangered Paternoster Gang!  D:  How do they save them? “By breaking into my own tomb.”  Yikes!

TRENZALORE! They don't allow you to have bees.

TRENZALORE! They don’t allow you to have bees.

The TARDIS rebels against landing on Trenzalore, fighting the Doctor crossing “my own timeline in the biggest way possible.”  When she shuts down, they look at the desolate cracked lava-marked planet below, while the Doctor muses “I always thought I’d retire, take up watercolors or beekeeping or something” (you and Sherlock, Doctor).  Should they jump?  “Don’t be silly; we fall!”  It’s off with the Anti-Gravs and boom goes the TARDIS to the surface!

Because the Doctor’s time-traveled more than anyone else, his grave is “potentially the most dangerous place in the universe.”  Okay, this makes no sense whatsoever to me, but *Moffat-hand-waves explanations*.  “It’s a battle graveyard,” he explains to Clara, with the bigger gravestones denoting higher ranks.  Uh, what’s that there GINORMOUS looming TARDIS?  Who’s the highest ranking ever?  “Hell of a monument,” Clara comments.  It’s the real TARDIS, size-leaked (the bigger-on-the-inside seeps out to the outside, savvy?):

A wild River appears!  “Don’t speak, don’t say my name,” she pleads to Clara, to whom she is linked because the “conference call” “kept the line open.”  “River,” the Doctor breathes; he’s seen her gravestone.

MY HEART! *CLUTCHES*

MY HEART! *CLUTCHES*

While whispers murmur, “This man must fall, as all men must/the fate of all is always dust,” Clara echoes River’s instructions that “maybe it’s a false grave”.  Indeed, says the Doctor: “They’d never bury my wife out here.”  While Clara wide-eyes that, River helps, suggesting her grave “is the secret entrance to the tomb,” which Clara obligingly echoes.

Elsewhere on Trenzalore, Vastra demands Strax, “Get [dead Jenny] back for me!” He scans Jenny and finds “complete cardio collapse.”  I’m ready with my box of tissues and contemplating breaking out the chocolate…when Strax just zaps his little scanner and makes Jenny live.   Um.  That rather took the air out of the shock of her death and Vastra’s obvious immense grief.  But what, am I going to complain Jenny Flint’s alive?  No way, man!

“I see you’ve repaired your pet; never mind, I was only attracting your attention.”  It’s Walter Simeon, face of the Great Intelligence, and all around jerkwad.  He welcomes them to “the final resting place of the cruel tyrant, the slaughterer of the ten billion,” the tomb of the Doctor.  Mister G.I. does the classic villain-POV take on the hero’s story, mentioning various foes the Doctor killed, giving him such names as “the storm, the beast, the Valeyard.”

Meanwhile, in the catacombs journeying to the main part of the TARDIS tomb, Clara asks hey, “how come I met your dead wife?”  The Doctor admits, “I sort of made a backup” (referring back to River’s epilogue, her fate saved in a database in the biggest library in the universe).  “He left me like a book on a shelf,” River says for only Clara to hear.  “He doesn’t like endings.”  Urk.  What happened to the Doctor who always respected death as an appropriate end to life?

“I am information,” Simeon as the Great Intelligence explains, tearing off his skin like a silicon mask to reveal he’s a void inside.  Wow, The G.I. really is the ultimate narcissist.

Everything is an extension of meeeeee!

Everything is an extension of meeeeee!

The Whisper Men are his proxies, always ready to act as forms to host him.

Still in the catacombs, Clara reels, connecting to past echoes of “things I’m not supposed to remember”: the telepathic circuits are awaking memories.  While Clara’s assaulted with the information the Doctor kept from her, we hear whispered, “The girl who died, he tried to save/She’ll die again, inside his grave.”  Freaking scary things are always scarier in horrifying rhymes!  *hides*

“Here I am, late to my own funeral,” the Doctor quips as he comes upon the Whisper Men, Mister G.I., and the Paternoster Gang (we get a tiny moment of his relief at seeing Jenny alive).

"Open your tomb, Doctor!" "SHAN'T!"

“Open your tomb, Doctor!” “SHAN’T!”

The G.I. orders him to “speak, open the door to your tomb”; the Doctor’s true name will act as our Open Sesame.  Though the Doctor refuses, the G.I.’s orders “stop their hearts!” of the others, setting the Whisper Men to attack.  “Doctor?  Doctor Who?” the G.I. roars before the Doctor yells, “please!” and the door to the control room and the Doctor’s final resting place cracks open!  Uh.  Anyone else think that “Please” might be the Doctor’s name for a sec?  No?  Me neither.  *coughs*

Ah, okay, River spoke the Doctor’s name (“the TARDIS can still hear me”). “Do you know what’s in there?” the Doctor scowls at “Mister G. Intelligence”  “For me, peace at last; for you, pain everlasting.  Won’t you invite us in?”  The cloister bell clangs as the Doctor opens the console room to reveal ivy-covered equipment and an interior consisting of a crackling core of electricity.  “What were you expecting, a body?” the Doctor asks.  “Bodies are boring!”  “Time travel is damage, a tear in the fabric of reality.”  What they’re seeing is the scar tissue of his journey through the universe.  Okay, that’s absolutely fascinating, so hats off to Moffat there.

When the Doctor pulses his Sonic Screwdriver at the column, we hear different Doctors voices from “my own personal time tunnel” from all his days, even the ones he hasn’t lived yet.  He stumbles, reeling from his own paradox.  Meanwhile, the G.I. edges closer:  “the Doctor’s life is an open wound, and an open wound can be entered.”  It will destroy the Doctor by rewriting his entire history, “turn victories into defeats, poison friendships, deliver pain through every breath,” allowing the G.I. to “take revenge on every second of your life,” even as it is itself destroyed.

The Great Intelligence gets ready to eradicate the Doctor from the inside.

The Great Intelligence gets ready to eradicate the Doctor from the inside.

The Whisper Men howl, vanishing, while the Doctor seizes as if he’s in cardiac arrest.  Flashes of Simeon forcefully inserting himself into multiple moments, with various incarnations of the Doctor, appear.  Vastra points out the inevitable: “a universe without the Doctor, there will be consequences.”  Jenny disappears AGAIN, because the Doctor saved her originally.

Ugh, it’s a terrible narrative trick, killing and reanimating female characters with the snap of a finger for quick-punch emotional illustration of the hero’s suffering.  While poor Vastra scans the disappearing star systems, imagining how many worlds the Doctor once saved will now be destroyed, Strax heaps on the angst by turning against Vastra, forgetting they are comrades.

“I have to go in there,” Clara declares.  River pleads with her not to, because “the time winds will tear you into a million pieces, a million versions of you living and dying all over time and space like echoes.”  Okay, Clara’s been echoing River herself this episode, while River is herself an echo of her original, a copy of herself from CAL’s library.  So River knows from being an echo!

“But they’ll be real enough to save him,” Clara decides, going back to the saying about soufflés being recipes and not soufflés (and I am never going to look at a soufflé again without feeling miffed).  Clara instructs them to get out of here “and spare me a thought every now and then.”  “In fact, you know what?” she says, “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.”  And we have narrative continuity!

“I don’t know where I am, I just know I’m running,” Clara says over more flashes of various Claras.  “Sometimes it’s like I’ve lived a thousand lives in a thousand places.” “I’m born, I live, I die, and always, there’s the Doctor, always I’m running to save the Doctor…I’ve always been there…right from the very beginning.”  “Don’t steal that one,” she tells One, about to nab a TARDIS.  “Steal this one, the navigation system’s knackered, but you’ll have much more fun.”

Okay, time out.  I completely understand the temptation to re-work the ENTIRE HISTORY OF DOCTOR WHO — Moffat, after all, famously wanted to run the show since he was seven years old — but it’s astonishing hubris to make your own companion/character-invention the driving/saving force of the whole series from beginning to end.

The ret-con possibilities also burn juuuust a little.  Think about past risks and sacrifices, for instance, Rose absorbing the heart of the TARDIS.  The incredible jeopardy she undertook to save Nine is still one of my favorite parts of NuWho.  But does Clara’s always-everywhere-saving-the-Doctor feat overwrite that?  Did Rose have to pull Bad Wolf if Clara would have jumped in to re-write and save the Doctor at every dangerous turn?

I can see the whole of time and space, every single atom of your existence, and I divide them. Except...maybe not?

I can see the whole of time and space, every single atom of your existence, and I divide them. Except…maybe not?

Also, are we now calling time of death on companions who were precious because of how very human they are/were?  In this take on Clara, she’s become completely essential to the Doctor’s very existence.  Is the only way to act as a companion now to be an Impossible Girl who jumps inside the Doctor’s very core, spending their entire and possibly multiple lives in service of saving the Doctor?

Finally, I’ve spent every episode since the Christmas special wanting more from Clara, and that means more than just solving what the Doctor finds mysterious about Clara.  This isn’t more textured characterization for Clara; it’s hand-waving away backstory and experiences and very human lifetimes, the things that past versions of the Doctor have considered so extraordinary.  It’s turning her into a fractured self, all in order to keep the Doctor’s history safe.   Every life Clara’s echoes have is defined by its meaning to the Doctor and his timeline.  Is this the ultimate fridge-ing of a female character, having her live and die potentially possibly a thousand times and certainly over the course of nearly a thousand years, to give the Doctor more meaning but leave herself, like Simeon as the Great Intelligence, not much more than a void inside?

Ugh, okay.  Back to the episode.

“Clara’s got one advantage over the Great Intelligence,” the Doctor vows as everyone/everything is “restored” through Clara’s sacrifice.  “Me.”  “Save her, but for god’s sake, be sensible,” River pleads, and suddenly the Doctor reaches out to grab her, realizing she’s hear and actually hearing what she’s saying.  If she’s “always there to me” then why hasn’t he ever spoken to (copy) her?  Because it would hurt too much — not her, though, but him!  Gosh.  If River “could have coped” with the pain, could he not have absorbed some of the pain himself, because by god, sometimes I think the Doctor is COMPLETELY MADE OUT OF PAIN?  It’s such a terrifyingly lonely but also callous conclusion to come to, that he never acknowledge this echo of River, easing her hurts, because he would hurt too much.

They kiss, and I’m such a huge fan of River with the Doctor that even though I have lots of issues to work through with how he’s handled her “storage” and continuation, I can’t help but feel touched.  It’s all credit to Alex Kingston and Matt Smith here; they take a fraught situation and tease out the simplest most heart-felt core.

She asks him to finally say goodbye, “like you’re going to come back.”  He takes a breath and is brave for her — I really actually loved that bit, that he stands up and does this on her behalf — telling her casually he’ll see her around.  “Oh, and there’s one more thing,” she says.  “Isn’t there always?” he replies.  And really, this CAN’T be the end of River Song forever and ever, because I love her to pieces.  “If Clara’s really dead,” she asks him, then “how can I still be here?”  After all, she’s appearing through her link to Clara (the “conference call” thing, which only kinda-sorta makes sense, but the episode runs with it like crazy, so we’ll just keep on keepin’ on with it).  How, he asks.  “Spoilers,” River says mischievously, and ho ho, fanservice moment!  “Goodbye, sweetie,” she coos before she dissolves.

Doctor Who 7.13 TNotD river goodbye sweetie

River, come baaaaack!

The Doctor turns to the other three waiting for him (I loved the comment that since they can’t see River, it probably looked really weird when he and River kissed).  Just taking that whole crossing-his-own timeline thing TO THE EXTREME, the Doctor steps into his frayed and electrified entombed self.

“I don’t know where I am,” we hear Clara say as she falls to a wind-swept desolate plane inside the Doctor.  “But the Doctor is safe now.”  Uh.  So she just went through and in her echoes, lived however-many-lives to save the Doctor in all his incarnations.  “I’m the Impossible Girl, and my story is done.”

Clara entombed in the Doctor, who is in turn entombed in the Doctor's tomb. THERE ARE A LOT OF ECHOES IN THIS EP, OKAY???

Clara entombed in the Doctor, who is in turn entombed in the Doctor’s tomb. THERE ARE A LOT OF ECHOES IN THIS EP, OKAY???

But then the voice of the Doctor calls out, and she can see “all your different faces,” all the ghosts of his incarnations.  His time stream is actually collapsing in on itself (that can’t be good) but he’s not leaving until he’s got her.  “I’m sending you something, not from my past, from yours,” he calls out as Clara’s parents’ leaf materializes, floating toward her.  “Hold tight, it will take you home…because it’s impossible and you’re my Impossible Girl.”

Just this once, he says, he’ll save her, but she has to trust him.  His “just one more step” seems to me like a parent speaking to their child, and Clara’s stumbling toward him is very much like learning to walk.  God, I wish we’d seen more explicit unfolding of the parent-child flavor of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara.  I mean, I can eke it out, but I’m working hard here without what could be a potentially amazing take on their dynamic if the show decided to explore it.

As the Doctor embraces Clara, there’s a man standing nearby, facing away from them.  “Who’s that?” Clara asks.  The Doctor reluctantly explains “he’s me” but “I never said he was the Doctor.”  Choosing “The Doctor” was a promise he made.  And he, the man with his back turned to them, “is the one who broke the promise.”

When Clara starts to stumble, the Doctor picks her up bridal-style.

“What I did, I did without choice,” we hear from the man facing away, “In the name of peace and sanity.”  “But not in the name of the Doctor,” Eleven replies scornfully.  As he and Clara leave, the man turns to face us, and onscreen we see the words that made thousands upon thousands of Whovians shriek and run immediately to message boards to puzzle out a new mystery:

Doctor Who 7.13 TNotD john hurt doctor gif

“Introducing John Hurt, as The Doctor.”  I think I can safely say on behalf of many other fans: are you — what the — THE HELL?

Wooooweee pthooooo — you know what, I’m reeling here, we’ll cut the theme music short this time.

Okay, so John Hurt is an unofficial incarnation of the Doctor, because in all of Clara’s no doubt difficult and painful lives all in aid of saving the Doctor, she never saw this one.  If he acted “not in the name of the Doctor” is he the one who destroyed so many in the Time Wars?  Is he a regeneration of the Doctor that failed, giving rise to a new regeneration (thus putting him in the middle of the Doctor timeline/partly resetting the Doctor count)?  Or is he responsible for something else reprehensible in the Doctor’s future, that perhaps makes him “the beast” or “the Valeyard” the Great Intelligence mentioned?  OH MY GOD, what is going on?  Seriously? WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NOVEMBER 23RD?

Guys, it’s been an utter pleasure recapping this season and discussing all these narrative conundrums and issues with you!  Please do join in below to tell me what you thought of this episode, the solution to Clara’s mystery, and what awaits us in the new version of the Doctor when we finally return for Season 8!

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  • Shannon Deep

    Hey there *waves* Been reading your reviews for quite awhile now but just been lurking silently like the lazy stalker I seem to be on the internet. Really wanted to talk about this epi though with a Whovian so here it goes!

    I agree about your wanting of more character development with Clara and the Clara/Doctor dynamic, I can see the parent/child thing you’re implying but I also see the flirty/quirky romance thing when you take into account their dynamic in “The Asylum of the Daleks” and the Christmas special that’s definitely not the destined mates thing with Rose or the best mates thing with Donna. I think it’s too new really do be defined, and luckily they have Season 8 to explore it further cause if this was all we got I’d be sorely disappointed. But I like Clara, and I love her sass and bravery and small moments of human shock and wonderment we get to see when show is being generous.

    I didn’t take the rewriting of history thing like you did, though that’s what’s best about comparing interpretations of viewing. I saw it as Clara fixing whatever G.I. did to mess stuff up, not that she necessarily saved EVERYTHING and made it perfect so that Rose wasn’t needed (otherwise my like of Clara would plummet down to the depths of that Satan Pit in Series 2, that’s also one my favorite Rose moments.) All those moments would’ve been irrevocably damaged if G.I. was allowed to wipe them with his non-corporeal fingers, Clara just let the moments progress like we’ve seen previously, how they were supposed to.

    And I actually liked that journey/decision of Clara’s defining her character a little more. She’s always wanted to travel, and live her life the way she’d like to and this in a way gave her that chance. Now she’s been able to live a thousand thousand lifetimes, all different but all hers. Taking care of children and exploring the universe, smart and brave and self-sacrificing, like we’ve seen earlier. Yes a primary motive in all of those lives was to warn/save the doctor, but I see that as more of a background concern, speaking up when the moment is right but otherwise having a full life of her own in different time periods and on different planets spread throughout. What was her life like as Oswald in “AotD” before she became a Dalek? Or on Gallifrey? She’s had years and opportunities she never could have had if she didn’t do this, so I see it as both a selfless and selfish (in the best, self-asserting kind of way) act when she dived into the timeline with but a quick thought to the consequences.

    Thanks for pointing out that MS said “the little….Daleks!” cause I thought he said ‘darlings’, lol. While still humourous, the actual insult is quite funnier.

    It was so thrilling to see and hear all the earlier incarnations of the Doctor (though no eighth if you look closely), but that ending had me reeling like the rest of all Whovians everywhere. I personally stick to the theory it’s 8/Paul McGann aged up from untold amounts of emotional and physical turmoil in the Time Wars to the point where he’s relinquished the title of “Doctor” because as Matt said “the promise was broken.” The terrible secret being what he’s capable of and that he wishes to banish that knowledge from memory and anyone who knows him.

    *whew* That was long-winded.

    • Shannon, thank you so much for de-lurking!

      I would just love to see those small moments bloom into more for Clara and our understanding of her in S8. I hear you, the romance vibe is definitely there, I guess part of me hopes the other aspect will win out because romance is so easily the go-to, and because I do think there’s been some lovely groundwork laid that I’d be sorry to see not amount to anything. But honestly, if we’ve got good writing and more in-depth characterization, that will sell me on whatever relationship between Clara and Eleven they decide to feature next season.

      The fixing/re-writing bits, I hear you on that, and I think on face of it, that’s what the episode intended: that Clara was going through and re-stitching all the fragmentation and destruction that the G.I. had left in the Doctor’s timeline. But part of me thinks, you know, she had a few seconds before she jumped in; how on earth does she know which are the small moments she’s meant to fix, and which are the moments of crisis she can stand away from and not interfere with? That’s what troubles me (in addition to the idea that Clara has to be important in this huge grand-scheme way; is it not enough to be terribly important to one Doctor? ). So yes, in the logic of the episode and in immediate answer to the problem of the G.I., I see why it happened, but I think other narrative choices could have been made that would feel less, well, sweeping and potentially intrusive to DW history overall.

      Gosh, I want to think you’re right, that Clara living those thousand lifetimes gave her that chance to travel and be different versions of herself, as a fulfillment — but to me the way the episode showed it, unless we learn differently in ensuing episodes/seasons, is that these echoes of Clara don’t come back together/aren’t enriched by these experiences to make one whole Clara, but that she’s able to turn up at key moments as splintered versions of herself to make fixes. So in my viewing, it’s hard to believe she had these separate individually fulfilling lives, so much as she turned up as a fractured version over and over, her main purpose being to do this saving. Honestly, though, I would be happy to see an episode that gave us more of a sense Clara did have a full life in those instances. It’s possible s8 might have that in store. Still, River’s point driving home that Clara would be torn apart, mere echoes of herself, leads me to think that’s not the case.

      I see at least one fansite saying Eight seems to have appeared briefly, but I didn’t spot him when I watched.

      I’ve seen the 8.5 theory floating around today as I’ve poked about online, so you may well be right about that. Part of me thinks, though, that the show’s love of having fans thinking along certain lines only to veer off in other directions entirely will end in the John Hurt version of the Doctor being another incarnation entirely. We’ll certainly find out in November! Thanks again for the comment.

  • Colleen

    Gah! I wish you were all in my living room Saturday night so that I had someone to turn to and say “WTF DID I JUST SEE?!”

    So, best I’ve been able to puzzle out is that Hurt is 8.5? But how does that effect the regeneration cycle? Is 11 actually 12 now and there’s only one regeneration remaining? Why is November so far away?!

    Part of me thinks that Hurt did something more than the Time War. The Doctor always acknowledges that he killed the Time Lords to save the universe. Specifically, in the Doctor’s Wife, when he told House “Fear Me, I’ve killed them all”. He always owns up to that, so it’s not really his greatest secret. So now my brain hurts trying to figure out what Hurt could have done that was worse than mass genocide.

    Also, Clara! So yay that she’s not River Song. She’s still not totally Clara though. Is she supposed to have no real depth because there’s 1,000 of her running around? Because if so, hat’s off, they’ve done that well. Maybe next season, now that we know what she’s about, we’ll actually get to know HER. Like Shannon, I didn’t think Clara negated the other companions, since only 1 and 11 ever spoke to her. She was just kind of on the fringe, giving a little push, a little shove here and there to keep things on track.

    Aww River. All the feels. Does the Doctor finally saying goodbye mean that we don’t get to see her anymore? Because then it hurts even more. Kind of like watching Silence in the Library AFTER you know who River is.

    All in all, a great season ender. Thank you so much for your recaps, I’ve enjoyed them so much!

    • Gah! I wish you were all in my living room Saturday night so that I had someone to turn to and say “WTF DID I JUST SEE?!”
      Ha, next season we’ll come up with some soporific candles and all watch the episodes together in a dream-state room with tea and champagne, just like the Paternoster Gang + Clara!

      I think you’re in good company of people online who think John Hurt plays either Eight or an 8.5. I’m not yet convinced of this theory, but I think it has lots of support. However, I totally refuse to renumber the Doctors, haha! *prepares to start a petition*

      It’s true, the Doctor has acknowledged, where he’s had to, that he’s responsible for what happened in the Time Wars. I do feel a bit uneasy that the show will ret-con that in some way, but you could well be right that we’re to imagine something even more dramatic and wrenching (in which case, yeah, my head hurts too).

      Is she supposed to have no real depth because there’s 1,000 of her running around? Because if so, hat’s off, they’ve done that well.
      Ugh, I HAD THIS THOUGHT TOO!

      I can’t think this is the last goodbye for River, just because of my own River feels. Whew.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I absolutely love to have good company when writing about and discussing Doctor Who; it makes all the recapping work so worth it.

  • Lia

    I liked the opening except it got a bit cliched when she said she was born to save the doctor. But I thought inserting her into earlier timelines was good, especially the bit with William Hartnell, a nice quirk.

    The whisper men were super-creepy! An interesting new baddie, which I think was well overdue! And yes, I linked them with The Gentleman as well! nerd-references ftw!

    I like Jenny, Vastra and Strax, so it was nice to see more of them! The intruder moment was so heart-breaking, and, I thought, an artful twist at that point.

    The dialogue was a little lacking in places – I’ve come to expect much wittier fare and much more subtlety than we got, but it was better than the rest of the season so at least there was an improvement! On the other hand, I think “you little…..daleks!” might just be my new favourite insult. And the bit where Clara says “that was not nice” (or equivalent) after the heart-stopping moment felt very genuine and real – a witty remark there would have made light of the situation.

    It got a little formulaic after that, and I was able to work out what was about to happen. Jenny’s ‘resurrection’ kinda undid all the work that had been put in to her death and made it all seem rather shallow.

    As always, I was disappointed by the lack of emotion/emotional dialogue for Clara. Come on, she’s about to sacrifice herself to save the Doctor, but there is no real feeling that it could be the end of her. I know she’s confirmed for s8 but they could have at least have made an attempt at peril. WHERE WERE THE FEEEEEEELS?!?!?! And what did she think was going to happen to the Maitland kids when she just didn’t show up one day? There were no thoughts of goodbye, or messages (unless I spaced out during a chunk of dialogue, which is always possible)? These are things previous companions have at least considered before making the decision that the Doctor was worth the cost. It made Clara seem flighty and self-centred

    Am looking forward to November. I think John Hurt is a great actor, I just hope the writing and plot hold up. Plus, more David Tennant ;)
    I understand the theory that the promise was broken during the Time War (I mean come on, how much angst has already been wrung out of that!), but it’s not exactly secret. There must be more to it than that. The destruction (read: genocide) of the Time Lords and the Daleks during the war has been covered adequately enough for me to think there must be something deeper. Something even darker. But how do you get darker than that?

    • Glad someone else thought of The Gentlemen! I actually wish the Whisper Men had a chance of coming back (if they were so tied to the G.I. and poofed when he dove into the Doctor’s timeline, I think that’s the last of them). Meh. Whenever there’s a really scary baddie, I always want the option of them returning.

      I agree completely; I always feel a bit like a chump when I’ve reacted strongly to a character’s death and then the show is like, “surprise, you were WRONG!” I mean. I’m not unhappy Jenny’s alive! But don’t mess with tragedy and grief just to shrug and say, eh, takes-ies-back-sies!

      That’s a fantastic point. There’s tons of potential for Clara in her ONE life — isn’t she sorry for even a moment to let it go? And if her parents’ meeting was so fateful, doesn’t that give her a moment’s pause that maybe she’s not meant to splinter herself into echo-versions? And absolutely WHAT ABOUT THE MAITLANDS? I think that’s one of the very few bits of Clara’s characterization we’ve been given to hang our interpretive hats upon; it should come up at least for a moment if she’s facing certain destruction.

      I’m really excited about John Hurt too! :D I think I heard Jemma Redgrave will return in 8.01 as well, which I’m quite excited about (I loved her as Kate Stewart in The Power of Three).

      But how do you get darker than that?
      THIS, SO MUCH! It’ll have to be on a level of horrendous that will make us all reel.

  • Ellie

    I really liked this episode! Thought it was better than any of the others this series. The beginning was amazing – putting (most of) the classic Doctors in was a really nice touch for a series finale where there wasn’t exactly a long, involved plotline/worldwide disaster. Well, there was, but without the emotional pull that it normally goes with. Stars winking out I can deal with.

    The acting was all great – especially the bit where he gets upset. The fact that he then covers it and runs away suggests again that the Eleventh’s ‘wackiness’ might be more of a cover than a personality. And River was good! Their moments were touching.

    And terribly mean, but I kind of wish Jenny hadn’t come back to life. Her death was done really touchingly, and it’s just playing with emotions when she pops back in a few minutes later. Still, I like her character so I’ll be happy in the long run.

    I also liked Clara a bit more – she seemed more human, especially when she was lost at the end. But I do kind of think that this kind of ending might have been better as her character’s ‘final finale’. If it was 2/3 seasons down the line and I had more of a hold on her, it might have meant more.

    But overall, great episode with 5 stars from me :D

    • Oh, Matt Smith grows on me all the time, particularly after last week’s amazing performance as the Doctor versus the Cyber-Planner!Doctor, and then again this week with his upset moments.

      I kind of wish Jenny hadn’t come back to life.
      I totally hear you — there has to be a commitment in killing characters, even characters we quite like and would rather see live on. It drains any kind of emotional impact the death has if the person just pops back up again (that’s only supposed to happen in horror movies! :P).

      But I do kind of think that this kind of ending might have been better as her character’s ‘final finale’.
      Part of me thought for a moment, had I not known that Jenna-Louise Coleman was scheduled to come back, that this might be Clara’s last episode. And actually, I think I might have been more okay with that than the weirdness of the ending, where I’m pretty sure she’s just an echo of herself/fragmented, but the Doctor treats her as though she’s Clara come right back to him. I don’t know. I really hope they explore that echo-bit next season, but even more than that, if I only get one with, I want more characterization for Clara, more substance aside from the Impossible Girl tagline.

  • Lia

    What was your favorite episode of this last season of Doctor Who? Mine was the one with the blue box and all the time travel and some girl who keeps not dying. What about you?

    Just saw that on the “Doctor Who and the Tardis by Craig Hurle” page on facebook and it made me lol!

    I’m not sure if this was my fave episode of the series or not – I can’t remember the first half of series 7, so that doesn’t help! As a whole I’ve found the second half mediocre, but I also thought the Doctor/CyberDoctor was amazing….I can’t quite decide if the finale averages out better or not ;)

    • LOL, that’s a hilarious summary of every single episode we’ve gotten in the second half of this season!

      I adored the our-Doctor versus Cyber-Planner!Doctor aspects of the last episode, absolutely. I think in terms of my favorite episode overall, though, it would probably be Hide. There were such great scary moments in that, I loved the haunting/monster story turned into a love/family story; just overall it seems the most solid to me of this second half of the season. Had Nightmare in Silver given us a more solid B and C plots, that might have had my vote, though!