Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor

So, this series of Doctor Who I know I’ve been a bit harsh about Steven Moffat – well, as harsh as a self-proclaimed Moffat fangirl can get, anyway.  I’ve mentioned that his cleverness has turned into “cleverness,” that there’s been a lot of hype that inevitably disappoints, that there are so many threads that we’re meant to just forget about.  

Some of that is still true, and no writer (or showrunner) is without fault.  However, the season finale, “The Name of the Doctor,” has reinstilled my old fangirl tendencies.  Gone is my cynicism; renewed is unbridled excitement and anticipation for the 50th Anniversary Special.  Was this episode absolutely perfect?  Maybe not – but it’s now vying with “The Impossible Astronaut” as my favorite episode featuring Matt Smith’s Doctor.

And most unbelievably of all?  Last week I wrote about the “impossible leak,” wondering if it was just a ploy for additional PR before the finale aired.  We may never know for sure, but it’s unquestionable that there was a lot of added hype surrounding this episode, including some incredibly high praise from those who claimed they’d seen it.

And, in my opinion, the episode lived up to the hype.  When does that happen?  Almost never.

I’m not going to recap the episode because I imagine if you’re reading this, you’ve seen it already (or, if you’re like me, more than once).  But let’s discuss a few of the elements that made it awesome, shall we?

Cut to the Chase

While we might not have fully understood exactly what the deal was with Clara, we more or less got an explanation in the first few minutes of the episode.  This was a fantastic device, because it made us feel like we were jumping immediately into the action.  No time to build up useless, obvious tension, we’ve got stories to tell!  We know what will happen to Clara, now we just need the why and the how.  And we get those.

Atmosphere and Pacing

At the same time, the episode wasn’t afraid to get a little more reflective.  I, personally, managed to feel like everything was “Whoa, epic” while at the same time letting myself sink into the scenes.  The psychic conference call?  Awesome.  The moment of grief when Clara clues in the Doctor?  Amazing.  The entire episode was haunting.

Flashbacks and Body Doubles

Okay, so I know there’s been a lot of criticism about the colorization, the filters, and the entire process of inserting Clara into past clips of Doctor Who.  So the first Doctor looked rather unnatural.  I’m willing to overlook that, maybe because I’ve always been able to overlook the limitations of the show when it comes to special effects.  But I thought inserting Clara into the clips was cute, and again, a rip-roaring way to kick off the episode.

Even better was the end of the episode, with body doubles rushing past Clara in the Doctor’s timestream.  Yes, I would prefer it if it were actually Christopher Eccleston rushing past, but just seeing that coat and blur was enough to make me get all giddy.  The doubles for both Peter Davison and Tom Baker seemed amazingly dead-on and familiar, considering we’re dealing with a silhouette and a gait.  While generally I’m all for using All the Doctors, especially for the anniversary, I felt this was a well-done and, well, clever homage to the past, especially for a non-anniversary, brief moment.  Now just bring back McGann and Eccleston in addition to Tennant for the Anniversary and I will be a happy girl.

River’s Song

This may well be the last time we see River Song, at least chronologically, and I don’t think she could have had a better send-off.  She was as wickedly cool as ever, but minus the sometimes-grating hamminess of her “younger” self.  The more emotional moments were where she really shone, though – she and Matt Smith were amazing in their final scene, really bringing out the best in one another.  I had always thought the Doctor would find a way to save River, maybe with a ganger or something, and maybe that might happen still – but in a season where death is almost never permanent, maybe this ending gives River that much more importance.

But oh man, one more mention for that scene.  I gasped when the Doctor grabbed River’s arm.  So many feelings.

Introducing

…John Hurt as the not-in-the-name-of-the Doctor, apparently.  Funnily enough, I actually stumbled across this spoiler while I was searching for info about the rumored leak.  However, like everything else I read, I managed to make myself completely forget all about it as I watched the episode, and didn’t even think about the actor until I saw his silhouette.

As far as the character, I think it’s an interesting concept and I’m eager to see what happens.  I do hope he wasn’t just thrown in to replace Eccleston, as has been rumored – but it feels like this character is much darker than the Ninth, so I’m assuming it’s a concept that’s been developed for awhile.  Of course, I’m still harboring hope that Eccleston will return for the Anniversary Special in a secret cameo, because… he’s Christopher Eccleston and he’s awesome.

…But Your Mileage May Vary

As amazing as I thought this episode was, I know people – even members of my own family – who felt completely otherwise.  Interestingly, those who didn’t like this episode also haven’t liked Clara much this season, though they did like her in the Christmas Special.   It’s especially interesting because while Clara is obviously a main element in this episode, I tend to think of other things – the body doubles, River Song – first.  Also, I’ve heard almost everything I loved cited as a reason why the episode wasn’t good.

So what about you?  I want to hear what you thought of this episode – and Clara, and this season, and the upcoming Anniversary Special, and whatever else you’re mulling over in the Whoniverse.  What do you think?

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