Saturday, November 16, 2013

50th Anniversary Countdown: Doctor Who 7.14: "The Name of the Doctor"

“What were you expecting, a body? Bodies are boring. I’ve had loads of them.”
-The Doctor

So we’ve reached the final step in our countdown to the 50th Anniversary of “Doctor Who.” Next Saturday, “Day of the Doctor,” which marks the return of the Tenth Doctor and Rose, will be broadcast simultaneously around the world (2:50 PM on BBC America here on the East Coast of the United States). For now, though, let’s take a look at the series 7 finale, which finally answers the question of why Clara is the “Impossible Girl.” This episode also brings back the Great Intelligence for a battle with some pretty high stakes. Overall, it kind of feels like the later part of series 4 all wrapped up in one box. There’s the “what would happen without the Doctor” thought experiment that was explored in “Turn Left,” and there’s the bringing the band back together aspect of “Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.” While this is a not especially plot-driven finale, it’s interesting, entertaining watching for sure.

The episode begins in the Victorian era, which means of course that we are treated to appearances from Madame Vastra and company. Madame Vastra is in a prison, talking to a Jack-the-Ripper like serial murderer of young women. He’s sentenced to death, but he offers Vastra information on the Doctor in exchange for his life. Madame Vastra is quite alarmed by what she learns, so she has Jenny arrange a “conference call” between themselves, Strax, Clara, and River. This involves all of them being unconscious, because apparently time travel is always possible in dreams. Getting some of the gang to be unconscious is more difficult than others. Strax is spending a weekend having fun getting into bar fights in Glasgow (fighting the primitives, as he calls it), so he gets his fighting opponent to knock him out. Clara is watching the kids when she receives an invitation from Madame Vastra laced with a soporific. The version of River that is called is the version saved in the Library by the Tenth Doctor, by the way.

When the gang is all together, Vastra tells everyone about what the murderer told her. There’s a bunch of typical Moffat puffed-up gobbledy-gook about the Doctor’s greatest secret, taken to his grave, being discovered. What really got Vastra upset was that the murderer used the word “Trenzalore.” Unfortunately, the conference call gets cut short because Jenny forgot to lock the door at her and Vastra’s house. These creepy blank faced guys with pointy teeth (who look kind of, but not exactly, like the Silence) advance and start attacking. Jenny is murdered, and Strax and Vastra are captured. Clara wakes up back in her house, and the Doctor is there. Not suspecting that his life is unravelling, he’s been caught in a “Blind Man’s Bluff” trick by the kids, which was kind of sweet.

When Clara tells the Doctor everything that she learned during the conference call, he is completely devastated. So much so that he breaks down in tears, which we don’t see often. He explains that Trenzalore is the location of his grave, and as a time traveler, his grave is a very dangerous place to visit. He’s really upset that somebody would hurt his friends to force him to go to Trenzalore, but he’s determined to make it right. Vastra and company were kind to the Doctor when he was recovering from losing Amy and Rory, and he feels like he owes them one. Clara, of course, is going with him, even though it’s a dangerous mission. The TARDIS is not thrilled about this at all, and she makes the journey to Trenzalore very difficult. The Doctor has to turn off the anti-grav system, and the TARDIS crashes on to the planet’s surface.

The surface of Trenzalore is a massive battlefield graveyard. One grave in particular stands out – the grave of River Song. This makes no sense, considering River died in the Library, but the Doctor is too shocked to make that connection right away. River is still in Clara’s head, and she helps Clara make the connection for the Doctor. Clara is pretty shocked when the Doctor makes a comment about his “wife’s grave.’ They figure out that the grave is a secret entrance to the Doctor’s tomb, which of course, is inside the burnt-out, almost-dead TARDIS (the future version, not the version the Doctor and Clara actually traveled in). The Doctor and Clara escape the oncoming faceless creepers by jumping into the grave and heading for the tomb. The Victoriana crew is also all there. Strax brings Jenny back to life pretty quickly (he’s got some crazy Sontaran tech), and they all try to fight off oncoming faceless creepers themselves.

The Doctor and Clara eventually catch up with the Victoriana crew, and the true villain behind this whole mess makes his appearance. It’s Dr. Simian from “The Snowmen.” Or the Great Intelligence in the form of Dr. Simian. The Great Intelligence wants to know the Doctor’s name, because he believes it is the password to open up the Doctor’s tomb. We’ll find out why he wants to enter the Doctor’s tomb so badly in just a bit. The Doctor refuses, and the Great Intelligence orders the faceless creepers to start attacking. Just as things are looking hopeless, River says the Doctor’s name (we don’t hear her), and the door to the tomb opens. Everybody rushes inside to see a glowing, fractal-like beam of energy in the middle of the room. The Doctor says that is his timestream. Jenny and Vastra think it’s pretty, so of course Strax wants to know if he’s supposed to destroy it. Strax is really my favorite of the Victoriana crew. He gets all the best lines.

So, the Great Intelligence’s big, nefarious scheme is to enter the Doctor’s timestream and erase every last one of the Doctor’s victories. The trip into the timestream will kill him, but he doesn’t care if it means he can inflict pretty much eternal pain on the Doctor. The Great Intelligence jumps into the timestream, and the Doctor starts writhing in pain. It’s not looking good at all. Stars start blinking out of existence, and Jenny and Strax blink out of existence, too. Vastra begs for some solution to all of this, and Clara knows what she needs to do. Being in a broken TARDIS again has brought back some of her memories from “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS.” She now remembers the Doctor telling her about how she’s the “Impossible Girl.” Clara believes she needs to jump into the timestream herself and undo all of the Great Intelligence’s damage. The Doctor doesn’t want her to do this, but Clara doesn’t listen.

Clara jumps into the timesream, and she becomes the Impossible Girl. She’s split into thousands of copies, each saving the Doctor from a different predicament. We see her interact with a bunch of archival footage of the First, Sixth, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth (the awesome running in the football field scene), and Fifth. It’s a nice little nod to the history of the series. The plan works, and the Victoriana crew is all restored. The Doctor wants to rescue Clara, though, even though it means that he’ll be entering his own timestream. Something he almost certainly should not do. Before jumping into the timestream, he has a rather sweet goodbye with the ghost of River, hopefully setting her free from the Library once and for all (Ten meant well, but the River we now know wouldn't have found that life fulfilling at all).

Her job done, Clara is in this sort of wasteland in the Doctor’s timestream, where past versions of the Doctor hover in the shadows. Finally, the Eleventh Doctor calls out to her, and he sends her a leaf to remind her of who she is. Just as the Doctor rescues her, they see somebody in the shadows they weren’t expecting. The Doctor says this shadow is a version of him, but Clara is confused because she’s seen all Eleven faces of the Doctor, and this dude isn’t one of them. The Doctor clarifies – this mysterious person is him, but he did something so unspeakable that he was not able to take the name of Doctor. I presume this is the incarnation who ended the Time War, and we will learn all about him in next Saturday’s 50th Anniversary special. We’ll be bringing you full coverage of the special on either Saturday or Sunday next week. Until then, check out this rather amazing prequel short, starring the Eighth Doctor, Paul McGann. I don’t know about you, but we here at MTVP are kind of rooting for an Eighth Doctor web series, considering McGann is an excellent Doctor and only got to play the role on screen once.

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