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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “The Name of the Doctor”

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Richard E Grant Matt Smith

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode… or unless you don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “Nightmare in Silver”)

Get my downloadable discussion guide to “The Name of the Doctor” for teachers, librarians, and everyone else who needs to keep kids amused, engaged, and educated at DoctorWhoTeachersGuides.co.uk.

Doctor? Doctor… who?

Moffat just keeps kicking that can down the road, don’t he?

Now, just to be clear, I do not want to know the Doctor’s name. It doesn’t matter, and revealing it cannot be anything but anticlimactic. Especially after such a tremendous deal is made here about how the Doctor’s name is his most tremendous secret ever. For the Doctor’s name to have any signficant impact for us puny planetbound Earthlings, his real name would have to be one that looms large without any explanation — Genghis Khan; Adolf Hitler; Steve Jobs — which would be preposterous, even given that Earth is the Doctor’s favorite planet. Even if he were the Gallifreyan Hitler or Jobs, it would require too much explanation to get to the point at which it has the effect of smacking us in the face. Unless the Doctor is really Rassilon… which makes so little sense that let’s just quash that notion now.

Also: It’s much more interesting if the Doctor’s name is the Gallifreyan equivalent of the “John Smith” he has often used when a name beyond “the Doctor” is required. It’s way cooler if he’s just some guy who got fed up with hidebound Gallifrey and decided to skip out. Way cooler.

But clearly, we have been led to believe that this entire series has been leading to revealing the Doctor’s name. “Doctor who?” was the cliffhanger finale line of last season, and here we come to “The Name of the Doctor.” Except… the name of the Doctor is but a MacGuffin in the end. “The name of the Doctor” could just as easily have been his IQ number, or his birthdate, or his Social Security/NHS number (or whatever the equivalent is on Gallifrey), or his shoe size. Or his favorite color. It’s the key that opens his tomb. That’s it. It’s not about who he is or who he was.

That’s been kicked down the road — again — to the 50th anniversary special.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor John Hurt

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

John Hurt is great. I have no doubt it’s gonna be fun to watch him chew up the scenery as some version of the Doctor come autumn. And I’ve got lots of ideas about what Moffat is gonna do with John Hurt-as-the-Doctor. Like how maybe he’s not a future Doctor but a past Doctor, because how else could Matt Smith say things like “He is my secret” that he had to take the name of “the Doctor” as a promise to be different from, because how could his secret be in his own future? Is it possible that Matt Smith isn’t actually the Eleventh Doctor but the Twelfth (or even beyond), running from something his past self “did without choice, in the name of peace and sanity”? (This can’t be a Time War thing, because while that would be awesome, it would also have to mean Paul McGann. And John Hurt is not Paul McGann. Or is he? dum dum DUM) Because how could Matt Smith-the-Doctor know anything about his future selves?

But I kinda don’t want to be thinking about that. I just want a really satisfying Doctor Who story. I don’t want to be thinking about what might happen in the future, and certainly not at the expense of what’s happening right now.

One thing that’s good: River Song. With her no-thanks to the tea, I’ll-have-champagne, for one:

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Alex Kingston

It’s like Alex Kingston simply cannot help but be awesome beyond the confines of the script she has been given to work with. (And what is with the slights against her hair? Her hair is amazing. I wish I had hair like that.) Her character has not been treated kindly by Moffat since “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead,” as she has become increasingly diminished as a person in her own right and as the Doctor has increasingly reacted to her as if he were a terrified virginal child. But at least here, he kissed her like he really means it:

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Alex Kingston Matt Smith

and looked at her like he really sees her:

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Alex Kingston Matt Smith

It’s nice to see Matt Smith getting the chance to act like the Doctor is a man instead of a boy.

And that whole “say good-bye like you’re going to come back” stuff? That’s great. But it says that Moffat gets it, he’s just been ignoring it all this time.

But… how can the same guy who wrote that line also have created Clara and her “See you next Wednesday”… and have the girl who can say that be the same girl who is so readily willing to sacrifice herself for the Doctor? The idea that Clara understands how important the Doctor has been to the entirety of spacetime is simply not something that we have seen. At all. Or that even if she has seen it, that his impact on her has been important enough for her to sacrifice herself on his behalf. We just have not seen that.

Clara has been almost literally a cipher: she has been present in the meta sense as a character in Doctor Who — and, in the contextual sense, as a person in the Doctor’s life — for no reason other than that she has needed to be there in order to resolve a plot neither she nor the Doctor were aware of. If she had turned out to be an actual cipher, like maybe a creation of the TARDIS’s (say) to save the Doctor, that could have been sad and poignant and brilliant and devastating (if written properly). But no. She was “born to save the Doctor.” That’s it. She was created to save the Doctor — by Moffat and, apparently, by the universe. She believes she is the souffle recipe for rescuing the Doctor from the latest baddie who is out to get him, and that, now, her “story is done.”

And that’s kind of… ugh. Clara cannot possibly really believe this about herself, can she? I mean, I can imagine sacrificing myself to save someone I loved — not that we have any sense that Clara feels so strongly about the Doctor, and no, “How could anyone not be madly in love with the Doctor” isn’t enough; we need to see it — but I cannot imagine thinking my life has meant nothing at all apart from that sacrifice. Maybe if Clara had been really directionless and fucked up and confused and a serious goddamn mess from the moment we met her… but no, we didn’t see that. She has seemed happy and cheerful in all three incarnations we’ve seen. And now, all of a sudden, she was “born to save the Doctor”? I’d say there’s about three seasons worth of adventure and heartache and unrequited passion and disconnect from the life she has clearly carefully fostered on Earth with her surrogate family before she’s willing to throw herself into the timewinds on the Doctor’s behalf.

I’ve been hard on Moffat. I have. I know it. And I mean this sincerely: it really is out of love. I love Doctor Who, and I love the Doctor. I wouldn’t keep watching if I didn’t. I’m hard on the show because I expect a lot from it. But I can’t help but feel that Moffat has a lot of great ideas for moments that are powerful and moving but that he doesn’t know how to string them together in a meaningful way. It’s in small stuff, such as the creepy teethy guys who are apparently called the Whisper Men, though it’s not like we’ve ever seen them before, ever. Why is there a rhyme about them?

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

Do you hear the Whisper Men, the Whisper Men are near
If you hear the Whisper Men, then turn away your ear
Do not hear the Whisper Men, whatever else you do
For once you’ve heard the Whisper Men, they’ll stop and look at you

The power behind that that Moffat clearly wants us to feel? It has to be earned. There’s no power there unless it has been earned. You cannot just throw it in there and expect it to work all by itself.

It’s in big stuff, like: Why is the Doctor’s name so important, anyway? We have no clue. If the Doctor’s tomb is so dangerous, why make a tomb at all? Because. If “Time travel is damage. It’s like a tear in the fabric of reality,” then does that mean the Doctor knows just how irresponsible he has been for the past thousand years… and if so, why isn’t that something to explore?

It’s in stuff like this: Surely the Doctor has tons of secrets, and lots of place names would be associated with him, so why did Trenzalore make Vastra freak out in particular? Why does the Doctor suddenly see Clara in his Eleventh incarnation when he obviously clearly missed seeing her all along?

I so get Sad Doctor:

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Matt Smith

I don’t really get, however, why he’s sad because he has suspected that the word Trenzalore refers to his grave. Why would he even think that it’s likely that he’d have a grave, instead of his atoms just being anonymously smashed across the universe in some horrific incident that no one ever knows about? Isn’t that far more likely than him being feted with a grave?

I think, in some way, I’m exactly the sort of person Moffat is aiming at with all this stuff. Because I have so much invested in the Doctor. Like crazy amounts of stuff that exists so much within my own head that it’s almost impossible for me to delineate where the actual canonical stuff ends and where the stuff I invented for myself because I so much want the Doctor to come for me starts. And I have no trouble rewriting the stuff in my head to fit with the canonical stuff as the canonical stuff evolves. (To wit: See below about Susan, the Doctor’s granddaughter.) And even I cannot feel the power he wants me to feel.

One of the things I’ve liked about the rebooted Doctor Who is that is has been actually about the Doctor in a way that the old show never was. Everything that was subtext in the old show has become the overt text here. But it’s gone too far over to that other extreme: there’s no subtext left, and so there’s no room for anything other than what we’re seeing. That doesn’t remove just the mystery but the fun, too.

Random thoughts on “The Name of the Doctor”:

• Fine. So, Moffat has now made it canon that “Susan Foreman” left Gallifrey with the Doctor:

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

Fine. It doesn’t fit in with how I’ve been seeing the Doctor’s past, but I’m retconning in my head and can make it work the way I need it to work…

• Wait. The TARDIS didn’t actually choose the Doctor, but Clara pointed him toward the “right” TARDIS?

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor Jenna-Louise Coleman

I guess we can still make that work by figuring that the TARDIS just invented a rationale for itself as to why this crazy-ass renegade Time Lord ended up in this particular Type 40… but it’s not as poignant or interesting.

Way to negate one of the best episodes of your tenure, Moffat…

• So Strax enjoys beating up Scotsmen for fun? I guess everyone has to have a hobby…

• Oooo, Vastra and Jenny’s table looks kinda like the TARDIS console, don’t it?

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

You know what? Vastra and Jenny would have been better companions for the Doctor than Clara, wouldn’t they?

• Ha! I totally called the “Nine Billion Names of God” connection… and here we have stars going out, just like at the end of that Asimov Clarke story.

• I’m sorry, but all I could think when everyone was standing in front of the Doctor’s tomb was “Speak, friend, and enter.” </gandalf>

• Wait. So who placed the false grave for River Song that’s actually a secret entrance to the Doctor’s tomb, knowing this would someday willen have been needed?

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

And, like, if it willen on haven been absolutely imperative that no one can get into the Doctor’s tomb because it’s the most dangerous place in the universe, why is there a back door? C’mon, people! Smarten up.

• Wait. So, the TARDIS suffers a broken window pane in the hard landing on Trenzalore.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

And this same broken pane exists on the dead swollen TARDIS that is serving as the future Doctor’s tomb?

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

So does that mean that the future battle of Trenzalore, whatever that would have been, will now never happen because the Doctor died here — killed by the Great Intelligence stepping into his timestream and wiping him out everywhen — and so it’s this damaged TARDIS that will become his grave? (It’s hard to imagine the Doctor not repairing that broken window for however long till the “actual” battle and his future death.)

• The “conference call” invitations. Ahem.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor

How did Clara get her invitation? It can only have come the long way around, right? Vastra left a letter in someone’s — a series of someones’ — safekeeping for 120 years, from 1893 to 2013, right? Like how Doc Brown sent a letter from 1885 to 1955 to Marty, no? For that matter, Vastra needed to have done something even more spectacular to get an invite to River Song, living in a computer virtual reality in the 51st century.

We have no indication that Vastra has any high-tech means of time-travel or time-communication… if she did, she wouldn’t have needed to resort to the “conference call.” So… why didn’t she just send a letter to the Doctor — or to anyone else who could have gotten word to the Doctor — at some point in his own personal timeline prior to this where he could have taken preemptive action to prevent the whole Trenzalore mess?

There’s timey-whimey, and then there’s just makes-no-damn-sense-y.

Any hey, for that matter, if the Great Intelligence can simply transport himself and others to another planet (and maybe to another time), why didn’t he just get someone who could open the Doctor’s tomb directly? He seems to know so much about the Doctor, so why not just kidnap River Song from somewhere in her timeline after she has learned the Doctor’s name… and if she won’t reveal it, use her to draw the Doctor in?

I can’t help but feel that this episode was so convoluted because there simply isn’t much there there.

• Great quotes:

“Sorry. So sorry. I think I’ve been murdered.” –Jenny, to Vastra

“I always thought, maybe I’d retire, take up watercolors or beekeeping or something.” –the Doctor (haha, he so could not have really believed this, could he?) (haha, beekeeping, like Sherlock Holmes)

“I’m a time-traveler. I’ve probably time-traveled more than anyone else.” –the Doctor

“Left me like a book on a shelf. Didn’t even say good-bye. He doesn’t like endings.” –River, about the Doctor

“He will have other names before the end: the Storm, the Beast, the Valeyard.” –the Great Intelligence

“The dimensioning forces this deep in the TARDIS, they can make you a bit giddy.” –the Doctor (notable because this is almost precisely a word-for-word repetition of something the Fifth Doctor says in “Castrovalva”)

“Bodies are boring. I’ve had loads of ’em.” –the Doctor

“A universe without the Doctor. There will be consequences.” –Vastra

(next: “The Day of the Doctor”)

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  • singlestick

    Great points and a really good review. And yet I loved the episode anyway. And I did not take Clara’s statement that she was “born” to save the Doctor literally. And yes, it was under developed (OK, not much developed at all) but I could see that Clara chose to save him because she respected him and saw how important he was to the universe. To make a sacrifice because she loved him could be cheesy, no matter how well written. And there is no way in which I would have ever wanted to see Clara as ” directionless and fucked up and confused and a serious goddamn mess from the moment we met her..” We got a taste of that, perhaps, with aspects of Amy, but even here it was rescued from being a cliche by the fact that many of Amy’s problems were caused by her refusal to give up her belief in her Raggedy Doctor.

    Moffat has tossed out throwaway bits to suggest that ordinary people can rise to mythic heroism. Rory’s Roman Centurion, protecting his princess for thousands of years and forging his own legend, is an example. Clara saved the Doctor, and the universe, because she saw and took the opportunity to do so. And then, in a timey wimey kind of way, she was “born to save the Doctor” only because she chose to save him after meeting him. Her “destiny” became manifest only after the deed was done.

    I agree with you big time that River was sometimes a missed opportunity, but that these (maybe) last moments were well done, and well acted. I also thought that Madame Vastra and Jenny had some nice moments in this episode.

    RE: Ha! I totally called the “Nine Billion Names of God” connection… and
    here we have stars going out, just like at the end of that Asimov story.

    I missed this. Good catch, but it’s Arthur C. Clarke.

    Overall, I agree with your observations here and the weaknesses in some of Moffat’s themes and stories , and yet still enjoy the journey that Moffat has taken us on.

  • dprisoner

    In regards to Clara sheparding the Doctor to the correct TARDIS, she was mearly correcting what the GI did to get him to go to the wrong TARDIS. I don’t see it as having negated the Doctor’s Wife. “Sexy” still wanted her Time Lord, and Clara made sure she did – despite the other influences…

  • ohiopokey

    So, half of the prophecy and build-up was resolved by plays on words: “but not in the name of the Doctor,” “No, we are going to fall.” Easy to recognize the Fall of the 11th. Cute. Resolved. I really loved, in theory, the explanation of Clara’s multiple apparitions, but then the contradictions had to be covered with tape and band-aids. “Usually he doesn’t hear me. Sometimes he does.” Bingo, here’s Barmaid Clara. Why did the image of Idris stealing The Doctor have to be ruined? a secret entrance to the tomb via fake River tombstone….didn’t we use a secret back entrance to the tomb in The Rings of Akhaten? and “Run, you clever boy, and remember me” makes no sense. Rose and Bad Wolf had more punch, and, much as I dislike Rose, it was she who came to the Doctor’s rescue more than once.

    I now realize why people get so wound up when they don’t like an episode. There are so few that each should be a little gem. We want to savor each one. Every episode that doesn’t feel right (Cold War) is a wasted opportunity.

    But please explain to me – an American who doesn’t really understand how the BBC works – why we have to wait 6 months until another episode. Please don’t say Sherlock. If that’s the reason, then something/someone has to change. Also, I clearly missed something crucial, because I don’t know John Hurt so well and so I don’t know why people are swooning over his appearance. The “Introducing..” caption was so ham-handed. I can’t think of any reason why it was necessary.

  • Paul

    You haven’t just been hard on Moffat, you don’t seem to have tried to understand what happened in the story. The Doctor explicitly stated that his name in the sense that people thought the episode was about isn’t important, and it isn’t his greatest secret. His greatest secret is the Name of the Doctor: ie “The Doctor”. In other words, name as in “reputation”, in this case, the reason why he chose to be called the Doctor, and, in one case (the greatest secret) doesn’t deserve it. I’ve read a number of reviews of the episode, positive and negative (mostly the former). And they all seemed to get this fundamental point of the episode. That you don’t, in the context of your current view towards the show, comes over rightly or wrongly as wilful fault-finding.

  • Paul

    But please explain to me – an American who doesn’t really understand how the BBC works – why we have to wait 6 months until another episode.


  • I missed this. Good catch, but it’s Arthur C. Clarke.

    Doh! Fixed it. Thanks.

  • I agree… not necessarily in your interpretation of “the name” but that MaryAnn has become a little harsh toward new who. Sorta like her “love fest” switch has been flipped off.

    Which is fine… just not sure this show is qualified to rebuff serious criticism, except in extreme cases (such as Gaiman’s first episode).

  • Jurgan

    While I agree that was the point, you have to admit it feels kind of like a bait and switch. Like Moffat is setting up these big mysteries for us to wonder about and then laughing at the fact that we’re actually trying to solve them when he has no intention of ever resolving them.

  • innpchan

    And bureaucracy. And a little socialism. It doesn’t matter how big a hit DW is, it still has to go thru the Beebocracy and not be treated as though it’s anything “special” –or at least be denied enough that it can be claimed the Beeb is rigorously egalitarian.

    Oh, and Sherlock.

  • innpchan

    And as to where John Hurt’ s un-Doctor lies in the order of things, I agree it has to be pre-Eleven because Eleven is too haunted for it to be in days to come. I’m even beginning to think he’s pre-One, which means he may not even technically be a Time Lord, but a mere Gallifreyan.

    But there’s a POTENTIALLY SPOILERY clue in his wardrobe wardrobe that indicates otherwise.

    He doesn’t seem to have it on in the pic above, but some set photos clearly show him in Nine’ s U-Boat commander coat with Eight’s brass buttoned blue leather jerkin thing underneath. This screams Time War, but if so I’m going to be very perturbed on behalf of Mr. McGann.

  • VanessaDK

    Thank you.

    From the “girl who waited” to “the impossible girl” or the “girl who was born to save the doctor”. Sigh. You are absolutely right that Clara is all meta-text. A device to resolve the plot.

    I’m up for John Hurt as a disowned regeneration between 8 and 9.

    Also agree that the writing of River as a more mature and stable character shows that Moffatt was creating her pathological evolution on purpose. I rewatched Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead the other day and it was indeed brilliant and heartbreaking and luxuriously slow in its storytelling pace. I miss that.

    Sometimes I think Moffat is writing a version of “Coupling” every time he writes–there is an element of sexual/gender politics in the sub/text of a lot of his characters. Someone compared the character of “Mel” to that of Jane in Coupling and I think that was spot on. He writes Strax to make fun of extreme masculinity.

  • Melissa Cheran

    So I liked the episode, I agree that Clara is a bit flat as a companion but maybe she is meant to be. She seems a bit distracted most of the time. HOwever, I agree with theMarySue from her recap that the Clara saying “I was born to save the Doctor” is not Clara “prime” but the fractured timey-wimey Clara who was “born to save the Doctor” when Clara “prime” jumped into the Doctor’s timestream/corpse/thingy. A similar thing was done in City of Death with “the last of the Jaggeroth” having the fragments of self spread through millions of years of time “The centuries that divide me shall be undone!”. And I totally missed the matching crack in the window.

  • My ten year old daughter and I have a tradition of watching Doctor Who eps together. There are only a handful that I have kept her from watching because of her age (“Blink”, “Silence in the Library”/”Forest of the Dead”) not because she wouldn’t enjoy them but because she’s 10 and I don’t want to deal with the nightmares. After this episode she and I were discussing the episode as we always do. I like to see what she took away from the episode and compare her youthful perspective to my gristled outlook. She was severely annoyed that the name wasn’t spoken for us to hear, and I explained how hard it would be to do it without disappointing us because it has been built up for so long. Her response was that it would be funny if it was John Smith. So obviously I commend you on validating my daughter’s brilliance with “It’s much more interesting if the Doctor’s name is the Gallifreyan equivalent of the ‘John Smith’ he has often used when a name beyond “the Doctor” is required.”

    But thinking back on my discussion with her, I’m not sure you are the type of person Moffat is aiming at with his writing. Because I’m not either. I’ve been vaguely dissatisfied with Moffat’s tenure as show-runner. I think you nailed it perfectly that he can create the moments but he struggles to connect them in a coherent manner. Because of that I think he is aiming at my daughter. She loves Doctor Who. She loved Amy. She loves the TARDIS. She loves the trappings and the uniqueness. She loves it so much she is willing to accept the explanations (or lack of) given. She will question things. She will ask for my input to explain stuff. But in the end these are just annoyances she can live with as long as she can watch Doctor Who. And as long as she can enjoy the moments that are cool and/or brilliant no matter how they are strung together.

  • Stargazer0118

    The 50th anniversary of the show is on November 23. That’s why.

  • Paul

    Yes, but it really depends on whether or not you want to laugh too, doesn’t it?

  • PJK

    What I really liked about this episode was that it takes its time to tell the story and we are not subjected to the manic shenanigans that have almost typified the way Moffat writes stories for the 11th Doctor. Maybe the 11th Doctor is Bipolar and he finally hit the depressed side of the disorder?

    Regarding Clara: Maybe it would have been better to loose the Ponds/Wiliamses at least half a season earlier to get more of a build-up of Clara in the show. Maybe that the plan originally and Moffat couldn’t bring himself to do it earlier (or was forced by public opinion to keep them longer?).

    It would probably have been better to leave them sharing their happiness in the house that the Doctor gave them instead of pushing them out in the silly Angels Take Manhattan episode.

  • But how is “the Doctor” an answer to the question that Moffat has been teasing us with: “Doctor who?”?

  • Jemj

    Agree in general with your review.

    There are a few things that didn’t siit well for me, but can see why so many people who had emotionally invested in the last couple of seasons would have found satisfaction with the end of the River Song saga. It seemed a good (and final) ending and nicely played by both actors.

    I’m just not sure where they can take the Clara character as she is now the uber-companion who has been with every doctor, saved a number of hims and was even instrumental in his starting his journey as a rogue Time Lord. Combined with the messaging about her falling in love with him, The Doctor discovering that he quite enjoys a bit of a snog and that she was born to save him, how does she resume her casual travelling? I was also not sure if the reveal is the reason for the inconsistent way Clara has reacted over this season, but it does provide a handy get out of plot cul-de-sac card. Does Clara now know everything about The Doctor in his various guises? Surely there won’t be another reset after the 50th so that Clara becomes a possible girl?

    While I hated the Ta Dum moment with handy title card to introduce John Hurt, looking forward to seeing him in action in November.


  • RogerBW

    So in the end it’s not so much a finale as more setup. I have to admit that Moffat can be very good at intriguing setup – I very much enjoyed Silence in the Library (much more than Forest of the Dead where he had to come up with explanations for all the strangeness). But it doesn’t bode well for November.

    Is it just me or does Clara come over a bit Mary Sue ish now? She’s been with all the Doctors, she was there at the beginning, she’s better than any other companion ever, and so on.

    And once again Moffat makes the same mistake that Davies was prone to make, the flip-side of something MaryAnn points out: it’s all about the Doctor, and how he’s the Most Important Guy Ever. I liked the Doctor who wasn’t an amazing crusading polarising cosmic force, the one who turned up somewhere and had an adventure more or less by accident with people who hadn’t heard of him.

  • Isobel_A

    Is it just me or does Clara come over a bit Mary Sue ish now? She’s been withall the Doctors, she was there at the beginning, she’s better than any other companion ever, and so on.

    Yup. And Moffat has missed the fundamental ‘show, not tell’ of it all – Clara doesn’t actually feel at all special, but we’ve been told she is and now we’re just supposed to accept it? Bah.

    I have some things to say about this episode/the last three series but I need to do actual work now, more’s the pity, so will pop back at lunchtime.

  • I’m glad someone else was noticing this – it’s not name as in ‘Fred Bloggs’ but name as in what something means (including reputation). So the title could remove ambiguity thusly: “The Name of ‘The Doctor'” – why did this person choose to be called ‘The Doctor’ and what is the meaning of that name? I’m also running with John Hurt as being in between McGann and Ecclestone, and responsible for the devastation of the Time War; and I’m gambling that Moffat will be resolving questions of Silence and TARDIS explosions – probably with a bit of Omega input – in the 50th anniversary. And I’m guessing that it’s Tennant’s more human doctor (with Rose) who saves it all…

  • Jem

    Ooh, I’d bet money on the 10th doctor being the one travelling by himself after The Waters of Mars and further that Rose’s role will be a cameo related somehow to the John Hurt character or 11. There is no way that Steven Moffat will have 10’n’Rose as he has previously expressed his distaste for that relationship plus it would put his stamp on things to *not* have them as a doctor/companion pairing in the episode. Such a long wait until we find out.

    Given that the BBC overkill with pre-episode photos and the need to build the excitement for the episode, I’d also bet that something teasing will be released at SDCC in July and we’ll get clues about a lot of this well before November and not by devious fans, but by the BBC and showrunners. Not to mention Mr Hurt’s propensity to gab himself!


  • Lisa

    Anyone else think that he doesn’t like the end of things sounds a bit too Don Draperish for comfort? After all, he only likes the beginning of things!

  • “Why would he even think that it’s likely that he’d have a grave, instead
    of his atoms just being anonymously smashed across the universe in some
    horrific incident that no one ever knows about? Isn’t that far more
    likely than him being feted with a grave?”

    I think you’re asking yourself this because you’re approaching the text as a sci-fi story still (even if very soft sci-fi), when Moffat is operating in a mythic mode. A sci-fi protagonist can very realistically worry that they will end up as an anonymous splat on a star cruiser hull or something – but a mythical hero can fairly safely assume their journey will end in an important grave, if not an elaborate tomb.

  • Lisa

    Isn’t it now which dr are you really? lol

  • Lisa

    it usually runs thru the spring, sometimes starts around Easter – so this is a special, like the David Tennant specials in November this year, it’s a sorta extra episode.

  • RogerBW

    But it’s still money. Hence this “half-season” business.

  • Isobel_A

    I’ve been trying to work out why I’ve been completely emotionally detached from this series. I haven’t ‘felt’ any of it (with the exception of the Doctor’s goodbye with River, in this episode).

    I don’t think it’s the actors’ fault. Matt Smith has been very one note in this series, in my opinion, but I don’t think that’s his fault as an actor – he’s proved he can be a great Doctor. I was expecting to hate him, to be honest, and he won me over in about 2 minutes in his first episode. He’s got a wonderfully expressive face and a great physical comedic side, too. I’ve not seen Jenna-Louise Coleman in anything else, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

    It’s just been a very flat experience, somehow. I think partly it’s because I’ve been watching it whilst re-watching the Christoper Ecclestone and David Tennant series, and it hasn’t compared well. It feels like the RTD era had some superficial silliness, but underneath there was some real meat to think about, to capture your emotions. The Moffat era is all sound and fury, signifying nothing (to steal a phrase). We get all these big ideas thrown at us, but there’s no meat under them. The big idea gets whipped away and something else is put in it’s place, and then that’s all deus ex machina’ed away, with a million threads left hanging, and we’re on to the next thing.

    I loved Idris’ stealing of the Doctor, but now that’s been hoiked away, and we’re told it was Clara all along. Clara doesn’t make sense. I completely get everyone who’s asking why she’s supposed to be so perfect for the Doctor, ’cause we’ve not seen it. She’s just this empty little cipher that chatters and smiles and behaves in a thoroughly not-normal way. And that would be fine, if she was the TARDIS, scattered through time – there would be some kind of basis for why she’s just that little bit ‘off’. It’s not OK if she’s a normal girl, scattered through time.

    Eh. I dunno – I’m aware that I’m whining a little, but I’m just a bit confused by the whole thing.

    And also – whoever said Madame Vastra would make a perfect companion? Oh yes, please!

    I did love the scene between the Doctor and River, though. Almost made it worse, though – why can’t we have more of that? Not the romance, necessarily, just the emotional connection (the Doctor and Donna had it, without any romance).

  • Jurgan

    It’s another wordplay. Instead of “what is the true name of the doctor” it’s “what is the significance of the name ‘the doctor?'” Matt Smith says that what John Hurt did was “not in the name of the Doctor.” He’s saying he has no right to that name and has been hidden from his memories, and that’s his greatest secret. The most common theory I’ve heard is that this is a new incarnation between McGann and Eccleston, and since he did things unworthy of the name “The Doctor,” he is not counted in the numbering of Doctors. It does make sense, but it’s not what we were led to expect.

  • Jurgan

    Yeah, Moffat doesn’t seem to care much about characters he didn’t create (I think Jack has been mentioned once in three seasons), so I seriously doubt Ten and Rose are key to the unfolding.

  • Danielm80

    But Moffat wrote Jack’s first episode, “The Empty Child.” If he didn’t create the character, he at least put a lot of work into defining his personality.

  • Bob

    I have generally enjoyed this season-both parts of it- and think that Moffat deserves some credit for taking on board criticisms of Seasons 5 and 6 being too ”arc orientated”. I’ve enjoyed the stand alone stories , and didn’t really mind the last episode being a ”set-up” for the anniversary show. However, I think you have pretty fairly summed up the difference between the RTD era, and Moffat’s. While RTD was trying to give the show some emotional centre-I think he said in an interview that he wanted to recreate the spirit of the original show, only with the characters being what he described as ”real people”-Moffat has been mainly about spectacle and flash. It has still resulted in some very entertaining television, but noticeably different from the work of his predecessor. His major asset has been the excellent Matt Smith.
    I’ve rather liked Clara this season, but the final episode seems to confirm that she’s been a plot device rather than a character, which is a bit disappointing. We’ll need to see what happens next, however, before coming to a final conclusion, and I am looking forward to finding out.

  • Gee

    I don’t think the episode negates the TARDIS steaing the Doctor bit. The TARDIS and Clara do have a bit of a relationship, and she could have comminicated her desires through her.

    I did think that on the whole it was pretty underwhelming. I did really like the bits with Vastra, Jenny and Strax, as usual. It’s always nice when they are actually given something to do. I was puzzled by the Doctor being pretty much willing to have his friends die rather than say his name, but then with pretty much no thought jumps in to rescue Clara, when him coming into contact with his timestream was the very thing that had everyone so terrified all this time.

  • Bassy Galore

    I think the TARDIS still chooses him. Clara pointed him to the correct one because the Great Intelligence tried to rewrite time, but as we’ve seen in the last several episodes (including this one), if the TARDIS doesn’t like someone (or something that’s about to be done), she gets ornery (for lack of a better word). Had she not “chose” him, she wouldn’t have allowed him to take off. This TARDIS has a very strong will and quite frankly is a bit “off”, just like The Doctor.

  • Doctor80

    You know…I’m beginning to think that Clara’s sacrifice wasn’t meant for Clara at all but for Amy. The emotional connection they had would have made the sacrifice much more believable. Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t it Karen Gillan who wanted out with no chance of coming back? So maybe Moffat didn’t quite know what to do with a companion for only half a series.
    In fact if you say Amy instead of Clara and Rory instead of Jenny you would have a perfect ending for the trio of Amy, Rory and River.

  • DeFlipSide

    Good idea. It would have been a perfect, permanent out for Amy. It also would have eliminated the glaringly easy way the TARDIS could have rescued Amy and Rory from the past where the Angels zapped them. The Doctor said he couldn’t go back to New York to get them because the timeline there was too fractured. So why don’t Amy and Rory just leave NY and go to London, or Paris, or even the East End of Long Island and send word to the doctor of where they are?

  • Doctor80

    Also jenny’s death could have been Rory’s and this time no hope for him returning and that would give Amy even more reason to give up her life.

  • Doctor80

    No but still Clara said the navigation was faulty and it wouldn’t be faulty if the T.A.R.D.I.S was sentient and decided the destination.

  • Judy

    On the nose.

  • Judy

    Makes much more sense than Clara.

  • Michael Elamson

    I think your claimed love fest has become a “hate-on-Moffatt fest.” He’s certainly earned some criticism, but even so the show is still good, and this episode in particular was brilliant.

    I cannot understand how you took the title so literally as to think the point of this episode would be the revealing of the Doctor’s name. OF COURSE it was misdirection, a play on words. You describe well the reasons why learning the Doctor’s name could only be an anticlimax, but then you seem to have thought it was where the episode would go anyway.

    I’ve been reading you for a while, and enjoyed catching up on the archives, but I think I’m getting off the train here. The lovefest that this blog was during the RTD years has turned into an exercise of nitpicking and going out of your way to find things to criticize.

  • Isobel_A

    That is of course your prerogative, no-one is going to tell you what to read.

    It is worth pointing out, though, that MaryAnn isn’t the only person not currently wholly enjoying Doctor Who, there are a lot of people (including me) who share a lot of the criticism.

  • RogerBW

    If you want a non-love-fest, there’s always the stfumoffat tumblr.

    Though to be honest I think a lot of the posters there are feeling the same sense that this was once a more enjoyable show than it is now, that it could be again, but that it’s currently going in a troublesome direction.
    (Though if every attempt at continuity now has to include Clara that’s rather poisoned the well for future show-runners.)

  • Paul

    Moffat has torpedoed continuity?

    Add that to the list of things I think he’s done right, then!

  • RogerBW

    Add that to the list of things I think he’s done right, then!

    Up to a point, Lord Copper…

    To me it feels like cheating and egotism. All those other adventures, all those things you thought were exciting at the time… they only worked because of my character who’s the most super special of them all. All future writers for the show will have to acknowledge myinfluence.
    But as you know I preferred this programme when it was a science fiction show rather than a myth show.

  • Isobel_A

    Thanks, I didn’t know about that. I don’t have anything personally against Moffat – he’s written some of my all time favourite episodes – it’s just I’m (as you said) of the opinion that this was once a more enjoyable show.

  • Isobel_A

    Yes. That. We are now stuck with Clara forever, and no-one has made the effort to make her a character worth being stuck with.

  • Paul

    When it was a science fiction show? That would be, er, the Chris Bidmead period, then?

    I don’t find Clara’s contribution quite as super special as you do. The GI found a way to mess up the Doctor’s timeline; Clara reset it. That’s kind of heroic enough for a half-series, but resets aren’t quite as exciting as all that.

    The claim of egotism is obviously right, though. Moffat is a huge ego. Then again, so is RTD, so was JNT… I suspect that you have to have a huge ego to run the show, and in Moffat’s case, to cope with the excesses of fan hatred. More importantly, you have to have a huge ego to dare to tinker with the show’s fundamentals. And if you don’t, then the show stagnates (as it did in the continuity-heavy mid-JNT period).

  • Paul

    I will second Roger’s recommendation of stfumoffat. Well worth a look.

  • RogerBW

    I’m not claiming it was always a good science fiction show! But certainly pre-interval it was generally (it’s Doctor Who, there will always be exceptions) following science-fictional tropes and patterns rather than mythic ones. The Doctor was one special man, not a god who could do anything; problems were solved with pseudo-scientific double talk rather than the Power of Love.

  • Paul

    I agree with most of your specific complaints. I have a particular dislike of world/universe-saving plots. But I don’t think SF and myth are an either/or. I think Doctor Who has been mythic from the very beginning, and although it has a heavy dose of SF tropes, the sheer range of genres with which it has collided over the years, and the science handwaving from the very beginning mean it is very far from unalloyed SF. The MInd Robber, for example, is hard to square with a notion that Doctor Who was unambiguously SF. I think the Mind Robber was trying to do something else, something much more akin to what Moffat’s trying. Another example would be The Happiness Patrol. You may not like those stories, but you should be aware that they’re regarded as classics by some.

  • Doctor80

    Well Moffat himself kinda looked past everything from. the RTD era except his own inventions so the next show runner can do exactly the same with Moffat’s era.

  • Doctor80

    Can I ask where ‘signifying nothing’ comes from?

  • LaSargenta


    Especially apt as it follows a bit after “[a] tale told by an idiot”.

  • ohiopokey

    Good or bad, I just love Doctor Who, and would rather have all “bad” episodes than none at all. I can’t imagine voluntarily stopping watching it unless it becomes …boring.

    But I did not expect the series to come to a screeching halt by introducing a companion that not only doesn’t add anything to any scene, but immediately cools a room down. She’s the Doctor Who Cooler. I won’t add to the other posts regarding her undeveloped character, unmotivated actions, two facial expressions, and one perky voice tone. Any of the last 4 companions would have made more sense as the saviors of the doctor. Indeed, they all did save him in some meaningful ways (where was Clara then?) Basically, they all got stiffed. Clara, who doesn’t seem to care about much of anything, including the doctor and her wee charges, is a totally unlikely candidate for an ultimate sacrifice. I did mention no personality, right? For crying out loud, River’s death in the Library was annihilating, and so meaningful! Also the Doctor’s “saving” her.

    Remember Donna, desperately wanting to join the Doctor in the Tardis, and her agonizing heartbreak at the state of the Ood? She almost could not go on. But her pain and empathy brought home to her how important and conflicted the Doctor really was. Pompeii. She did feel his pain.

    Clara who? Oh, the one in the cute dresses.

    All season my hope was that Clara would get jettisoned for a proper companion with a personality, whose relationship to The Doctor (whatever it happened to be) felt like it made sense, rather than being told that she was perfect, or whatever. Please. Pay her a bazillion gold to gracefully bow out of her contract to spend more time with her family. Please, SM, admit (at least secretly, to yourself) that you made a mistake. Have they started filming for the next series yet? post 50th special? Plenty of time for J-LC to decide that she always wanted to return to the stage. Or whatever convenient excuse they can come up with.

    Only because I love the show!

  • Kitty

    I got that it’s not actually about the Name of the Doctor in terms of Eleven — it’s about JOHN HURT, and that whatever vile thing he did prevented HIM from taking “the name of THE DOCTOR.”

    My take.

  • Fionna

    I commend you, Sean, for having the presence of mind to prevent your daughter from watching “Silence in the Library”. I didn’t, in the case of my 9 year old son, and we then had to spend the next two years with at least four lights on in the house at ALL TIMES.

  • Paul

    Silence in the Library is one that my son, 6 at the time, didn’t watch, and given what you say, I’m glad he didn’t. He has also still never seen the Sontaran story, as the opening with the woman in the car scared him too much. More recently, his imagination ran away with him on the Crimson Horror, and as a result he also avoided Nightmare in Silver (no great loss, in my opinion). So I wanted to say that I sympathize with your own son’s fears. I think watching the programme and tackling the fear is good, but I wouldn’t take that to a macho extent.

    And in your case, you weren’t to know how scary that episode was going to be for him, were you?

  • Fionna

    Thanks Paul. :-) Sometimes it’s hard to predict what’s going to scare kids, don’t you think? And at the time, we, as a family, were only just starting to catch up with ‘New Who’ so I’d forgotten just HOW MUCH it scared the pants off me as a child. I was temporarily banned from watching the show after ‘Stones of Blood’ (because who would dare to sleep after that???)…although with older siblings watching it on a B&W telly in the next room, the ‘ban’ was ultimately unworkable. Didn’t matter how scary it was, I always came back – the lure was too great to stay away for long, which says a lot about the writing because it certainly wasn’t the special effects!

  • KC Krupp

    Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player

    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

    And then is heard no more: it is a tale

    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

    signifying nothing.

    It is said by Macbeth after the death of Lady Macbeth and also has a secondary subtext of Shakespeare criticizing theater that focuses on battle scenes and special effects without the portrayal of human beings as bad drama.

  • Doctor80

    Very well put

  • Bassygalore

    Exactly.*He* is the secret the Doctor has been keeping.

  • Isobel_A

    I’m an all-new Who fan, up until now. I’ve vague memories of Peter Davidson of the Doctor, but that’s it.

    But then, this weekend I noticed that there was some classic Who available on Virgin on demand, so I watched Genesis of the Daleks (Tom Baker) and Resurrection of the Daleks (Peter Davidson). Now, without wanting to enrage any real Doctor Who fans, I did find these episodes very dated in terms of acting style etc and I was frankly disappointed in Sarah Jane, who didn’t seem to do much other than scream, faint and be called a good girl (the male companion never was called a good boy, of course). Sure, she had the idea for an escape attempt but was too womanly and weak to make it.

    Having said that, however, I was pleasantly suprised by how different the tone was. It was serious – I could imagine children being absolutely terrified, but completely absorbed. There was no dumbing down, no silliness – a character like Strax would have been absolutely and completely (and thankfully) out of place.

    That Doctor Who did not dumb itself down to a 12 year old boy audience, it expected 12 year old boys to be able to follow (and to enjoy) a story about a civil war, and megalomaniac scientists, and the morality of genetic manipulation.

    What I wouldn’t give to see stories of that quality, with todays acting and production standards. Imagine what Matt Smith could do with that, instead of ‘ew, girls’ and being called ‘chin boy’!

    Even with the dated acting etc, there aren’t many modern Who episodes that match up. Midnight, I think, Planet of the Ood, The Impossible Planet and The Satan Pit and Dalek. IMHO, of course, YMMV! ETA: how could I have forgotten The Doctor’s Wife! Curse my colander of a brain.

  • Paul

    Yes, but surely as you typed this you knew that there aren’t many old Who episodes that match up, either?

    Watching two very highly rated stories from the old series and comparing them to the full range of the new one is actually the sort of trick the “real Doctor Who fans” pull.

    You could just as easily have made the comparison with Revenge of the Cybermen (which immediately preceded Genesis) and Warriors of the Deep (which was a few stories before Resurrection). And I suspect your conclusion would have been very different indeed.

  • Isobel_A

    Yes, but surely as you typed this you knew that there aren’t many old Who episodes that match up, either?

    ‘Fraid not. Like I said – didn’t watch any old Who, only have vague memories of PD as the Doctor, and that’s it.

    Watching two very highly rated stories from the old series

    I didn’t actually know they were ‘very highly rated’, or more so than the rest of the series. Now I’ve been told!

    ETA: Still doesn’t really change my overall point across this thread (that I’m disappointed in the last three seasons). In RTD era Who, there was at least an episode per season that I (personally) thought matched up in quality. There hasn’t been once since RTD’s departure, in my opinion. Except The Doctor’s Wife but I’m not giving Moffat credit for that – all Gaiman! Maybe, the two episodes with River on the ship with the Weeping Angels, but that’s it. Not a great record over three seasons.

  • Bob

    Watch out for the TB era ”Revenge of the Cybermen”-I loved it when I was seven, but the sight of Cybermen in silver spray-painted flairs is not one from which you will easily recover.

  • Isobel_A

    Well – cheesy cheesy production was kind of what I was expecting!

  • Bob

    I think you managed in your original post to sum up pretty well why classic Who exerted such a fascination for the children who watched it at the time, and why it still has a grip on our imaginations. The best of the serials did have a seriousness, and an intensity that marked them out from other programmes of the time ostensibly aimed at children. I think you would probably enjoy most of the serials broadcast originally from 1970 to about 1977. Even the cheesy production values have a charm of their own, and the quality of the writing and acting was usually high enough for them not to matter so much.

    But Paul’s right as well. The original show ran for about 26 years, and went through some fairly dramatic changes in that time-and the quality control was not all that it should have been. ”Warriors From the Deep” really has to be seen to be believed-and Sylvester McCoy’s first two seasons were often very silly indeed-far sillier, I would say, than anything we’ve seen so far in the new Who.

  • Paul

    The only thing I would disagree with in your comment is the notion that Warriors of the Deep has to be seen. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, and nothing Isobel has written suggests that she deserves to see Ingrid Pitt vs the Myrka!

  • Isobel_A

    I’m now getting quite tempted to see this terribleness with my very own eyes…

  • Bob

    I was worried that might happen!

  • Tim

    I.. I think I want to see them now too.. Oh dear..

  • jem

    My daughter stumbled on this episode during repeats of classic Doctor Who which we had been tivo-ing for later watching (and fast-forwarding). The scene with the Myrka being attacked karate style by Ingrid Pitt was instantly declared as the best thing evah. We had to keep it on our set top box and the eppie is frozen at the moment Ingrid steps around the corner to confront the styrofoam terror of the seas. Whenever she wants to cheer herself up, she replays that scene several times in a row. That episode also features worst ever falling down dead when zapped by killer rays acting a couple of scenes earlier. Along with the ridiculous costumes, it’s guaranteed to raise a good few laughs…….Highly recommended.


  • Paul

    I fear that scene is available on Youtube. Just search for “Karate vs. The Myrka”.

    At least it saves having to suffer the rest of the episode. Honestly, Moffat, for all his sins, is still preferable to Eric Saward. Even if that episode had had modern production values — a Myrka that wasn’t a pantomime horse, Sea Devils whose heads weren’t listing, no ridiculous karate scenes — it would still have been a stinker, because Saward didn’t actually like the Doctor. He wanted to write space action, and felt the Doctor was ineffectual. Consequently he wrote him as ineffectual.

  • Melissa Cheran

    But wouldn’t a tightly repressed race of Non-interfering time travelers consider a ship that took you where “you needed to be” as having Knackered navigation?

  • Radek

    NO! It would have been better to keep Amy all along and have *her* be “the impossible girl that doesn’t make sense” who saves The Doctor.

  • Radek

    People, Clara CHANGED the past! I mean, The Doctor had all those victories and The Great Intelligence changed them (Jenny died, etc.). So originally the TARDIS stole the Doctor, but then Clara changed it. Timey-wimey.

  • Radek

    MY GOD MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY! That’s precisely what I was thinking while watching the episode. It sounds like it was custom-made for “the girl who didn’t make sense” and Moffat had to work his way around it. I miss Amy now, even though I didn’t like her when she was on… Well, everything can indeed get worse.

  • Doctor80

    Yeah I suppose it does make sense. BUT for me to accept it Moff should have shown the great intell igence changing that fact.

  • The Little Author DK Zealand

    Any Ideas on who to make the Clara costume from Gallifrey?

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