Sunday, 26 May 2013

Andy vs Doctor Who Part II: The Name of the Doctor

Spoilers abound!

I have been without internet for several weeks as I recently moved house, so I've only just caught up with the  last episode of this season of Doctor Who, The Name of the Doctor. After my last rant blog about the show, I thought I'd better write something about it as a finale and an explanation for the 'Impossible Girl' (grr). 

First off, in my opinion, Doctor Who is not a program that relies too much on continuity, especially in it's original incarnation. The origin of the Daleks has changed at least a couple of times (for instance between The Daleks where they first appeared and Genesis of the Daleks 12 years later), Davros, The Master, the entire Dalek race and even obscure villains like Omega have been bought back from being seemingly dead with not a lot of explanation. But it does have small nods towards it: each of the anniversary specials nod back to the previous incarnations (as the 50th will) and the Time War seems to act primarily as a way to explain differences between the old series and the new - which is fine. A program about time travel shouldn't get too hung up on it.

This episode opens with Clara giving a voice-over as she apparently falls through a time vortex. I didn't like the voice-over thing with Rose in Army of Ghosts and I don't like it here. It's padding and a very artificial way to create tension. We then seemed to see it at least five more times

But on to the main body of the episode. Essentially, Strax, Vastra and Jenny get themselves kidnapped and are whisked off to Trenzalore - a planet that The Doctor must never go to, for it is where he is buried. I would have thought that crossing timelines with yourself when you are still alive would be a MUCH bigger problem, but whatever, I'm not a time traveler. Eventually they make their way to the center of the dying TARDIS, where The Great Intelligence (Richard E Grant) steps into the center of one of the coolest things I've ever seen on Doctor Who (quite literally, his life-line) and corrupts the Doctor's entire timeline. At which point, Clara steps in as well and fixes everything, explaining how she got scattered across time and space. 


From other reviews I am reading about this, this was seen as one of the greatest series endings of all time. I am not convinced. I had all sorts of problems with this episode. Here are some of the biggest:
  1. The Doctor's timeline is just sitting there, on Trenzalore. Yes, the actual name of the Doctor is required to get to it, but one door blocks the way to something that could potentially destroy entire civilizations in seconds. You don't even have to be planning to do it. Trip up the steps and rework history. "Whoops-" FWOOOM.
  2. Wasn't it the Silence's job to stop them getting to Trenzalore? Where the hell were they? I didn't particularly like them either, but you can't rewrite continuity and ignore it at the same time.
  3. Clara has been about for all of the Doctor's incarnations, and the 11th is the first to notice her. Seriously?
  4. Even if she was scattered through time and space, presumably she was still human. Why the hell was she on Gallifrey?
There are others (why were Strax and Vastra still on Trenzalore at all, let alone fighting?) and Stephen Moffat nicely undermined the poignant ending to Forest of the Dead by having a post-that River come back. In that episode, she died to save a man who didn't know who she was yet. It was perfect. Leave it alone. This was a tear-jerker, but a hell of a cheap one. Also, has she been holographically hanging around in the TARDIS since then? This certainly implies it. "I can always see you..." indeed. 

Forest of the Dead, more poignant the more you got to know River
(It's worth pointing out with regards to River, for one glorious second I thought she'd been prompting Clara all the time she was in the TARDIS. That would have been a nice twist as well as extremely funny.)

But the ending. Oh my lord. All of my objections and questions and problems were blown away by that one reveal. Forget Clara, John Hurt is a hell of a mystery. My personal theory is that I think he might be the meta-crisis Doctor from Journey's End, but anyone else got a good one?

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