Who Review: The Name of the Doctor


by Kevin Rigdon (@pralix1138)

“On the fields of Trenzalore, at the Fall of the Eleventh, a question will be asked. It is the first question in the universe, hidden in plain sight. A question that must never be answered: Doctor Who?”

So we are told by the head of Dorium Maldovar in “The Wedding of River Song.” Does the season finale of Doctor Who answer this question? Do we find out who Clara Oswald is? Why is she the impossible girl? Good questions, and they are discussed below; so if you haven’t watched “The Name of the Doctor” yet, consider this your spoiler alert and proceed with caution.

I’d like to start off with a thank you, and big verbal hug, to Steven Moffat (that’s not creepy, right?) for the return of my favorite space archaeologist, River Song. I have been waiting for her to come back since last September. And now she’s here, joining Vastra, Jenny, Strax, and Clara to help save the Doctor. Moffat has done this thing with his tenure as show runner and lead writer wherein the Doctor himself is the one in need of saving. The hero has fought again and again, saved again and again, and Moffat has attempted to show us that the hero, himself, needs to be saved from time to time. And that is certainly the case here, at the fields of Trenzalore, at the one place in space and time that the Doctor should never go: his own tomb.

There are whispers throughout the world, if one knows how to listen, that tell of the Doctor and the discovery of his grave. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax team up with Clara and River to help the Doctor via a psychic link conference call. Before they can decide what to do, they are attacked by the Whisper Men, servants of the Great Intelligence, and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are brought to Trenzalore by these beasties while the Doctor, Clara, and psychically-linked-to-Clara, River Song arrive via the TARDIS, though she (the TARDIS) attempts to stop them. They’ve all come to Trenzalore because GI (Great Intelligence) has a nefarious plot that requires the Doctor to open his own tomb, because only by uttering the Doctor’s name, can the tomb be opened. Even while his companions are threatened with death, the Doctor refuses to reveal his name, and then suddenly the doors open from the inside. River Song, who is still linked to Clara whispers the Doctor’s name, and so we are still left wondering what it is.

Once inside the tomb, we see the Doctor’s own timeline as a swirling mass of glowing, wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff, which the GI wants to step into so that he can undo all of the victories of the Doctor’s life. The Doctor will, literally, be undone at thousands of points throughout his life. All of the people he saved, all the worlds he protected, all of the good he has done will never have happened. But we can’t have that, can we? Clara certainly can’t. This is where we find out the who and why of Clara/Oswin Oswald. We are told how she is the impossible girl. Throughout his life, she was always born to save the Doctor. In each incarnation, each regeneration, Clara is there to save him. How? She jumps into the Doctor’s timeline tendrils. She gets scattered across the worlds, throughout countless ages, and she always succeeds in saving the Doctor.

But it’s never as simple as that, is it? Before jumping in, River tells Clara that if she does, then she, the real Clara will die and be flung throughout time and space as mirrors and echos. Ah, but even the beloved River Song can be wrong…sometimes. Somehow Clara survives the jump as herself, even though her various lives get scattered through the stars. In continuous iterations she is born, grows up, saves the Doctor, and dies. But she’s still here.


Before the Doctor can find Clara again, there’s something that needs to be taken care of, and that is a proper goodbye to River Song. I hate endings. I hate goodbyes. I want more River episodes, but this seems to be the wrap-up of that storyline. There is an exchange here that is so tender, so loving, so full of ontological hope, that I am starting to believe that Moffat may be a closet Charles Williams fan. River is psychically linked to Clara, but she stays around after Clara’s jump into the vortex. Moreover, up until this point, only Clara could see or hear her. While River is railing at the Doctor to not jump into his own timeline vortex, he grabs her hand as she attempts to slap him.

When River asks him how he did that, because she’s not really there, the Doctor says, “You are always here to me. And I always listen. And I can always see you.” Moffat’s words with Smith’s and Kingston’s faces and delivery might just be the brightest spot of the entire season, maybe of several seasons. Maybe of all television everywhere (with the notable exception of: “You’re my home, Chuck. You always have been.”). After they kiss, the Doctor gives her a “Doctor” goodbye, and in return she leaves him with a small riddle, a lovely “Spoilers,” and a very sad, “Goodbye, Sweetie.” Then a quick jump into the vortex, a finding of Clara, who is still alive, and a discovery.

After the Doctor finds Clara, there is a figure there, standing with his back to them, and he too, is the Doctor, but not one of the 11. He is the one who failed to be the “Doctor,” and he will be played by John Hurt. A huge, amazing, wonderful twist. Just when I thought I couldn’t look forward the 50th anniversary episode any more than I do, Moffat goes and does this. Who’s this incarnation of the Doctor? Is he a pre-Doctor version? Is he a future Doctor? The coming Valeyard? So many new questions!

The Good: I think we can all agree that the digital wizardry that brought several of the previous Doctors back to life was well done and much appreciated. It was great to see them, and how Clara was always there. I also think the resolution to the Clara plot was well done and really redeems many of the shortcomings it had all season. Now we can get on to something that doesn’t involve the “impossible girl.” The return of River Song was greatly appreciated as well. Even though I will always hope for more River in the future, I think this was a proper farewell with acceptable closure, unless, of course, you hate endings as much as I do. Regardless, it was very well done, with some dialogue that I will certainly be talking about again. Lastly, Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. I’ve grown to love these three together, and am secretly hoping for them to be in a show of their own.

The maybe not-so-good I understand the significance of the Great Intelligence, but it seemed more like a plot device than anything else. Not that plot devices are inherently bad, mind you. I mean, we need things to drive the plot onward. But that’s all it felt like. It was reminiscent of “The Angels Take Manhattan,” really, where these were just sort of cardboard cut-out ways to get to the real stuff that was going on. Still, I can overlook that because of what it brought about.

The Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

The last 5 minutes alone is worth the price of admission. What did you guys think of the finale?


  1. ChristineMay 20th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Agreed with everything you said. Absolutely loved the episode. This season was a bit weak towards the beginning, but I think these last two episodes restored my faith in the direction the show is headed. Also, I don’t think this is the last of River. I think she may show up again in the future. Can’t wait till November!

  2. Randi ShetleyMay 20th, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    I will have to watch it again and let it all sink in. I adore Clara. I loved her the first time we saw her at the beginning of the season. She may be my favorite companion (although Rory is a close second). The flashbacks of the Doctor’s different incarnations were brilliant. (I also love the new “retro” beginning credits). I was thrilled to see River Song again. I agree that we could have had a different or more creative villan in this episode, but it didn’t hurt the storyline. I am so excited to see what Moffett does for the 50th anniversary episode. And I hate that we have to wait until NOVEMBER! No doubt it will be worth the wait.

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