Sunday, May 19, 2013

Review: The Name of the Doctor

Talk about titles that mislead, but don't!  The episode isn't about "the name of the Doctor".  It's about the Name of the Doctor: The Doctor, the title, the name he's chosen for himself, and the secret the revalation of which has ramifications throughout the Whoniverse.

Stephen Moffat left us with a cliffhanger ending that introduced (SPOILER ALERT) John Hurt as a future (?) incarnation of the Doctor.  Why the FUCK has he been holding out on us, letting mediocre stories get produced for the second half of Series 7, when he could have made them all awesomely epic and well written?  I don't know and I no longer care.  Moffat really ought to be sacked and replaced with someone who can write well and do it consistently.

Okay, now that I've gone off on my usual tangent, there was actually a lot to like about this episode and a lot not to like, but nothing I could really stay angry about.  Madame Vastra visits a prison, where a deranged convicted murderer waiting to be hanged offers information about the Doctor and Trenzalore in return for his life being spared.  The information turns out to be the location of Trenzalore, where the Doctor's future corpse is buried.  This sets off the story's action, and things get really bad really quickly.

There were a lot of things I didn't like, chief among them being the complete lack of the Silence, the group led by the Edward Munch-looking aliens, which has been trying to prevent the Doctor from ever going to Trenzalore for fear of what the revelation of his greatest secret will do to them.  Well, it seems that, going by what cryptic information this episode gave us, Trenzalore may in fact be the Silents' homeworld, or at least, their primary base of operations, or maybe just the place of their final defeat at the Doctor's hands.  We don't know, because nothing was revealed along those lines.  Instead, we got the Great Intelligence making another appearance, apparently trying to uncover the Doctor's Big Secret as a means of gaining its final revenge on the Time Lord, in an apparently completely unrelated plot.

Granted, the Doctor faked his death to get the Silence off his back, but still, for all the trouble they cause throughout Series 5 with blowing up the TARDIS and destroying all of Creation, and throughout Series 6 with their ploy to turn Amy Pond's and Rory Williams' daughter into a weapon with which to kill the Doctor, you'd think Moffat would have brought them back.  But no, instead we get the Great Intelligence, with no hint as to any previous involvement in any of this, on his own quest to kill the Doctor.  That just annoys the hell out of me.  Moffat, you botched it again in that department!  A pox upon your house!

On the other hand, we finally get the explanation for Clara and how and why she has existed in time and space before.  No, she's not Bad Wolf II like I initially thought.  Just watch the episode and you'll see.  I did like all the appearances of the Doctor's past selves, which included William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, and (only as a stuntman dressed in costume) Christopher Eccleston.  We didn't get to see Paul McGann or David Tennant, either through footage or stunt doubles, as with the others.  That was odd, but we should really see all the Doctors in some way in November for the 50th Anniversary episode.  Anything less would be a huge letdown.

Now, as I wrote above, the cliffhanger ending was fantastic and introduced us to a (possibly) future incarnation of the Doctor — perhaps the Final Doctor — played by legendary actor John Hurt.  Only Hurt could portray a guilt-wracked Time Lord the way the future and Final Doctor must ultimately be played.  Brilliant casting decision there.  Oh, and if you're wondering how River Song could be in this episode after her doomed trip to the Library, well, it's Moffat's typically throwaway non-explanation.  I'll just say that even with that monumental cheat, the chemistry between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston was superb and undoubtedly caused quite the number of tears for many audience members.

So, I give "The Name of the Doctor" a B+ or A-.  Moffat still gets a big fat F- from me, but we'll see how the 50th Anniversary goes.

For an alternate take, go here.

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