Sunday 2 June 2013
Doctor Who: The Name Of The Doctor review... and some thoughts on departing Time Lords
With two Specials yet to come to mark the end of the Eleventh Doctor's tenure, this isn't the time to get all maudlin about his departure. ( Unlike Matt in the photo above! ) I'll just say for now that I've loved his take on the Doctor ( with only a few minor reservations ) and the way he brought a lightness and eccentricity back to the part after the intensity of Eccleston and the Mockneyisms of Tennant. It's been obvious for some time that Smith's star has been in the ascendant ( heading to Hollywood to work with Ryan Gosling being the most obvious sign ) and the show obviously couldn't contain him much longer. I wish him all the best and I'm confident that the Who production team will find a suitably dazzling replacement. They haven't let us down so far.
( All this also begs the question - Will Steven Moffatt leave with "his" Doctor? It's obviously a possibility and again leaves the showrunner's role open for speculation. Not that I particularly want The Moff to leave - even though his time on the show hasn't been as groundbreaking as I'd hoped - but the thought of fresh blood in the Whoniverse is always exciting. )
So... The Name Of The Doctor : was it worth the wait / hype?
Actually, I'd say yes. Although the Doctor's name turned out to be a plot point and was not eventually revealed ( did we really think it would be? ) I didn't mind Moffatt's misdirection... although maybe the episode should have been titled In The Name Of The Doctor, which would have been more appropriate.
The whole episode had a suitably funereal feel as the Great Intelligence and his blank-faced Whispermen spirited the Doctor and his friends away to Trenzalore, the one place in the universe the Doctor must never go. Here, in a landscape devastated by conflict, we discovered the Doctor's final resting place and also his greatest secret.
Although, as with many of The Moff's scripts, the story didn't make huge amounts of sense it was heavily atmospheric with fine performances and some lovely nods to the show's past. The idea that the Doctor's tomb was his own deceased Tardis was a fitting, if grim, concept and Matt Smith totally sold the idea of the Doctor facing his own mortality with fear and bravery. The supporting cast all did sterling work, especially Alex Kingston ( in her final appearance? ) as a ghostly, computer-generated River Song. Strax, of course, got the few laughs in a necessarily sombre script. ( "Conference call...!")
The mystery of how Clara keeps popping up in the Doctor's life was finally solved, although this "closed-loop" kind of time paradox is one of those aforementioned moments that don't bear much scrutiny beyond the emotional impact.
Of course, the BIG moment was the appearance of John Hurt ( "as the Doctor" ) in the closing seconds of the episode. This was a hugely exciting moment, paving the way for the 50th Anniversary Special in November. Are we to expect that Hurt's Doctor is some kind of interim regeneration, maybe between the Eighth and the Ninth... and the one that pressed the button to end the Time War? Or is there more to him than that? Maybe he's the Valeyard? There are sure to be many twists and turns to come. However it pans out, November can't come soon enough...
Four Out Of Five Bow Ties. ( Or Impossible Girls )