There was a lot riding on the series finale of Doctor Who this year, because beyond the end of a season the episode would be the lead-in to the much anticipated 50th anniversary episode this November.
So when it was announced that the episode would be titled ‘The Name of the Doctor’ I wasn’t the only worried about where the episode would wind up taking us, especially since they also told us that Clara would find out the Doctor’s biggest secret.
“The Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave – it has been discovered.”
The line that is repeated several times throughout the episode and, at first glance, I believed the secret was the key to that sentence. But in the end it’s the Doctor’s grave that has been discovered, and to save Jenny, Strax and Madame Vastra he has to break into his own tomb. On Trenzalore.
Trenzalore, if you can recall, has been mentioned before – most notably during ‘The Wedding of River Song’ by Dorian who said: “On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked – a question that must never be answered: Doctor Who?”
With Clara in tow, and hoping to save his three friends, the Doctor comes face-to-face with The Great Intelligence again before the villain steps into the Doctors’ time-stream, intent on killing all incarnations of the Gallifreyan.
I won’t spoil the rest – though it’s likely obvious – but I will say that we once again see Alex Kingston’s River Song in the episode and she finally gets her closure, a chance to say goodbye to the man who loves her. The moment is touching, and painful, and I’m not ashamed to say I cried.
But it’s the ending that got me – with the Doctor entering his time-stream to save Clara he accidentally reveals his biggest secret: The Doctor who wasn’t. The incarnation who betrayed the name ‘Doctor’ – broke its promise.
Portrayed by John Hurt, the character may be The Valeyard – at least that’s my guess, but let’s not forget that Moffat does Moffat-y things, so it may well not be either. Some speculation is raising an interesting possibility that Hurt’s character is a ‘forgotten’ Doctor between the eighth and ninth regenerations, which is a route I frankly wouldn’t mind!
But for that story, we’re going to have to wait until November 23 – and it’s never felt further away.
But kudos to Moffat, this episode is easily my favourite from season 7b, and kept as much hidden as it revealed – succeeding in the goal to build the anticipation before the 50th.
I’d also like to say that, hot on the heels of this spectacular episode, Moffat and the BBC have confirmed that we’ll be getting a season 8. So, good news all around!