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Doctor Who Review: “The Name of the Doctor” (SPOILERS)

Doctor 2

Wait, so this WASN’T the 50th Anniversary special? It’s an episode in which every single incarnation of the Doctor we know (and also…) is featured, and in a way that makes sense and isn’t stupid. It’s full of past characters and references and mystery and intrigue and loss and sadness and endings and beginnings and…. Man, “The Name of the Doctor” had everything. It was even about what it said on the tin, and we didn’t have to hear it. So, let’s dive in, I guess.

Vastra calls a meeting of all the awesome people who help the Doctor and are still available to be shown onscreen. That means herself, Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River, whom we haven’t seen since she left the Doctor crying and alone at the end of “The Angels Take Manhattan.” Apparently, with the proper fragrance, people can lucid-dream their way into a Matrix construct. I did not know that. It’s a good way of getting people in the same room at once without having to mess around with pesky science or technology. They are gathered because some crazy murderer knows information regarding the fields of Trenzalore. We know this, of course, as the site of the Fall of the Eleventh, as told to the Doctor by Dorium at the end of “The Wedding of River Song.” This is bad news.

Name 2

The Great Intelligence, again played by the iconic Richard E. Grant, sends the Whisper Men, another in a long string of Moffat’s terrifying henchmen, to take/kill the members of the pentagon whilst they’re asleep. Clara wakes up and tells the Doctor what happened, causing him to cry. He knows where he must go, but he daren’t. If you could travel anywhere in time and space, obviously the one place you’d avoid is the place where you breathe your very last. We see terrible things on Trenzalore, not least of which being the remains of the TARDIS, its dimensions broken down so that the outside matches the inside. River is also here — not real River, mind, but the River that’s mentally linked to Clara.

I don’t actually understand what River is doing there and why the Doctor, we eventually learn, can see her. I get that she’s supposed to be the “saved” version of River from “Forest of the Dead,” but why wouldn’t they just pick a River who’s alive? I mean, she’s out of sequence with the Doctor; does that mean the very next thing she did after Amy and Rory got sent back to the ’40s was go to the library? Either way, I think we’re led to believe that she’s not going to be in the show anymore. I’ll miss her, I think, but I can live with it.

Name 1

The Great Intelligence’s plan is downright horrific, to jump into the Doctor’s time stream and un-right all the un-wronging he’s done throughout eternity. What a dick. Planets, galaxies, people, begin to disappear from existence, including Jenny and evil-again Strax. There is but one thing left to do – for Clara to jump in herself, completely forsake her own life, and get split into a billion pieces to save the Doctor and ensure things happen the way they should. She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

Since “Asylum of the Daleks,” back when we were surprised to see Jenna-Louise Coleman on our screens, we’ve been wondering who exactly she is, and what exactly she’s doing in multiple places in history. Now we know; she’s not a trick, or a trap, or some weird alien, or a robot, or anything like that. She’s a young lady who essentially allowed herself to be fragmented throughout time and space to save the Doctor time and time again. We see her “interact” with the Doctor throughout his whole life. I don’t care if it does look fake, seeing Clara and William Hartnell share the same frame is magical. And Tom Baker and Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton and everybody. It’s awesome. I love it.

Once things are righted, the Doctor does something even more insane that what Clara did: jump into his own time stream to save her. She eventually ends up in some horrible, bleak place and, miraculously (or not), the Doctor finds her, the real her. Except there’s another guy standing there… We do not know this guy; who’s this guy? Evidently, he’s the man who had forsaken the name of the Doctor. There have only been 11, but this one’s a mistake or something. Is he the Valeyard, is he a future Doctor, is he… a third thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and see once the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors team up.

Name 3

I’m sure there’s a lot of nitpicking to be done about this episode, but none of it really bothered me in the least. I thought everything paid off what was promised, and River’s ghost being able to open the tomb’s doors aside, the episode wasn’t a cop out. It WAS about the name of the Doctor, it WAS about finding out who and what Clara is, it WAS about something that completely changed what we knew about the show, but it doesn’t besmirch or negate any of it. It’s an episode about the past, present, and future of the character, which is something everybody can enjoy.

I adored this entire series, from “Asylum” to now. It really only had a few missteps for me, but I almost don’t care at this point. This is the show that I love to watch every week and the one I’ll be excited to watch for the next six months until the special. So, to sum it up, I loved “The Name of the Doctor,” and if you didn’t, that’s cool.

I’ll be back at some point this summer with a more thorough postmortem of Series 7 in its entirety, but right now I’m gonna go to sleep. No 50th trailer yet, but there is this very nice little bit of interview with Matt Smith and David Tennant. Excite!


  1. fendjinn says:

    “I found this article and have no idea how I feel about it yet, or how my very anti-moffat daughter will feel about it..

    If you actually watch the Sarah Jane Adventures episode in question (it’s from the fourth series a couple of years ago) when asked by one of the young characters how many times he can regenerate he says 507 *but* in a clearly off-hand, semi-jocular “don’t freak the kids out by talking about death” sort of manner. RTD (who wrote it BTW, it’s nothing to do with Moffat) said afterwards he meant it as a joke or throwawy line. Nothing to get too worked up about in other words.

  2. fendjinn says:

    Agreed, it was more like a “To be continued”, more or less as the credits rolled. So a credit but with a certain ballsy panache and sense of humour.

    “For those saying we don’t know his name we do. Closest Human analog is Theta Sigma and has been since the 4th regeneration. In Galifrayan it’s unpronounceable to the human tongue.”

    Theta Sigma, as the Doctor says himself in The Happiness Patrol”, was his *nickname* at college/university, not some analogue of his real name. Added to that, as far as I remember the “unpronounceable by humans” idea never appears onscreen (it’s from the books/audio plays) and so is of dubious canonicity at best. The same goes for the most explicit mention of his name, from the 1st issue of the Marvel comic imprint, where it’s something like delta cubed epsilon chi squared (sorry, tablet keyboard can’t recreate the actual Greek letters/superscripts) – also not onscreen so also non-canonical.

    So no, we don’t know his real name by most estimations.

  3. Jenn says:

    I was completely satisfied. I thought it brought together all that we’ve been raising our eyebrows about wondering where this is going- it went and it was a good place to go!

    As for the John Hurt, what number Doctor is he question I definitely heard he was going to be renumbering 9-11.which my daughter is frustrated on several levels about, A) WHY?! So I am glad to see in the comments there is a reasonable reason for an aberration between 8 and 9; I look forward to looking into it further, and 2) we will be at the final regen- so wtf are they going to end the show or have some doofy take-back…. I found this article and have no idea how I feel about it yet, or how my very anti-moffat daughter will feel about it..

  4. SaveRiver says:

    I think they wanted us to know though that John Hurt was “The Doctor” I think it was meant more as a teaser. I mean it’s the last thing you see before the credits roll. I mean I’m sure John Hurt is to much of a professional to want to take away from the story line.

  5. e says:

    Well, a lot of people loved it. I really did not like the way it ended with JOHN HURT=DOCTOR. The point of fantasy is to suspend disbelief and slip into the world of make belief. Ending it like it did drew attention to the fact that this man is a famous actor, not a character in the show. Cameo’s are fine as long as they are not drawn attention to, unless it done so comedic-ally. Imagine if the show had ended with: INTRODUCING TOM CRUISE AS THE DOCTOR.

  6. Matt says:

    A wee bit of history (real life) combined with some Whovian history to stir the pot. The Valeyard is an incarnation of The Doctor ripped out of space/time by The Master between his 12th and 13th regeneration. This was a manifestation of the worst of The Doctor and was used by The Master in an attempt to steal The Doctor’s regenerations.

    At one point The Valeyard fled but was “destroyed” in the process but in fact was turned in to a disembodied intelligence and assumed the identity of Jack The Ripper in Victorian London. He used The Ripper murders as a tool to fuel the Matrix in an attempt to reach the Doctor’s various incarnations and corrupt them to align them to his spirit. Jack The Ripper is considered to have killed up to 14 women in London (the 11 Whitechapel Murders plus three others). DiMarco had “the blood of 14 women on his hands” and is the right period for to be Jack The Ripper.

    Essentially The Valeyard controlled his victim (my contention is Clarence DiMarco) as a puppet in his attempt. Let’s say you’re a disembodied intelligence with an axe to grind, who better to go to for your ideas than the disembodied intelligence of your enemy’s darkest impulses from near the end of his life. That would give him ALL of the Doctor’s secrets up until then to play with (and DiMarco was simply a vessel). Goodness knows The Valeyard had no love lost for The Doctor, this I think is the setup, yes The Valeyard is here but in the beginning, not the end. Hurt is either an aged version of the McGann Doctor towards the end of the Time War when he’s seen his grand daughter and former companion lain to waste during the Time War and gone that one step to end it once and for all or he is a regeneration spanning the period between McGann and Eccleston who has shrugged off the Mantle of The Doctor in his attempt to end the Time War possibly assuming the role of President. Further, remember, The Doctor is a member of the Lungburrow House a member of the Prydonian Chapter which owes it’s allegiance to Rassilon of whom he is a direct descendant and who he defeated as Omega AND during the battle when The Master summoned Gallifrey back from it’s Time Lock.

  7. Matt says:

    @Bortman that is entirely invalidated by the fact that they were children together and their experience at the schism led one to hear the drums where the other could not. If they made The Doctor in to The Master I think a lot of people would walk away also it’s entirely illogical.

  8. Matt says:

    For those saying we don’t know his name we do. Closest Human analog is Theta Sigma and has been since the 4th regeneration. In Galifrayan it’s unpronounceable to the human tongue. I’m glad they handled it this way because last thing we want is a Never Ending Story moment. I know people aren’t happy we didn’t hear it but there needs to be something and the reality is his name is The Doctor because that’s the one he chose and that is who he strives to be and that’s what should matter.

  9. Bortman says:

    SPOILER ALERT – I reckon John Hurt is the Doctor that was forsaken and denied his name – and became THE MASTER. It totally makes sense – the only way the Time War could be ended was by the DOCTOR becoming THE MASTER – HIS REAL NAME !! In humility the DOCTOR has never spoken his real name – THE MASTER is the version of the DOCTOR that is evil and roams around space and time This is why the Doctor still loves the Master and cannot kill him – he would be killing part of himself. It explains a lot and is Canon in my view too

  10. Peter Ellis says:

    Thinking about it though, they could have had “And introducing…” John Hurt as a Doctor, not The Doctor. That would ram home the message that this is one of the reincarnations, but not one that has taken the role of Doctor.

  11. Gus says:

    This was by far the best episode of Dr Who. It was just brilliant. I can’t wait for the next. I’m not even going to say anything, it was really really great!

  12. fendjinn says:

    It’s entirely possible Clara didn’t hear River say his name since she wasn’t that near the door and was also having her heart stopped at the time (which can be a bit distracting).

    Very nicely done I thought, answers most of the questions that needed answering and in some style (we don’t need to, never should and likely never will know his name in my opinion – to those disappointed that we weren’t told, I’m curious, what name could he *possibly* have that wouldn’t be an anti-climax after 50 years of not knowing ? Some mysteries are better left unsolved).

    Also ? Best. “And introducing…”. Ever. Cool and hilarious at the same time.

  13. Peter Ellis says:

    She’s the one who tells him which TARDIS to take, for heaven’s sake (although, didn’t Idris-TARDIS say it was she who chose him?… maybe they were in league together).

    Mmm yes. I guess one resolution for that would be that Idris-TARDIS chose him, then the GI turned up and somehow made him pick a different one, and then finally Clara came and put it back to how it should be.

    For my mind, the biggest dangling end is the one Rusty left in The Sound of Drums. The setup is the Master going to the end of the Universe, capturing the last remnants of humanity and then sending them back in time (as the Toclafane) to destroy humanity. The Doctor resolves the paradox and saves humanity’s past (our present) – but as things stand our ultimate fate is still to reach the end of the Universe and then get converted into shiny childlike balls of hate. Surely they can’t leave that as our destiny?

  14. tangy says:

    did anyone else realise that because river said the doctor’s name, clara knows the doctor’s name…again

  15. PoddSocks says:

    bit annoyed we dont find out what his name was, although i swear i thought i heard River call him Harold.

    i liked the word play “doctor, who?” in the ep, was nicely written.

  16. Michael says:

    I think this episode is quite brilliant although I am a bit worried that the ending will be too rushed when they still set up the story 30 minutes into the show.

    However one thing that bothers me is that there’s a huge narrative jump somewhere in the middle (between the scene where Clara just regain her memories and the Doctor confronting the Great Intelligence).

    Personally what I don’t really enjoy about series 7 is that the story-telling seems too rushed. “Rings of Akhaten” could be even better if they give the characters a chance to develop and not rush the story. “Nightmare in Silver” is another one. The only exception so far that I can think of is “Hide”, the pace for that episode feels exactly right for me.

    Maybe the producers need to consider having a two-episode story lines again for stories that are really good (we haven’t had a two-parter since “Rebel Flesh”/”Almost People”).

    As for John Hurt’s character, from the exchange between him and Matt Smith, I tend to think that he is from the Last Time War as they go back and forth in past tense. (The Doctor might be a time traveler and things can go Timey-wimey but one thing I notice is that The Doctor is extremely pedantic when it comes to tenses ha3)

  17. SaveRiver says:

    Why doesn’t he just go to the Library and put river song info “The Flesh” It would work! She can live again, just transfer her “soul” “internal energy field” or what ever you want to call it into a new body and she’s back. She can’t be gone!

    Also, what makes everyone think that the Time Wars were the worse thing he’s ever done. He actually talks about those and Galafrey occasionally. People like The Doctor don’t reveal the worse thing they’ve ever done. Plus the wood people say “Doctor” is their word for “Great Warrior” and this is something River Song knows, I think he’s about to do, or in the case of the 11th Doctor undo, something much worse than the Time Wars. I think this all still has to do with “The Silence”

  18. Darth chimay says:

    Did anyone see the Eighth Doctor? Did I miss him?

  19. Colin says:

    There are just so many mysteries surrounding Doctor Who that if you google one it just leads you to another and another. There are still so many unanswered questions from “The End of Time” that I did not realize were there. Also WHY DID THE TARDIS EXPLODE IN SERIES 5! AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  20. kanton says:

    I’m betting the girl in the library, Cal, was Clara. Hence River’s ability to be mentally linked with Clara in the first place.

  21. Nate Weeks says:

    I’ve read a few reviews of the episode and noticed no one seems to have gotten Moffet’s sneaky trick regarding the legend about “the first question”: Maldova said at Trenzalore when “no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer” which everyone assumed meant a living person would be compelled to speak, but instead it was a dead person, who is no living person, River, who couldn’t speak falsely fail or to answer.

  22. Megan says:

    I’m new to the show (spent the last 3 weeks watching all the episodes) and this one was awesome. I’m a huge fan of 11 and River so I’m hoping this won’t be the end, but I’m getting a gut feeling it is. My silver lining to this though is that maybe because she was mentally linked to Clara, Clara will now have her memories/bits of personality, so she won’t really be dead. I’m not sure how I feel about it but that’s a theory.

  23. Kelvington says:

    I thought it was a great episode. And now we finally know the Doctor’s name. It had been hiding there in plain sight all along.

  24. maybe Hurt will be the 12th doctor when Smith leaves

  25. Jake says:

    So the title The Name of the Doctor wasn’t really about The Doctor’s name, I mean yeah it was, but taken a different way could also mean what the name The Doctor means. Because at the end, when the 11th doctor explains the name he chose The Doctor and how John Hurt wasn’t really The Doctor, because of what The Doctor’s name means, AKA The Name of the Doctor. Or I could be reading into it a little too much.

  26. BlackR3ap3r says:

    The GI said that tranzalore was one of the doctors battlefields which implies that the John hurt doctor will revert to a doctor that kills, and forsake the title of The Doctor, and die after the battle is won from shame or guilt at taking life once more.

  27. Matt says:

    @Barry you never heard his name, River said it (off screen and unheard) he was saying please begging for his friends’ lives. It was not a Never Ending Story moment though I rewound four times to make sure. 😛

  28. ThePsychic says:

    The moment I saw the trailer and the heart of the tardis and Artron energy glowy thingy reminded me of “Bad Wolf” from Season 5. Given how the entity placed hints and entered the Time Vortex, I knew Clara would go into the Vortex.

    And for the 50th (This might make Moffat pissed that I’ve peered into the future so accurately )I’ll be betting a lot that the Trickster is going to unveil himself , he’s attempted to kill the Doctor before in “Turn Left” (he probably suggested to the GI to mess with the Doctor’s timeline at Trenzalore). Note: the whispermen look a lot like him (faceless and with those sharp teeth).

  29. Bono says:

    Grrrr. That should read “the 11th Doctor.” Sorry ’bout that.

  30. Bono says:

    The Doctor said the mystery man forsook the name “Doctor”; Clara said that the current was “the 11 Doctor”. The mystery man could be a regeneration between 8 and 9, but not a “Doctor.” It’s almost like the name “Doctor” is also a role.

  31. There’s just too much to say about how much I loved this episode. Masterfully written, performed, and executed. Brilliant.

    More on my thoughts here:

  32. Barry says:

    What was his name? I couldn’t understand it

  33. Ryan says:

    @Larry Yes, but rule #1: The Doctor always lies. Who’s to say he didn’t lie about the reasons he needed to end the Time War. Maybe it was a more dubious reason to it. Maybe he is taking the fall for someone else? Susan maybe?? Just throwing out random theories.

    I’m am disappointed we haven’t gotten any resolution on who is responsible for the cracks in time and the exploding TARDIS from series 5. I’m really hoping Moffatt ties that storyline up somehow.

  34. Larry says:

    But the Doctor has never hid the fact that he destroyed Gallifrey and the Daleks (and many other places/races) in the time war so that isnt much of a secret. I think it is something different. Pretty sure he isnt a future incarnation, as the 11th doctor wouldnt know him. So he must be a prior one. That must mean that there are 12 incarnations so far…but who can guess what Moffat has up his sleeves?

  35. Ryan says:

    I think John Hurt will be revealed as the Time War Doctor, therefore actually being the 9th doctor and displacing the ones we know about (Eccleston really the 10th, Tennant really the 11th, Smith really the 12th). Since the Doctors have never really been “numbered” on screen (at least in the new series), I think this Time War Doctor is the secret he’s been keeping. This Doctor did something so horrible, that he’s tried to bury it deep within his own history.

  36. Matt says:

    Re. the assumption that Hurt is the Valeyard and came between the 8th and 9th it’s not impossible this is an aged Valeyard (as he is an incarnation that did forsake the name The Doctor) but he came between the 12th and 13th regenerations and was pulled out by The Master. Alternately it could be an aged 8th Doctor as we know he did commit some rather nasty atrocities towards the end of the Time War in an effort to end the war once and for all. I’m putting my money on Moffat pulling an entire new rabbit out of the hat but time will tell.

  37. JPO says:

    He can still be the Doctor from the Time War and still be 8. Don’t forget 8’s death/regeneration was never shown. No one knows when or how it happened.

  38. Matt says:

    I have to say I agree, I thought it was a great episode. There’s a lot of naysayers and haters especially among the RTD fans, both have their fine qualities though I have to say prefer Moffat to RTD and Moffat really paid off (interestingly I find Lady Vastra and Jenny a more tender and well realized relationship than ANYTHING from the RTD era and that was hammered home). I’m sad to hear the rumour this coming season 8 is the last for Moffat and the last for Smith (with rumour of a midseason regeneration) but if tonight’s episode is any indication it will be a season where we see many rewards for our time and efforts (and also means probably more Sherlock as well so that’s a balm for the weary soul).

  39. StuRuckus says:

    Amazing episode. Hands down, great ending to the season, half season, whatever. I liked it, and OMG THE FUCKING FEELS!!!

  40. Jaddsy says:

    I loved this episode! I am a hopeful romantic, so I loved it when The Doctor and River kissed *sigh*…..Can’t wait for the 50th special.
    Don’t hate me, but I hope John Hurt doesn’t replace Matt Smith.
    I think they need to keep The Doctor a younger character.
    Love, love, love the 9th, 10th, and 11th Doctor.

  41. I think John Hurt is not the 12th..I think he’s the Valeyard, a regeneration gone wrong. Probably when 8 regenerated into 9. Not sure if he even gets a number, he’s always just been the Valeyard.

  42. Doc Wheatley says:

    In response to jcalabre24:

    While it has been implied in some of the novels, comics, and audio adventures that the 8th Doctor is the one that ended the time war, those aren’t officially canon to the show. In the show, no mention is made as to which Doctor ended the Time War, so perhaps this John Hurt Doctor is a forgotten Doctor between 8 and 9.

  43. jcalabre24 says:

    I liked this episode and loved the idea that John Hurt is going to be the 12th Doctor but I’m confused about something. It seems that John Hurt’s Doctor is going to be the Doctor from the time war. I’m probably mistaken but I thought that Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor was the Doctor from the Time War? Am I wrong? Won’t be offended if I am! : – )

  44. Susan says:

    Loved this episode!!!!! The writing was so good and as always I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Every time Doctor Who is on the whole hour just fly’s by. I hope River is not totally out of the picture. This did answer a lot of the questions about Clara but I still wonder if she could possibly be the reincarnation of Jenny, The Doctor’s Daughter. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part.

  45. ZombieDonkey96 says:

    Here’s an idea: what if John Hurt isn’t Doctor 12, but Doctor 0? What if he’s The Doctor before he became The Doctor? What he’s looking out at looks an awful lot like some massive war. The Time War, perhaps?

  46. Kyle says:

    Also,It seems to me that that man in the doctors timestream was the time war doctor.When he say’s “what i did i did without choice.” it appears to me at least this is a doctor we have never been informed of.This is the doctor who was in the time war.(at least i think)

  47. Jnvrmind says:

    It was a completely satisfying episode.Now the long wait til the Doctor returns.

  48. I’ve had more misgivings than you about series 7 — and Moffat’s run in general — but all was redeemed with this episode. Unbelievable. Epic. Spectacular. Surprising. Amazing.

  49. Arlene says:

    I don’t care what anyone says, this episode was incredible. I laughed, cried and fangirl screamed. I love the way they fixed the issue about Clara being the impossible girl without resorting to some sort of cheesy plot device.

    I’m excited to see what happens with the 50th and the start of the new season.

  50. kyle says:

    Hello,I agree it was a good episode,although it did say at the end ” introducing john hurt,as the doctor” but nonetheless..a good episode