What happens when a time traveler crosses his own personal timeline and goes where he should never, ever go? In “The Name of the Doctor,” the Doctor’s greatest secret is revealed (though it isn’t what you think), and the stage is set for the Nov. 23 50th anniversary special episode of Doctor Who.
Several spoilers ahead!
Doctor Simeon, aka The Great Intelligence, forces the Doctor’s hand by drawing him and his friends to the ominous fields of Trenzalore and asking him the ultimate question. Victorian misfits Vastra, Jenny and Strax return to move the plot along, as does the dataghost of River Song. Alex Kingston and Matt Smith have one of their most powerful moments together here — possibly the greatest since her character debuted with David Tennant in “Silence in the Library” — and we are left to believe their great time-crossed love story may finally have reached the end. But her role is crucial and complicated, as usual.
Saying the last Time Lord’s true name is the only way to open his tomb, which Simeon (played again masterfully by Richard E. Grant) wants very badly. He is willing to die to destroy the Doctor, whom he calls “the slaughterer of the billion,” and his revenge involves destroying every incarnation of his foe by retracing his long and stories path from Gallifrey to Trenzalore.
The Silence didn’t want the Doctor to live to see this moment. Does that mean they were the good guys after all? Or was it a bluff, an elaborate use of reverse psychology?
Here, the nature of Clara’s mysterious ubiquity is revealed. It is a surprisingly simple, sweet and heroic destiny driven by a sacrifice that more than matches the cold motives of The Great Intelligence. Following her outstanding performance in the previous episode, Jenna-Louise Coleman dials it back a bit to let Smith shine, showing possibly the most human emotion the Doctor has ever experienced in one episode. We see Clara’s effect on every incarnation of the madman in a box, but her fate isn’t sealed — not yet, anyway.
And now we know why the grand multigenerational reunion was ruled out for the anniversary in November, though of course Ten(nant) will be there – and we learn that his upcoming return is to be part of a trinity of sorts with a very special guest star: “John Hurt as The Doctor!”
What did you think of this monumental episode?