Once again we arrive at the end of a season of Doctor Who. With a lot of speculation over whether or not Matt Smith will return as the Doctor in the next season (he will be back for the 50th Anniversary Special, but after that I have heard conflicting reports), I am both sad and yet incredibly happy to have seen a finale of one of the best series on television.
Though my purpose in writing this blog is primarily to recap and review episodes, not much can be said about “The Name of the Doctor” than has already been written and speculated in the last four days. In releasing this review quite a while after the episode aired (only a few days, but in Who fandom time that is equitable to being weeks late), I figure the contribution I can add to this season isn’t so much in a synopsis and an address as to the best and worst scenes of the finale episode of the season, but rather an homage to what a great and powerful television program Doctor Who is and has become.
Before I do, I will say that “The Name of the Doctor” is a really fascinating episode of the show. With new characters, old returnees and well-known favorites on board, it really melds past and present of the show. Speaking with my dad after he watched the episode, I found that I was not the only one wishing she had seen many of the earlier seasons of the series from decades ago. By not having watched many of the older Doctors, I felt like I’d missed something.
However, the thing about Doctor Who is that as often as you feel you are missing something, there are also infinitesimal things you are learning within the story world. What is happening to the Doctor? Who is this new Doctor? What happened to River Song? What will happen to Clara Oswald? What is Trenzalore?
All of these questions and more you may or may not find answered in the seventh season finale of Doctor Who. Because it is Steven Moffat (Doctor Who head writer and mindfuck extraordinaire) behind the episode, you actually may be left with more questions than answers.
In most media, audiences strive for clarity. They watch because they expect resolutions to cliffhangers, answers to questions, discoveries to anomalies. They want everything to be clear and concise. Well, what does Doctor Who do, but throw this entire notion on its head providing audiences with the creativity in their own minds to come to conclusions about the story, then in the end have their beliefs be completely turned around when Moffat pulls a “The Big Bang” on them (I’m coining the phrase as it refers to episode 13 of season five of the new series, one of the most confusing and psychologically rewarding of any Who episode that I’ve seen).
In a way, Doctor Who sparks the creation of fanfiction merely by existing. As a subscriber to Paint Doktah Who (a Tumblr dedicated to drawings based loosely off of Doctor Who story arcs, but made to look as if they were created haphazardly in Windows Paint), I know all too well about the strange and unorthodox side plots and interpretations that come about as a result of Doctor Who fandom going haywire in the interim between seasons and between clarifications. Lest we forget all the speculation as to who River Song is. It took around three years to find out.
Once you’ve started the series, you begin to inhabit it. Even if you don’t eat, drink and sleep Time Lord drama, you at least become enamored with it each Saturday night. You look forward to new plot twists, to scolding writers for digging you even deeper into narrative holes that they must later pull you out of. You become amazed at the ability of Doctor Who to be so unfailingly campy, intelligent and beautiful at the same time.
Then you’re left to wait for months until the next episode airs. If you’re smart, you might start watching Sherlock to bridge the gap, which will supposedly be returning this fall (and will give you a bit of Moffat before Who returns in November).
While you wait, however, let’s remind ourselves of some of the important questions that came to us during “The Name of the Doctor.”
1. Who is this “Doctor” that John Hurt is playing?
2. Will our Doctor return or will he be facing an imminent death/regeneration in season 8?
3. What will become of Clara Oswald – how long can her storyline persist if she travels around meeting all the Doctors?
4. Is there some arch-nemesis of the Doctor that we don’t yet know about? Who is the Doctor’s “secret”?
All this and more in November 2013. Until then, Geronimo!