Season finale review: ‘Doctor Who’ – ‘The Name of the Doctor’

Senior Television Writer
05.18.13 90 Comments


A quick review of the “Doctor Who” season finale coming up just as soon as I retire and take up watercolors or beekeeping…

“The Name of the Doctor” provides closure to two ongoing plotlines (why is Clara “the impossible girl” and the fate of the virtual version of River the Doctor left in the Library), avoids answering one mystery (the Doctor’s real name) and introduces another (John Hurt as “the Doctor”(*)). Of those four elements, the only one that felt wholly satisfying was the material with River, because the show had taken the time (over two different eras, with two different Doctors) to delineate that relationship so that it meant something when the two of them had their actual final goodbye – the first time that both characters were more or less on the same knowledge footing (though River makes one last warning of “Spoilers!” before she goes, so perhaps she did a lot of reading in the Library since last we saw her).

(*) Given that they’re inside the Doctor’s own timeline, the assumption is that these two men are the same, but I suppose Hurt could also be an entirely separate character who inspired our Doctor to take his name.

That scene resonated in a way that Clara’s sacrifice didn’t, because we’ve spent so little time with her, and because thus far the show has been more interested in what she is than who she is. If Clara had a fully-formed personality, and if she and the Doctor had a relationship defined by more than his curiosity about her true nature, then her decision to give up her own life to save his would have had weight and power. But since she’s just another walking puzzle, it meant precious little.

I’m sure the glimpses of William Hartnell and other Doctors past were a nice treat for longtime “Who” fans – unless they were just annoyed that Clara has now been inserted into the entire history of the Doctor in the same way Forrest Gump happened to show up for every important part of American history in the ’60s and ’70s – and perhaps this is all leading somewhere interesting for the 50th anniversary special in November. But as both an episode and a conclusion to this season, “The Name of the Doctor” was largely a disappointment, rehashing various tropes (notably the Doctor being erased from history and then brought back through the love and willpower of his plucky companion) from Moffat’s run on the show.

What did everybody else think?

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