First of all, here’s what we do know: We were all wrong about the surprise in the finale, and about the identity of Clara Oswin. Of all the theories I developed, and of all the theories I read about before the season finale, I don’t believe I read anything even close to the actual surprise, and credit to Moffat for coming up with something even better than the theories we all tossed about. The only issue I have is that Moffat has put the lid on one can or worms, and opened up another, and less than a few hours after viewing the finale (at the time of this writing), my head is already spinning trying to figure out the cliffhanger, develop more theories, and predict what’s to come next. It’s the most excited I’ve been about Doctor Who this season, and probably since the River Song mystery.
But let’s take a step back and review what we learned from the season finale.
1. The Doctor is buried in Trenzalore. Trenzalore is not a new location to the Who Universe. It’s a battlefield graveyard, the one place a Time Lord should never go (and possibly what remains of Gallifrey), and what Dorium Maldovar suggested would coincide with the fall of the 11th in “The Wedding of River Song.” So, Moffat has had this storyline in his back pocket for a long while. Will it mean the fall of the 11th? Foreboding predictions like these have a tendency to come true (see, e.g., the Face of Boe’s prediction about the 10th Doctor).
2. The Doctor’s Tomb is the TARDIS, which grows bigger as the dimension dams break and the “bigger on the inside” begins to leak. That’s a pretty goddamn fascinating fact for a Whovian.
3. The Doctor chooses to go to Trenzalore, against the wishes of a very feisty TARDIS, to save his friends, Vastra, Jenny and Strax, who can apparently time travel through dreams (a fact that I did not know, but that I’m sure has been accomplished at some point during 50 years of Doctor Who).
4. The villain that propels the plot in the finale is the Great Intelligence. The Great Intelligence is a disembodied sentience who attempts to find a body and physical existence. It’s been around the Doctor Who since the late 1960s, but made its first appearance in the post-2005 Doctor Who in an earlier Matt Smith episode, The Snowmen. In that episode, the Intelligence inhabits the body of Dr. Simeon, and he reappears in Clara Oswin’s first official episode as companion, “The Bells of Saint John,” where The Intelligence (which had taken on the likeness of Simeon) used Miss Kizlet to aid him in creating an organization based at the Shard to collect and harvest the minds of people using the wifi.
He shows up again in the season finale with The Whisper Men. It is the Whisper Men’s first appearance on Doctor Who, although as someone on Tumblr has already pointed out, they do share a remarkable resemblence with The Gentlemen from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
5. The only way for The Intelligence to gain access to the Doctor’s Tomb is if someone reveals the Doctor’s name. The Doctor is unwilling to do so, even at the cost of his friend’s lives. However, River Song whispers the Doctor’s name, opening the tomb (we never hear the name, no matter how many times we stop and rewind our DVRs). We knew that River Song knows the Doctor’s real name because she whispered it to him to gain his trust way back in the 2008 episode, Silence in the Library (that episode was also written by Steven Moffat, during the Russell T. Davies era, which also suggests that Moffat may have been planning this episode as far back as 2008).
6. The River Song stuff is confusing to me, to say the least. It’s always been a little confusing because River and the Doctor had always met on opposite ends of River’s timeline, which is something that’s even difficult to explain accurately. The first time the Doctor met River, she died, although she already knew she was his wife, which he would not learn for another season and a half or so (nor would he learn that she’s the daughter of Amy and Rory. “Spoilers, sweetie.”). The point is, when the Doctor met River the first time, she died, and he uploaded her consciousness into a library database. So in last night’s season finale, River is already dead; she’s just a psychic echo of her uploaded consciousness, with whom the Doctor still hasn’t provided closure. Anyway, River is dead, but her consciousness is alive, if that makes any sense, and it’s her consciousness that opens the Doctor’s tomb, and that counsels Clara throughout the episode.