May 19 2013 10:00am

It’s a Promise You Make. Doctor Who: “The Name of the Doctor”

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

“The Name of the Doctor” is not a good episode of television, but it is a fascinating episode of Doctor Who.

The season seven finale re-frames the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures from the last two seasons as a journey that has always been leading to this point, and although the plot is shakier than a game of bar Jenga “The Name of the Doctor” nevertheless pulls this off successfully. This is mostly due in part to show runner and episode writer Steven Moffat putting the Doctor and his companions in situations that challenge the truth of their characters, even when some of those characters are anything but.

Spoilers ahead!

Although their introduction was initially a hasty affair, Madame Vastra, her wife Jenny, and Strax the Sontaran are characters we’ve grown to adore with each subsequent episode. We’ve seen them neutralize threats to the Doctor (whenever possible) and we’ve seen them give him the space he needs to deal with his own problems. They take care of him, essentially, in a way that makes it comfortable for him to allow them to do so. In this episode, the trio bring in Clara and a post-Library River Song to assist with a new threat to the Doctor, and while this kind of team-up would usually come across as a bit self-serving or cynical, it makes sense for this story. River has done nothing but caretake the Doctor’s life, as has Clara, although she’s not yet aware of that.

The five of them meet in a sort of timeless dreamscape tea parlor—which apparently Silurians are experts at creating, not there’s anything wrong with that—and Vastra explains the situation. A literal ladykiller has tipped Vastra off to the fact that the Doctor has “a secret he will take to this grave. And it is discovered.” Vastra believes that this is the Doctor’s true name and reveals that the criminal who knew this also revealed the word “Trenzalore.” Clara is charged with informing the Doctor of this, but before any more explanation can be forthcoming, the nightmarish Whispermen walk into stately Vastra Manor and Jenny vanishes. “Sorry ma’am, so sorry… I think I’ve been murdered.” Vastra and Strax awaken to find they’re being kidnapped and the Great Intelligence’s face appears in the dream parlor to inform River and Clara that “his friends are lost forevermore, unless he comes to Trenzalore.”

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

Nothing in the above should make any sense. Why does some random criminal know so much about the Doctor? Who is the Great Intelligence? Who are these “whispermen” monsters? How is River communicating from inside the Library’s computer? Why does this Great Intelligence want the Doctor to come to Trenzalore? None of the details in this scenario hang together and the motivation driving the Great Intelligence is very murky. You could string together a sequence of events based on logic and information from previous episodes that explains all of this—the Great Intelligence is probably baiting everyone, perhaps—but why should you have to?

Of late, this kind of fragmented plotting has hamstrung a good number of Doctor Who episodes and was a hallmark of Russell T. Davies’ brash tenure on the show. The thing is, Doctor Who episodes don’t have to make sense, and I would argue that this is one of the show’s core strengths. Moffat knows this, and Davies knew this, but Davies on the whole was smarter about minimizing plot holes in his stories by providing strong character drama that the viewer could focus on instead. For example, what do you remember about “The Sound of Drums”? How the Master enacted his plans or that first intimate conversation between him and the Doctor?

Moffat has been slow to learn this, but he’s gaining traction. The entire reason that “The Name of the Doctor” is engaging at all, the entire reason that you don’t question the circumstances leading up to the dream parlor scene, is because you’re completely engaged in watching these characters interact with each other. Who cares how Vastra knows what she knows? You want to see the five of them arguing about how to deal with it.

Steven Moffat applies this to the Doctor’s story, as well. Clara relays the message about Trenzalore to the Doctor and there’s a touching moment where the Doctor reveals how grateful he is to Team Vastra for their caregiving. He will go to Trenzalore to rescue them, even though it means crossing his own timeline in the worst way possible. Even though the TARDIS herself refuses to touch the planet, so much so that the Doctor has to break it just to get it to land. Then the Doctor tells Clara why: Trenzalore is literally his grave.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

As Doctor Who twists go, this is possibly one of my favorites. Going to the Doctor’s tomb promises information about the Doctor that even he might not know. It promises the unknown, because what could his grave possible be? What could it possibly look like? And it does something that almost always results in a great episode of the show: it forces the Doctor to face a reality that he really really does not want to deal with.

Trenzalore is suitably bleak, and suitably empty of the living. It is a warrior’s graveyard, and the size of the gravestone denotes the size of the warrior’s accomplishments and rank. The Doctor’s tomb is, of course, the TARDIS herself. The “bigger” of its insides has broken down over the course of its lifespan and inflated its outside. It now blots out the sky. “What else would they bury me in?” he snarls.

Chancing upon River Song’s own gravestone reveals that it’s actually a passageway into the Doctor’s tomb, which comes in handy when Clara and the Doctor get surrounded by Whispermen. Strax, a revived Jenny, Vastra, Clara, and the Doctor get to the door of the tomb, which can only be opened if the Doctor utters his true name. The Great Intelligence is there, too, and sets about attempting to murder everyone as a way to coerce the Doctor into opening his tomb. River’s telepathic ghost, now connected to Clara, utters the name and opens the tomb before the Doctor can. (Either that or the Doctor’s true name, which he could never ever say, is “Please.” Which strikes me as Moffat wryly commenting on his own characterization of the Doctor.)

Inside the tomb isn’t the Doctor’s body, it never would be according to him, but a broken down TARDIS console room centered around a column of ribboning energy. It’s a visualization of the Doctor’s path through time and, suitably, it loops in and around itself endlessly.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

The Great Intelligence means to dive into it, to be there to destroy or lead astray every single incarnation of the Doctor, rewriting the Doctor himself and subsequently, the universe that the Doctor has defined with his actions. The Great Intelligence espouses the same reasoning that the Silence had for wanting the Doctor stopped. He is a monster. A “slaughterer of ten billion, the vessel of the final darkness.” This is an aspect of the character that both Davies and Moffat often refer to, the former tagging him as “The Oncoming Storm” and the latter bringing up the notion that the very word “doctor” means warrior or tyrant to some people simply based on how the Doctor’s actions affected them. The Doctor will have other names before his life is through, the Great Intelligence reveals, “the Beast… the Valeyard” and tells those assembled that what ultimately fells the Doctor is another battle, along the same “blood-soaked” lines as his more violent encounters with the Daleks or the Cybermen. He wins, of course, but the burden of dealing more death finally proves too much for him to take. No matter how reclusive he chooses to be, the Doctor will never be able to avoid his fate as a happenstance arbiter. There will always be those he destroys.

The Great Intelligence means to change this, and steps into the Doctor’s timeline, instantly perverting the course of his life. We see the Great Intelligence lead the first seven Doctors astray, directly or indirectly, and outside the tomb the stars begin to vanish. The Doctor brings great change to the worlds and the people he visits, but along with the catastrophe that follows in his wake are the people, the worlds—entire galaxies—that continue to live because he stood up and made the hard choice. Without the Doctor, the sky falls.

During the course of events, Clara’s memories from “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” resurface. She knows she’s an impossible girl. She knows she has helped the Doctor time and time again. And she knows that she is the only one there that can fix what the Great Intelligence has made wrong. She’ll be scattered across time and space, thousands of Claras intervening in the Doctor’s life, but none of them will be her. The real Clara will be dead and they’ll be copies, River warns. “They’ll be real enough to save him,” Clara responds, not quite believing River. “It’s like my mum said, the souffle isn’t the souffle, the souffle is the recipe.” And besides, Clara and River both know that this is the only way to save him. “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.”

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

Clara jumps into the Doctor’s timeline and appears again and again to previous Doctors, saving them without being noticed. Sometimes she’s aware of what she is, and sometimes she isn’t. But even if she doesn’t know what she is, she still knows she has to help the Doctor.

If there is one overriding failure to this recent half-season of Doctor Who, it’s that Clara hasn’t been given any characterization aside from the mystery of her multiple selves. We don’t know why she travels with the Doctor or why either of them are as devoted to each other as they seem to be. Clara sacrifices her life for the Doctor in this episode, but we don’t know her well enough to know why she would. The only reason Moffat gets away with it in “The Name of the Doctor” (and you could argue that he doesn’t) is because he makes a point of revealing that this IS all there is to Clara. Her entire definition is being The Impossible Girl, so everything she does in the show plays into that until finally it’s revealed that it was Clara herself who created that definition. It’s a really ooogy cheat. She is the Bad Wolf, she creates herself, but her self is poorly thought out.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

(Also if nobody minds, I’m going to go ahead and give myself partial credit for calling this, thank youuu.)

The Doctor’s proper timeline is restored and he reveals to River that he’s been seeing her telepathic projection the entire time. She reveals that if she’s still there then the real Clara is still alive, but before any of that, she wants a proper goodbye. The Doctor saved her in the Library, but he “left me like a book on the shelf. He doesn’t like endings.” The Doctor agrees as much, because saying goodbye hurts too much. (He’s actually very forthright in this episode, I’m realizing. He’s upfront about his feelings and explaining a lot.) She has tried to move on, she says, but she can’t without knowing, for sure, from the Doctor that they’ll never see each other again. That this is goodbye.

He plants one very amazing kiss on River Song and with a final “spoilers” she is gone, possibly from the series outright.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

Then we all pretend that the episode ended there because the rest of it makes no sense. The Doctor jumps into his own timeline to search for Clara. Who is…somewhere? A bunch of previous Doctors run by, faces obscured, and Clara starts freaking out until the Eleventh Doctor sends her the leaf that blew into her parents life and resulted in her. This calms her down enough for him to show up and hug her, I guess? This portion is seriously batty. But Clara’s alive, and that’s nice. The two of them make like they’re leaving Doctor-timeline-verse but then they see…A GUY! Clara is confused, because she saw all eleven faces of the Doctor and hers is definitely the Eleventh Doctor. “I said he was me,” the Doctor replies. “I didn’t say he was the Doctor. My real name… that is not the point. The name I chose was the Doctor. It’s like a promise you make.” They face the mystery man, who hasn’t yet noticed them. “He’s the one who broke the promise.”

“What I did I did without choice. In the name of peace and sanity,” the man says, then turns around and gives us some seriously grizzled puppy dog eyes. Then the show literally writes on the screen that this is John Hurt as the Doctor, leaving a cliffhanger to be resolved in the 50th anniversary special.

Doctor Who The Name of the Doctor spoilers review

So you see what I mean about “The Name of the Doctor” not being a great episode of television. (Great tip for spec script writers: If you have to open your script with an explanatory voice-over then end it by literally writing out the important stuff on the screen, you need to rework your script. Also what is wrong with you?!?) It feels like a natural episode of Doctor Who, though, and takes the characters struggles over the past two seasons and successfully points them towards the looming 50th anniversary. The show feels like it’s truly building towards something, and that is all because of “The Name of the Doctor.”

It also gives long-time viewers a lot to pick through. Wondering about the Doctor’s timeline alone could keep me busy for months. Does the fact that the Doctor is the most time-traveled being in the history of the universe mean that the universe was thus shaped by his morality? Others will want to examine Clara’s role as an impetus in the Doctor’s life and her identity beyond that (if any). Some will try and map out if the Silence and the Great Intelligence are actually connected. And how awesome would it have been if the Master had been the villain for this one instead of the Great Intelligence? (The answer is SUPER AWESOME.)

After a season of standalone episodes, “The Name of the Doctor” was truly for the fans. I’ll certainly be thinking about it for longer than any of the other installments.

Introducing Chris Lough as The Production Manager.

1. Shadow
As usual this episode made little sense, but was saved by two scenes.

I must be the only one who dislikes Strax, Vestra and Jenny (and what happened to the kick-ass Jenny from Crimson Horror?)

Once again this new Who ignores the past. We have seen Timelords die and seen Timelord tombs before and there was no timestream wound. (What should have happened was that wound should have only happened when the Doctor entered and thus been caused by him crossing his time stream ((which makes no sense since his stream should be over since he is dead!)) but whatever.)

The two saving scenes were of course Riversong and John Hurt being inroduced..(as Nine?)
2. JennS
Not knowing Clara better sort of ruined the episode for me. Without caring about her more it was hard to care about her sacrifice. I cared more when she gave away the leaf, because I understood what it meant to her. I don't really understand what the doctor means to her.
Ursula L
3. Ursula
I've had little trouble understanding Clara's character. She's a woman who is happy in her life, but wants to travel. She, unlike other companions, isn't running away. The Doctor presented her with an unusual travel opportunity, and she takes it.

Her real life, her driving force, is in the life at home. Caring for motherless children, but knowing tha she can't replace their mother. Honoring the memory of her own mother. The trips with the Doctor are little vacations or day trips, a small part of her life, and that's what we see of her character. In a way, it is taking what the Doctor learned about human lives from Amy and Rory needing their real lives, and bringing that to a new level - a genuine friend, adult friends who have their own jobs and homes and lives, but get together for fun, whether it is a game night, or watching a movie, or saving the world.

She's a caretaker, and she's quite pleased, in "Cold War" when she realizes that what she and the Doctor do is save the world.

And while she calls herself the woman who saved the Doctor, she saves the Doctor to save the world. The stars were going out, people who the Doctor had saved were vanishing, and she had to know that since the Doctor had saved her, she'd be gone soon, too. In a way, she was saving herself, ensuring that she'd live long enough to make it to Tranzelore.

She does it also because she has the certainty that she'd already done it - working with the predestination paradox rather than fighting it. She's suffered losses, and learned to accept death, and loss.
4. Roddy
Thank you for the review but I think you have totally missed the point of the episode. Surely all the long time Whovians know the character John Hurt is playing.
5. James Moar
Surely all the long time Whovians know the character John Hurt is playing.

If you're hinting at the Valeyard, I don't think so. “What I did I did without choice. In the name of peace and sanity” doesn't fit that character, especially given that Eleven doesn't seem to exactly disagree with the statement (only objecting with "But not in the name of the Doctor"). I think Hurt's Doctor is the one from the Time War.
Sarah Holland
6. SarahHolland
One of the things that this episode leaves me confused about is River Song. Why should she have faded by now, as the Doctor says? When is "now", for that matter? The other people who were stored in the library's memory banks didn't fade, Cal didn't fade - of course, who knows what would happen, given enough time.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
I agree that this was a fascinating episode of Doctor Who but I disagree that it wasn't a good episode of television. I thought it was quite fantastic--by far the best of the season. The voice over worked well and I thought the intoducing John Hurt text was more a callback to old TV than poorly done. This is a conclusion and a opening episode.
I've never had any problem at all relating to Clara. She is a mystery but she is also an adventuresome spirit.
I took Hurt as being who or whatever the Doctor was before he became the Doctor. Something changed him to force him into the life he has.
John Graham
8. JohnPoint
I think there's a chance that this isn't an incarnation of the Doctor, this is the Time Lord who became the Doctor. A pre-Doctor, if you will. Time Lord society was built by Omega, Rassilon, and the Other. He is the Other who went on to become the Doctor. We don't see him with the images of the various incarnation of the Doctor, because he predates actually being "the Doctor."

Or, he's the Valeyard.

Edit: I see Steven got there first (@7) but we're in agreement about who he is.
Alan Brown
9. AlanBrown
I think you hit the nail on the head with your review, Chris, it was a strange hour of TV, but a good episode for Doctor Who. This one was convoluted, and not only did you have to pay attention to the whole previous season of the show, you had to remember quite a bit from previous seasons as well. I also agree with you (and others above) that Clara's sacrifice would have been quite a bit more meaningful if we had gotten to know her better before she made it.
Before it started, I was a bit concerned at how many balls that Moffat had left in the air, and was having trouble figuring out how he would address them all. The reveal of what Trenzalore was turned out to be quite satisfying. And while you just had to kind of go along with the convoluted nature of River's presence, her farewell to the Doctor was quite touching. I was quite worried about Jenny, but quite glad that Strax brought her back. And Vastra's losing Jenny and Strax gave a face to the unravelling of Doctor Who's timeline and its impact.
It is quite clear to me that John Hurt is the Ninth Doctor (so Mr. Eccleston was 10, Tennant was 11, and Smith is 12). And the true 9th Doctor is not spoken about, and memories of him are repressed, because it is he who brought the Time Wars to an end, in a manner that was morally ambiguous to say the least. Although, I will admit, what is clear to me may not be the case at all! ;-)
(And could that prophecy about the fall of the 11th, which we thought referred to Smith's Doctor, mean that Tennant, who I suspect is the clone Doctor that ended up with Rose a few seasons ago, will not survive the 50th anniversary?)
10. Kimberly Carson
Just a thought on River Song. Although she had a shorter lifespan by giving up her regenerations, we don't know how long the River Song incarnation can live nor how fast she ages. Her diary was pretty thick with adventures and, although we know she met 11 first and 10 last, we have yet to meet the Doctor who gave her the sonic screwdriver that downloaded her to the Library computer. The Doctor can meet up with her at any point in her life for the rest of his lives, so long as he never goes to the same point twice.
11. AdultHuman
Yeah, i don't think he's the Valeyard, I think he's the Time War doctor somewhere between out 8 and 9, the genocide Doctor.

I honestly don't think it's the last of River, they've left it open, she's contacting him from the Library somehow.

I'm glad the Clara mystery Maguffin is out of the way.Maybe now they can start writing her as a character and not a plot device, I'd like to like her. An absolute mess of a TV episode but brilliant for WHO fans.
12. Jangotat
I thought I had read somewhere that Hurt was indeed a regeneration in between 8 and Eccleston's 9, as Alan said. although for my own sanity I'm going to label him 8.5, keeping the normal numbering. It also makes me wonder if this (the repressed regeneration) was always intended or if it is a result of Eccleston not coming back for the finale (so that they had to write a repressed regeneration to carry the role that would have belonged to 9 otherwise?) regardless I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with Hurt, and to seeing Tennant and Piper again.
13. JD Hall
Surely all the long time Whovians know the character John Hurt is playing

Hmmm....possibly - I think I know where you're going with this, but I'm not sure that's entirely right. I've seen him credited on the Internet as a certain character that appeared a couple of time in the original series, but that might be just based on rumor.

I have my own theory about who he is - but the whole story of it combines elements from both the old and new series, and the books that were written as a continuation of the old series. Yes, I know the books aren't canon, but they've already used some ideas that came from them (the whole story arc in "Human Nature" is an adaptation of the book from that series by the same name).

I will say this: The Doctor wasn't lying when he said the other guy is him, but not "The Doctor". And IMHO, he's NOT the Ninth Doctor as everyone keeps saying.

Oh, and if you've read the books, I did drop a hint here as to who I believe he is....
Douglas Freer
14. Futurewriter1120
My thoughts are at
15. JD Hall
Well, due to posting issues, this posted later than I thought....posts 7 & 8 above reflect my thoughts as well.

So I'll go further, then, since it's already out there.

I mentioned that the series has already taken ideas from the novels, even if they are not canon. One of these is the fact that current Time Lord society was founded by a triumvirate of Rassilon (yes, the ruthless bat-crap crazy Time Lord President from "The End of Time" played by Timothy Dalton), Omega (seen twice in the classic series; harnessed the black hole that powers the TARDISes, and was blown into an anti-matter universe. Is also bat-crap crazy), and "The Other"...a mysterious figure who very name is lost to time (gee, sound like anyone else we know?). They started to hint at this in the classic series during the Seventh Doctor's time. It was called the "Cartmel Masterplan" after writer (producer?) Andrew Cartmel, who wanted to add another level of myster to the Doctor, and imply that he was something beyond a mere Time Lord. And that he regrets some of the stuff he did during that time.

So, anyway, these ideas became central to the Virgin Publishing line of books, and is almost confirmed in "Lungbarrow" (the last novel to feature the Seventh Doctor). That is, the Doctor WAS the Other.

Now, in the books, Time Lords are sterile. The reproduce by means of genetic looms, and are formed fully grown. Society is divided into the Great Houses (the Doctor's is House Lungbarrow), and members of each house address each other as "cousin". The Other, having had enough of Rasillon's machinations (apparently the notion of Rassilon as a cruel tyrant was added to the new series), and he takes his jumping into one of the looms. His genetic material is recombined...and out of the loom pops the Doctor (which wasn't supposed to happen, of course, as the number of cousins in each house was predetermined and this gave them an extra).

Of course, we have seen in the new series that Time Lord do have traditional parents and childhoods....but have they ever mentioned actual childbirth? Could be that the looms do exist, but they kept the traditional family structure, and the looms produce infants. So I'm thinking that John Hurt's character is the Other, and he jumped into a loom, and he became the child that grew up to be the Doctor. And remember, in The Sound of Drums, the Doctor talks about looking into (I think it is, anyway) the Eye of Harmony. And his reaction run. And he's never stopped. What is he running from? My gues: himself. The Eye of Harmony showed the Doctor his past. And the possibly horrible things he did as the Other before his crisis of conscience. And he's been trying to escape from/atone for that even since. After all, what do Doctors do? They heal.

So....why IS the Other showing up like this? Well...the Time Lords brought Rassilon to the Time War even though he'd been very much dead. So I'm guessing to counteract him, the Doctor brought his formerly ruthless self, The Other, forward, from the height of his power and influence, since he could do things (but NOT IN THE NAME OF THE DOCTOR) that he could not do, hoping that he could contain him afterwards. But he couldn't. His dark side has been coming out since the new series started. The Ninth Doctor's arrogance ("stupid apes"). The Tenth Doctor's "Time Lord Victorious" speech. The "icy shard" (or whatever the psychic in "Hide" called it) in the Eleventh's heart. It's the Other's influence. And left unchecked, we'd see the version of the Doctor that the Great Intelligence talked about. And eventually we'd get....the Valeyard.

So that's what the anniversary special's going to be about. Removing that taint from the Doctor so that we don't see the horrible future come to pass...after all, the Master mentioned (during the Trial of a Time Lord) that the Valeyard frightens even him, as a Doctor without a conscience would be unstoppable....

Just my thoughts. Sorry about the length....
16. JD Hall
As a side note, with the call backs to the old'd be nice if we could at least get a mention of Romana, even if they don't bring her back (i.e. she's timelocked/dead).
17. TomT
The Name of The Doctor was an excellent episode of Dr. Who but not a great hour of telelvision. It would not be an episode to introduce people with.

As for John Hurt's character I think it most likely that he is the Time War Doctor. But that said there is another who he could be one who would explain why The Doctors tomb has that running rift in it's heart.

The other option for John Hurt's character harks back to the Rassilon, Omega, Other trinity. It has been hinted before with the 7th Doctor and the books that there is a link between The Other and The Doctor. It is possible that John Hurt is playing The Other and we will finally get some type of explanation on what that link is.

Oh and anyone else wonder if The Doctor in entering his own timeline created the Valeyard?
Ashley Fox
18. A Fox
Well I loved this ep (even if I missed the first couple of mins *gnashes teeth*) I also creied quite a bit. Not surprising with River's farewell...but certainly surpising with Clara. Last ep I finally started to warm to her, you know when she actually did stuff, but in this ep her compassion moved me. I already want to rewatch! Certain there are a lot of clues hidden :)

So...Hurt Doc. Who is he? Lots of interesting theories here. During my initial watch I did think he was who pre-dated the Dr. Athough before he turned around he did look rather Master-ish ha. But now? No. 7 dr.s ran past Clara...I beleieve he is the 8th. Regend as the Doctor, had adventures as seen in the film and other media, then deviated from that name during the time war. The age difference allows this variation to exist and perhaps retcon somewhat without pretending all those other adventures didnt happen. Hurt is who existed before the mysterious regen into 9, and the new series, took place.

I suspect that someone who knows a lot more about Who could find lots of refs to this Dr over the last series. Ice warriors. All the nods to Drs that precided 8.

To those suggesting there is another, seperate is stated qute explicitly that there have been 11 bodies for the Dr. It seems Moff is feeding us clues and info to base our theories on ;)

I dont know anything about the Valeyard...though the mentions ceratinly make it seem as if this is something we will get to see in a coming season. IMO Hurt and the Dr in the anniversary will pave the way for that arc, rather than be the start of it...if that makes sense??

The red and blue together is working really well at tieing together the past, present, and future in terms of the last couple of series, and old Who. It's all building up very nicely for the coming sesons to be about the Dr's future..not just hints, or a meandering timeline, but an actual future. Could offer the revitalisation that a lot of fans seem to be yearning for. And with the anniversary coming up it offers a nie turning point in the narrative, to embrace some fresh arcs and add to the cannon not just recycle it.

lol have more to say but will see how the chat goes first :)
19. Alain Ducharme
The idea of a previously hidden incarnation between the 8th and 9th Doctors is interesting (and would constitute a rather dramatic reveal for the series if it were confirmed), however I find it unlikely since the Doctor has already taken responsibility for what he did during the Time War - he openly made references to his actions as far back as "Rose" during the first season of the new series.

With the Valeyard getting a name-check during the episode, I get the feeling we saw a future version of the Doctor.
Ashley Fox
20. A Fox
This occured to me too....that this was the Doc who had died at Trenzallore. But then When he said he did what he had to do ect and 11 nodded, all knowing like....made it seem as if 11 knew exactly who Hurt was, that he remembered him and his actions, that he viewed Hurt as seperate to himself becuase he did not chose to be the Doctor. Basically it was all very past tense-y. :)
21. TomT
@20 Yes the whole conversation between The Doctor and the John Hurt identity had a feeling of past. As if the Doctor was a deliberate turning from that identity and abandonment of it for a different goal. The Doctors whole speach about how ones name is a promise implies that I think.
Chris Lough
22. TorChris
@3 Ursula, that is a tremendous defense of Clara's character. Thank you for posting that.

@15 JD Hall. I think that is my favorite theory about Doctor Hurt so far.

The more I think about it the more I don't want this to be The Real Ninth Doctor, because it gives the subsequent ones a bit of an easy way out in regards to feeling bad about ending the Time War. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors had to really earn the reconciliation of their feelings about destroying the Time Lords and having a cast-out Doctor take the blame for it seems too simple. "It wasn't me, it was the bad one!"

Although... what if it turns out that the Doctor had refused to fight in the Time War and Rassilon created a clone of him to lead the war efforts? We know he did that much for the Master. Doctor Hurt could be a weapon that was cast aside! Imagine being abandoned by one's own people and being rejected by your own self? That'd create some pretty serious drama.

(Also if Doctor Hurt could escape the Time War that means the End-of-Time version of the Master could, too! I just want John Simm back...)
23. tkThompson
I don't have a theory exactly, just questions and a few observations.

@20 A Fox Re: "very past tense-y," yeah, I agree, I get that feeling too, plus the episode keeps mentioning the secret that the doctor will take to his grave like he's kept it for a long time, suggesting that it's already happened to the Doctor by now, so it might not make sense for Hurt to be a future version.

I'm not sure if it would make complete sense for Hurt Doctor to be pre-Doctor doctor, i.e. the version before he took up the name of the Doctor, because Smith Doctor says "the name you choose, it's like a promise you make. He's the one who broke the promise." (emphasis added). "Breaking the promise" would suggest that it has to be after the promise has been made.

By this line of reasoning, it would make most sense for Hurt Doctor to be between 8th and 9th, but I sincerely hope that's not the case, I really don't like that idea, mostly because it seems to invalidate everything we've known about the incarnations since the revived series. I'm not so sure it would be an easy out like @22 TorChris suggests, because it's still him, he was still the one, the person/Time Lord, who did whatever it was that was so bad. Smith Doctor even stressed: "he is me," but not the Doctor, so the Doctor, after breaking the promise and taking it up again, would rightly still be tortured if this was about things that happened around the time of the Time War, maybe even more so if he thinks he's broken a promise he made to himself. But even if it's not an easy out, I still don't like the idea of Hurt Doctor being the real Ninth, I can't grab on to a good solid reason though.
Robert Dickinson
24. ChocolateRob
Just one question -
If Clara saw all 11 doctors and one Doctor Hurt does that not mean that there will be no more regenerations?
Whether Doctor Hurt was the first, ninth or twelth he should still get one more regeneration before he dies for good (and that assumes he will stick to the twelve time lord regenerations rule).

If she saves every incarnation of the Doctor should it not include any future ones that we've not seen yet?
Christopher Turkel
25. Applekey
My theory is that John Hurt plays the ninth Doctor, who fought in the Time War and did things future Doctors didn't want to remember.
26. JD Hall
As a side note, with the call backs to the old'd be nice if we could at least get a mention of Romana, even if they don't bring her back (i.e. she's timelocked/dead).
27. JD Hall
OK, not sure why post 26 is now a repeat of #16. It was supposed to say: BTW, last week Moffat pretty much said that all the popular theories - including the John Hurt as the real Ninth Doctor one - were incorrect.
John C. Bunnell
28. JohnCBunnell
@24: Ah, but the "12 regenerations" rule is the other joker in this deck, and -- of necessity -- the elephant in the room that the series (seemingly, at least) has yet to confront.

Because whether Matt Smith's Doctor is #11 (if Hurt is "the Other") or #12 (if Hurt's is "actual #9", pre-Eccleston), current continuity limits the ethical Time Lord to a total of 13 lives, and at the present rate of actor turnover, the Doctor is clearly going to run out of regenerations well before the series is ready to fold its tent again.

So besides all of the other timey-wimey complexity the pending 50th Anniversary has to juggle, one of the internal story points clearly has to be some sort of retcon or revision of the "12 regenerations" rule, at least where the Doctor is concerned. It would completely astonish me if Moffat hasn't been working that into his plans for some time now, even if the show hasn't paid much official attention to it onscreen.

(The simplest write-around might be to assert that in the wake of the Time War, the Doctor has somehow assimilated all the available regenerations of all the Time Lords who were lost therein, which would run into the nearly infinite for a single being. Except that if that were the answer, it really should have come up before now, most particularly in connection with the Doctor's interactions with the Master.)
29. Shadow
John Hurt :

The Doctor being the Other business never made any sense because as far back as the second doctor he talks about family and growing up on Gallifrey(Tomb of the Cybermen), attending Timelord School and learning from Borusa(The Deadly Assassin - Fourth Doctor) Later it is revealed by the master that he and the Doctor grew up together. (The Sound of Drums - Tenth Doctor)

The Valeyard - Was supposed to be the dark nature of the Doctor brought to life between the twelfth and thirteenth regenerations and he was destroyed.

Since Hurt is wearing what looks like the 8th Doctor's shirt and the 9th Doctor's jacket, it seems to me he is really Nine, or perhaps the eight Doctor, badly aged by the events of the timewar. (Maybe we can actually see McGann in the 50th special)
30. tkThompson
@24, I thought of this too, and theoretically, yes it could be because the Doctor dies without regenerating again, but I think mostly it's just because the production team didn't want to put in any future incarnations that they might not be able to address.

As to how they might explain this in-world, one explanation could be that since Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor entered his own timestream, and it was "collapsing in on itself", then potentially, they could say that since he was inside his own timestream as the Eleventh, then the future incarnations might have been the first to go because of the collapse. I know it's not exactly a perfect explanation, and obviously we don't know if or whether they'll explain it in-world, but it just shows that it could be explained.

@28, it might not be all of the Time Lords' regenerations, it might just be River Song's regenerations (from Let's Kill Hitler). Sure she used it to heal the Doctor from the poison but we don't know if that took all of the regenerations.
marian moore
31. mariesdaughter
Reading all of these comments has been extraordinarily fun. I posted on FB that I was going to post my love of the episode there before reading any reviews. The few complaints that I read haven't dimmed my enjoyment. There are some reasonable questions and complaints.

I left the episode feeling like this that John Hurt was playing the Valeyard. In this case, the past tense didn't disturb me. As a telepath in the midst of his own time stream, I considered that the Doctor might be aware of what his shadow might have done. However, the comments here give me pause. I rather like the idea that this is the Doctor who fought the Time War. I don't see how that can lead us forward however. At times, I think that Moffat writes himself (and the writers) into a dark hole and challenges himself to find a way out. However, as others point out, the Doctor has already fought his way out of moral collapse of the Time War. Why go back? I don't see how following that rabbit hole would bring us new insights into the Doctor or the humans he loves.

I was never able to finish "Lungbarrow". All of the descriptions sound so enticing but the book itself bored me. If I can find it, I may try again. The idea that this is the man who became the Doctor is also exciting. I remember the episodes that connected The Doctor to The Other and wondered what became of that storyline.

I don't think that the 12 incarnation problem is a real problem. There were more than 12 incarnations of The Master--even though he had to steal a body to do it. Could that be the crime of this unknown non-doctor Doctor? (If so, it seems a petty crime compared to a war.)
F Shelley
32. FSS
Couldn't he also be the "real" 3rd Doctor?
Jenny Thrash
33. Sihaya
"The five of them meet in a sort of timeless dreamscape tea parlor—which apparently Silurians are experts at creating, not there’s anything wrong with that—and Vastra explains the situation." The Silurians have been in hibernation for millions of years. They may know their way around dreams.
James Nicoll
34. JamesDavisNicoll
Is it possible the writers have not made up their minds about who Hurt is?
Jenny Thrash
35. Sihaya
#34: Not for the big cliffhanger that leads up to the 50th anniversary special, no. THAT episode has been in planning for a long time, and if some characters weren't nailed down, I bet the Big Concept was.

For my two cents, I think there's a possibility that the Hurt Doctor did not exist until this episode. I don't mean that he's a retcon; I mean that he did not exist until the Great Consciousness jumped into the Doctor's timeline and forced a regeneration somewhere. And then, of course, he'd always been there, at least as far as the Doctor knows.
36. NormanM
I feel like a lot of commenters are making this unnecessarily complicated. Hurt is quite clearly a regeneration who falls between 8 and 9, but at no point did this regeneration claim the name The Doctor; rather, he rejected the name in order to be free to do whatever needed to be done (i.e, during the Time War), which is not how The Doctor lives or how he solves problems. My guess is he took a different name, which was also mentioned in the episode (for the first time in New Who, I believe): The Valeyard.

Some fans will object, saying "No, no, The Valeyard clearly came between the 12 and 13, so he couldn't have come between 8 and 9," which rather ignores the fact that the least mistake we could expect The Doctor to make would be to lose track of the order in which different version of his future self take place (this aside from the fact that both The Doctor and The Master lie kind of all the time). So Hurt!Doctor let his willingness to do evil in the name of good get away from himself, and that is the burden The Doctor on the revived series has always been dealing with: not just that he lived through a war, but that he'd already been his own worst enemy.

It's easy to explain on-screen, easy for Moffat to deal with logically (well, Doctor Who logic anyway), explains a lot, adds richness to the character and to the material we've already seen, explains why 11 is still the 11th incarnation of The Doctor (because Hurt!Doctor never really was The Doctor, he was The Valeyard), and doesn't really throw off the count of regenerations because those never actually mattered (you could get more from the other timelords, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if The Valeyard gave himself all the regenerations the timelords had to offer during the Time War itself, meaning all this business about there not being more than 13 can safely be ignored). And it doesn't require delving into details from books and radio plays such as The Other, Looms, or any other stuff the casual fan would scoff at.

In short, Moffat just pulled a rabbit out of a hat.
37. mutantalbinocrocodile
While I'm not seeing most of the usual suspects from the WOT reread here, can I post a complete non sequitur?

Did there seem to be an extraordinary number of WOT shout-outs/plagiarism in the episode? Myrddraal in top hats, and a conversation that makes perfect sense if you imagine it is happening in T'A'R?

Not complaining. The Myrddraal were as terrifying as I ever imagined them, even with top hats.
38. TomT
@28 - We learn from the 4th Doctor episode Underworld that the original regeneration had no limit on it. The 12 regeneations maximum was something imposed by the Rassilon Triumverate. As seen in the episode the Minyons of Minos had regenerated thousands of times over a very long time using early Time Lord regeneration technology.

We have also seen the Council of Gallyfry give The Master a new cycle of 12 regenerations and we know he kept it going past that by stealing a body. We also know it is possible to transfer the regeneration energy to another.

This all means that there is no reason that The Doctor is actually limited to 12 regenerations. The council might have bribed him with more during the war. It is possible that when River Song healed him by transferring her regeneration energy to him that it transferred her remaining 9 or so regenerations to him.

Last it is always possible that The Other/Doctor link is in play and he isn't actually limited to the standard 12. Certainly the writers have indicated in the past that getting around that limit won't be a problem.

@31 - You might want to just look up the wikipedia entry on Lungbarrow. It gives a fairly complete synopsis of the high points of the novel. Since you couldn't get into the novel this would at least let you know what it brought to the game. As noted before how much of that material is actually canon we won't know until it shows up on screen.
John C. Bunnell
39. JohnCBunnell
#38: Ah, but what's morally permissible for the Minyans and the Master is not likely to be so for the Doctor (thus my reference to "the ethical Time Lord" above).

And those examples actually underscore the underlying point: in the Whoniverse, immortality -- even serial immortality, most particularly that of the Master -- has consistently been portrayed as leading to decay and corruption, not least the corruption of the Time Lords themselves.

Also, one of the defining points of the Doctor's own characterization over time is that he regards himself as a mortal, rather than an immortal -- thus, for example, there's a cost to him in transferring regeneration energy to someone else. (That's what makes the act meaningful; if there is no limit to his regenerability, then there is no real jeopardy or sacrifice in passing the energy on.)

The new series has danced around the 12-regeneration limit in various ways during its tenure, but it's never confronted the matter head-on. I don't know how they'll address it in the upcoming anniversary story, but I am confident that they will address it -- and resolve it in such a way that it maintains the Doctor's core character without placing undue constraints on the franchise going forward.
Tom Smith
40. phuzz
Did anyone else notice the little shout-out near the begining? As the Doctor and Clara are looking at Trenzalor from the Tardis, he says something along the lines of "I never thought I'd die, I always thought I'd settle dow...and keep bees".

Shelock Holmes retired to Surry to keep bees, and this isn't the first time Moffat has put little links between his two jobs.
41. somewheresouth
Well, that was fun!
Also, hello WOT @37 :)
Yeah, the plot-holes are closing up a bit into logical fridges.
I like Clara, but I wish she was as independent as initially portrayed.
As to John Hurt: well that's even more apt than an actor named John Smith...
42. Al C
@41: I think you are on to something with the last line...

Many of you mentioned the Hurt Doctor, or Doctor Hurt... could it be that SM was hiding the name in plain sight? If this incarnation is the one that "broke the promise"... doesn't that imply that he hurt?

"Introducing John Hurt as The Doctor"... we all assumed that meant the actor. What if it means the character also?

With all of the other twists that SM has thrown at us over the years, it wouldn't surprise me a bit.
Ursula L
43. Ursula
As far as Clara's independence goes, it is interesting that she self-identifies as staying alive because she does what the Doctor says, yet the Doctor describes her as "bossy."

And they're both right.

Within each adventure, Clara follows the Doctor's instructions. Which is sensible. When you're newly traveling with a thousand-plus year old Time Lord, you know you're not the expert between the two of you in traveling and adventuring, so you pay attention to the one with experience.

But within the structure of their relationship, Clara sets the rules and boundaries. From the beginning, when she told him to come back tomorrow and ask again if she would travel with him. Also as Oswin-Dalek, when she insisted that the Doctor come resue her before she lowered the planent's defenses, rather than lowering the defenses and trying to get to him on her own. And as Victorian-Clara, inviting him in to the house.

And they have a traveling relationship on her terms. "See you next Wednesday." When the kids she cares for want a trip, she gets them one - one intended to be a safe and age-appropriate outing to an amusement park. While she hides the fact that they're time-travelers, she doesn't hide her relationship with the Doctor. Her friends know him as her boyfriend.

It is interesting that in the She-Said, He-Said prequil, the Doctor describes Clara as perfect for him. Which, in a way, she is. She's a loyal friend, and reliable co-adventurer. But she's setting limits that keep the Doctor from harming her in many of the ways in which he has harmed previous companions. She doesn't let him destroy her existing friendships and relationships. She doesn't let him disrupt her life to the point where it would affect her opportunities in real life. She isn't obsessed with him in a way that is emotionally harmful to her. So the Doctor can relax around her, emotionally, because she can take care of herself, emotionally.
Heather Dunham
44. tankgirl73
And he's been trying to escape from/atone for that even since. After all, what do Doctors do? They heal.
You just broke my brain. For whatever reason of blind dumbness, ever since I was a child watching Tom Baker, I thought of "doctor" in the sense of "PhD". A monikor implying expertise and a kind of separateness, an eliteness.

But I never, ever, ever, considered it in the sense of "healer". Which makes utter and complete sense, and seems so patently obvious to me now. In some way, he was responsible for 'breaking' the universe at the beginning, and has spent his life fixing it.

That being said, I don't think the new guy is The Other. The text specifically says "as The Doctor". Using that name. So he can't be pre-Doctor -- for one, because he can't have broken a promise he hadn't made yet, and for two, because he's clearly using the name.

He also can't be the Valeyard, because he's The Doctor, not The Valeyard. However, it's very likely that this current situation is either what creates the Valeyard (who knows what's about to happen when Doc and Clara return to the tomb as presumably they will), or is the setup for the creation of the Valeyard later in the season or whenever.

Making him 8.5 is troublesome for may reasons mentioned already... One hypothesis is that he didn't call himself The Doctor so he doesn't "count" in the incarnations that way. But the text clearly calls him "The Doctor". I maintain that whether he's 8 or 9 or 13 or 95, he calls himself "The Doctor", and then does "bad" things while using that name, and that is how he broke the promise. Smith saying "not in the name of the doctor" doesn't mean he wasn't literally using the name, it means he was blaspheming it. Like, if someone says "I am killing all these Moslems in the name of Jesus." They're using the name, but they're using it wrong.

Is it significant that every other incarnation seen in the timestream was running? But this guy wasn't?
Miss Kai
45. wolfkit
First thought - Oh my!
Second thought - One seeing John Hurt "That must have blown a hle in their budget."
Heather Dunham
46. tankgirl73
Oh, I also just now realized (though it may have been bloody obvious to everyone else) the meaning of the episode title. In the run up to the airing, the speculation was all about the Doctor's 'real' name. That the name was his biggest secret, and that it would be revealed. There were articles about why actually revealing his name would be a Bad Move. But the episode title seemed to be saying quite clearly that -- whether or not it was actually revealed to the audience, his name would be the central plot point.

But, of course, it wasn't. It was important, yes, it's what the GI wanted, but *only* in order to open the tomb. And it was not the deep, dark secret he was going to 'take to his grave'.

So what did the title mean? It was referring to actions made *in* the name of the Doctor. Which this new guy (who was the true secret) apparently didn't do (or defiled), breaking the promise.

So the question still remains of not only what his name is, but also of WHY it must be kept secret (and yet it's not THE secret). Why did Clara say "oh that's who?" when she read the book?

And how the heck did that random murderer guy know what he did? And just happened to be in a position to tell Vastra about it?
Heather Dunham
46. tankgirl73
Weird double post, apologies.
Jenny Thrash
47. Sihaya
#46: "And how the heck did that random murderer guy know what he did? And just happened to be in a position to tell Vastra about it?"

A woman in a shop told him. The murder shop on the corner. It's not as nice as the downtown location, but it's convenient.
Alan Brown
48. AlanBrown
Did the woman in the shop look like Sally Sparrow?
Jenny Thrash
49. Sihaya
The Rani. It is a murder shop frequented by a murderer.
50. Nick 2013
Boy, all you people complaining about Clara's underutilization and lack dynamic characterization must have never watched the old franchise. Almost none of those companions were at all dynamic. Noit Leela,, not Teagan, not Nyssa, definitely not Perry, don't even get me started on Mel, and Ace, while she was fun, really kind of sucked. Harry Sullivan wan't very dynamic either. I liked the Brigadier. Basically, though, every one of these characters, with the exception of Leela harry and the brigadier, who actually made snse given the nature of their introduction to the doctor,was utilized by the writers to create and conclude multi series plot lines and mechanisms. Most particularly Teagan, who played the main part in a recurring conflict related to the multi-dimensional snake demon known as the Mara.
51. Tamlyn
Ursula, thank you for the posts on Clara. I like her and haven't had a problem with her characterisation, and you put the why into words perfectly.

It did break my immersion to have "He is not the Doctor" "Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor" in quick succession.

And I really feel like watching some classic Who now.
52. Nick 2013
@ 3: I could not ageree with you more on that. @ the rest of you: It was leaked yesterday that John is the actual ninth doctor, and that he was supressed from the timeline for some reason. This has led to the speculation that he is the actual doctor who fought in the Time War. That would make a lot of sense, especially if you are knowledgeable about and passionate for the books (as JD Hall clearly is). The time War refered to in the books and radio plays for the 8th doctor, who only had one on screen appearence, is not the timewar referred to in the reboot. There were many timewars, the latter one simply being the Ultimate (you know, "The last Great Time War"?). it's wouldn't be perfectly reasonable for this new development to relate to any of these wars. Yet it would also make sense that it relates to something hitherto un mentioned in the canon. All we know for certain is that Moffat has let it slip that Hurt is the actual 9th, and that his story has been suppressed by the rest of the incarnations for some reason.
53. Sean Dorman
John Hurt is the 9th Doctor, from the Time Wars. Matt Smith is actually the 12th Doctor...
54. Nick 2013
I also do not believe that the River from the opening sequence is the River from the Trenzalore scenes.
Kristen Templet
55. SF_Fangirl
Interesting analysis, Tankgirl @46 because I did think the the GI (??) said "The Tomb of the Doctor" that that would have been a better title for the episode even before we found out his name was unimportant.
56. Cara H
First, Chris you always do the greatest pieces about DW! Excellent reviews, really excellent.

And secondly, URSULA I think you have actually made Clara make sense to me. I really think you do understand the character. Thanks for othat insight.
Ursula L
57. Ursula
I do have a few problems with Clara's characterization.

It was a risky choice to make her a companion to the Doctor who doesn't have a strong need to be there. I think that is part of the reason why people don't see her characterization - her motives for traveling with the Doctor are merely that she likes to travel, and the more powerful drives in her life are largely offscreen.

For example, we know that her mother died when she was a teenager, and when she was visiting her friends, the family's mother died, leaving behind two teenage kids. Clara stayed to help, and she surely identifies with Angie's angst, the distress of loosing her mother and the fear of Clara trying to be a replacement. But that's hard to show in the context of the show, so we sort of see Clara being inexplicably tolerant of Angie's obnoxiousness, and the reasons are left for the viewer to discover through empathy. Which a lot of viewers don't seem to be doing, from what I've seen of the discussion.

And we've grown used to companions who have powerful motivations to escape their lives, and a near-obsession with the Doctor. Rose and Donna were fleeing dead-end jobs and aimless lives, Martha was escaping an obnoxious family, Amy and Rory had their obsessions with the Doctor going back to their childhoods.

Clara? She had plans to travel, which she postponed because she was in a unique position to help her friends through a difficult crisis, and the Doctor offered a chance to travel in an even more interesting way than her initial plans. But she only accepts his offer in a way that will not add more disruption to the lives of the family she's helping.

She can walk away from the Doctor any time. In fact, she does. "See you next Wednesday." Yet she's still his good friend, and will die to save him, particularly when dying to save him will also save the world. Which can seem like a contradiction. Particularly if a viewer isn't paying attention to how she lives her life away from the Doctor, her compassion and willingness to put her life on hold to help others, motivated by simple friendship.
58. DavidK44
While the bit with John Hurt was interesting and surprising (I've been avoiding spoilers), I've been puzzling over the Clara issue a lot more.

I've decided that Clara is the proto-Tardis consciousness, and this episode depicted the events that led to her becoming the Tardis.

Consider that each Tardis has an 11th dimensional matrix that exists across space and time. At least the Doctor's Tardis has a consciousness, as shown in 'The Doctor's Wife'. It must have come from somewhere, developed from something.

The Doctor's Tardis is familiar with his entire timestream, always knowing where he needs to go. Clara is now familiar with the entirety of the Doctor's life, and thereby the entire universe - he was at the heart of the reborn universe during Big Bang 2, and so touched every point in the universe.

The Tardis has been reluctant to accept Clara into the Tardis, which is understandable if Clara is the Tardis - the equivalent of crossing one's timestream.

Keep in mind that Clara fragmented herself across the Doctor's timestream in order to save him at every point he needed saving, including during the events in this episode. So, the Clara that we've known in the last few episodes, the one that fragmented herself, is likely not the original Clara, but rather the Clara that came into being at this point in the Doctor's timestream to save him during these events. The original Clara doesn't exist any more, and never has existed, as she's spread out over all of time and space. He's rescued a fragment. Clara is still fragmented over his whole timestream, and always will be.

Two final bits:
- The First Doctor is invited into the Tardis, shown the correct one, by Clara. Perhaps Clara was showing him herself.

- Clara's earrings are hexagonal in this episode - a nod to the Tardis control panel, perhaps?
yo sil
59. catperson
This is going to be a bit disjointed...There has been an emphasis on secrets this season. The secret of Clara, the Doctor's greatest secret, the Doctor saying in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS that "Secrets protect us. Secrets make us safe." and that "It's better with secrets". If that is a reference to John Hurt's Doctor, this raises several questions: Why is JH's Doctor a secret? Why is keeping him a secret protecting the Doctor? What from? From himself? From his own guilt? What did JH's Doctor do?
62. RaySea
@58: Let me just say that, of all the theroies I've encountered since the finale, that is by far the most interesting, true or not.
63. WarriorPoet
One thing has been poking me since I saw this episode. If you go back to "Nightmare in Silver," back to the initial phases of the internal conversation between the Doctor and the Cyberplanner, the Doctor grants access to regeneration memories, and we see the faces of his past incarnations flash by in order. Right? Right.

Did anyone else notice the glitch, which seemed to be an image of some kind of flaming ruin between the tenth and eleventh incarnations? Go ahead, look it up and watch. I'll wait.

I'm convinced that this was wholly intentional. An editor placed this into the sequencing of the faces with purpose. And, given the Doctor Ollivander (my son's nickname for the Hurt character) intimation added to the knowledge that both Tennant and Smith are involved in the fiftieth anniversary special, this is some kind of hint. But to what?

What did the Doctor burn out of his own memories?
64. Dark Claw
@63 I'm going to watch the replay tonight and pay attention to that scene. The only problem I would have with what you're saying is that we clearly have an on camera regeneration from Tennant to Smith. Other theories would make more sense as we don't have a McGann to Ecclestone regen and it is possible that #1 isn't actually #1 though I think that to be the least likely scenario.
Emma Rosloff
65. emmarosloff
Thanks Ursula, for spelling Clara out so well. I, too, was a little miffed by what felt like a lack of characterization, but you make some excellent points about how she differs from his other companions, post-reboot. I've yet to delve into much of the Classic Who, but I'm not surprised by the notion that his previous companions were not very fleshed out. Still, I don't think it's an unfair thing to expect. The companion is how we hook into the series (male or female), because the companion is always human (well, mostly human, nowadays). So we want to feel like they're more than a plot device.

I was happy that Clara's secret finally came out in this episode, if only because it felt like her and the Doctor were at a standstill in their relationship. I think that's part of what was jarring -- how close they suddenly seemed to be, even though it didn't feel like much had changed between them since they'd met. Not that it's impossible, given how well they fit together, but I'd like to have seen that growth on screen, instead of having much of it be implied.

The writers put forth many monster-of-the-week type episodes, which, while not uninteresting, kept circling around the same plot thread, over and over. What are you, Clara? How are you here? I feel like they could've fleshed out her storyline more, somehow, instead of waiting until the very last episode for the other shoe to drop.

The moment between the Doctor and River was touching, although I had a little trouble following how she managed to transmit herself there, not to mention that the Doctor could see her/touch her (or at least, perceive touching her). And while it was a nice way to wrap things up between them, it felt a bit schmaltzy, honestly. Not the kiss, but her getting in one last "spoilers" and "sweetie".

I personally always liked the fact that the last interaction she'd had with him was with Tennant's Doctor. The very first time he ever met her. The irony there was just so poetic, and the look of shock on Tennant's face when he realized just who she had to be to him to know his name. And while Smith had not yet been cast, I've always imagined how intense it must've been for the character of River, to have her last interaction be with number 10 when she'd fallen in love with number 11.

Like the Weeping Angels, River Song got a little too much exposure in the end there, IMO. Moffat's had some great ideas over the course of the reboot, but it feels like he's overused them during his time as showrunner.

Otherwise, the nonsensical-ness of the episode was unnerving at times, but I followed it because I've come to love this show too much not to. Still, I hear what everyone's been saying -- stop ignoring Classic Who! I feel like one of this show's greatest strengths is its incredible breadth, so why not use it? Maybe some of that old canon is a little cheesy or outdated, but the character of the Doctor really endures. If you try to strip away those fifty years of character development, the whole thing kind of falls flat.
marian moore
66. mariesdaughter
I don't recall if anyone mentioned....If River Song is linked to Clara--has she also poured some part of her personality into Clara? For some reason, this is so icky to me.
Pernilla Leijonhufvud
67. Therru
@58: I like it. I was a bit miffed that this ep seemed to undo everything Gaiman established about the TARDIS in "The Doctor's Wife" (the TARDIS saying that she stole a Timelord and ran away), by letting Clara influence him as to which TARDIS he should steal. But if Clara is the TARDIS (or proto-TARDIS), that still holds true. She manifested there in order to lure him to herself.
68. NickyK
I never felt Clara was an under developed character. She's courageous, kind, “spunky”, adventurous, generous and intelligent. She is also, like the Doctor, independent and (like the Doctor but unlike Rose, Martha and Donna) alone. Much of Clara's character is not limited to what she says and does, but comes from her facial expressions and body language.

Despite all the interesting opportunities the episode has given us for speculation, debate and discussion, I liked two things in particular:

1. The quality of the acting was great. Yes, some hamminess, some camp, but also great moments of tenderness;

2. As we discovered, the episode was not about the Doctor's real name. It was more, for me, about what the Doctor really is. The John Hurt bit suggested, to me, that the Doctor is only really The Doctor when he acts out of love and compassion. This is a strong theme in the episode; sacrificing yourself for the people (or universe) you love.

If bored, you can read my review here. I hope it is acceptable to do this. Apologies to moderators and readers if I have transgressed.
69. DavidK44
@67 - Good point, and I also like that it maintains Gaiman's Tardis backstory.

There's lots of other details that I didn't mention in my first post; here are two more to ponder:

- Why did the Doctor need to physically connect Clara to the Tardis in order to get the telepathic circuits to work? A physical connection's never been needed before. Just after doing it, the Doctor said he lied. Clara interpreted it as lying about the pain it caused. Perhaps it was a lie about reason behind the connection.

- The Doctor constantly refers to Clara as his 'girl' or his 'impossible girl'. He often refers to the Tardis as 'old girl', which she said she's always liked.

Feel free to dig up other potential connections....!
70. Leanoric
I like the idea of Clara becoming the TARDIS. That works very well.
I also suspect that John Hurt is a doctor between 8 and 9 (or an older version of 8) who has been supressed.

Just something I thought of - In the episide last season where the Doctor is in a house where the rooms show you your greatest fears, the Doctor looks in 'his' room, and says something like 'Yes, of course it was going to be you'. At first I thought it might be Adric, the companion he lost, as losing a companion seemed to be very much the Doctor's great fear at that time. However, now, maybe it was John Hurt in that room? His own dark secret self being his greatest fear...
yo sil
71. catperson
@63, The image of flaming ruin is the Tenth Doctor regenerating into the Eleventh Doctor in the TARDIS from End of Time.
72. WarriorPoet
@71, Perhaps so, but why didn't any of the other Doctors get that image? They all regenerated into a new body at their deaths.

On the other hand, maybe the flames represented all the fan rage at losing Tennant. ;)
73. Soloce
Just reading through the comments I don't think anyone has answered the question that Chris asked -- who is the Great Intelligence. It's this guy:

Most recently of Snowmen and the Bells of St. John fame.
Ursula L
74. Ursula
A few thoughts on the Doctor exploring the mystery of Meta-Clara, and why we saw so little.

The Doctor did make an effort to explore who Meta-Clara was. He looked into Modern-Clara's past at the beginning of "Rings" and he had a psychic check her truthfullness in "Hide." And by every indication, she seemed to be quite normal.

Because she was.

The Doctor was looking in the wrong place, from a temporal perspective. He was looking at Modern-Clara's personal past and present. The times in her life that he could look at safely, without the risk of "spoilers" and paradox.

But the truth lay in Modern-Clara's personal future. A place the Doctor could not explore without playing some dangerous games with time and causality. At least as long as he also wanted to keep her as part of his life, and her future part of his future.

The Doctor has one backwards relaitionship in his life, with River. Does he want to go looking to set up another backwards relationship, where he knows his friend's future before it happens to them?

So after looking at Modern-Clara's past and present, he flinched away from looking ahead at their mutual future.

And I can't blame him. The Doctor knew that he and River would be intimate from the day that they met, long before he had a chance to get to know her, let alone know if he wanted to be intimate with her. And he was intimate with her long before she had a chance to make an informed decision as to whether or not she wanted to be intimate with him. It is a situation that is emotionally unfair to both of them, because they are told what their emotions will be and should be, before they have a chance to feel those emotions.

Plus, Modern-Clara told the Doctor that if she was to travel with him, it was to be as herself, not as a substitute for someone else. Now, she didn't know all the details of why he found her mysterious. But those details were, ultimately, about someone else. A fragment of her shattered in the Doctor's timeline that ultimately wasn't her at all.

The Doctor limited his exploration of who Meta-Clara is/was/would-be to Modern-Clara. The person who said that she would travel with him as herself but not a substitute. He looked at her personal past, he consulted a psychic about who she was in the present. He didn't go looking for past lives, or her future, or even to explore who Oswin-Dalek and Victorian-Clara were. Even when he took Modern-Clara to the Victorian era, it was after Victorian-Clara's death, when he could introduce Modern-Clara, his new friend, to the Paternoster Gang, his old friends. After the Paternoster Gang knew Victorian-Clara to be dead, and that whatever the simalarities, Modern-Clara was different.

The Doctor is playing a complex game with the ethics of time-travel, in how he deals with both Modern-Clara and the mysteries of Meta-Clara, Oswin-Dalek and Victorian-Clara. But he does seem to be paying attention to Modern-Clara's requests and consent as to their relationship, while still being aware of the debt he owes Oswin-Dalek and Victorian-Clara, to understand them as people who were important to him but taken away too soon.

And the Doctor struggles to contain his curiosity about Meta-Clara, the mystery, out of respect for the individuals that are Modern-Clara, Oswin-Dalek and Victorian-Clara, who deserve to be respected as people, not mysteries. Particularly Modern-Clara, who he has the current ongoing relationship with, and who will be directly affected by any dehumanization from person to mystery.

(I am not saying that the Doctor manages this ethical balence perfectly. But the elements are all there, unspoken but in plain sight. Even when looking into Modern-Clara's past, the only non-public moment we see is when her father is cuddling her infant-self - a situation that is intimate but not embarasssing or unexpected in any way. And he only asks Emma about Clara after the two have had time together to establish a friendship and trust, so that he can be comfortable knowing that Emma will consider Clara's well-being and autonomy when answering his questions. Which she does, telling us only things we already knew about Clara, that she is normal, and clever, and frightened by some of the things she experiences while traveling with the Doctor while also hiding that fear.)
Alan Brown
75. AlanBrown
Ursula, That was a very insightful analysis of the situation. Thanks for posting!
76. Louisa
I think it is a fantastic episode but I do agree that sometimes it doesn't make sense but well my oppinion is, doctor who always leave a confusing point that doesn't make sense but they will reveal it one day making everyone waiting for it and keep on watching to get more hints
77. Atkinson
Again the scriptwriter should buy the actors, editors, production crew and music producers a big drink for hiding the fact that the script is stupid. If the production values weren't so high we might ask questions like:
* How is River Song there?
* Why does the tardis/tomb only open when the doctors name is spoken? By anybody?
* How does a prisoner in England know the co-ordinates of the Doctors Tomb.
* Since when do dead Timelords leave a bit of static which is a free timeline across all the time and space that they have visited?
* If the great intelligence is so intelligent, wouldn't he have killed Clara, the Doctor and anybody else who could follow him into the Doctor's corpse/timeline/bit of static? Clara seemed to have vanquished the Great Intelligence without much worry.
* Who buried the doctor and all the rest of the dead soldiers?
* Why does the doctor just fly to Trensilore because the Great Intelligence wants him to? Wouldn't he try and think of another way of stopping the great intelligence? Like he has several times before?
* If trensilore is so dangerous why are there only four slow-walking faceless monsters on it?
* Why was the secret tunnel/Riversong grave thing necessary? All it did was lead the Doctor back to the Great Intelligence.

It's sad how something that tries to be so clever becomes so very stupid.
Ursula L
78. Ursula
* Since when do dead Timelords leave a bit of static which is a free timeline across all the time and space that they have visited?

Since now. But it makes sense of the Time Lord's old noninterference policy - if one Time Lord, the Doctor, can cause this much damage to time, a whole species of time travelers would be far more damaging.

* If the great intelligence is so intelligent, wouldn't he have killed Clara, the Doctor and anybody else who could follow him into the Doctor's corpse/timeline/bit of static? Clara seemed to have vanquished the Great Intelligence without much worry.

The GI named itself the "Great Intelligence." That doesn't mean that it is actually smart. In this situation, it was so caught up in the desire for revenge on the Doctor that it wasn't paying attention to the details.

* Who buried the doctor and all the rest of the dead soldiers?

It's like any battle, cleanup is left to the victors and the locals, to try and make things back to normal. But the details don't matter to the story.

* Why does the doctor just fly to Trensilore because the Great Intelligence wants him to? Wouldn't he try and think of another way of stopping the great intelligence? Like he has several times before?

The Doctor isn't just trying to stop the GI. He's specifically going to rescue Vastra and Strax, whom the GI has brought to Trenzalore. Since they are there, he must go after them. It was a trap, and he knew it, but he felt that he owed his friends.

* If trensilore is so dangerous why are there only four slow-walking faceless monsters on it?

The danger was not the monsters. The danger was from the Doctor, and the GI, interacting with the Doctor's timestream.

* Why was the secret tunnel/Riversong grave thing necessary? All it did was lead the Doctor back to the Great Intelligence.

The Whispermen were herding the Doctor towards his tomb, the Giant TARDIS. The tunnel was how they got there.
79. DT21
Late to the party but reading these have been brilliant....but I have a insane thought

If we assume that JH character is the Doctor that time locked the Time War..what if

In End of Time - When the Time Lords are looking to escape the Time War, they mentioned that the Doctor "holds the moment"

In the wiki's the Moment is sometimes credited to being the De-Mat gun..however I find this incorrect as the description for the De-Mat gun says it erases people (and itself) from Time not that it time-locks events.

What if "Holding the Moment" refers to John Hurts character, and while the Doctor is "holding" him within the moment of his death / timeline on Trenzalore maybe the character is the only one of the Doctors incarnations that can reverse the time-lock on the time war?

but then this in itself creates a paradox no?....because regardless of which incarnation he is...the fact is he is within his own timeline and thus other Doctors effectivly could not exist as they would not of regenerated...

but I do think the phrase uttered by Timothy Dalton "He holds the moment" will come back to play a part in this
80. Buster
I have a thought as well as several observations. At the end of The Name of The Doctor, we are introduced to John Hurt as The Doctor. I don't feel that Moffat would tell us this if it wasn't The Doctor. The question becomes, which is he? This could be Doctor 8 toward the end of his life after the Time War. He could be intermittent and hence a rejuvination as opposed to a regeneration. events in The Brain of Morbius (classic series) indicate that there were other "Doctors" prior to Hartnell's Doctor. The convolution of The Doctor's time line could have been further exascerbated by our hero crossing his own time line resulting in the Hurt Doctor being expelled from his portion of the time line at an inappropriate moment. He can be from either past, present, or future. The Doctor, at times, can and cannot recognize his other selves. In The Five Doctors, the First Docotor was not initially aware of how many of his selves existed in time up to that point. Jon Pertwee's Third Doctor was aware that he had regenerated and become the Fourth Doctor. There was also evidence that the minds of the Doctors various selves are connected. I think the 50th anniversary will be a rip-roaring exciting adventure. Series 8 will hopefully take us some place in the Whoniverse which we never have before been.
81. Am_I_Dalek?
People often confuse "making sense" with "explaining everything in details". It's a sci-fi show. It's free to create new things and it doesnt have to explain everything.

Yes, a random criminal knows things about The Doctor, it isnt remotely significant who he is or how he knows stuff. He just does.

River is there because the conference can include people saved in the database, simple as that. If you accept that a lizzard, a Sontaran, her wife and a girl can communicate beyond time while sleeping then you must accept River's presence too.

The G.I. want the Doctor to open his tomb because the tomb opens only with his name (dont ask why IT JUST DOES!) and they think he is the only one who knows it. River does the job.

Yes, The Doctor steps into his time stream and yes Clara is "somewhere". Why do you have a problem to just suppose that there is a "place" inside the time stream?

It all makes perfect sense within the show, since the show is allowed to create escape paths when needed. It was always like this. The Master was defeated by people saying a word at the same time for gods shake. And of course the John Hurt twist is the most exciting thing that has happened in years. It's very sad trying to find plot problems in a fantasy story. It's a story, a fairytale. Usually the asnwer to a question is "Because!". You said it yourself too, "Who cares how Vastra knows what she knows?". She just does, she made her research, she asked River (they have met before as indicated by Strax), The Doctor himself told her, who cares anyway!

#77 thinks he's so clever and the show is stupid, even though the "questions" he raised were easy enough to be answered by my 10 year old nephew. (Ursula did a good job too)
84. Paul Jacobs
I know that they will do a retcon or something to change the Doctor's
number of regenerations. But, I haven't seen anyone mention the Colin
Baker episode where he battled an evil 13th doctor. That should be
canon, and specifies that the 13th and final doctor is evil. I guess
that is totally ignored by everyone.

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