Wow! I’m not going to take back everything I said about series seven on this blog and elsewhere, but The Name of the Doctor goes a long way toward making up for some of its more lackluster aspects. But first, this is your courtesy spoiler warning. If you haven’t seen The Name of Doctor, you might want to avoid this post.
I said that this episode would be a game changer that would pose more questions than it answered, and I was right. I was also right when I said we wouldn’t learn the Doctor’s real name, his real name is ultimately unimportant, because it’s the name he chose that truly matters. “The name you choose, it’s like a promise you make,” he tells Clara, which brings us to the elephant in the room right away:
The one who broke the promise.
Now I’m not a spoilerphobe (though I do like to be surprised), and so I already knew that John Hurt was going to be in the Doctor Who fiftieth anniversary in November, playing a character with some special relationship to the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. What I didn’t expect was to see him appear in the final moments of The Name of the Doctor, nor did I expect him to be credited as “The Doctor.”
The obvious question is: who is he? Doctor who? Is this the secret Lady Peinforte threatened to expose in Silver Nemesis? I think the answer is a clear yes, but that doesn’t answer the question of who this version of the Doctor is. (For the sake of simplicity, let’s call him Doctor X.)
Who is Doctor X?
Well, the Doctor—our Doctor—says right away who he isn’t. Doctor X is not the Doctor. He’s the one who broke the promise. But he is the Doctor, which is a pretty bold move on the part of Steven Moffat, and so many of the little clues he’s planted over the course of his tenure as showrunner are beginning to sprout. The Doctor’s room in The God Complex makes more sense now, for example, and he’s made a point of reminding us from time to time that Matt Smith is the Eleventh Doctor. In fact, he’s constantly extolled us in series seven to remember. Clara wasn’t talking to the Doctor; she was talking to us.
The question of Doctor X’s identity and relationship to the Doctor is going to be the source of much speculation and discussion in the run up to the anniversary in November, and probably warrants its own post, but I think it’s safe to say that Doctor X is not a future version of the Doctor, since they both speak in the past tense. Whatever Doctor X did “without choice…in the name of peace and sanity” has already happened, and I would speculate that Doctor X is what the Doctor has been working so diligently to excise from time and space: his greatest secret. I also think that Doctor X is somehow related to the Time War, since we were shown The History of the Time War very clearly in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, which contained the Doctor’s real name, and presumably an account of his actions during the war. On the other hand, if Doctor X is who Lady Peinforte is referring to, then may he was created long before the Time War.
(As an aside, who wrote The History of the Time War, since the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords? My guess? Doctor X.)
But let’s leave Doctor X aside for now, and come back to The Name of the Doctor. It seemed to me that the Doctor’s gang—Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax—were just sort of thrown in for the sake of throwing them in, unless they play a bigger part in the fiftieth anniversary, which presumably continues where The Name of the Doctor leaves off. River Song I can understand, but the rest of them not so much. For now, at least, they seemed a little tangential to the story, perhaps only there to show the consequences of the Doctor’s victories being reversed by the Great Intelligence.
Though can I just say, Really? The Great Intelligence? Not the Daleks, not the Cybermen, not the Master, but the Great Intelligence. The mastermind behind the Yeti is the one who discovers the Doctor’s grave on Trenzalore and is the one who jumps in the Doctor’s time stream to rewrite history. I didn’t see that one coming, but even though I don’t understand Moffat’s reasoning in having the Great Intelligence in this role, I can only hope that it’s part of a larger vision for the future.
Finally, the other Doctors. All of them, except for the Eighth Doctor, are there, and frankly Eight is conspicuous by his absence (even though Clara says that she saw all the Doctors, so presumably she saw the Eighth Doctor, too). I’m not sure whether that’s because of rights issues with the 1996 TV movie, or because it’s going to play into the Doctor X plot at some point. I’m also not sure how well using the old footage of the classic Doctors worked from a technical standpoint—and just what was the second Doctor running around like a clown for when Clara meets him? But seeing the First Doctor and Susan brought a smile to my face, and I was disappointed that William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, and David Tennant (because I’m pretty sure David was there with Oswin Oswald in the future) weren’t credited as “The Doctor” along with Matt Smith and John Hurt.
Overall it will be interesting to see how The Name of the Doctor ultimately plays into Doctor Who lore, both in how we view the last fifty years, and especially going forward.
Now it’s your turn. I really want to hear from you. What did you think about the Doctor Who series seven finalé, The Name of the Doctor? Scroll down, and let me know in the comments!
Daniel is the owner and Managing Editor of Time and The – !. He's been a fan of Doctor Who since watching Tom Baker regenerate into Peter Davison on his local PBS station as a kid. He launched Time and The – ! in 2011 after having the bright (?) idea to watch every Doctor Who story from the beginning and blog about it. (Yeah, he's way behind.)