Review: Doctor Who – 7×13 – The Name of the Doctor

Isn't what you thought it would be

The Name of the Doctor

In the UK: Saturday, 7pm, 18th May 2013, BBC1/BBC1 HD. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturday, 8pm/7c, 18th May 2013, BBC America

Ian: Just open the doors, Doctor Foreman.
The Doctor: [To himself.] Eh? Doctor who? What’s he talking about…?

– from Doctor Who – An Unearthly Child

Doctor Who’s name has been a subject of considerable interest, ever since the first episode. Whether it was Ian Chesterton’s misnaming of him as Doctor Foreman in the very first episode or the more recent Steven Moffat antics regarding River Song, the Doctor and their wedding, everyone’s wanted to know what his name really is. Doctor von Wer, Dr John Smith, Theta Sigma – Who knows, ho, ho?

This season has, in fact, been building on this, with Clara mid-runaround…

stopping off in the TARDIS library to find out the Doctor’s real name. So it all looked like we were about to get some big revelation in the appropriately named The Name of Doctor, the season finale, billed as revealing ‘his secret’. And revelations we did get, just not the ones we were expecting. Let’s go chat about The Trouble with Clara after the jump.

Was it any good?
It was about a 50-50 mix of the awesome and the awful.

So that we end up on a positive note, let’s dispense with the awful first. We first of all had the crushing disappointment of

  1. Not finding out what the Doctor’s real name is or why it’s significant
  2. Some terrible CGI
  3. A beautifully evocative prophecy from a season ago that yet again proved to be dull as heck when finally its true meaning was revealed
  4. A really basic plot, with the Doctor blackmailed into travelling to a planet to save his friends and eventually being saved by his companion
  5. A lot of handwaving
  6. An arch-villain who was an arch-villain for no real reason and who was defeated reasonably easily
  7. The entire plot being nicked from Alien Bodies
  8. Absolutely no other mysteries from the preceding season, such as who the woman was who gave Clara the Doctor’s phone number, were cleared up
  9. River Song was dead for no good reason
  10. Everyone else died but was brought back to life for no good reason
  11. Almost all the good bits were exposition rather than plot or action

To be honest, the whole thing felt like it answered a lot of questions that no one had ever asked, with a whole bunch of characters who’d been drafted in instead of the ones who would have made far more sense: why the Great Intelligence and the Whispermen rather than the Silence and all those people who had engineered River Song to kill off the Doctor the previous season? Why the great big prophecy about ‘the fall of the 11th’ and his death at Trenzalore, if it was just to mean the literal fall of the 11th?

All those things to one side then, much in the manner of a Rusty finale, we must ignore the brain-thinky stuff and enjoy the ride instead. And what a ride. We got to see the Doctor leaving Gallifrey, with an honest-to-goodness William Hartnell cameo (from The Aztecs) and the TARDIS pre-police box. Every other Doctor got to show up, too, as well as one we’d never known about, and we even had a fanboy reference to the Valeyard.

River Song was finally confirmed as the Doctor’s wife and they had a passionate kiss farewell at last (presumably we’ve still not seen the last of her, since she’s not been given an upgraded sonic screwdriver yet). We found out why Clara was ‘the impossible girl’, visited the Doctor’s grave and had the giant TARDIS tombstone. Add on all the good bits from Alien Bodies and for long-term fans, it was a cornucopia of delights.

Ian Levine tweets about Doctor Who

And then there was the missing Doctor, played by John Hurt. Not the answer we were expecting in an episode called The Name of the Doctor about what the Doctor’s darkest secret would be, yet still making sense in context.

Now assuming this isn’t some bit of timey-wimey-ness or weird inter-regeneration fun like the Valeyard and the Watcher…

…that’s the biggest shocker the show’s ever had: we’re on what we thought was Doctor number 11, but we could be on Doctor 12 (or even 13, going by The Stolen Earth) now. What a shocker. With the 50th anniversary special coming up, perhaps we’ll even get a story where the Matt Smith Doctor is revealed to be number 13 and gets a 50-year lifespan extension. Whatever we get, we’ll at least have had John Hurt as the Doctor, the one none of the other Doctors thinks is worthy of ‘The Name of the Doctor’ and a more interesting version of the Valeyard if the timestreams get crossed and he gets to interact with the other Doctors for the special. Until then, theorise away as to what Doctor this could be.

Well done, Stevie. Now let’s see what the pay-off is in the anniversary special in November. It had better be good or you’re in trouble.

The season overall
So all in all a semi-impressive end to the season/half-season as a whole. It did feel a little bit of a con in some respects, even if Stevie made up for it in others. Hopefully, with the answer of who Clara is solved, they’ll be able to start giving her a more stable backstory, characterisation and character development next season, since she’s felt more like a puzzle waiting to be solved rather than an actual person until now. Seeing as most of the arc was stuck together as they went along, I’m hoping that next season will be more consistent in terms of arc, so it’s not just bolted on as after thought in individual episodes, and that concepts and enemies don’t just get mysteriously dropped (I’m still not sure exactly why the TARDIS exploded, why the Silence haven’t spotted the Doctor and more).

Not the best season or even half-season this year, with only a couple of standout stories (Hide, Nightmare in Silver), but no absolute clunkers like The Curse of the Black Spot. Fingers crossed, the just-confirmed season eight will be even better. And maybe have as many as one or two female writers. How about that Steven?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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