Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor
(1 episode, s07e13, 2013)
The prophecy of Trenzalore comes to call.
Clarence and the Whispermen
Locked away in a jail, serial killer Clarence DeMarco shouts at whispering inhuman creatures. He insists that they are nothing more than voices in his head and asks them to stop. The Whisper Men vanish, then reappear inside the cell, demanding to find the Doctor.
The Whisper Men project Gallifreyan symbols in the air, forcibly impressing them into his mind with an instruction to bring the message to the reptile detective. They are part of the Intelligence and promise that if Clarence cooperates, he will be pardoned and will live a good long life only troubled by dreams.
He cries to be left alone. The creatures pass by him.
She Said, He Said
The story is divided into two parts: “Clara” and “The Doctor”.
Clara’s monologue walks down memory lane about her adventures with the Doctor and what it has done to her. She’s forgotten to ask who he is and why he runs. Then she found out at Trenzalore.
The Doctor’s monologue focuses on Clara’s impossibility and his meetings with her, from the Dalek Asylum and Victorian London to his current run with her.
Each part acts as a tribute to the other… as well as a warning about the darkness in the relationship and its secrets.
The Name of the Doctor
In a workshop, two engineers respond to an alarm. A supposed idiot, the First Doctor, is trying to steal a faulty TARDIS from the capital city of Gallifrey, and Clara Oswald tells him that he is making a big mistake.
Clara falls through a golden vortex. She does not know where she is but remembers one thing: The Doctor. She has appeared at various points in his life but few of those incarnations ever notice her. The Eleventh Doctor is an exception when she calls to him in Victorian London.
She blew into this world on a leaf and doesn’t believe she’ll ever land. She’s the Impossible Girl and she was born to save the Doctor.
In Victorian London, Madame Vastra visits Clarence DeMarco at his jail cell. He murdered fourteen women and is sentenced to death, but he bargains for his life with information about the Doctor. The Doctor has a secret that he will take to the grave, and it is discovered.
Later on, Vastra consults with Jenny, explaining that Clarence will live until she understands what he told her. They make preparations for a conference call to investigate further. Jenny hears a strange whisper from outside as Vastra wonders where Strax has gone. The Sontaran has the weekend off, much to Vastra’s displeasure at his chosen locale.
In Glasgow, a familiar Sontar-Ha is heard as Strax fights a large Scottish man. They are interrupted by a boy carrying a telegram, summoning Strax to the conference call. Strax apologizes to Archie, his opponent, for not being able to finish the match, then asks to be rendered unconscious. He drops into the trance-like conference call, an astral projection of sorts, of which Jenny complements the new desktop.
While working on a soufflé on April 10, 2013, Clara gets an invitation to the conference call. The letter has come from Vastra and drugs her so she enters the dream state. The final participant, River Song, pops in soon afterward, and the meeting commences with introductions of the Doctor’s wife to his current companion.
Vastra presents Clarence’s message, a grouping of Gallifreyan symbols, which River identifies as space-time coordinates. They are the location of the Doctor’s greatest secret, his name, which River knows. Vastra shares the single word from Clarence: Trenzalore.
Outside of the conference call, someone skulks around Jenny. Unfortunately, her form fades away as she is murdered by the Whisper Men. River forces everyone to wake up as the face of Dr. Simeon appears, stating that the Doctor’s friends are lost forever more unless he goes to Trenzalore.
When Clara awakens, she finds the Doctor blindfolded, playing Blind Man’s Bluff so they could sneak away to the cinema. The Doctor is annoyed but then realizes that Clara is troubled. They discuss the call over tea and the Doctor is brought to tears over Trenzalore. He runs to the TARDIS where Clara finds him under the console. The Doctor connects Clara to the TARDIS so she can telepathically transmit the coordinates she saw to the time capsule.
“When you are a time traveler, there is one place you must never go. One place in all of space and time you must never — ever — find yourself.” Trenzalore is the Doctor’s grave, and it is the one place he must never go, however, he owes his friends and they must be saved.
The Doctor sets the course but the TARDIS rebels, fighting the transit while he forces her onward. The TARDIS refuses to land on the actual site, so it parks in orbit and the travelers take a look upon the torn and battered planet. The Doctor shuts everything else down and forces the TARDIS to plummet to the surface, cracking the exterior glass in the process.
They find a battlefield graveyard. Some headstones are larger than others, based on the importance of the warrior. On the summit ahead rests the TARDIS, abnormally outsized as the “bigger on the inside” qualities start to break down and leak beyond the shell.
The TARDIS is the Doctor’s tomb.
River contacts Clara as the Doctor climbs on, an echo of the conference call which River left open. The Doctor cannot see her but spots her gravestone among the others. As he ponders how it can possibly be here, they are approached by the Whisper Men as River and Clara work out that the gravestone is the entrance to the tomb.
Inside the TARDIS monument, the Paternosters awaken and Strax revives Jenny from death. They are approached by the Great Intelligence and the Whisper Men, who welcome them to the final resting place of the great tyrant known as the Doctor.
Clara and the Doctor navigate the catacombs as River explains her death to Clara. The duo is pursued by Whisper Men. They are driven to the Paternoster Gang where the Intelligence proclaims that the Doctor’s final battle was not as large as the Time War but he has blood on his hands. He also remarks that the Doctor will be known by names such as the Beast and the Valeyard.
Clara has flashbacks to climbing through a wrecked TARDIS, an adventure that she shouldn’t remember. The Great Intelligence demands the key that will open the Doctor’s tomb, hissing that it is the Doctor’s real name. He threatens the Doctor’s friends with death if the Time Lord does not comply. The Great Intelligence keeps asking The First Question until the tomb opens.
The TARDIS can still hear River’s projection, so she supplied his name to keep the secret safe.
Inside the doors lies an overgrown control room. Where the time rotor would normally rest is a flowing beam of blue-white light. That is the Doctor’s mark on the universe. Rather than his body, his travels in time have left a scar representing his personal timeline, past and future, and everything that resulted from it.
The Doctor collapses from his proximity to it. When he points his sonic screwdriver at it, the voices of his previous incarnations flow from it. The Great Intelligence approaches the light, intent on rewriting the Doctor’s history and turning all of his victories into failures. The act will scatter him across the Doctor’s timeline.
As the Intelligence steps into the light, the Doctor writhes in pain as his very existence is rewritten. Vastra declares that a universe without the Doctor will have consequences. She flees outside in terror and sees the stars go dark as entire star systems are erased from history. Jenny, once saved by the Doctor, is erased as Strax turns hostile and must be vaporized.
Despite protests from River and the Doctor, Clara decides to act. With the phrase that has pursued her since the Doctor met her – “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.” – she jumps into the light and is split into millions of copies throughout history, each one setting right what the Great Intelligence has put wrong.
She even tells the First Doctor which TARDIS to steal. After all, a broken navigation system will be much more fun.
With Clara’s influence fixing the timeline, the Doctor decides to rescue her, using himself as Clara’s advantage. River protests, but the Doctor tells her that he can always see her even when no one else can. There is a time to live and a time to sleep, and while he has a hard time saying goodbye, it’s only because he doesn’t know how.
With her help, he tells her goodbye with the promise that they’ll see each other again. She also reminds him that, since she was telepathically linked to Clara, then she cannot truly be dead. To tell him the details, however, would be a spoiler.
As River dissipates, the Doctor enters his own timestream.
Clara falls to the ground inside the timestream and she wonders what’s left for her to accomplish in the Doctor’s timeline. The Eleventh Doctor’s voice guides her through the figures of his previous incarnations, telling her to focus on the sight of a leaf as her guide. Using it, she is reunited with the Doctor.
Beyond their embrace, Clara sees a shadowy figure. The Doctor shows intense fear at the sight, explaining that the figure is him, but Clara doesn’t understand.
The name Doctor is a promise, but this figure broke the promise. He is the Doctor’s secret. The figure defends his actions as Clara collapses, but the Eleventh Doctor turns away.
This new man is the Doctor… but not one we were expecting.
Clara’s mystery finally comes to a head here as her various incarnations are explained. All three of them were her, just in different splintered ways. This is the big part of Clara’s run that I really enjoy. The other is her initiative, which has been highlighted over her run.
This relationship proves to be an ontological paradox – a causal loop – since the Doctor might not have invited the modern-day Clara Oswald to travel as his companion had he not encountered Oswin and Victorian Clara, however, if she had not traveled with him, those echoes would have never existed.
She’s been with the Doctor since the beginning of his travels – key dialogue here was taken from The Web Planet – providing some degree of influence at key moments. Of those moments, we get callbacks to The Five Doctors (Second and Third Doctors), The Invasion of Time (Fourth Doctor), The Arc of Infinity (Fifth Doctor), and Dragonfire (Seventh Doctor). Clara also seems to have influenced The Aztecs and The Web of Fear in her removal of the Great Intelligence’s interference.
This also marks the end of the Great Intelligence from the perspective of the show itself. The entity was splintered into infinite pieces across the Doctor’s timeline but then was systematically eradicated by Clara. The difference is that no one came to guide the Great Intelligence out of the Doctor’s timestream, so we have no reason to believe that it survived.
Clara’s adventure reveals the continuation of events from The Night of the Doctor, establishing a previously unknown incarnation between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. It perpetuates a continuity re-write – far from the first in the franchise – based around the unfortunate behind-the-scenes drama of the Christopher Eccleston era. This change in continuity will come to a head in Day of the Doctor.
There’s certainly a lot of world-building in this single story, both in terms of resolutions and groundwork for the future. I found it all quite enjoyable, and remember it to be quite shocking when I first saw it.
With the rest of the Timestamps Project for context, I certainly appreciate the attention to detail in portraying the Doctors. Not only do we have twelve incarnations sharing the same airtime (a record number to this point), but we also got to see both versions (to this point) of the First Doctor in William Hartnell and Richard Hurndall.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.