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Doctor Who: 713 “The Name of the Doctor” Review

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Reviewed by Adam James Cuthbert

“Welcome to the tomb of the Doctor.” – The Great Intelligence

The Name of the Doctor is replete with recurrent tropes of Moffat’s recent work; in particular, the theme of the Doctor as the fulcrum of the universe, around which characters and events pivot and revolve, attract and repel; a twofold symmetry of the character’s dynamic with his milieu. (This is also evidenced in A Good Man Goes to War and Asylum of the Daleks, wherein there is a pronounced contrast between forces of goodness/virtue and evil/animosity, and their respective interests in the Doctor; that functions as the underlying impetus in their lives.) Indeed, Moffat has sought to pose a question and a dilemma. The question: is a man defined by the shadow of his enemies, by the impression of others, and vice versa; can one exist without the other? The dilemma: you either die a hero, or live long enough to become the villain.

For this reason, I’m given to speculate that John Hurt’s Doctor could be the aged Meta-Crisis Doctor from Journey’s End. Hurt’s Doctor states: “What I did, I did without choice.” The Meta-Crisis Doctor fulfilled Dalek Caan’s prophecy: he acted according to pre-destiny. It’d make sense were the Meta-Crisis Doctor to be the Doctor’s “secret”, as the Meta-Crisis Doctor was, literally, a (distorted) mirror of the Doctor, reflecting the darker side he prefers to veil; harbouring the Doctor’s more tenebrous, reckless, and arguably self-destructive tendencies – were this behaviour to continue.  After all, the Meta-Crisis Doctor committed genocide (precipitately) against the New Dalek Empire, an act which the original Doctor condemned, and was mortified by: thus “not in the name of the Doctor”. (Recall his fierce retort to Donna, when she suggests they wait for the Doctor: “I am the Doctor!” Also: Journey’s End’s affinity with Genesis of the Daleks. In Genesis, the Doctor refused to destroy the Daleks at their inception; in Journey, the Meta-Crisis Doctor massacres Davros’ ‘children’, contrary to the Doctor’s scruples.)

The alias doesn’t have to solely imply “the man who makes people better”. He became the Doctor to become a better man, from his original cantankerous, sinister traits (An Unearthly Child), influenced by his human companions, but he can always relapse into darker ways (as numerous stories have conveyed).

Hurt’s Doctor is understood to be “part of the Doctor”: the Meta-Crisis Doctor was partly formed from the Doctor’s DNA. His portrayal could be that of heroism corrupted by age; a compulsion for “peace and sanity”, justice and security, for countless innocent lives, that became overbearing, signifying his descent into darkness. (Having outlived his own Rose, and grown old, bitter, despaired, and disenchanted with humanity from her loss, encountering a younger Rose in the anniversary enables his redemption.) In this way, it subtly connects to Moffat’s earlier theme of “the Great Warrior”, by holding a mirror to the Doctor’s countenance, alluding to the aforementioned dilemma, whilst offering an escape; it would presage an optimistic conclusion to the Doctor’s adventures.

This leads me to discuss Trenzalore, a spooky necropolis, the resting-place of the Doctor, and why I disagree with how the concept’s executed. Firstly, it doesn’t liberate the storytelling so much as confine it by restricting creative possibilities for the future. It also damages the show’s longevity, by explicitly informing us where the Doctor is interred (and his TARDIS dead). There’s a certain joy in the reassurance our hero will have adventures indefinitely; walking off into the sunset of our imaginations (a la Survival) – surely the earnest desire of any stalwart fan? Why Moffat feels it behoves a pessimistic ending for the character is unclear.

Secondly, the “skirmish” invites no contemplation or investment on the viewer’s part. We are neither shown flash-forwards to the conflict, nor informed of any context (what initiated the circumstances? Why did the Doctor participate? By volition; or was he a victim of the vicissitudes of fortune?). A couple of evocative-sounding epithets doesn’t generate the same effect as describing the stakes involved: why was it beyond the Doctor’s ability to endure?

Thirdly, how is this “the Fall of the Eleventh”? It is neither regeneration, nor his downfall; there are no permanent sacrifices. It’s an unsatisfying and infuriating pay-off for “Doctor who?” to be yet-another cliff-hanger. Moffat’s misdirection around the Doctor’s “greatest secret” is a tawdry trick. It feels disjointed with developments of last series; that the Question implied an apocalyptic climax/showdown (thus providing closure) with the Silents, when they attempt to stymie him for the final time (did Moffat look away and forget them?). If the Doctor’s real name was inconsequential from the beginning, then why didn’t Moffat expound on this earlier? It’d be more appropriate were the Whisper Men to be counterparts to the Silents, subscribing to the same religious text, but seeking the Answer for their nefarious ends.

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There are numerous issues throughout the story:

  • How did Clarence DeMarco know of the Whisper Men, Trenzalore, and the Doctor’s secret? Being attuned to “the babble of the world” is not a sufficient explanation.
  • How did the Great Intelligence arrive at Trenzalore, acquire its knowledge of the skirmish, or interfere with the conference call? “I am information” is a cop-out, refusing to elucidate this development further.
  • How did the Great Intelligence corrupt the Doctor’s timeline? It’s never seen to actively interact with the past Doctors nor events within the Doctor’s past. Not unless the time-tunnel grants one a form of omnipotence, to ‘nudge’ events down a different course. The same applies when Clara is scattered throughout history, and hurtles down the rabbit-hole herself. How does she reverse the damage caused by the Intelligence, and save the Doctor’s lives? It appears she has no control over when and where she experiences different histories, with no recollection of her personal assignment (Oswin, Victorian Clara), whilst other times she does. At other times, is she merely an apparition? If she was physically present whether the Doctor’s life was in danger, wouldn’t he remember her? Dearth of clarification is to the story’s detriment.
  • Vastra later states: “A universe without the Doctor. There will be consequences.” Jenny disappears (because the Doctor wasn’t present to save her life), and Strax is armed to kill Vastra. Why don’t Vastra and Strax disappear as well? If the Doctor never existed, as Vastra implies (so did the Great Intelligence thwart him at Gallifrey in his first incarnation?) why would either she or Strax be present at Trenzalore?
  • How does the Doctor see River if River’s mentally linked to Clara through the conference call (an event the Doctor did not attend) – other than maudlin storytelling (“I can always see you”)? For that matter, how did Vastra send an invitation to River (as River now inhabits the virtual reality/afterlife of CAL)?
  • There’s confusion over the TARDIS-tomb. It’s either an uncanny resemblance to the Eleventh’s, or Moffat is strongly hinting at the Eleventh Doctor being the last. It’d be unforgivable were Moffat to end the show on his own terms.

Whilst the resolution to Clara’s arc is handled superiorly to River’s, I’m vexed by one particular retcon: Clara, as a Time Lord, who introduces the Doctor to the TARDIS. The prequel She Said, He Said, informed us Clara would learn why the Doctor commenced running, how he began his journey. Why couldn’t it simply be that the TARDIS has left the doors open for the Doctor, and the Doctor was drawn to her – without the need to incorporate Clara’s presence? If Moffat were to have been clever, he’d revealed what the Doctor discerned in the Untempered Schism – whatever nightmarish vision made him flee (“I’ve been running all my life”), perhaps even inspired his journey.

On the subject of River Song: for a man who claims to be looking to the future, Moffat’s firmly latched onto the past, unable to recognise River’s story has concluded. I’d be lenient of her inclusion were she, say, occupying the facility of spiritual advisor/guide to Clara. As it is, Moffat insists on forcing her and the Doctor as a married couple. Theirs is a superficial bond, lacking credibility. I’d expect the post-Library River to be akin to her appearance in series 4. A woman who doesn’t require a farewell from the Doctor, because it’s an event that’s already transpired in her past; a woman who died, magnanimously, for a man who knew nothing about her – a true hero, moving on to her new life.

The story is not without its positives. Richard E Grant was entertaining after a melodramatic, theatrical fashion. Both Catrin Stewart and Neve McIntosh were delightful. While Jenny’s death is only ephemeral, Stewart manages to elicit pathos through her understated performance; a silent tear, begging for forgiveness. It’s horrible for anyone’s final thought to be of their own murder. There’s a touching line of dialogue, that consummates their now-poignant love, when Vastra responds to Strax’s observation of the heart as but a mere organ: “I have not found it to be so.” If he’s improved in one aspect, it’s handling their relationship.

I also enjoyed the conference on the astral plane, and the juxtaposition between realities. I appreciated Jenny’s reaction to the chilling presence of the Whisper Men within the astral plane. The reveal of the Whisper Men as hollow bodies which the Great Intelligence inhabits, subsequently reconstructing Simeon’s physiognomy, is an effective sequence, with impressive CGI.

Verdict: 3/10

I’m of the opinion that when Moffat writes at his most conventional, he excels as a writer (see: A Christmas Carol). The Name of the Doctor fails to distinguish itself, because Moffat insists on another tedious and maudlin timey-wimey run-around, with a ‘shocking’ cliff-hanger. (In contrast, A Christmas Carol actually renews the novelty and quality of that storytelling format, as Moffat ingeniously adapts the psychological/spiritual time-travel of Dickens’ original narrative, and makes it literal through the show’s central mechanic of time-travel, showcasing a character-piece with real conviction.) If the conflict at Trenzalore was described as one possible future for the Doctor (and not inescapable doom), that’d been preferable. Ultimately, the few precious moments between Vastra and Jenny, and Richard E Grant’s melodramatic performance, are overshadowed by the story’s flaws.

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  • http://patrickkavanaghsproull.weebly.com/ PK-S has Withdrawal Symptoms.

    Adam,
    I always love your negative opinion, purely because it is a refreshing change to the norm (mainstream reviewers often aren’t as scrupulous as you). I agree with with your “numerous issues” list – particularly the first, how on earth did Clarence DeMarco know about Trenzalore and space-time coordinates? He’s a Victoriana murderer from the 19th century; he’s hardly clued in to the latest interstellar news. Moffat also didn’t give us a reason for this, or how the Great Intelligence appeared on Trenzalore.

    Most of the other things you picked up on were perfectly legitimate but I feel that a 3/10 is too low if you encompass the pros and cons you cover in this review. I would settle for at least a 4/10 or at best, a 5/10. Whilst I personally found The Name of the Doctor delightful (7/10) I understand your reasoning.

    Where will we be without your reviews now, Adam? This upcoming project of yours sounds intriguing – and I just can’t wait to read more of your insightful writings.

    • http://doctorwhotv.co.uk/series-7-part-1-in-perspective-42184.htm TheStranger

      Thanks Patrick.

      I’d debated over the verdict; but, I have to settle on a low score. The pros were few and far between within the story. A good performance doesn’t necessarily overcome a script’s shortcomings. I guess a 3 is too harsh, but it’d more accurately reflect my feelings towards the episode; maybe a 3.5 would be better.

      The new project’s imminent.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emuNu6fMYn8 The Magician

        I would comment, Adam, but as you know, I’m not letting anyone in on potentially seeing my opinions before the full series review. So anyway, I sent you a message on StoryNetwork.

      • http://patrickkavanaghsproull.weebly.com/ PK-S has Withdrawal Symptoms.

        You always give me pedagogic and fascinating advice, I felt I must comment on this superlative review.

        You fit the role of a reviewer nicely, you’re merciless when it comes to marking a media piece down unlike me who gets paranoid and believes the star/director/crew of what I’m reviewing will see it and get upset (yes I actually do that, and yes, I actually thought Robert Downey, Jr. would look at my Iron Man 3 review.)

        When you say imminent – you mean tonight?

        • http://doctorwhotv.co.uk/series-7-part-1-in-perspective-42184.htm TheStranger

          I wouldn’t get paranoid; if you feel you have constructive criticism to offer, write it down. Filmmakers and actors, like writers or anyone else, can always improve (assuming they read such feedback).

          By imminent, I meant forthcoming, sorry; it wouldn’t be possible by tonight. I’m aiming for Saturday/Sunday.

          It’s always appreciated what you think of my reviews.

          • http://patrickkavanaghsproull.weebly.com/ PK-S has Withdrawal Symptoms.

            I like to please everyone, and so give top marks to the shoddiest of works. I’ll try and stop this, besides it provides a smidge of controversy which gets the punters really going. Your Doctor Who reviews have been nearly the opposite of public opinion thus causing controversy and actually magnetizing more commenters.

            I really can’t wait to see what this is, I’m thoroughly intrigued!

            I have a review of the second episode of The Fall out this evening, and it’d be appreciated if you would take a look at it.

            You’re welcome – it’s a pleasure!

      • SkyFaller™

        Can I SN you? Its important, I need some advice and guidance pleas

  • ShalkaDoctor

    3/10 seriously?! The text doesn’t justify such a low score at all.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emuNu6fMYn8 The Magician

      The review? Yes, it does. The opinions are clearly very negative. You may not agree, but I’d put the episode, based on what I’ve read, at around a 4/10, so one digit down doesn’t seem too bad.

      • Womble 2012

        Never mind what you’ve read, what’s your verdict having seen it?

        To me, this is as close to an 11 as I have ever seen in 49 1/2 years of watching DW.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emuNu6fMYn8 The Magician

          My personal verdict? Around a 7/10.

          • Womble 2012

            OK

  • TheLawsOfTime

    Some great points, I agree most of them.

    Moffat’s making all these big decisions which have big affects on Doctor who which future show runners will have to follow them more than their own idea which makes it harder for them.

    I didn’t really understand the Doctor being buried at Trenzalore. Did he know about this before? If he didn’t then he would know that he doesn’t die in Series 6 or before. Or Is Trenzalore not a fixed point in time and is in flux.

    It had some great moments, though. I give it a 6.5 or 7/10.

    • Womble 2012

      That has always been the way.

  • Regi Nald

    Reviews are meant to be unbiased yet this reviewer clearly has a Moffat sized chip on his shoulder. Every Moffat story since The Snowmen has been unfairly slated. While stories by other writers are inflated such as Rings and Nightmare in Silver. Meanwhile the rest of the world (excluding RTD fanboys) loved this story.

    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016dy23 TheRussellDevil

      Mr Nald, we meet again, at long last

      I assume I am talking to the very same person I met before?

      • Regi Nald

        What are you going on about?

        • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016dy23 TheRussellDevil
          • Regi Nald

            Why are you acting like some internet tough guy pretending to “know” me and being hostile for no reason?

          • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016dy23 TheRussellDevil

            Like I said, please go to the link provided so we can chat in further detail. Let’s not disrupt Adam’s review with this

          • Regi Nald

            You’re the one that’s disrupting things here. You started this bizarre charade for no reason. I was making a comment on a review and suddenly I’m being bullied for no reason. In fact I’ve already emailed the owners of the site because this is genuinely concerning me.

          • SkyFaller™

            We aren’t bullying you in the slightest.
            We just want you to go on the link so we can sort some things out, we think you’re someone we know but we aren’t sure. Please?

          • Regi Nald

            Do you actually realise how strange you are acting? Asking somewhat to click on a link for a ‘chat’? Creepy doesn’t cover it.

          • SkyFaller™

            Hardly creepy, just your paranoid mind assuming it is.

            Sorry, that was harsh, honestly its not a rude link or anything. We just need to know if you’re someone you know.
            But I’m ending it here, come onto the site so we can find out if you are who we think you are

          • http://twitter.com/JordanIGoodier Jordan Isaac Goodier

            To be fair, this discussion does look a little sketchy to my eyes.

            Regi Nald, s’alright fella. Just answer their questions on the site they’ve directed you to and you can be on your way.

          • SkyFaller™

            You’ve known me long enough to realise I’m asking him to go on a rude site

          • Chris

            Uh..

          • SkyFaller™

            what? O.o

          • SkyFaller™

            Ahhhhhh typo typo!

          • Chris

            Yeaaaahh….

          • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016dy23 TheRussellDevil

            We’re not bullying you

            We want you to come to this link because we think you’re someone we know

            Now, let’s end it here. If you are willing to follow the link, please do. If not, then do not reply to this comment

          • http://legodoctorwho.blogspot.co.uk/ edoe101

            Mr Nald, please just use the link.

    • SkyFaller™

      Hello old friend, we meet again, so very far from home. Basically, run.

      • Regi Nald

        Do I know you?

        • SkyFaller™

          I’ve heard of you, if it is you, then I know you.

          • Regi Nald

            And who exactly am I meant to be?

    • http://cultfix.co.uk/ Cult Fix

      Apologies for the previous incident. Looking into it. Please check your email.

      • SkyFaller™

        I hope you realise that @TheSeaDevil:disqus would never attack someone out of the blue, it wasn’t even an attack. We just wanted to find out if Regi Nald was someone we knew, the link TheRussellDevil posted wasn’t a website that would take Nald onto a website that has virus’, rude videos ect. It was just a site where could discuss if he is who he we think he is.
        I hope you realise this and I hope you reply :)

        • http://cultfix.co.uk/ Cult Fix

          I have sent an email to the address registered to TheRussellDevil account. I don’t wish to discuss this in public and disrupt this review further but I would like TheRussellDevil to reply to the email or get in contact and explain his side.

          • SkyFaller™

            Ah of course, I shant say anything more on the matter.
            Thanks for responding :)

      • http://patrickkavanaghsproull.weebly.com/ PK-S has Withdrawal Symptoms.

        Did you get my review of Darkness Visible?

      • Calebxy

        Just out of curiosity, are you the same person who uses the Doctor Who TV account?

    • Stargazer0118

      I’m not defending Adam, but other sites like Hitfix also didn’t like TNOTD.

  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016dy23 TheRussellDevil

    Well Adam, your final review of Series 7 :-P I can’t say I agree with your extremely low rating, but as always, I enjoyed reading your review

    Oh, and I need to address one of your issues. How did Clarence DeMarco know of the Whisper Men, Trenzalore, and the Doctor’s secret? Being attuned to “the babble of the world” is not a sufficient explanation. Apparently, there is a DVD extra called “Clarence and the Whispermen” which explains this. Maybe the Whispermen implant these ‘thoughts’ in his head to lead The Doctor to Trenzalore? But I don’t know, I haven’t seen the DVD extra :-P

    • Stargazer0118

      The battle of Trenzalore is supposed to be the FINAL battle in the Doctor’s life, no? Is Eleventh the last Doctor ever?

      • OodSinger

        It wasn’t the site of a ‘battle’ per se. It was just somewhere that he wasn’t supposed to ever *go*, and where he was ‘buried’.

        I’m more curious as to what made him cry, if he wasn’t sure what or where Trenzalore was. Not to take away from that scene, because it was the first time, I believe, that the Doctor had ever let anyone actually *see* him cry. (Every time Ten did, it was always after the fact.) Anybody have any ideas on that?

  • TheScribe

    I may not concur with your stance in its entirety, but this, indubitably, is a peerless construal of The Name of the Doctor. An eloquent, cogent critique, in which you vindicate your viewpoint with excerpts from the narrative. Well done!

  • SkyFaller™

    I disagree, but still great article!

    Now, this is to you Adam! If you read this comment then get back to me ASAP, is it ok if I SN you? I need some advice and guidance

    • http://doctorwhotv.co.uk/series-7-part-1-in-perspective-42184.htm TheStranger

      Sure. Happy to be of assistance.

      • SkyFaller™

        Cheers :)

      • SkyFaller™

        Sent :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.firth.9 Thomas Firth

    I’m actually saddened. I absolutely loved this story, and my rating of 9.3 is currently the best score I’ve given to any Doctor Who episode ever released. I don’t know what else to say.

    • http://www.facebook.com/thomas.firth.9 Thomas Firth

      Adam. I believe you are a very intelligent man, and I would like for you to take a peak at this and explain to me what’s wrong. Because this episode stroke a cord in me that I haven’t felt in a long time. Pure happiness!

      Review:

      Doctor Who is one of those things that you can’t abandon even if it is the crapiest thing on Earth. You just can’t, because when you look at where it is now and how far it has come, you realise just how immortal it really is and you begin to follow. The Name of the Doctor is the episode that has exentuated this concept to no end. It just proves that Steven Moffat hasn’t forgotten the classic series and neither will he.

      To begin with, the beginning is completely filling, and it’s those poignant moments where you understand why the Classic Series is linked to the New because it is one and the same. We have small clips of all Doctors, something which hasn’t been done for a while. And it is certainly one that I will not be forgetting.

      The dream concept is clever, I liked it and it is also a clever way of getting everyone together. But then, there’s also vulnerability. They are asleep at home and so they are vulnerable to any attack and the fact that Jenny is killed is something that strikes us hard. Her protagonistic character has been built up, especially in The Crimson Horror, and so her character now is linked with us and so we feel more in tune with her and can empathise with Vastra.

      Like with any Moffat episode, we then humour, which is crossed rather tenderly by a breakdown from the Doctor. He, like the viewer, understand that this is Trenzalore and that this could be the end. The overview in the TARDIS is almost recognition and information precious to us and Clara, because this is the basis of the story.

      And then Trenzalore! There’s a few things, which are left almost unsaid, the crack in the TARDIS window (ominous?), River Song’s grave (hint, hint) and the Doctor’s dying TARDIS and the realisation that this is his grave.

      Suddenly Clara remembers their encounters in the TARDIS (Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS) and the fact that she has died twice before. This is something a little more heartfelt, and we can feel her pain, it is hard for someone to understand that they are something more than they first believed.

      Now, a look at our enemies. Richard E. Grant unlike many other reviewrs, to me, was the driver of the story. He pushed it along with the question (What is your name?) and then the Whispermen are something else, something far more sinister than they first appear. They are obviously more powerful than Moffat is giving and I would like to see more of them in the future.

      Finally we have the TARDIS, our final location. It is dilapidated, almost pitiful, with vines growing everywhere. This almost sums up the end of the Doctor and why his death can mean so much to the fans. the thing that most intrigued me is the time wound, a cut in time that symbolises the Doctor himself. It also elaborates the Doctor’s theory of time as being a “Wibbly, wobbly…timey, wimey…stuff.” I find it satisfying that this wound is the Doctor, the only map we have of his existence, condenced rather tidily in a wavey shine of light. But as always, this makes the Doctor vulnerable.

      I love the next few moments, Jenny disappearing, Strax becoming an enemy, Clara disobeying the Doctor for the first time, River Song saying goodbye, it is all condensed into a small montage of clips that make amends to the story.

      Then the final scene! Oh my god, is it good! The final scene is brilliant in a few ways: 1) Music – cinematic, eerie; 2) “I don’t know where I am?” – A quote from The Bells of Saint John; 3) The leaf – Something far more than Clara?; 4) Possible Double Episode – the cliffhanger prompts that this is a double episode; 5) John Hurt – A welcoming sight and a surprising one: The Mystery begins!

      93/100

      The only problem is lack of “epic” satisfaction. I want more characters and far more locations (that’s why I liked The Wedding of River Song) to add those extra 7 marks. Then it becomes that much more perfect. But ultimately, this is probably the greatest episode of Doctor Who – without a doubt!

    • Womble 2012

      Having watched it 6 times in the last 6 days, it just gets better and better. To me it is up there with First Night / Last Night – no small compliment.

  • The Cyber Hurricane

    Personally I found more problems in this review than I did in the episode itself.

    It’s well written, but beyond that…eh I might do a more detailed analysis later. Right now I’m hungover and disheartened.

    • http://www.tvandfilmcritic.blogspot.co.uk/ Upsilon (The Pariah)

      Seems I’m the one critiquing his critique this week, ha.

      • The Cyber Hurricane

        I’ll do it eventually, I think.

  • THE QUESTOR

    I disagree with the majority of points you’ve made in this article Adam. Very nicely written, as usual, but it is a little disheartening to me that you don’t seem to enjoy the show now as much as others – evidently shown in your ratings in the last series and in the current one. I do think you’re too harsh at times during your reviews, especially towards Moffat. But one cannot alter your opinion on that, which I respect, although I disagree.

    It’s brilliant to have somebody with your ability writing articles on Doctor Who, but I don’t particularly want to read a negative piece on the show. I’d rather it read positive, we all would. It is interesting to read somebody with a whole different view on an episode though, but I can’t help but feel a little deflated when you score an episode that I really enjoyed, with a 3/10 – and continually do that to episodes I’ve enjoyed.

    I’ve read your articles on ‘Rings’ and ‘Nightmare’, and it was me who was rating them low, with you rating them higher than me! The only time I think I’ve agreed with you was with the wonderful ‘A Town Called Mercy’ episode.

    • DoctorWhoTVlad

      Thats a very insightful response to the review, but I have to disagree on the point about negative reviews.
      I’d much prefer to read a review that tells it like it actually was rather than sugar coating something, but I also prefer something negative at this point because I dislike the direction of the show, and seeing someone else who agrees gives me confidence that it might change. Admittedly these points are based on whether you enjoy the show or not but I hope you still understand where I’m coming from.

  • http://legodoctorwho.blogspot.co.uk/ edoe101

    Great review, but I do disagree with some of your points :)

  • http://www.tvandfilmcritic.blogspot.co.uk/ Upsilon (The Pariah)

    This leads me to discuss Trenzalore, a spooky necropolis, the resting-place of the Doctor, and why I disagree with how the concept’s executed. Firstly, it doesn’t liberate the storytelling so much as confine it by restricting creative possibilities for the future. It also damages the show’s longevity, by explicitly informing us where the Doctor is interred (and his TARDIS dead). There’s a certain joy in the reassurance our hero will have adventures indefinitely; walking off into the sunset of our imaginations (a la Survival) – surely the earnest desire of any stalwart fan? Why Moffat feels it behoves a pessimistic ending for the character is unclear.

    If you knew where you were going to die, would it ‘restrict’ your life in any way? Apart from, perhaps, preventing you from going to a certain location or two (which has already been mentioned in the case of the Doctor), I don’t think it would at all. The stuff about knowing of the death of the Doctor is entirely subjective, plus, there’s quite a possibility that it will be addressed again in the near future, so I won’t respond to that.

    Secondly, the “skirmish” invites no contemplation or investment on the viewer’s part. We are neither shown flash-forwards to the conflict, nor informed of any context (what initiated the circumstances? Why did the Doctor participate? By volition; or was he a victim of the vicissitudes of fortune?). A couple of evocative-sounding epithets doesn’t generate the same effect as describing the stakes involved: why was it beyond the Doctor’s ability to endure?

    But that’s a good thing. As you imply, we shouldn’t learn too much about the Doctor, so laying out every intricacy of the events surrounding his death would take away a lot of the mystique. As someone who didn’t want to know that the Doctor irrefutably died in the first place, why would you want any intrigue that’s left to be relinquished? I believe we got the best of both worlds; we learnt of the Doctor’s death through unique and intriguing circumstances, without throwing away the mystery of what caused those circumstances (one must mention that we never see the Doctor’s body in the tomb, further taking us away from the situation). It’s preferable to never addressing the subject or addressing it in full detail, to my mind.

    Thirdly, how is this “the Fall of the Eleventh”? It is neither regeneration, nor his downfall; there are no permanent sacrifices. It’s an unsatisfying and infuriating pay-off for “Doctor who?” to be yet-another cliff-hanger.

    The Fall of the Eleventh is A. The TARDIS falling to Trenzalore, or B. Something we have not yet seen. You can’t accuse it of being misdirection, because Dorium never said what it was, and you can’t accuse it of being an anticlimax, for the same reason, plus, it hasn’t been an arc of any sort, so it’s hardly been built up over time, just mentioned off-hand once to the Doctor. I would prefer it to be left as it is, because, as I stated in my last rebuttal, taking away the ambiguity surrounding the battle is inherently wrong when it links to the death of the Doctor, a character shrouded in ambiguity.

    Moffat’s misdirection around the Doctor’s “greatest secret” is a tawdry trick. It feels disjointed with developments of last series; that the Question implied an apocalyptic climax/showdown (thus providing closure) with the Silents, when they attempt to stymie him for the final time (did Moffat look away and forget them?).”

    Not really. It was never stated that the Silence were involved with the events at Trenzalore, only that they were trying to prevent it. I can understand if you were subjectively underwhelmed with what was made of the Question, though, although, like the Fall of the Eleventh, it might not have truly featured in this episode. Still, ghastly pun (that being a compliment, by the way; ghastly puns can be fun).

    If the Doctor’s real name was inconsequential from the beginning, then why didn’t Moffat expound on this earlier?

    Whilst the resolution to Clara’s arc is handled superiorly to River’s, I’m vexed by one particular retcon: Clara, as a Time Lord, who introduces the Doctor to the TARDIS. The prequel She Said, He Said, informed us Clara would learn why the Doctor commenced running, how he began his journey.

    It might have seemed inconsequential while you were watching the ‘Question’ scene, but, in the grand scheme of things, if Clara hadn’t stopped the Great Intelligence, it would have resulted in the deaths of trillions, which wouldn’t be inconsequential to the Silence, the ‘Sentinels of History’.

    It’d be more appropriate were the Whisper Men to be counterparts to the Silents, subscribing to the same religious text, but seeking the Answer for their nefarious ends.

    More ‘my own way’. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawn.

    AKA, if Moffat had been clever, he’d have used my idea. A prequel, which was probably written in a rush, should have little to no say on what goes into the episode or what people should disparage the episode for.

    Why couldn’t it simply be that the TARDIS has left the doors open for the Doctor, and the Doctor was drawn to her – without the need to incorporate Clara’s presence? If Moffat were to have been clever, he’d revealed what the Doctor discerned in the Untempered Schism – whatever nightmarish vision made him flee (“I’ve been running all my life”), perhaps even inspired his journey.

    The scene with the First Doctor and Clara is pretty much open for interpretation; did she ‘save’ the Doctor from choosing the wrong TARDIS of her own accord, or was it a result of the Great Intelligence’s tampering? It’s up to the viewer to decide, and if at least one of the two solutions can go down well with Neil Gaiman (the very man who wrote The Doctor’s Wife), I’m sure one of them can go down well with you. After all, it’s not as if the TARDIS ever leapt out and shrieked, “Pick me! Pick me!”

    On the subject of River Song: for a man who claims to be looking to the future,
    Moffat’s firmly latched onto the past, unable to recognise River’s story has concluded. I’d be lenient of her inclusion were she, say, occupying the facility of spiritual advisor/guide to Clara. As it is, Moffat insists on forcing her and the Doctor as a married couple. Theirs is a superficial bond, lacking credibility. I’d expect the post-Library River to be akin to her appearance in Series 4. A woman who doesn’t require a farewell from the Doctor, because it’s an event that’s already transpired in her past; a woman who died, magnanimously, for a man who knew nothing about her – a true hero, moving on to her new life.

    Attitude-wise, I’d say she was much, much more similar to the River of Series 4 than the River of, say, The Angels Take Manhattan or The Wedding of River Song. As for her goodbye, I think it’s perfectly justified; would you like your last moment with a person you’re in love with (whatever your opinion on the Doctor and River’s relationship is, it’s indisputable that’s she’s in love with him) to consist of a version of them that doesn’t even know you screaming at you not to dispose of your life? I wouldn’t, and I don’t think it makes her any less of a hero for wanting a better final memory. You say yourself, “It’s horrible for anyone’s final thought to be of their own murder. Surely a similar phrase could be applied to this?

    Notice that this the first time I’ve done this, Adam; I actually agreed with a lot of stuff in your reviews of Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan, The Snowmen, and, to a much lesser extent, The Bells of Saint John. I’m not posting this out of ‘fanboyism’, but out of genuine disagreement and support of the episode.

    • Womble 2012

      I would suggest that the way the Doctor chewed River’s face implied that the attraction wasn’t one sided!

    • Thesilence_94

      I agree with this. The biggest problem that I have with this review, is that at times, he is not judging it on its own merits but rather what he wanted to see in the episode

  • http://twitter.com/DonalBorgNeal Donal Borg-Neal

    Brilliant review! I agree with all of your points. Finally someone who has the same opinion as me about the episode.

  • GibbyBlogger

    An enjoyable read, Adam!

    I don’t agree with your comments much but, I do think you made some really good points. My only niggle with the episode is the inclusion of The Great Intelligence. Why did The GI have to be present? Why couldn’t The Whisper Men be the Big Bad of Trenzalore (and have more character development along the way)? And why didn’t we get a ‘Silence/Whisper Men’ standoff?

    I awareded this episode a 9/10! :D

  • UnknownNightmare

    1 of these points can be explained Adam, just with logical thinking

    How did the Great Intelligence corrupt the Doctor’s timeline.

    He would have done it, by making his enemies win, and stop him from defecting them. Even small changes can have a big impact, as seen in ”turn-left”

    For journeys end , all he would have to do was stop the doctor donna and the Meta-Crisis doctor from landing on the Crucible. This will stop the doctor-donna from reaching the controls, and Davros would never would have shot her, meaning Davros would have activated the reality bomb, destroying the universe as seen by vastra in this episode.

    For asylum of the daleks He would have controlled that dalek that was Clara, making it exterminate him, meaning the asylum might not have been blow out of the sky by the daleks above, and hundreds of insane daleks will spread throughout the universe, with maybe a tiny bit of help from the GI

    And also, don’t forget it did say ”TO BE CONTINUED 23RD NOVEMBER” maybe because the 50th starts directly where this episode ended?? And maybe some of those other points might be explained??

  • http://cultfix.co.uk/da-vincis-demons-103-the-prisoner-review-22559.htm EternalDoctor

    Tremendous review, Adam. In terms of writing – this is absolutely astounding and you’re always very good at structuring the reviews. The whole thing flows exceedingly well and makes for a highly enjoyable read.

    As for the content of this review – I strangely found myself agreeing with quite a few of your points (not to say that I usually don’t), but the reason why it’s strange is that I strongly disagree with your score. Despite some flaws – it was a great episode and Moffat’s best effort this series. Sure, it fell short of some of the promises it set for itself, but it was an absolute treat. The dark atmosphere, creative new ideas, beautiful tributes to the past and some truly dramatic moments just all make me love it. It’s by far perfect and it does not achieve full marks, but it is nevertheless a very good episode. I’m really sad to see you didn’t enjoy it.

    Apart from my disagreement though, this was a good conclusion to your reviews for this series. It sadly didn’t end on a postive note, but at least your writing still excels. I also respect you for staying true to your feelings about the episode and I love how your reviews stand as a stark contrast to the general consenseus. Just continue doing that and you will remain the best reviewer of this site.

  • Womble 2012

    I admire your energy if not the outcome.

    How did Clarence DeMarco know of the Whisper Men, Trenzalore,
    and the Doctor’s secret? Being attuned to “the babble of the world” is
    not a sufficient explanation.

    Actually, it is. Just because we don’t know the context of “the babble of the world” doesn’t mean that it isn’t valid – Madam Vastra thought it was and so ikt was internally consistent.

    How did the Great Intelligence
    arrive at Trenzalore, acquire its knowledge of the skirmish, or
    interfere with the conference call? “I am information” is a cop-out, refusing to elucidate this development further.

    Not really a plot hole, more of an “external context” situation. Do we need to know to advance the plot? No we don’t.

    How did the Great Intelligence corrupt the Doctor’s timeline? It’s never
    seen to actively interact with the past Doctors nor events within the
    Doctor’s past. Not unless the time-tunnel grants one a form of
    omnipotence, to ‘nudge’ events down a different course. The same applies
    when Clara is scattered throughout history, and hurtles down the
    rabbit-hole herself. How does she reverse the damage caused by the
    Intelligence, and save the Doctor’s lives? It appears she has no control
    over when and where she experiences different histories, with no
    recollection of her personal assignment (Oswin, Victorian Clara), whilst
    other times she does. At other times, is she merely an apparition? If
    she was physically present whether the Doctor’s life was in danger,
    wouldn’t he remember her? Dearth of clarification is to the story’s
    detriment.

    She actually says that the Doctor never sees her.

    Vastra later states: “A universe without the Doctor.
    There will be consequences.” Jenny disappears (because the Doctor
    wasn’t present to save her life), and Strax is armed to kill Vastra. Why
    don’t Vastra and Strax disappear as well? If the Doctor never existed,
    as Vastra implies (so did the Great Intelligence thwart him at Gallifrey
    in his first incarnation?) why would either she or Strax be present at
    Trenzalore?

    Eye of the Storm? Sequential changes? It doesn’t have to happen all at once.

    How does the Doctor see River if River’s mentally linked to Clara through the conference call (an event the Doctor did not attend) – other than maudlin storytelling (“I can always see you”)? For that matter, how did Vastra send an invitation to River (as River now inhabits the virtual reality/afterlife of CAL)?

    River says it – “Spoilers!”

    There’s confusion over the TARDIS-tomb. It’s either an uncanny resemblance to
    the Eleventh’s, or Moffat is strongly hinting at the Eleventh Doctor
    being the last. It’d be unforgivable were Moffat to end the show on his
    own terms.

    Archived consoles – mentioned in a couple of episodes.

    It depends how you look at it. As a glass half full kind of guy, it was a wonderful episode.

  • Womble 2012

    As someone who writes for a living, I would have to score this review as

    9/10 for passion
    4/10 for argument and
    1/10 for style – tenebrous? What? I know what it means but come on!

  • ladyoctarina

    I agree with everything you had to say on the episode. But even with all those flaws, I still think this was one of the most enjoyable episodes in 7b.

    As to your theory that John Hurt is old metacrisis, that’s a really interesting suggestion, but I hope you’re wrong, because it would suck to have that much of the 50th to be about Rose’s relationship with the Doctor. We already have a whole season about that…

  • twoheartsonemind

    Your reviews are always interesting to read, however your argument falls apart on many points that you make. Several of them can be explained easily, others can be revealed in the continuation presumably in the 50th special and some are intuitive points that don’t need to have an explanation said out loud throwing off the pacing. That said, this episode does have flaws. I respect your opinion, and could already tell from your past reviews your dislike of Moffat, but I respectfully disagree on most points. Besides, if anything it was entertaining.

  • Nick Ferrazza

    Not your best review. Most of it was just speculation and complaints about what you’d hoped would be in the episode rather than judging it on what was there. Still, interesting to here a negative opinion on it once. All the reviews I’ve read elsewhere seem much more positive, and in my opinion this is one of Moffat’s best in a long time. Sure it has its flaws, but for the most part I felt it was an excellent and certainly unique story.

    By the way, we saw the fall of the eleventh when the Doctor’s TARDIS fell to Trenzalore, or at least that was my interpretation of it.

  • John Smith

    Adam’s articles are always a refreshing change to the positive feedback Doctor Who episodes usually get. But this time I feel he has gone too far. The Clarence thing is explained fully in my opinion in ‘Clarence and the Whispermen’. The fall of the Eleventh in my opinion was the literal fall the TARDIS had to take when the Doctor turned of the anti-gravs. I agree with the TARDIS-tomb being the Eleventh’s Docotr’s and the problems this might cause but I’m sure that there Moffat or whoever is after him will find some way around this and the flashbacks to the war in which the Doctor died were not necessary as this can form the basis of a whole episode or might even be referenced in the 50th Anniversary. I think a review of TNOTD should only be written after the 50th Anniversary episode. Sorry Adam, but this is one of your worst reviews in my opinion.

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