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Friday, 24 May 2013

Doctor Who: The Name Of The Doctor Review

His. Secret. Revealed...Our. Definitive. Review.
Here we are, then- the final instalment of the seventh season of Doctor Who since its revival in 2005. Season Seven has been quite a run, boasting Daleks, dinosaurs, the Wild West, cube invasions, Weeping Angels, venomous Snowmen, Wi-Fi incursions, planetary sing-songs, Ice Warriors, TARDIS explorations, haunted houses, Victorian horrors and the Cybermen, yet there’s something about its finale, The Name Of The Doctor, that brings a genuine sense of nostalgia and most importantly, closure.

In terms of the former element, the rapid appearances of all of the Eleven Doctors so far in Steven Moffat’s daring opening sequence is something of a fan-fest. Clearly, the 50th Anniversary Special is in very safe hands going by the level of nostalgia and satisfaction provided by Clara’s romp through the timeline of everyone’s favourite time traveller. It has naturally been noted that one or two of the recut classic series scenes melded together old and new footage more effectively than others, but on the whole it was difficult to discredit Steven for opening his 50th Anniversary adventures with a bang.

Of course, if the positive aspects of the episode ended there, we could have called Name a colossal disappointment. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, with this finale being one that was full of memorable moments. From Matt Smith’s beautiful descent into tears at the mention of the Fields of Trenzalore, a place which through Dorium’s prophecies he now recognises as his future (?) tomb, to the brilliant humour of the Paternoster Gang (Strax’s “I think I've got him in a grapple!” had this reviewer in fits of laughter), there were few limits to the extent of the quality of this concluding epic instalment.

It’s impossible to deal with Name in any review without tackling its rather game-changing final scenes. One of the episode’s few notable flaws was that Richard E Grant was no more impressive as the Great Intelligence than he was in The Snowmen, instead remaining a slightly pantomime-esque and wooden foe for the Doctor to face off against. Also, the Whispermen weren't exactly the next ‘iconic’ Who monsters from the Moff. However, John Hurt’s shock appearance at the episode’s end was a truly impactful surprise, especially if implications of his Doctor being taken from a time between the Eighth and Ninth incarnations are to be believed.

Could it be that Trenzalore is in fact the ‘tomb’ of this semi-alternate Doctor, so that the death-place of the Thirteenth Doctor has yet to be revealed? We’ll see, but the implications of the Doctor’s ‘greatest secret’ have all the same been delivered upon in full force here, resolving almost three years of a prolonged and intelligent narrative arc. This is where that latter element of closure comes in- we see why ‘silence must fall’ when the Question is asked both in the Doctor’s refusal to reveal a universal threat by unlocking his tomb, and indeed by the stars going out once the Question has been answered. Similarly, it seemed as if the Doctor’s name itself was a rather rudimentary secret to reveal, so that it’s what the knowledge of the name literally unlocks that is so dangerous is a masterful turn of events on Moffat’s part to be sure.

So it’s been a rather incredible season of Doctor Who- for some, the fall of the Ponds arc was more concise and effective than the disparate Clara arc, yet overall The Name Of The Doctor managed to tie together the various strands of the fourteen-episode run into a gripping, game-changing Who science-fiction thriller that successfully weaved nods to the past together with allusions to what’s to come. Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman remain vital assets of success to the show, while Alex Kingston and the majority of the supporting cast (Grant and the rather irksome kids aside) bring spectacular standalone performances of their own on a consistent basis. No episode of Who is perfect, yet The Name Of The Doctor is one of those almighty adventures which eclipses its minor shortcomings to become something truly special.

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