Doctor Who Recap: “The Name of the Doctor”

By May 19, 2013

In last night’s mind-blowing season finale, we learned a few answers…and were left with still more questions.

Who is Clara Oswin Oswald? Why does she keep showing up in the Doctor’s personal timeline? Why must the Doctor never go to Trenzalore? And what is the Doctor’s real name?

If you haven’t seen the episode, look no further. Spoilers lie ahead.

“It’s like I’m breaking into a million pieces, and there’s only one thing I remember. I have to save the Doctor.”

A cryptic message from a convict leads to a meeting of minds. In a dream-state, Jenny, Vastra, Strax, Clara, and River hold a conference call–only to find themselves set up. The Shadowmen invade their homes, murdering Jenny while she sleeps. Vastra and Strax awaken at River’s prodding, but are taken.

Clara wakes up to the sound of the Doctor’s voice–he’s playing blind man’s bluff with the kids. Or, rather, they’ve gone to the movies, leaving him blindfolded and stumbling around the house.

Clara makes the Doctor a pot of tea and relays the convict’s message: “He has one [secret] he will take to the grave…and it is discovered.” But it is not the Doctor’s greatest secret that has been found–it’s his tomb. Trenzalore is the Doctor’s final resting place–the one place he must never go, lest he risk a terrible paradox.

Still, the Doctor’s never one to walk away from a good paradox…especially if lives are at stake. The TARDIS fights him, but eventually they land. There, River joins them–she’s still linked to Clara’s mind–but implores the other woman not to let on that she is there. The Doctor spots River’s gravestone and is bewildered; after all, his wife died in the Library the day they met.

It’s not a grave–it’s a door to the Doctor’s tomb (the TARDIS, made enormous by a leak of bigger-on-the-inside technology). The Doctor casually lets slip that River is his wife (and dead), much to Clara’s shock. As they traverse the catacombs, River tells Clara that the Doctor saved her to the library, but never said goodbye; after all, “he doesn’t like endings.”

Vastra and Strax awaken, and the Sontaran nurse restarts Jenny’s heart. Vastra’s wife lives, but the battle has yet to begin; The Great Intelligence (still wearing Dr. Simeon’s body) approaches with an army of Shadowmen. He accuses the Time Lord of committing great atrocities (if one can call destroying the Daleks and Cybermen ‘atrocities’), and claims that the Doctor “will have other names before the end.” One name in particular might pique the attention of Classic Who fans: The Valeyard, who was said to be an “amalgamation of the darker sides” of the Doctor’s nature.

But how can the Great Intelligence still retain Simeon’s body? It doesn’t; he peels off his own face, the body crumpling to the ground…and remakes himself in the body of one of the Whispermen.

Clara and the Doctor head deeper into the TARDIS, where Clara’s memories of their lost day are re-awakened. There’s no time to explain, however, as they run to join the gang at the entrance to the Doctor’s tomb. Dr. Simeon demands the Doctor speak his name–the code to open the doors–but he refuses, and Simeon sics his minions on the Doctor. He frantically begs Simeon to call them off, but River saves the day–the TARDIS can still hear her, and she says the Doctor’s name (off-screen).

There’s no body inside the tomb; instead, it’s a crackling tangle of lights–the Doctor’s path through time and space. It’s also the Great Intelligence’s means of revenge: stepping into the time winds will scatter him throughout the Doctor’s personal timeline–where he can destroy his enemy once and for all.

The Doctor writhes on the floor as his timeline is rewritten; he’s dying over and over again, all at once. Vastra is keeping track of the changes on a handheld device–he’s suddenly dying at the Dalek Asylum and in Victorian London–the two places the Doctor told Clara he’d met her before.

Vastra runs outside, only to find the stars going out as all the worlds the Doctor saved collapse. Jenny disappears–the Doctor had saved her life–and Strax becomes a typical Sontaran warrior, forcing Vastra to shoot him. Clara has no choice–she must follow Simeon into the time winds, allowing herself to be scattered throughout time and space, undoing the damage Simeon had done.

Against the Doctor’s protest (it will kill her), she leaps in. Her final words? “Run, you clever boy, and remember me.”

And we’re back to the opening sequence. Copies of Clara chase the Doctor across his timeline–one of them is even on Gallifrey, steering the Doctor to steal the proper TARDIS. She encounters him in a variety of periods and locations, and the viewers are treated to glimpses of old footage of Classic Doctors, as well as some clever audio dubbing (The First Doctor and Clara have a brief conversation!).

Back in the future, the Doctor is safe, but he’s not willing to let Clara go. He’s prepared to leap in after her, but River protests. She reaches up to slap him, but the Doctor grabs her hand–much to River’s surprise. Apparently, he’d known she was there all along, but didn’t want to speak to her, lest it hurt him too much. He kisses his wife–an odd sight, he realizes, to the people who can’t see her–and finally bids her farewell.

But is this really the last of River Song? He’ll see her around, he says–and she leaves him with a cryptic message: if her presence is tied to a mental link with Clara…then how can Clara be dead?

Clara falls somewhere in the Doctor’s time stream–a dark and dusty place–where ghosts of his past selves run. He joins her, promising to get her out…but there’s one last ghost. An unfamiliar face lurks in the shadows. The Doctor’s greatest secret is not his name, per se, but the man who holds it. The man who is the Doctor, but is undeserving of his title.

John Hurt guest stars as the lost Doctor–a segue into the show’s fiftieth anniversary special, which airs November 23.

Don’t forget to check out the short interview that aired after the episode–Matt Smith and David Tennant together, talking about the fiftieth anniversary special!