"On the fields of Trenzalore, at the fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked, a question that must never, ever be answered."
"The first question. The oldest question in the universe, hidden in plain sight: Doctor who?"
It's the big Doctor Who season finale, in which secrets are revealed and questions answered. So how was it? Pretty darned good, I thought. I've been pretty critical of Steven Moffat ever since the uneven first half of the season and the abysmal and bone-headed The Angels Take Manhattan, but he redeemed himself here.
We actually found out the secret of Clara The Impossible Girl, we didn't hear the Doctor's true name (which I think is a very good thing) and it was a nice set up for the fiftieth anniversary as we got cameo appearances from all the Doctor's previous incarnations.
Speaking of the Doctor's true name, I think I know what it is. It's... Cosmo! All you Seinfeld fans are no doubt LOL-ing right now.
Supposedly a few lucky customers who pre-ordered the Blu-Ray of the second half of the season from Amazon received their sets about a week before the finale aired. Whoops! The BBC then had to hurriedly issue a press statement begging people to not reveal any spoilers before the episode aired. Man, it's getting harder and harder to keep a secret in this world.
Big Honkin' Spoilers, Obviously!
The Great Intelligence, who we met back in The Snowmen, is now possessing the body of Dr. Simeon. Joined by the mysterious Whisper Men, he/it begins killing and threatening the Doctor's friends unless he goes to Trenzalore, the one place in the universe the Time Lord must never visit.
Of course the Doctor goes there anyway. We find out that Trenzalore was the site of a great battle and the entire planet is now one large graveyard. Among the dead buried there is the Doctor's future self, which is the reason he shouldn't be there. The Doctor's Tomb is actually the TARDIS itself, grown to monstrous proportions as its infinite interior space leaks out as it dies. Simeon is determined to enter the Tomb, but it can only be opened by speaking the Doctor's true name. Simeon's Whisper Men threaten to kill the Doctor's companions unless he complies. Suddenly River Song appears, since it's a Steven Moffatt episode (or an echo of her appears would be more accurate) and speaks the Doctor's name (which we do not hear), opening the Tomb.
Once inside, the group sees a shimmering column instead of a body. The column represents the Doctor's timeline over the centuries. Simeon enters the column with the intention of going back through the Doctor's timeline and reversing every one his victories.
Clara realizes that she too can enter the column and help the Doctor all through the years. She steps into the column and is torn into a million fragments, living her life over and over throughout the Doctor's timeline, becoming the Impossible Girl.
• The teaser starts off with Clara popping up Forrest Gump-like throughout the Doctor's past. We see scenes of her interacting, sort of, with the First, Sixth, Fourth, Seventh, Third, Second, Fifth and of course Eleventh Doctors. Why no love for Eight, Nine and Ten? Was the episode running long and their scenes were cut for time?
UPDATE! I'm told that the Tenth Doctor did appear in the teaser in the televised broadcast, but for some reason he was cut from the online version. Odd. The BBCs way of smoking out pirates?
That said, the teaser scene was pretty well done. It couldn't have been easy combining archive video (fifty years old in some cases!) with brand new high def footage.
• And here I
thought Let's Kill Hitler took the prize for Worst Title Of All Time. But suddenly a new contender rises from the pack! The Name Of The Doctor? Yeesh. How about The Fields Of Trenzalore? The Fall Of The Eleventh? Or the most obvious one of all, The Impossible Girl?
• The video monitor in the repair shop flashes "ALERT" as the Doctor steals the TARDIS.
Since they're on Gallifrey, shouldn't the readout look more like this? You know, in the circle-y lettering that's been established as Gallifrean?
And why did the technicians just stand there and watch him steal it? Why bother having an alert if you're not going to act on it?
• Apparently Clara was the one who told the Doctor which TARDIS to take. Hmm. In The Doctor's Wife, didn't the TARDIS tell him that it chose him? Whoops!
• After hearing about it for fifty years, we finally see
the time the Doctor stole the TARDIS. As the Doctor and Susan fly off
in it, we see that the default appearance of a TARDIS is apparently a
plain grey cylinder with a slightly recessed door. Have we ever seen that in any
• Oy, Artie and the face-slappable Angie make another appearance. Fortunately it was brief.
• In Victorian London, Madame Vastra visits a serial killer named Clarence DeMarco in prison. He's obviously insane, but knows about the Whisper Men and has more knowledge about the planet Trenzalore than would be considered normal.
How in the heck did he get that info? Did he overhear the Whisper Men, er, whispering?
• When the Doctor and Clara land on Trenzalore, they find a lifeless gloomy world full of gravestones. I have to admit this is not how I pictured it when I first heard the Trenzalore prophecy. I expected something more like... I don't know, a green field. This is not a complaint against the episode mind you, just a personal observation.
• The TARDIS refuses to land on Trenzalore and shuts itself down, except for the antigravs. The Doctor shuts them off and the TARDIS falls violently to the surface. As it falls we hear a high-pitched woman's scream.
So who's screaming here? Is it Clara? It doesn't sound much like her, although I will admit I probably don't know what she sounds like when she's plummeting to certain death in a space ship. Surely it isn't the Doctor squealing like a girl. So that leaves... the TARDIS itself doing the screaming. Weird!
• The Doctor says the gravestones on Trenzalore of those of fallen warriors. Do soldiers usually get buried where they fall on the battlefield? Complete with tombstones? I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. This is an alien planet though, so I'll let it go.
• Clara spots an enormous monument in the distance that looks like the TARDIS. The Doctor says it IS the TARDIS. He tells her that it's dying and all the infinite space inside is leaking out, causing it to grow to gigantic proportions. Unexpected, but kind of cool.
So if the TARDIS really is infinite, if all it's insides were to all spill out when it dies would it fill up the entire universe?
• The biggest question I have about this episode: Where was the Silence? What happened to them? Wasn't this their whole reason for existence; to prevent the Doctor from ever uttering his name on the fields of Trenzalore, which would supposedly destroy the universe? Yes, a couple of seasons ago the Doctor tricked them into thinking he was killed at Lake Silencio, but you'd think maybe they might want to post a guard or two by the Tomb Of The Doctor, just to make sure nothing happened.
Maybe it was a question of time. This episode was already jam-packed; bringing in the Silence to stop the Doctor and oppose the Great Intelligence would have been too much.
• Strax continues to have trouble recognizing human genders. I guess it's understandable for a member of a race of cloned males.
• Fortunately for Jenny, Strax remembers his training as a nurse. He uses some sort of Sontaran medical doohicky to shock her heart back into beating. Normally this is the part where I would rant that defibrillators do not work this way, but since Strax was using an alien device which no doubt functions in alien ways, I'll let it go this once.
I liked the exchange between Strax and Vastra after he revived Jenny. Strax says, "The heart is a relatively simple thing." Vastra replies, "I have not found it to be so."
• A couple episodes back in Journey To The Center Of The TARDIS, Clara wanders into the TARDIS' library and sees a book called The History Of The Great Time War. She turns a page of the book and says, "So that's who!" It's implied that she read the true name of the Doctor in the book.
However at the end of that episode the Doctor hit the reset button, rewinding time so that the events of that show never happened, effectively erasing his name from her memory.
• I was impressed that the mystery of Clara was answered as promised and was so simple and easy to follow. This is a Steven Moffatt episode after all and most of the time his plot resolutions are overly convoluted and make little or no sense (I'm lookin' at you again, The Angels Take Manhattan). Well done.
• I was kind of hoping Clara would somehow turn out to be a regenerated Susan Foreman, but this was good too.
• As soon as I found out the title of this episode several weeks ago, I was afraid they'd actually say the Doctor's true name and it would turn out to be "God" or something equally ridiculous. I'm glad we didn't actually get to hear it. Some mysteries should remain unsolved.
Everyone watching probably has an idea of what it is in their mind, and whatever name the producers chose would inevitably be a letdown.
That said I will admit that titling the episode as they did and then not actually revealing his name was a bit of a tease and a fake out.
• So a few episodes back we saw that the TARDIS apparently didn't like Clara. I figured the reason why had something to do with the mystery surrounding her. So... here we are. The mystery of The Impossible Girl has been revealed and I'm not really seeing anything about it that would upset the TARDIS. Is it because Clara is fragmented? Is that why the TARDIS' panties are in a bunch? Or does it just plain hate her guts for no reason?
• I'm sure Richard E. Grant is a fine actor, but his Dr. Simeon was a bit of let down here. In fact he was downright dull. Doctor Who needs hungry villains eager to chew the scenery until the studio's bare, not bad guys who seem like they're on the verge of nodding off.
• The Whisper Men were a bit underwhelming as well. They certainly looked cool, as all of Steven Moffatt's many bad guys always do, but in the end they never actually did anything or seemed much of a threat. What exactly are their powers? Um... they whisper. And hiss. And stick their hands into your chest. OK, that last power is kind of scary, but overall they were just as dull as their master.
And where the bloody hell did they come from? Last time we saw Dr. Simeon he commanded an army of snowmen. Now suddenly he's got a posse of dapper ghouls with pointy teeth and no eyes. Where'd he dig them up? None of our business I guess.
• Once the Doctor's back on his feet, he says goodbye to River Song's ghost, or archived image or whatever she is. He plants a big kiss on her lips, then the realization crosses his face as he says, "Since nobody else in this room can see you, god knows how that looked." HAW HAW!
• After Clara jumps into the Doctor's time stream, she lands in a foggy void, which I think is supposed to be somewhere inside the Doctor's memory. Several of the Doctor's past selves jog past her, including the First, Sixth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth (I think) and Fourth. A bit later Clara says she's seen all eleven Doctors, but I can't for the life of me spot the Eighth one in any of these scenes. Maybe the one I thought was the Tenth was really the Eighth?
• The Doctor rescues Clara from the void, which looks different from the ruins of Trenzalore. Are they in the Doctor's memory of the Time War?
They see a man in the shadows. Clara asks who it is, and the Doctor replies that it's him, but he's not the Doctor, whatever that means. Could he be the Valeyard, the future dark version of the Doctor who's supposed to appear between his Twelfth an final incarnation? Or someone new?
Fans have always assumed that the Eighth Doctor fought in the Great Time War (which pitted the Time Lords against the Daleks, resulting in the destruction of both races). Maybe that's not what happened at all. What if THIS is the Doctor who fought in the Time War-- the true Ninth Doctor, and all the ones after him get bumped up a number, making Matt Smith the Twelfth? I think my head just exploded a little bit.
It was very odd that they felt the need to add a caption as this unknown Doctor stepped into view. Thanks, BBC, but I know who John Hurt is and I recognize him when I see him.
Whoever he is, we'll have to wait until freakin' November to find out during the Fiftieth Anniversary Special. Jesus, I hate these long season breaks. You could almost carry a kid to term between seasons. I wish there was some way to fix this, but I guess short seasons with long breaks between is just the way television works these days.
See you in November!