Doctor Who Review: A Song in Trenzalore

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Well, they sure tricked us all with the title of this episode, didn't they?

We didn't learn "The Name of the Doctor," but with the return of the much beloved River Song, she was able to use it to open a secret passage to his tomb to save the lives of his friends. We finally learned the fate of River and a bit more information on The Impossible Girl, Clara Oswald. Let's dive into The Doctor's life path, shall we?

It was such a fun catch how they imported Clara into scenes featuring The Doctors of yore. They didn't return, per se, but were included in the episode in a way that allowed an explanation as to why Clara was the Impossible Girl. Exactly what an Impossible Girl is, we don't know, but my supposition is she's been the silent companion of every Doctor all along.

She's the whisper in his ear when he has one of those break-through moments that makes him spin in a circle as if a light bulb has gone off in his head. She keeps him on the right path to ensure his safety and sacrifices herself again and again to keep him alive. Just as there have been many Doctors, there have been many Claras, but they have lived a combination of real and invisible lives.

Doctor Who Finale Photo

Our current Doctor, the 11th, was the first to see her and bring her into his life.

Kudos to Steven Moffat for bringing this story alive and for creating a history that made sense in the scope of the series from day one. It even explains why she remains her age in every incarnation, and why she came alive in the year she did at the start of the series. I love the idea and I'm wondering when a new doctor is introduced how they will explain her away, should it come back to that. If Moffat is in charge, I'm sure it will be done stunningly.

The reintroduction of River Song into this episode and in the manner in which it was done was perfect. We finally learned why The Doctor can unashamedly have flirty feelings for Clara - because River is dead. Granted, in some timeline somewhere she was dead, but we know she died saving him and he created a perfect copy to save in a database. He doesn't like endings.

The easy friendship that formed between River and Clara was very welcome and I appreciated that River's love for and history with The Doctor wasn't forgotten or brushed aside. He loved her dearly and misses her still. However, he also knows she is gone and spent a good portion of the hour ignoring her to keep himself from pain. This Doctor Who quote surely had many swooning:

River: How are you even doing that? I'm not really here.
The Doctor: You're always here to me. And I always listen. And I can always see you.
River: Then why didn't you speak to me?
The Doctor: Because I thought it would hurt too much.
River: I believe I could have coped.
The Doctor: No, I thought it would hurt me. And I was right. {Kisses} Since nobody else in this room can see you, God knows how that looked. | permalink

River admitted she was sticking around because she hadn't had a proper goodbye. But before she left, she gave her own sort of approval stamp onto The Doctor moving on with Clara, should he choose to do so, by admitting if he were going to jump into his own timeline and break the paradox he might as well know that River was most likely still standing in front of him because she and Clara were bound together, and therefore, Clara was most likely still alive. Nice push, River.

The hardened Doctor that was around for the episodes that lead up to the changing of the guard and the retiring of Amy and Rory is hardly to be found in the one we watched tonight, who was willing to give up his life by visiting his grave at Trenzalore to save his faithful friends Vastra, Jenny and Strax and to jump straight into his own life stream to rescue Clara, who had spent many lifetimes doing the same for him.

When Clara mentioned Trenzalore the first time, the emotional range exhibited by Matt Smith, wiping away tears at the thought of what he must do to save those who had been so good to him and had asked no questions in return, brought me to tears. Every cast member was on high alert for the finale, and even Richard E Grant as the Great Intelligence, the one who needed The Doctor's name to try to rewrite his history and right what he considered all the wrongs committed by The Doctor, was a little less cartoonish than usual.

As for the Whisper Men, they were far more frightening than last week's Cybermen, instilling genuine fear as they scowled and growled ready to rip the hearts from The Doctor's friends. They were not dissimilar from Buffy The Vampire Slayers' Gentlemen.

The greatest reveal, it turned out, was not The Doctor's name, or that River was dead and gone, or that Clara was The Impossible Girl, a true companion of ever Doctor since they first existed. It was that The Doctor apparently hadn't always chosen the name, and in doing caused some serious damage....or something. I'm not quite sure. Clara had never run into him, and he knew of all The Doctors. The Doctor standing before them at the end was, perhaps, the Eleventh Doctor, name not chosen, as he would have been if he had taken a different course in life.

In movie style fashion, as actor John Hurt was revealed, he was also noted to be "The Doctor." That's the big surprise and set up for the 50th anniversary special that will air in November. November now seems a lifetime away. Who is this man and what will become of our Doctor? Will there be concurrent Doctors for an episode or is he the ghost of a Doctor that never came into being?

All I know is if the special is anywhere near as perfect as this finale was, we are in for one hell of a treat. What did you think of the finale? Did the explanation of Clara live up to your expectations? What about the grave of The Doctor? Was the swan song of River Song a fitting conclusion or do you expect to see her again? Let's chat about it!

I'll see you back here in November. Let the waiting game begin!!


Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (155 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


Some have speculated that John Hurt is "The Doctor" before he chose to be "The Doctor". Regardless of who John Hurt is right now, I think that when Matt Smith's time is up (the fall of the Eleventh), The Doctor will regenerate in the image of John Hurt (kind of like Romana 1 --> Romana 2), and JH will be the new Who. Think back also to River Song's farewell in the library before she fried herself. She talked of a much older Doctor taking her out for one last night on the town, crying but not saying why. This could be JH, knowing she's about to head off to the Library. Just my speculation...


First, I don't think River's run is over yet. When she died in the library she was uploaded into a computer system that had already uploaded and held thousands of people for over 100 years before downloading them again. The idea that she was in the conference call might indicate that she was more than just spirit, and would explain her grave at Trenzalor and her ever-present "spoilers"--indicating there's more to come.
Second, I'm betting John Hurt has something to do with the time war. If the Valeyard does represent a darker side, Hurt may have been the incarnation who did what was necessary to end the time war, but that resulted in the destruction of both the Daleks, the Time Lords...and himself.


I've always favored the tenth doctor to the eleventh - until this episode. Tennant's doctor was so DEEP. Smith's seemed brittle, scattered, shallow. Not anymore. WOW!!! One question still perplexes me - one loose thread that's been bugging me since the first few scenes of The Bells of St. John: WHO was the "lady in a shop" who gave Clara the doctor's intergalactic phone number and told her that it was "the best helpline in the universe"? Whoever that woman was, she was the crucial pivot point in connecting Clara to the doctor, single-handedly setting the Christmas special and the entire series 7.2, for that matter, into motion. That's a pretty big thread to leave untied. And very UN-Moffet like, don't you think? (I think it may just play out in the special but does anyone have any ideas in the meantime? It's bugging me!)


Sig, I just finished watching this episode and my thoughts were exactly that! The return of the Valeyard! Who else could be the doctor, without actually being the doctor? If we are right, things will get very very interesting next season.


John Hurt is not The Doctor, he is the Valyard.


1. The Doctor has known how and when River would die ever since he first encountered her. She's always been dead as far as he's concerned. But he's always been dead, too. He knows he's going to die, and he even knows where he's going to end up. None of this changes anything from his perspective, even if we are affected by how we see it unfolding. 2. Intellectually, I would say that Clara's fate is tragic. Emotionally, it's ... whatever. She's not much more than a plot device, and that's a shame because she showed a lot of promise initially. 3. I was initially skeptical that John Hurt is the next Doctor, and I see on the net that my skepticism is shared. Since the current Doctor knew who he was, he's very likely to be a past Doctor.


Ilove River Song. I think John Hurt is the anti Doctor. I can't wait to see what happens next.

Sue ann

@ lonniepop She said it when they first met in the Library, and she has said it over and over since then. That is why they kept diaries, and compared timelines, when there was time to do so.


didn't river once tell someone that her and the doctor keep meeting in her past and his future? or something along those lines?


Doctor Who had a great season this year, and it’s hard to believe it’s over already. Clara’s story has been one of the best of all the companions and really compelling to watch. Unfortunately I’ve missed out watching last night’s finale live because I was working late at DISH yesterday when it aired. Even though I haven’t seen it yet; I couldn’t help reading the recaps and I can’t wait to watch tomorrow during my commute in to work. I’ve got the DISH Anywhere app installed on my iPad, so I can stream Doctor Who, or any other show, from my DVR wherever I go with access to the internet.

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Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 14 Quotes

I don't know where I am. It's like I'm breaking into a million different pieces and there's only one thing I remember. I have to save The Doctor. He always looks different. Sometimes, I think I'm everywhere at once, running every second, just to save him. Doctor? But he never hears me. Almost never. Having blown into this world on a leaf, I'm still blowing. I don't think I'll ever learn. I'm Clara Oswald. I'm the Impossible Girl. I was born to save The Doctor.


Time travel has always been possible in dreams.

Madame Vastra