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!!

The Name of the Doctor Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (181 Votes)

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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Doctor Who Season 7 Episode 14 Quotes

Time travel has always been possible in dreams.

Madame Vastra

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.