Doctor Who Review – “The Name of the Doctor”

This is the last new “Who” until November 23. It’s going to be a long wait…

Cast and Crew Information

Matt Smith as The Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman as Clara, the Impossible Girl
Richard E. Grant as the Great Intelligence
Alex Kingston as River Song
Neve McIntosh as Madame Vastra
Dan Starkey as Strax
Catrin Stewart as Jenny Flint

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Saul Metzstein

Availability Information

This is available now through iTunes (Digital: US, CAN). It will be officially available on DVD (US, CAN) and Blu-Ray (US, CAN) on May 28, although some retailers sold it early causing issues with spoilers this week.

Premise

“The Doctor has a secret he will take to his grave. It is discovered.”

High Point

“Run you clever boy, and remember.”

Low Point

Having to wait six months for the next story.

The Review

This feels original to me. This is a different kind of story, undeserving of the fears that have cropped up in advance. I give it 6 out of 6.

The effects were well done. There aren’t as many as in previous season/series finales. This isn’t a Time War; it’s a minor skirmish on Doctor scales, but it’s enough. The only failings are in montage sequences, which are greatly limited by the source material in ways that are obvious when it is watched in HD. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is well done. I’d still like to know where the Whisper Men come from, but that’s a minor point. The rest does a very effective job of tying together threads that run through the entire reboot from 2005 until now. I give it 6 out of 6.

The acting is spot on. It wouldn’t be a Doctor Who finale without tears of pain and triumph, and we get them all, and every single one is convincing. I give it 6 out of 6.

The production is excellent. This team knows exactly what they’re doing, and unlike most US networks, the BBC allows for significant lead time in production so they can get it right. I give it 6 out of 6.

The emotional response is everything it should be. The series puts the characters before the action, even though they are often in the thick of the action. Every moment resonates. I had a heck of a time picking the episode’s high point, since there were just SO DAMN MANY to choose from. I also can’t remember the last time I saw a cliffhanger that threw me for this big a loop. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great episode. Not just a great “Doctor Who” episode, but a great episode of any TV show, period. 6 out of 6.

In total, The Name of the Doctor receives 41 out of 42.

19 replies on “Doctor Who Review – “The Name of the Doctor””

  1. JD DeLuzio says:

    While I found some of the interplay with Riversong cheesy, even by Doctor Who standards, I thought the explanation for the Impossible Girl worked, and they gave us some real conflict over it.

    I was more willing to excuse the effects that were limited by the old footage. Given the source material they had (and the fact that they don’t have a Lucasfilms budget), I thought they did a good job of having Clare interact with past incarnations of the Doctor.

    Q: Really, why is his name an issue?

    • Kiersten says:

      Why is is name an issue?
      Immediate response is: Because the show is called Doctor WHO! :)

      Philosophical response..
      Interesting question certainly worth pondering.

    • There have been hints that his birth name is too revealing. I can see that: if you were a Dalek and knew his birth name, finding him as a baby and eliminating the threat in advance would be too easy.

      In the context of this episode, which probably isn’t what you’re asking, it’s not his birth name that’s significant, but the name he chose for himself. I’m betting John Hurt, who didn’t use that name, fits between McGann and Eccelston rather than before Hartnell, and that he took extreme measures to win the Time War that the Great Intelligence was so kind to remind us about.

      • Dark Nexus says:

        In regards to the back half of your spoilered text, that’s my thought as well.

  2. Matt says:

    Wow, this is not the review I’d’ve written. It is fairly original although I was reminded very much of Rose scattering Bad Wolf through the timeline to bring them to that point. I suppose if you travel in time a lot you’re bound to see quite a few closed loops though. Some of the effects were rather sub-par in my estimation, mostly in the realm of virtual set-building. And physical set-building as well.

    I thought the story pacing was rather off. The opening scene gave away everything before the programme had even started, and thus took away any dramatic tension I might’ve enjoyed for the rest of the episode. They didn’t even keep the fate of minor characters hanging for more than a minute or two. Maybe more can be made of this now that the Doctor and Clara know who she is, but after spending most of the time since her introduction using it as a mere afterthought I was hoping for a bit more.

    I also still don’t understand the situation with River, because there was never a reason for her not to be around anymore and there has to be more to their relationship than this, doesn’t there?

    Overall, very disappointing and more worthy of Russell T Davies’ era than Moffatt’s. I’ve not scored it up by category but I’d be surprised if it got as much as 30 from me.

  3. Kiersten says:

    I adored this episode.
    It was everything I was expecting and more (except I’m still waiting for a nod to Sarah Jane Smith.)

    Answers and more questions.
    Tears for Riversong.
    (Do you think she might have a psychic link to the TARDIS?)

    • Jethro says:

      I’m on friggin vacation and I still had to watch this episode. I was going to save it for the flight home but meh.

      I loved it too. To me, River’s last scene was the high point.

      • River’s scene was a contender. It came down to the one I chose and to “There’s really no point in telling you it’s too dangerous, is there?” “None at all. How do we save them?”

  4. Kiersten says:

    From a status on FB:
    “my 10 yo … asked me … this morning (we didn’t watch together). He said, ‘Which set were the real Doctor and Clara? Because they weren’t in both places at once.'”

    There are apparently some people who noticed that…
    Now I gotta go back and watch again.. and I won’t have time till later today!! *cries*

    • Wait..what? When was there a second set?

      • Kiersten says:

        When you watch it, there is a huge cut from when the Doctor and Clara are IN the TARDIS to they suddenly are outside the TARDIS tomb.

        Either bad cut.. something cut out, or something else…

  5. crow says:

    Was there any attempt to include the eighth Doctor?

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      I didn’t notice if there was. Too bad, since they could have had her actually interacting with McGann, if they had wanted to do new footage with him. According to an interview he did awhile back, he would have been happy to be involved.

      • Kiersten says:

        Isn’t it true the some don’t count him as a true Doctor?
        /sarcasm on
        And if so, isn’t this brilliant of Moffat to throw even more gears into the works?
        Or even eliminate him from the entire canon?
        /sarcasm off

        Either way, can’t wait till November… it’s SOOO far away!!

        • crow says:

          Well, they’ve been making a big deal out of Smith being the 11th Doctor, and they’ve always considered McGann to be canon. While it might have been better not to (especially with that half-human line), I think that it’s start with Sylvester McCoy is what sealed it in the Canon.

          I suppose they could do something where John Hurt is the eighth Doctor, so as to keep the numbering correct, but I think it’s far too late to mess with it now.

          • They haven’t officially pointed out that John Hurt is a past Doctor, he could be 13 or the Valeyard or something.

            Also, McGann has shown up in flashbacks. McGann also said the line that he was half human, but the Doctor has said many things. “The Doctor lies”.

            The Doctor Who Podcast pointed out that now we know who was in the room at the hotel in “Gods and Monsters.”

            Also, did anyone else wonder how a crazy death’s row psychopath learned enough to set this all into motion?

            • quantaman says:

              The current Doctor apparently knew about him which suggests a Doctor from the past, plus there’s all the time war stuff they’ve hinted at. Have they ever established anything about what influences his post regeneration form? I like the idea of an old Doctor being responsible for the whatever happened that he’s running from, and the current trend of each regeneration getting younger and less mature is an effort to distance himself from that past incarnation.

    • Yes, but only briefly. There is a rights issue, where they can use still images of McGann, but not video, due to the arrangements after Universal Vivendi bought the rights from Fox. That’s why his face has appeared in montages but the motion sequences here only vaguely showed someone dressed like him that couldn’t be definitively identified as him.

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