And there, on a Saturday evening on BBC One in 2013, was William Hartnell as… The Doctor. Excuse my language but fuck me that was enough to make me explode with joy. After fifty years, finally getting a glimpse of the moment The Doctor decides to run off with a type 40 TARDIS and see the universe was something truly special for me.
And it only went and got better. We saw Doctors one through seven, including that strange moment in Dragonfire where for some reason, Seven decides to crawl down a cliff. I think I’d already decided this was a perfect episode from that 50th montage and that was only the bloody pre credits sequence.
Of course, some of the meshing of archive clips worked better than others, but when you’re watching your childhood colliding with the present day of your favorite program, who really cares?
The Name of The Doctor managed to set up everything that needed to be set up for the 50th shenangins all while answering some questions that have been around for years and still managed to be an enjoyable, witty and in places quite chilling episode.
Did the big question, the Doctor’s name get revealed? No. Of course, it was never going to be answered in a straight forward “my name is…” way and frankly anyone with a fundemental understanding of Doctor Who would have known that from the off. Moffat is a fan and as such knows full well that is a question we never need to hear the answer to.
And if you were expecting an asnwer, it’s hard to have felt shortchanged from this gem of an episode. River’s final farewell was truly quite heartbreaking, seeing The Doctor’s assertion that he hates goodbyes is a deeper glimpse into who he is than his name could ever tell us.
Some might gripe at lack of explanation towards why The Doctor could see and touch River, I couldn’t care less when the payoff was such an emotional scene and that line “God knows how that must have looked”. It would be a shame if this was River’s last appearance but she couldn’t have gone out on a better note.
Matt Smith was firing on all clyinders once again, showing anger, heartbreak and at times, genuine fear. The scene where he found out he had to go to Trenzalore was quite unsettling. This is not how The Doctor is supposed to be and Matt Smith played it perfectly, not too much and not too little emotion.
Strax, Vastra and Jenny still need their own spin off series, that much will never change. I admit I was watching this episode in the fear that one of them would bite the dust and that horribly chilling scene where Jenny realised she had been murdered set the stakes very early on. Frankly, I don’t know what I’d do without my favorite Dinosaur/Victorian Maid Lesbian Crimefighting Couple. Although Strax is genuinely brilliant, his comedy did detract from the drama at times, which felt a little frustrating.
I think Jenna Louise Coleman’s character has come under a lot of unfair criticism this series. She’s constantly been brilliant in my eyes and to be honest I never could really stand Amy Pond. Sorry, world, but I just think Clara is miles ahead.
Some reviews have complained that since we haven’t known Clara that long, her sacrifice doesn’t mean as much. I would argue that surely it means that much more? If she hasn’t known The Doctor that long and is willing to tear her very existence apart to save him, I think that’s pretty big.
Incidentally, The Doc and Clara’s chemistry was great here. Maybe it’s because Clara finally saw a deeper side to The Doctor, but they really seem to care about each other much more in this one. Although I am glad River wasn’t sidelined so The Doctor could canoodle with Clara as I initially feared.
There isn’t too much to say about The Whispermen and Richard E Grant. Grant is always brilliant and hopefully we haven’t seen the last of him and while the Whispermen looked creepy as hell, they didn’t really do much besides… whisper. Not that cool.
Oh yeah, introducing John Hurt as The Doctor? Jesus Christ, November 23rd cannot come fast enough.
Like Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, this episode was burdened with perhaps an unfair level of expectation for two reasons. Firstly, the return of the Cybermen. But more importantly than that, the fact that Neil Gaiman was writing the episode.
Of course it didn’t do anything to numb my excitement that Coraline, Neverwhere, and Anansi Boys are some of my all time favorite reads. Factor in that Gaiman also wrote series 6’s sublime The Doctors Wife (probably the best episode of New Who) and watching the episode was more a case of “how shit you’re not” rather than “how good are you?”.
So get the most boring and unfair part out of the way before I review the episode on its own merits: Yes, I was expecting a lot more from Gaiman. Unfair, I know, but there it is. Moving on…
The main draw of the episode for me was the upgraded Cybermen. I was never a fan of the stompy Cybus variety, they looked too much like plain old robots and never really hammered home the point that Cybermen are supposed to be us.
These new chaps are much more muscular and humanlike. A welcome new look after the misfire that were the rainbow Daleks. The fan boy in me also adores the facial resemblance to the Tomb of the Cybermen model.
But besides a new look, it was the fact that they were a real threat again which delighted me. In my opinion the Cybermen haven’t been taken seriously since the Daleks laid a smack down on them all the way back in Doomsday.
Here are a race that can move at super speed, sneak up on you, turn their heads exorcist style and upgrade to overcome any weakness. I’d be interested to see the Daleks take on these Cybermen.
Sadly, the scariest thing about the episode were the child actors though. The girl in particular was such an infuriating little shit that I found it a struggle to care about her at all. Not good when they’re meant to be in peril. Thankfully, they didn’t take up too much screen time, or this episode could have been a hell of a lot worse.
Matt Smith nailed his internal struggle with the Cyber Planner (sadly not the most threatening name going). It’s always good to see a slightly darker side to Eleven, although I do think it could have been a little darker. Ah well, any internal battle which has a brief slideshow of all 11 Doctors does me just fine.
Warwick Davis was great, more of him please. The other soldiers were forgettable and ever so slightly annoying though it was cool to see Clara take charge of the situation. The way she knew it wasn’t the Doctor because he’d never admit how he felt was a nice moment too.
Overall, the Cybermen are scary again. If nothing else this episode achieved that, so that’s cool. It was a fun enough romp but I doubt it’ll stay in the memory for as long as something like… I dunno… The Doctor’s Wife? (sorry).
As a closing remark, I would just like to point out that the fantastic Jason Watkins was wasted as the eccentric park manager. He could have been a fantastic Master, or in my ideal world, The Doctor. Go ahead and watch him again with that in mind. I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.