Saturday, 18 May 2013

Review: Doctor Who - The Name of the Doctor

Prior to the highly-anticipated fiftieth anniversary special expected to celebrate the history of Doctor Who, the equally-highly-anticipated ‘The Name of the Doctor’ beats it to the punch, offering us a story that encompasses the Doctor’s entire life. And intervenes in it liberally. A mysterious conference call from Madame Vastra and the scheming of the Great Intelligence takes the Doctor and Clara to Trenzalore, the one place in the universe the Doctor must never go; to his grave. Where his greatest secret will be revealed…Or will it? As we expect from Moffat series finales, this episode actually raises more questions than it answers. In this case, though, this is entirely fitting, meaning ‘Name of the Doctor’ is a fantastic way to conclude the series.

The atmosphere is unique compared to other episodes of this series (think, the thrills of ‘The Crimson Horror’ and the whimsical ‘Nightmare in Silver’), being distinctly funereal. There are a few surprisingly hilarious lines sprinkled throughout– when isn't there when Strax is involved? – but largely it's full of doom and gloom which, conversely, really, keeps the momentum up, aided by Matt Smith’s masterful performance and Saul Metzstein’s skilful direction. The fabled Fields of Trenzalore – first mentioned in ‘The Wedding of River Song’ back in 2011 – are suitably imposing and properly deathly-looking, with its thunder-clapped sky and the gigantic TARDIS tombstone being particular highlights.

The supporting cast is well-used. Vastra, Jenny and Strax add to that feeling that the series has come together and River Song also gets a touching fleeting appearance here that might possibly be her last ever. On the monster side of things, the Great Intelligence’s silent henchman – really, they must be related in someway to Moffat’s bulbous-headed, suited-and-booted aliens – are an absolute treat. Though they are not an integral part of the episode there is enough of them on show to make them memorable villains. Their penchant for speaking in rhyme is another Moffat monster masterstroke – slightly moving on from his usual repeated phrase motif. Richard E Grant of course entertainingly hams it up as Mr. G. Intelligence, intent on getting revenge on his old enemy.  However, he’s far from the only link to the Doctor’s past on show…

Yes, if any Doctor Who episode has been written for fans it is this one. This is an episode that rightfully revels in the show’s long past and literally inserts itself amongst it. The mystery of Clara, the Doctor’s impossible girl, is solved in the only way that made, a strange sort of, sense and the show is kicked off in an all–new direction with a flabbergasting cliffhanger that will definitely keep fans gnawing at their fingernails until 23rd November. It’s sure to be good.

This may have been more of a stream of praise than an actual review but that is because this episode does everything a finale should. Looking back to not only recent episodes but also the whole history of the series while also creating stepping stones to the future of Doctor Who. In all, ‘The Name of the Doctor’ is a triumph, concluding a short series of episodes of a great consistent standard. Fitting for this very special year for the show.

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