‘Doctor Who’ 7.13 Episode Recap and Review: The Name of the Doctor

The season finale of Doctor Who! Explanations abound!

Madame Vastra has been called to the cell of a notorious serial killer. He wants to take a pass on the whole hanging gig, and has information to trade. Information about the Doctor and Trenzalore. Madame Vastra convenes a mental “conference call” that includes herself, Jenny, Strax, Clara, and appearing for the first time since we lost the Ponds, River Song. Vastra’s criminal has the time/space coordinates for Trenzalore, which houses the Doctor’s greatest secret. Before the council can decide what to do with the information, the Whispermen, blank-faced men in top hats, use the distraction of the conference call to kidnap Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and take them to their master, the Great Intelligence.

Clara wakes from the call to find the Doctor in her house once more. She passes on the Great Intelligence’s message: come to Trenzalore or the trio will die. The Doctor tells Clara that Trenzalore is the one place that he, as a time traveler, should never ever find himself, because Trenzalore is where his grave is. Of course, the Doctor can’t just let Vastra, Jenny, and Strax die, so he grabs Clara, hops in the TARDIS, and heads to Trenzalore.

When they arrive, the Doctor’s grave is rather easy to spot. He’s buried in his TARDIS, which is no longer quite as dimensionally transcendental as it once was. In fact, it’s rather massive. It’s locked, though, and only the Doctor’s name will get them inside. The Doctor is confronted by the Great Intelligence, who wants to open the Doctor’s tomb and find out what’s in there. The Doctor refuses to say his name, not even to save everyone from the Whispermen, but he isn’t the only one present who knows it. River’s echo is mentally linked to Clara, and the Doctor’s name in her voice is enough to do the trick.

Inside the dead TARDIS isn’t the Doctor’s body, as one would expect. It’s the Doctor’s time traces, the “scar tissue” he’s left in time because of his travels. The paradox of being this close to the time traces is too much for the Doctor, and he collapses. The Great Intelligence enters the Doctor’s time traces with the intention of destroying his life; undoing every good thing he’s ever done, reversing every victory, and making his life one of unending torment. It begins to work. Jenny, whom the Doctor had once saved, disappears. The stars begin to wink out. Strax becomes violent and must be killed by Madame Vastra. Clara knows there’s only one way to put things right. She steps into the time traces, both killing herself and creating a million copies everywhere in space and time, thus explaining Oswin Oswald and Governess Clara. She’s even the one who told the Doctor which TARDIS to steal.

The Doctor is safe, but he refuses to let Clara die. River yells that he can’t enter his own time traces, and to her very great shock, the Doctor answers her. He admits that he’s always been able to see her, but tht talking to her would have been too painful. They say what may have been their very last goodbye, and the Doctor enters his timestream. He manages to save Clara, but the Doctors that Clara has met throughout his lifetime aren’t the only ones in there. There’s another that she doesn’t recognize. Our Doctor does, though. He’s the one who’s done terrible things, who has “broken the promise” of the Doctor’s name. He’s one of the Doctor’s regenerations, but the Eleventh refuses to acknowledge him by that name. So who is he? We’ll find out sometime in November!

Alright, so that was rather brilliant. The mystery of Clara being the Impossible Girl has been solved, and now we know that our Clara is, for all intents and purposes, Clara Prime. River Song appears to have said her final goodbye (author acknowledges that this could be a negative point for some readers, and out of respect for those readers will refrain from admitting that she occasionally re-watches “Forest of the Dead” with a sense of impending glee for the ending). Did anyone else love all of the classic Who references as much as I did? Because those were fantastic. I just enjoyed the dickens out of this episode all the way around, really.

Enough with the gushing. Now for the nitpicking. So that was Trenzalore, huh? The great mythic place in which no question may go unanswered? It seems that we rather skipped the mythos that was built up around Trenzalore last season. Also, the Whispermen, for all the buzz that they got prior to the episode’s airing, were painfully underdeveloped. Especially if they were menacing enough in-universe to have their own creepy nursery rhyme. I would have loved to see more of their backstory, or even an explanation more than “The Great Intelligence needs bodies.” Well, we’ve proven that no Who villain is ever really dead, so maybe we’ll get that chance in another season, yeah?

Next up, the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special! David Tennant and Billie Piper are confirmed. What I want to know is whether Tennant is playing Original Ten or Pete’s World Ten. What do you think?

Best Quotes:
The Doctor: “Since nobody else in this room can see you, God knows how that looked.”

The Doctor (John Hurt): “What I did, I did without choice in the name of peace and sanity.”
The Doctor: “But not in the name of The Doctor.”

Things to ponder:

  • So I’m guessing John Hurt is the Time War Doctor? 8.5, maybe? Does this mean we have to shift the naming scheme of all of the newer Doctors?
  • When the stars were going out again, do you think those were individual adventures gone wrong, or was that a reference to the Stars Going Out in the “Stolen Earth”/”Journey’s End” two-parter?


  1. It was good to finally see how Clara was so many people throughout history, and I liked how that was explained. What I don’t understand is why we didn’t see future incarnations of the Doctor. Are they trying to say he’s going to be the one who dies at Trenzalore? It gave that impression when Clara saw John Hurt at the end and wondered who he was since she’d seen all eleven Doctors. That bit doesn’t really make sense, all things considered. I have no idea who John Hurt is supposed to be either. I guess he’d have to be a past incarnation, unless being in his own time stream allowed the Doctor to see the future and that’s how he knew who he was.

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