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Doctor Who - The Name of the Doctor & the 50th Anniversary Special

Updated on May 12, 2016

Today, many secrets were revealed and many questions were asked, as the season finale of Doctor Who has arrived. The episode, "The Name of the Doctor", managed to help seemingly wrap up a several season long story arc that started in the episode "The Eleventh Hour" involving the Silence and the greatest secret in the universe, the Doctor's name.

For those that are fans of the older series and not just the revived series from 2005, this was by far one of the most nostalgia-laced episodes to be aired so far, if not the most. It's no coincidence that this episode would be dotted with such moments, seeing as how 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the franchise and this episode is leading into the actual 50th anniversary special airing in November, but for a fan of Doctor Who, this episode is as good as it gets!

So what all happened in the episode, and just how did such a long story arc come to an end?

The Truth Behind Clara

Since the episode "Asylum of the Daleks", one of the biggest mysteries has been the secret behind Clara Oswald, the Impossible Girl. For those that aren't aware, Clara, played by Jenna-Louise Coleman, first appeared in Asylum as Oswin Oswald, a woman seemingly trapped in a crashed spaceship before it is eventually revealed that she was a converted Dalek. Oswin, overcoming the Dalek programming that threatened to overtake her mind, sacrificed herself to save the Doctor, lowering the shield around the Asylum to allow the Doctor to transmat out while also deleting him from the entire collective database of the Dalek empire.

She appeared again as Clara Oswin Oswald in the Christmas special "The Snowmen", a governess and tavern girl whom the Doctor meets and then later saves from an ice creation of the Old One, the Great Intelligence. It is from her last words as she dies from the attack that he realizes that she and Oswin are the same person, causing him to set out and find her again.

He finally meets Clara Oswald in the episode "The Bells of Saint John", and she becomes his traveling companion from that moment on, unaware of the previous encounters that she had with the Doctor during the aforementioned episodes.

In "The Name of the Doctor" her appearances in the past were finally explained, that they were echoes of herself split across time to protect the Doctor. Dr. Walter Simeon, an ally now turned host to the Great Intelligence from "The Snowmen", brought several of the Doctor's friends and allies to the planet Trenzalore in order to unlock the tomb of the Doctor in order to infiltrate his timeline and alter the course of history so that every victory of the Doctor's would become a defeat.

Clara, realizing why she was "the Impossible Girl", follows after Dr. Simeon into the Doctor's time stream and is split into millions of echoes of herself, meeting the Doctor in every past regeneration and altering the course of time to its original state.

Though there were millions of different points she appeared in all in all, a handful were directly shown through flashbacks.

1. The First Doctor - Clara appeared as the Doctor was preparing to steal one of the TARDISes from Gallifrey, seemingly choosing the wrong one until Clara appeared and suggested the one that would become his TARDIS, saying that the navigation was a bit "knackered" but he'd have a lot more fun with that one.
2. The Second Doctor - Bumped into the Second Doctor at some unspecified point in his timeline as he was running through a park. It should be noted that the footage of the Patrick Troughton was spliced from the serial "The Five Doctors", when the Second Doctor and Lethbridge-Stewart are trying to run away from a Time Scoop.
3. The Third Doctor - Clara called out to him (seen from one of the side mirrors of his car Bessie) as he was driving along the road. This footage was also taken from the serial "The Five Doctors".
4. The Fourth Doctor - Clara appears at the back of a corridor as the Doctor leaves it. This footage is taken from the serial "The Invasion of Time"
5. The Fifth Doctor - Clara falls down on top of the Time Lord Matrix as the Doctor's mind is trapped within and calls out to him with no avail. This is taken from the serial "The Arc of Infinity".

Clara and the Sixth Doctor
Clara and the Sixth Doctor

6. The Sixth Doctor - During some unknown part of this incarnation's timeline, he walks behind her through what appears to be one of the corridors of the TARDIS.

7. The Seventh Doctor - She runs to a locked door at the end of a corridor on the TARDIS and calls out his name as he dangles from a walkway by his umbrella. This footage is taken from the serial "Dragonfire".

8. The Eighth Doctor - She also bumps into the Eighth Doctor as he is running alongside the Second Doctor in the same park. This would indicate some unchronicled meeting of the two at some point in their respective timelines.

9. The Ninth Doctor - The only Doctor for Clara to not appear in a scene with.

10. The Tenth Doctor - Clara is seen at one point overlooking New New York during the Tenth Doctor episode "Gridlock".

John Hurt as the mysterious incarnation of the Doctor
John Hurt as the mysterious incarnation of the Doctor

Leading into the 50th Anniversary Special

In the last few minutes of the special, following Clara splitting herself into the millions of echoes to help protect the Doctor's many timestreams, she fell into a dark recess where all the streams converged, and eventually, alongside the Eleventh Doctor, came across a version of himself that Clara was unable to recognize as the Doctor. The Doctor told her that this was some version of himself that didn't follow the promise that he made to uphold the sanctity of that name, and, as the figure said that he did what he had to do "in the name of peace and sanity", the Doctor responded that while that was true, it wasn't in the name of the Doctor.

The updated Zygon design for the 50th anniversary special.
The updated Zygon design for the 50th anniversary special.

This character, played by famed actor John Hurt, has been confirmed as being a major part of the upcoming 50th anniversary special, alongside the Tenth Doctor, played by David Tennant, and his companion Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. Though details as to the special have been kept quiet so far, what we do know is that the Zygons, a villainous alien race that appeared in the Fourth Doctor serial "Terror of the Zygons", but have remained off screen since despite their relative popularity.

While the return of David Tennant and the Zygons are causing quite a buzz, the main focus of current debates and theories regarding the 50th anniversary special is just what this new incarnation of the Time Lord might be and where does he fit in with the other incarnations of the Doctor.

One of the theories picking up the most steam, and the one that I personally agree with, is that this is the "Doctor" during the course of the Time War, and he was responsible for seizing control of "the Moment" and destroying both the Time Lords and the Daleks before eventually regenerating into the Ninth Doctor played by Christopher Eccleston. Though fan theory and non-canon fiction up to this point has led us to believe that it was the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann, that was responsible for the end of the Time War, the truth is, is that there's been no canon evidence to say for certain that it was his incarnation.

We know that John Hurt's "Doctor" is a past incarnation, since the Eleventh Doctor knows immediately who it is and acknowledges that what he did was something that has already passed, so it couldn't be some later version of the Doctor that has yet to appear. While some would argue that this shouldn't be the case, since there have been multiple times that the Doctor or some other being has revealed his past and shown all his previous regenerations, one has to take into account that they were representations of the Doctor, whom the Eleventh Doctor says that this "version" of him is not. Episodes such as "The Next Doctor", "The Eleventh Hour", and "Nightmare in Silver" all show every known and established regeneration, but they were all in the context of being "the Doctor".

The Doctor, whose name is the source of why doctors are known as healers, would see something like genocide of multiple civilizations as an affront to the very person that he was, and could easily see that version of him as having "broken the promise" associated with his name. However, because of the threat that the Daleks and the Time Lords posed to the universe, he still saw it as an action that he was justified in making "in the name of peace and sanity".

Though it's likely just because she was saving the Doctors that Clara didn't recognize or come across John Hurt's incarnation, it's possible that she wasn't able to because his entire existence was during the Time War, which was time locked from any outside contact. She might have been completely unable to permeate the barrier surrounding the Time War, and as such would have never encountered him at any point.

It is possible then that, despite this being the Eleventh Doctor, it is possibly the twelfth incarnation of the Time Lord, and that John Hurt's incarnation (or perhaps Eccleston's) saw that he was unfit to use the name Doctor due to his actions, and tried to suppress the knowledge of his actions in that form from others.

Thoughts on the Episode and Beyond.

I was waiting anxiously for this episode basically since the Silence first established why they existed, to stop the Doctor before he could arrive on Trenzalore and reveal the answer to the Question. For the first time, we finally realized just why his name being kept a secret was so important, what might happen should it be revealed to the wrong person, and why the Silence would go to such lengths to kill him so as for that moment to never happen. Fortunately, I can say that I was not disappointed, because I found it to be an amazing episode.

As a fan of the original series as well as the revived, I was excited to see all the older Doctors appear, even if but for a moment. I enjoyed Dr. Simeon and his Whisper Men, though despite their menacing bravado, I didn't really find any of them to be particularly effective. I think that the episode might have worked better as a two-part series primarily so that they could build up Dr. Simeon a bit more, perhaps show exactly what he did in a few of the timelines to corrupt them rather than just leave them as brief scenes with Richard E. Grant inserted into the footage.

Two scenes in particular that I found particularly amazing and filled me with many different emotions was when Clara was relating to the Doctor about her encounter with River Song and Dr. Simeon in the dream world, and later the reveal of John Hurt as "the Doctor".

With the initial scene, as subtle as it was, it really showed just how effective of an actor that Matt Smith is. You could see the combination of fear, panic, and sorrow on his face and hear it in his voice as he asked her if it was really Trenzalore that was mentioned, and how desperately the Doctor was trying to hold back from crying over what that place meant to him and his future.

With the scene with John Hurt, despite that so little is actually said, it's immediate just how the Eleventh Doctor views his version of his past self, and as a cliffhanger for the 50th anniversary special really left me in anticipation for November.

I think the one thing I disliked the most though was that, despite the entire Eleventh Doctor era revolving around them trying to prevent the Doctor from reaching Trenzalore in order to answer the Question, there is no mention of the Silence at any point during the episode. Though the primary race belonging to the Silence (which is established as an organization, not a race) gave the order for their own execution in the episode "Day on the Moon", I see it hard to believe that members of the primary race as well as other members of the organization wouldn't have still existed by this time. Likewise, even though they were led to believe that the Doctor died during the events of "The Wedding of River Song", I see it hard to believe that they wouldn't keep a watchful eye on Trenzalore, just in case. This may not be the exact event that they were predicting/fearing, but it would have still been a major situation that they should have interfered with.

Despite this, I still think this was the best season finale for the revived series yet, and I can't wait for November.

What did you think of the season finale?

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    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 4 years ago from United States

      I have been watching Doctor Who since I was a very little girl. The way they brought all of the doctors back was so moving to me! I had been wishing for something just like this and they delivered it! I was skeptical when I heard they were bringing the doctor back, but so pleased with how they have done!

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