Not everything ends. Not love, not always. The Name of the Doctor is an emotional episode in many ways. Clara, it turns out, is everything. She is the leaf on the wind (bringing to mind another death that I can hardly bear to remember), she is all of the clues in his timeline, and she is his lifesaver. If the TARDIS chose him, it is because of Clara. If The Doctor made it through, it is because of Clara. She is The Impossible Girl and she was born to save The Doctor. It’s also emotional because we get to see River for what I can only assume is one last time. The only person who knows the name of The Doctor will no longer be in our lives.
The episode is one long narration, giving nothing away. Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax gather Clara and River Song when they learn that The Doctor’s secret has been found out. But as they are attacked by a hidden source, they realize that it is not the secret that has been discovered. It is The Doctor’s burial place. Jenny is murdered in her sleep state during the meeting and River forces the others to awaken. They go back to their places, surrounded by white faced men with sharp teeth.
Clara comes awake at the sound of The Doctor’s voice. She realizes she has to tell him about the meeting. Murdered Jenny and kidnapped Vastra and Strax are all taken to the grave of The Doctor. The tears The Doctor sheds are very real as he realizes that the site of his grave has been found and that he has to see it, has to cross his own time stream to get there. Hell, he’s practically interrupting his time stream. The Great Intelligence wants vengeance on The Doctor. Why? For the deaths of so many, including the Sycorax, Solomon the Traitor, the Cybermen, and the Daleks. I’ve never really thought of The Doctors enemies has people, but he has technically committed many acts of genocide, including on his own people. The Great Intelligence talks about the other names that The Doctor would begin to be called: The Storm, The Beast, The Valeyard. He stands before The Doctor’s grave, a huge, dying TARDIS, and requests the key. The key is The Doctor’s name. The question has been hidden in plain sight while the answer is hidden in the annals of history. The name of the Doctor. As his companions die, The Doctor refuses to reveal it. Suddenly, the grave is open. Did he say his name? No, he didn’t, because in the wrong hands, that would be a dangerous thing to know. Instead, it is opened by River and his friends are safe. Inside the tomb, The Great Intelligence believes he will find peace at last. For The Doctor, he will find pain everlasting. The Great Intelligence enters The Doctor’s time stream. Madame Vastra notices that all the lives The Doctor has saved, all of the countless worlds kept from being blotted out, all go dark as The Great Intelligence reverses every win. It’s funny that this is the route that Moffat is going with this episode. We saw Crowley doing the same for the Winchester boys on Supernatural. If he realizes that he can not win, then maybe he will stop fighting.
This is the moment of truth for Clara. She realizes all the things she’s learned as she travels further into the TARDIS, memories that The Doctor suppressed, leads her to one conclusion. It is she who must enter his timeline and save him. For every moment that The Great Intelligence killed, she must set it back to rights. Neither River nor The Doctor can stop her from going. She utters her line, “Run you clever boy, and remember me.” So she falls forever and ever, walking through every incarnation of The Doctor’s lives, saving him over and over again. She is torn into a million versions of herself, each echo saving The Doctor, but killing the real Clara. For Clara, however, the souffle isn’t the souffle. The souffle is the recipe.
The Doctor, of course, doesn’t run. Hologram River yells at The Doctor, even though she knows he can’t hear her. Her anger compels her to hit him, but he stops her hand. She realizes he always knows when she is there. She asks why he’s never spoken to her and he says because he was afraid it would hurt. “I believe I could have coped,” she says. “No, I believe it would hurt me,” he says. “And I was right.” Then he lays the biggest kiss he’s ever given on her. Of course, she’s invisible, so the rest of the room stands in awkward silence. This is The Doctor’s goodbye to River, his full goodbye, the one he couldn’t give as she plugs herself into the library. And as he gives her the only goodbye she’ll accept, she gets to give him one more “Spoilers, sweetie” concerning Clara. He then enters his time stream after Clara. She, who has only fallen since the very beginning, hits the bottom. She who has been saving The Doctor now finally gets to be saved by him as the time stream collapsing in on itself. She sees his past faces, the faces she has known and saved. Then she sees the leaf on which she blew into the world. But as she hold on to him, she sees another figure, one she doesn’t recognize, one she didn’t save. It is him, but it’s not The Doctor.
What’s in a name? His real name is not the point. The name he chose is the promise he made to the world. The name of The Doctor means something more than his identity. The name of the Doctor is more than what he was called before. The name of The Doctor is about keeping a promise he broke. He broke it in the name of peace and sanity, but when? And now, he runs, not just from the Time War, but from the part of himself that chose not to run, but chose to do something outside of himself. I imagine it is the Time War that we are talking about because it is in the annals of the Time War when we lose his name. The finale episode sets us up perfectly for the 50th anniversary special. The reason we can see past incarnations of himself is because he is in himself.
Moffat has brought some emotion to this episode that has not been there for a while. It is too bad that River will be gone because she draws me, and I know others, in a way that no other character since Donna has. As much as I loved The Girl Who Waited and The Impossible Girl, it was very hard to see Donna go. And our love of River, her mystery and her cheekiness, is just as strong when she’s there and just as devastating when she’s gone. Like the companions, we want to know everything about him, but like them, we only know what he tells us and he’s an unreliable narrator at best. As we move towards the finale, we have more questions than answers. How is the part of The Doctor of whom we got a glimpse able to continue to exist? What does he want? Will he become The Doctor as well, the long sought for redemption that The Doctor craves with each person and planet he saves? This episode was good in that it does so many thing that we needed. We saw River. We know who Clara is. Vastra, Jenny, and Strax and alive and well, able to carry on adventures – and possibly always get in touch with River. The Doctor is heroic and emotional and deadly serious. We are set on a collision course with The Doctor, not only us, but he as well. He can not get away from himself for the first time since the moment we met him. What revelations will we Whonatics get and will it satisfy the many hours of viewing and speculating? Only time will tell. And time is swiftly imploding upon itself. Godspeed, Doctor.