Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doctor Who is NEW: "The Name of the Doctor"

During the sillier times of the Silver Age of comic books, one of the re-curing motifs in Superman was someone trying to uncover his secret identity. Various schemes (usually employed by Lois Lane) certainly drove more than their fare share of stories but it does beg the question:

Why would a super hero without a mask ever admit to having a secret identity?

Trying to uncover Batman's secret identity makes sense; somebody's under that mask. But Superman with that face open to be seen by all the world, for all that people would know is that Superman was Superman all the time. 

Bringing this back to Doctor Who, I've never really pondered the mystery of the Doctor's real name. There are the odd times when it get called attention to that calling one self just "The Doctor" is kind of silly. Doctor? Doctor who? But then the question is brushed aside and the Doctor moves on to solve this week's crisis in space and/or time. Calling himself The Doctor is just one more piece of the eccentric puzzle box that is this madman with a box.

Now that mystery is front and center in this week's episode, The Name of the Doctor, the last episode of Series 7 and before this November's 50th Anniversary Special. And questions ARE answered in this episode and, yes, someone says the Doctor's REAL name!


Read on. But first and as always, let me advise while it is not the intention of this post to provide a lot of spoilers but in case some spoilerly-like stuff gets said:

SPOILERS, Sweetie!
Let's move on, shall we?

We kick off with a major fanboygasm right in the first minute: the First Doctor, portrayed by William Hartnell (yes!) on Gallifrey, looking for a TARDIS to (ahem!) borrow. He gets some helpful advice on which TARDIS to choose...

...from Clara?

Then we see brief clips of Clara with the 2nd Doctor, 3rd Doctor, 4th Doctor, etc. Clara is busy saving the Doctor...all of him...everywhere and every time. She was born to save the Doctor.

Roll opening credits and theme!
It's 1983 and we check in with Madame Vestra, wife Jenny and Strax. Strax is actually in Glasgow picking fights with drunken Scotsmen. Meanwhile, Vestra has uncovered information that could be of importance to the Doctor. So the three become unconscious deliberately in order to enter a dream state and stage a "conference call" and Clara is invited. So is River Song.
As they discuss the information Vestra has, their physical bodies are under attack by the Whisper Men, yet another Steven Moffat creation sure to give kiddies nightmares. Clara wakes up in the present and immediately tells a just arriving Doctor of the danger that is afoot.
The Doctor is NOT pleased.  For the information Vestra obtained points to a mystery and to the one place a time traveler should never go.
So the Doctor goes anyway even though the TARDIS fights him every step of the way. But the Doctor is determined to help his friends and to do that, he must go to that place.
The Doctor must go to Trenzalore!
Okay then. What've we got?
Good stuff!
  • This is the most we have seen of the classic Doctors other than random head shots since the series was revived. And Clara's "interaction" with the First Doctor is remarkable. Not in a techy sort of way; this was done very simply by using colorized archival footage of William Hartnell and cut away's to Clara talking to him. Still, it was still so totally cool to see.
  • Always good to see Vestra, Jenny and Strax again. The information of how Strax spends his days off is quite amusing.
  • The Doctor is once again forced to face his destiny. He spent 200 years running from his "death" at Lake Silencio. The Doctor flitting across time and space is the ultimate avoidance of commitment and death is the ultimate commitment so it stands to reason the Doctor would be keen to avoid facing his own death. (Being prepared to lay down one's life and knowing that at some point he will really have to give up that life are two different things.
  • The Valeyard gets name checked!
  • We get to see Gallifrey!
  • We get to see Clara making a soufflĂ©! (Uh oh.)
If you're a long time fan and anxiously looking forward to the 50th anniversary special, there's a lot here to be squealed over and debated. But I pity any viewer who may have said, "I've heard a lot about this Doctor Who show. I might give it a try." (And don't think it can't happen; I had a co-worker whose first Doctor Who episode was A Good Man Goes to War.)

Overall, I found The Name of the Doctor a bit disjointed with Moffatt trying to cover too many bases in his allotted 45 minutes. And once again, a companion has a special destiny tied with the Doctor's. (Steven, can we have a companion who is just a girl, already?)

But despite the muddle of plot points, Moffat is on point with dialogue and characterization.

Well, as the Doctor might say, we've got ourselves some cowboys up here in this Doctor Who plot. A lot going on (and a final scene reveal that will leaving you yelling "WHAT?!?")

So we have to wait until November for another installment of Doctor Who is New. I will probably take the intervening months to talk about how I came to Doctor Who and maybe post another Untold Tales of Doctor Who.


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