London, 1893, and a serial killer buys his life by giving Madame Vastra critical news about the Doctor: his secret has been discovered! She summons Jenny, Strax, Clara, and River Song to a “conference call” by means of a sleep-induced state. But during the call, the creepy “Whisper Men” come for the Detective trio. When Clara revives, she informs the Doctor what happened. He becomes extremely upset when she tells him what has been discovered: Trenzalore. In a bid to save his friends, the Doctor must go to a place no Time Lord should ever go, and risk his life–past, present, and future–in the process.
SPOILER ALERT!! My comments may (and likely will) contain spoilers for those that haven’t seen the episode. If you want to stay spoiler-free, please watch the story before you continue reading!
If you’re a Doctor Who fan, especially a life-long fan like me, I expect you were delighted by the first few minutes of this episode. What a way to begin–the very beginning (before the beginning, really)! The story itself both ties together some loose ends, and sets the scene for November’s 50th Anniversary Special. In particular, we learn the truth about Clara, and how it is she has died twice in very different times and yet she travels with the Doctor. We also learn the meaning of the prophecy given by Dorium in “The Wedding of River Song” regarding “the fall of the Eleventh” on the fields of Trenzalore.
The story title is a bit deceptive because we don’t actually learn the Doctor’s name (for which I was thankful–some things we don’t need to know), but his name is critical to the plot.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed River Song’s character since “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead,” but in this episode, I think she hit the right note. Perhaps my memory plays tricks, but in “Silence in the Library” she wasn’t quite as flirty/feisty/take-control as she has been with the Eleventh Doctor. This may be due to the fact that the Tenth Doctor met her after they were already married (maybe for a long time), and she had, perhaps, matured somewhat. It’s this River we meet in this story–the River from the computer in that library, uploaded by the Doctor at the point of death.
(By the way, some fans may object to the kiss. I personally thought this was the most appropriate Doctor Who kiss in the history of the show (okay, maybe not counting the Ninth Doctor kissing Rose to absorb the TARDIS energy). For crying out loud people, this is his wife! The person he loves more than any other. Possibly the mother of his children. Where do you think Susan, his granddaughter, came from–a Gallifreyan stork?!)
One might wonder why the Great Intelligence was the first one to ever hit upon this idea for taking revenge on the Doctor. You’d think maybe the Master, with his knowledge of Time Lord lore and tradition, would have considered this. But maybe the Great Intelligence was the only thing capable of gathering and processing the information necessary to locate the Doctor’s tomb. And yet he doesn’t know the Doctor’s name..?
I liked the resolution to the Clara mystery. In the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey world of Doctor Who, it makes perfect sense. Ever since Steven Moffat announced that the 50th Anniversary Special would be “a love-letter to the fans,” I’ve wondered exactly what he meant. Certainly, he would have to include as many past Doctors as possible, and make the show as chock-full of Who references as possible. But how to do this with a credible storyline and with minimal cheesiness (*cough* “Dimensions in Time” *cough*)? How about, the Doctor rescuing Clara from his own time lines? And the promise of the Tenth Doctor and Rose coming along to help! The insertion of past Doctors from old episodes we saw in this story maybe foreshadows what they plan to do for the special–and that would be awesome if they can make it work. Filming on the special finished a week or so ago, so they have all summer to work on post-production!
And who is this mysterious Doctor at the end, the one who “broke the promise”? Will he be the Doctor’s (or Doctors’) antagonist as he and Clara try to escape? Another version of the Valeyard?
What are your thoughts? Please use the comments to share about this episode, this season, your hopes and fears for the special, and anything else about Doctor Who! Feel free to be as spoilery as you want.