Series 7, Episode 14, Finale
In which the Doctor himself has to face a lot of personal finalities.
Early in the episode we have a tea party with the Paternoster gang of Vastra, Jenny and Strax, later joined by Clara and River Song. River, somehow, manages to sneak in some champagne to the tea party. It takes place in a ‘trance’, a sort of shared dream, as apparently travel across time and space is always possible in dreams, and is referred to as a conference call. They are meeting to discuss a prophecy regarding the Doctor and the planet Trenzalore. This scene is largely a lot of fun, but the tone shifts. The rug is pulled from under us when Jenny starts to feel strange and says she thinks she has been murdered while she was asleep, sheds a tear and vanishes. River realises the Paternoster gang must be in danger in their own time so need to be awake. She wakes up Vastra by slapping her and Strax by throwing her drink over him, and we see that all three are in their own Victorian London home and are being attacked by sinister monsters known as the Whisper Men. They are genuinely creepy. White, eyeless faces, sharp teeth and as the name suggests a whispering way of speaking. They are dressed appropriately enough like Victorian funeral directors. There have been comparisons made with them to the Gentlemen in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode Hush, although they remind me more of similar Doctor Who creatures like The Silence and The Vigil.
Clara explains these events to the Doctor, and he is visibly shaken by it, knowing that Trenzalore is where he will eventually be buried, and essentially it means he will have to visit his own tomb, something which no Time Lord is meant to do. But he vows that he has to so he can save the Paternoster gang. Clara learns she still has a psychic link to River Song. With River it’s always unclear at first where she is in the Doctor’s, and therefore our, timeline, but we always know from River’s point of view that the last time she and the Doctor encounter each other is in Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead when the Doctor meets her for first time. This episode subverts that, as we learn that this is River after she has been uploaded into the library, so to date this is her final encounter with the Doctor from her point of view. But it’s also their final encounter to date from the Doctor’s point of view too, so at least the husband and wife are matching up more time wise for once.
At Trenzalore Jenny has indeed been killed, and Vastra hopes Strax can revive her. He can and does, but almost immediately the three are confronted by the Whisper Men… and Dr. Simeon (Richard E. Grant). It turns out both the Whisper Men and this version of Dr. Simeon are part of the Great Intelligence.
The Doctor’s tomb is the TARDIS itself, now a ruin and grown to gigantic size no longer able to control its dimensions. Eventually both the friends and enemies of the Doctor are inside, where they see a spiralling electronic light. The Doctor says that a Time Lord doesn’t leave behind a body when they die, rather representations of all the times he has travelled through time and space. Dr. Simeon decides to climb into the light, even though it will kill him it will be worse for the Doctor as it means he can “destroy” him, undoing all the good he’s done, rewriting his whole history and killing him multiple times. This change in time causes Jenny to have died earlier and Strax to have never become friends with Vastra and sees her as just another enemy of the Sontarans. As he tries to kill her, she kills him. It shows how we have come to like the Paternoster gang that these scenes are among the saddest in an episode that has a fair amount of emotional moments.
This leads up to us finally discovering Clara’s mystery. She works that if she goes into the light she may be able to save the Doctor. Going in will create multiple copies of her throughout the Doctor’s timeline allowing her to save him from the Great Intelligence’s malice each time. Even when been told it will kill her, Clara is still brave and determined to do it. Before she goes in she says her line from her previous incarnations “Run you clever boy, and remember me”.
This is successful in restoring everything back to normal. The Doctor decides to go through the timeline in order to rescue the original Clara, and they encounter another incarnation of the Doctor, one never seen before, but from how our Doctor describes him, he sounds quite villainous or at least he seems to have done some questionable things. The last bit of the episode has a subtitle saying “Introducing John Hurt as the Doctor” and another one saying it will be continued in the 50th anniversary special episode. John Hurt is a brilliant actor, so it’s good that they have managed to cast him. But it’s very much putting forward another mystery.
The episode was quite good in referencing the fact that it is the 50th anniversary with appearances of previous Doctors, either from archive footage or sound clips spliced into newer filmed scenes, or with quick glimpses of people resembling the incarnations of the previous Doctors. As for the payoff to the series arcs, I liked how Clara’s was resolved. It was satisfying to see her be heroic. Much as I’m pleased that she’s sticking around, I can’t help but think like I did with Asylum Of The Daleks. It would have packed more of a punch if Oswin had genuinely been an insane Dalek convinced it was human, and I think this episode would have been an amazing exit for Clara, and easily rank as a great companion departure. But I suppose that’s wanting to have your cake and eat it.
The Doctor’s name isn’t revealed to us. It is technically spoken in the episode, but River says it and we can’t hear her. I don’t mind this myself as whatever name they chose would inevitably have been disappointing as we are so used to calling him the Doctor. Unless they were going to deliberately give him a comically mundane name, like The Simpsons did when they revealed that the Comic Book Guy’s real name was Jeff Albertson. But in the episode we have something Steven Moffat is fond of doing, playing with words and double meanings. The title doesn’t so much refer to the name of Doctor, but as the last piece of dialogue speaking of things done in the name of the Doctor.
Series seven has been a bit of an up and down series, so it’s fitting that this excellent finale was such a rollercoaster, from fun, to scary, to sad, to fulfilling.