The Name of the Doctor

15-episode set
Region A/1
15-episode set
Region B/2
Standard DVD
8-episode volume

See below for purchasing options
(Doctor Who Story No. 244, starring Matt Smith and William Hartnell)
  • written by Steven Moffat
  • directed by Saul Metzstein
  • produced by Marcus Wilson & Denise Paul
  • music by Murray Gold
  • 1 episode @ 46 minutes
Story: Worried that the Doctor's greatest secret may be falling into the wrong hands, Madame Vastra convenes a covert meeting of his friends, only to fall under the power of the Whispermen. Now the Doctor has decided to go to the one time and place in the universe he must never go, to Trenzalore, to find and save his friends. Will his name be revealed there? And will Clara ever be able to figure out where she is, and how and why she is meeting so many different versions of the Doctor?

DVD Extras for this story on the 15-episode box sets include:

  • Behind the Scenes featurette (4 min.), with Matt Smith (The Doctor), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara Oswald), Dan Starkey (Strax),
    Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Alex Kingston (River Song), writer Steven Moffat, and director Saul Metzstein.
  • "Creating Clara" featurette (10 min.) with Coleman, Smith, Moffat, and costume designer Howard Burden.
  • The Nerdist: Matt Smith Satellite Interview #2 (5 min.)
  • The Nerdist: Jenna-Louise Coleman Podcast (4 min.)
  • Prequel Scenes:
    • Clarence and the Whispermen (2 min.)
    • Rain Gods (2 min.)
  • Additional Scene: She Said, He Said (3 min.)

In-Depth Analysis Review

by Martin Izsak

WARNING: This review contains "SPOILERS", and is intended for those who have already seen the program.
To avoid the spoilers, read the Buyers' Guide to the season instead.


It's not easy to determine if this is a complete story, or just the first half of a two- or three-parter. Knowing Steven Moffat, the next episode could take place anywhere, at anytime, and be about anything. Though "The Name of the Doctor" does appear to fairly completely wrap up the season-long mystery of what Clara is, it tugs at many other story threads as well and feels as though it has left them dangling in the end.


Whispering Roll Call

The opening immediately demands more attention than the usual Doctor Who story, as it "Forrest Gumps" Clara into a scene with William Hartnell's Doctor and his granddaughter Susan as they are about to make their historic departure from Gallifrey, complete with all the modern CGI you'd want for Gallifrey. Then follows a montage of previous classic Doctors, all having sparse almost-interactions with Clara. It's as though the 50th Anniversary Special has begun one episode too early. Okay, you've got my attention!

As with "The Crimson Horror" (story no. 242), it's the trio of Vastra, Strax, and Jenny that get the early screentime, and this time they actually set the plot in motion through their early interaction with the villain. The date is 1893, again, although since they've met the current version of Clara already, we can assume this story is taking place after their last one. It's very nice to have this trio in yet another adventure. I'll have more of them anytime!

What of the chronology of the villain? The Great Intelligence's latest creation of Whispermen deserve to be his most futuristic expression in minion control yet, having already done Snowmen, Yeti, and digital manipulation (in that order). But it appears that they have since become fully versed in physical time-travel as well, which could complicate their chronology quite a bit now. Are the Whispermen only inserting themselves into other people's dreams, as with Clarence? It must be more than that, because they aren't in Jenny and Vastra and Strax's dreams; they're in their real environments. Or does Simeon only appear in London 2013's digital adventure BECAUSE of what happens here?

In one of his "Nerdist" interviews, Matt Smith seems pretty excited about the Whispermen, feeling that they may go on to become one of Doctor Who's great villains. I'm not so optimistic. Their participation in good action strategies seems compromised by the fact that their abilities and limits seem ill-defined, and they can get away with just about anything that Moffat imagines for no apparent reason, all without actually being able to do much of anything. Hmmph. Even though they're first introduced in this "story", they disappear from it long before it's all over.

The story is also firing obvious blanks when it comes to threatening death, which it does often. Jenny "dies" twice in this one, and comes back each time. Strax is altered and erased and comes back. Clara "dies", but gets saved. One begins to roll one's eyes each time Moffat makes a new threat, as though we're listening to the little boy who cried "Wolf!" once too often. All this doesn't make the Whispermen or the story's "action" very interesting in the end.


Character Revelation

The real power to hold audience attention is based on all the character revelations that we either actually get or are teased with as the story progresses. Back in the TARDIS console room scenes in "Hide" (story no. 240), which were filmed much later than the rest of that story, we were teased with the concept that everyone has a grave out there somewhere in the future that the TARDIS could visit. Clara worries about the potential of visiting her own - and I'm not sure why since she practically walked by a well-labeled version of it at the end of "The Snowmen" (story no. 236) all apparently without noticing her own name on it. We've also apparently seen Amy and Rory's graves back in "The Angels Take Manhattan" (story no. 235), although you'd have to buy into a lot of illogic to believe that those were actually their real ones. Even River Song is participating in this adventure from beyond her own living grave on the library planet. But this story is really about the Doctor discovering and/or confirming his own grave in a place called Trenzalore. Matt Smith has a suitably emotional moment to play as the Doctor learns the news - a "spoiler" he's been trying very hard to avoid, eventually catching up with him.

I'm assuming that the name "Trenzalore" refers to the entire planet that becomes the main setting for the story. This is the kind of setting the show needs more of, the kind I imagine when I hear backstories like Goth's meeting with the Master in the dialogue of "The Deadly Assassin" (story no. 88), or any mention of the time war from New Millennium Who. It's like Hallowe'en night personified, a perfectly coloured autumn dusk, with dry but unsettled weather. Spot on. The few exploration scenes that we get actually work quite well.

It is kind of nice for once to have a more futuristic version of River Song in the adventure than ever before, something one may not have thought possible after the events of "Silence in the Library" (story no. 200), yet it fits in quite logically with what is happening here. It somehow feels appropriate that a story so focused on "the future beyond death" should begin with a teleconference call that resembles a séance. One might almost believe that the Doctor and River have finally synchronized their meetings with each other, until River's final line of the story indicates that she's already aware of further "spoilers" from the Doctor's future. That'll keep us thinking for a while. Ultimately this story is a much better outing for her than her one other appearance earlier this season.

Of course, we are teased with the idea of learning the Doctor's actual hidden name, but this is just a means to an end for the villain, who eventually achieves his end without this means. It is best that we don't get the name. No sense torpedoing the title mystery of this 50-year series. Instead, we settle for a few intriguing hints at WHY the name might be kept secret. Good enough.


Resolving Clara

Back in "Asylum of the Daleks" (story no. 231), one of the points I had initially and quite happily chalked up for that story was that Moffat had kindly refrained from including any kind of clumsy time travel conundrum in the adventure. Well, that might be seen to come crashing down by the time we get answers to some of that story's loose ends here in this tale. The entire season-long mystery of Clara is solved and resolved with.... another clumsy time travel "rewrite"? Can Moffat never do anything else on this series? Technically, since we've never seen "Asylum of the Daleks" play out in any other way, perhaps it is in the clear. Some of the "who-knows-what" inconsistencies of "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" (story no. 241) are gone through without making any more real sense. A fairly flimsy explanation is given for how Clara might be becoming aware of some conversations she never really had back then, while no explanation is attempted for how the Doctor became aware of the same. At any rate, this is mostly tiresome rubbish, and it is at the core of the inability for the Great Intelligence and the Whispermen to count as a serious threat here. The Snowmen and the Yeti really did work better.

At least the strange business with Clara appears to have come to a satisfactory end here. Many other threads, including their business on Trenzalore, do not appear to have done so.

Most mysterious of all is the surprise revelation of John Hurt at the end. Which Doctor is he attempting to play? Is this another completely red-herring move, as was the case back in "The Next Doctor" (story no. 204)? Is he the twelfth Doctor, due for a very short 1-episode life? Is he "Doctor number 12.5", also known as the Valeyard, of unclear origin and purpose and state of mind? And if so, will Moffat attempt to give us answers to some of the unanswered questions that fans have been living with since "The Trial of a Time Lord" (season 23) back in 1986, particularly from the revelations during "The Ultimate Foe" (story no. 147)? He has certainly seen fit to have the Great Intelligence drop the name to tease us - actually a nice way of respecting the minutia of the massive continuity of this giant franchise.


"Oh, it's begun. The party's started."

A bizarre montage of Doctors and perhaps Doctor impersonators leaves us feeling lost in what one suspects to be the opening moves of a multi-Doctor Anniversary special. It seems that anything could happen here, and any Doctor could make a return appearance, physically or mentally, inexplicably aged or not, interacting fully throughout the episode or just making a cameo. But will the stakes be tangible enough to feel at all important? Will we even need to care about the stakes, so long as we get to see a good reunion party amongst the various Doctors? I guess we'll all find out on November 23, 2013, or shortly thereafter depending on when your local station broadcasts the big 50th special, if it manages a broadcast before the vanilla DVD comes out in early December.



In the end, "The Name of the Doctor" is massively intriguing and good looking, without really being all that great an adventure. Whether or not it will stand the test of time may well depend very heavily on what it has set-up, as the story continues....



Season 33 Rankings:

Best Story:

    The Excellent:
  • Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
  • Asylum of the Daleks
  • The Snowmen
  • Nightmare in Silver

    The Decent:
  • The Rings of Akhaten
  • Cold War
  • The Bells of Saint John
  • The Power of Three
  • The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe
  • The Name of the Doctor
  • The Crimson Horror

    Stumbling & Struggling:
  • Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
  • A Town Called Mercy
  • Hide

    Mindnumbingly Stupid:
  • The Angels Take Manhattan

Best Director:

  • Saul Metzstein (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Snowmen,
    The Name of the Doctor, The Crimson Horror, A Town Called Mercy)
  • Stephen Woolfenden (Nightmare in Silver)
  • Nick Hurran (Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan)
  • Douglas MacKinnon (The Power of Three, Cold War)
  • Farren Blackburn (The Rings of Akhaten,
    The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe)
  • Colm McCarthy (The Bells of Saint John)
  • Jamie Payne (Hide)
  • Mat King (Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)

Best Writer:

  • Chris Chibnall (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, The Power of Three)
  • Steven Moffat (Asylum of the Daleks, The Snowmen, The Bells of Saint John,
    The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe, The Name of the Doctor,
    The Angels Take Manhattan)
  • Neil Gaiman (Nightmare in Silver)
  • Mark Gatiss (Cold War, The Crimson Horror)
  • Neil Cross (The Rings of Akhaten, Hide)
  • Toby Whithouse (A Town Called Mercy)
  • Steve Thompson (Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS)

This story has become available on DVD and Blu-ray.


Season 33 Box Set
15 episodes
U.S.


NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.
Canada


NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.
Blu-ray U.S.


NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada


NEW for
Sept. 24, 2013.

This 5-disc DVD box set includes
13 regular episodes, 2 Christmas specials,
4 audio commentaries, documentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and additional scenes.

The Blu-ray version has identical content in high definition spanning 4 discs.


This Region A/1 version (U.S. & Canada) is new for September 24, 2013.



Season 33 Box Set
15 episodes
U.K.


NEW for
Oct. 28, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.


NEW for
Oct. 28, 2013.
The Region 2 box set has identical content to its North American counterpart, except that it also has one additional extra feature called:
  • As Good as Gold

This Region B/2 version (for the U.K.) is new for October 28, 2013.


The music CD is new for September 9, 2013.



Check out this companion 2-disc Audio CD as well:

Doctor Who: Original Music from Season 33
(aka "Series 7", 2012-2013) by Murray Gold

More info & buying options (2-disc album)


This story is also available in an 8-episode volume with minimal extra features.
The U.K. version also includes the episode "The Snowmen"; North American versions do not.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the location nearest you for pricing and availability:

Standard DVD:
NTSC Region 1 - U.S.
NTSC Region 1 - Canada
PAL Region 2 - U.K.
Blu-ray:
Region A/1 - U.S.
Region A/1 - Canada
Region B/2 - U.K.
Bonus features vary from region to region.
You may get "The Companions" documentary (45 min.)
You will get some of the prequel scenes, but not all.


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Read the In-depth Analysis Review for the next story: "The Day of the Doctor"



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